Heather Mac Donald writes:
“Teachers are petrified to discipline students,” says a high school science teacher in Queens, New York, who blogs under the name “Chaz.” Students will tell a teacher to shut up or curse him when asked to open their notebooks, but the teacher’s supervisors will look the other way. The amount of insubordination now tolerated in New York schools is destroying them, says a former head of discipline for the city’s school system. Yet in June of this year, the schools chancellor proposed to officially ban suspensions for all but the most extreme infractions. Teachers would no longer be allowed to remove from class students who disrupted their fellow students’ ability to learn, engaged in obscene behavior, or were insubordinate. Advocates and the city council speaker, who is the leading mayoral candidate, complained that the changes did not go far enough.
There is so much talk about the need for “good teachers,” with the Left saying we need to spend more money and the Right decrying the unions. I know of several good teachers with a lot to offer who had to leave the system in order to escape the kind of daily assault on their dignity described above. Other good teachers bide their time but do their best to get out of the classroom and find some sinecure with the the system.
Enforcing discipline would upgrade the public schools 100 percent. Instead, as the Mac Donald article details, the Obama DOE is outraged that black students are disciplined at a greater rate than white students — and rather than addressing the behavior of the black students, it is demanding that disciplinary outcomes be made proportional by race. To avoid charges of discrimination, schools are letting up on discipline and subjecting their faculties to re-education sessions in white privilege and racism. This is in keeping with the whole Democratic-party outlook these days, downgrading individual responsibility and using government power to achieve what Democrats dishonestly choose to call equality. Of course Republicans have sometimes been guilty of this too, as in Bush’s mandate to expand homeownership and extend mortgages to those who could not afford them, but that was more incidental opportunism or misguided “compassionate conservatism,” while the Democratic party is deeply invested in the idea of top-down enforcement. This is different from the Democratic party of the past, and life-long Democrats and those who come from traditional Democratic families should recognize this.