This is, admittedly, a complete re-write of a blog I posted yesterday. I saw an issue and attacked it head on, but I now realize that I framed my views and arguments incorrectly. This is an attempt to fix that.
Apparently there's a new documentary out that is meant to shed light on some of the darker insides of public education. It is tited, The War on Schools. It is meant to bring to light that students are being over punished for minor offenses, kindergartners being suspended for playing together, etc.
Though I can see the points they are trying to make - any system has its abuses and misuses of power - I think that they are actually missing the point.
The real problem is that students FEEL like they are in prison.
This is not to suggest that schools are like prisons - that could never happen. Too many legal and social supports are in place to prevent such an atrocity.
However, something that I have come to learn over time is that what I teach my students is not nearly as important as how they feel about their education. School may not be like prison, but if students FEEL like prisoners, that is a problem.
In order to keep this brief and let people think on the issue for themselves, I'm going to cut to the chase.
School needs to be more, not completely, but more about freedom and choice. Students need to be able to choose more of what they learn and what they are going to learn. They also need more freedom to choose how to express and demonstrate that learning.
In addition, they need to be treated as they are more responsible. Don't turn things like water and trips to the bathroom into commodities. These should be basic human rights. If students abuse them, make sure they understand the abuse and how it is going to affect them as they move forward. In other words, educate them. Students, especially younger ones, lack the foresight to see how skipping the 5-10 minutes that I speak directly to my classes could affect their performance in class. So, I need to take the time to at least try to make them understand.
When we treat students like people, when we treat them like they matter, and like they are not problems - they will begin to love what they learn. When they feel good about learning, learning becomes real and not compulsory.