Tuesday, March 07, 2006

"For their own good"

I was truly gratified and surprised that only a day or so after I posted my first real blog entry (just below this one) that I had 9 substantive, engaged comments from others who are interested in this topic. I thought: hey, this blogging thing might be fun. I also thought: I better watch what I say because people will notice! :-)

It is interesting to me that the comments ranged from "kids will be kids and you can't stop 'em although you should try a little bit but it's really the parents' job" to "the school damn well should inform the parents of what the specific kids are doing because we have to do everything we can to save them from themselves."

This latter type of comment is the kind of reaction that I saw from some of those veteran teachers at IL-TCE, and which led me to make my post in the first place. The impulse to do whatever it takes to protect the kids, even to the point of "telling on them" to their parents, makes sense if you focus entirely on the harm that could come to them if we don't. It certainly is "for their own good" if by informing their parents we save them from abduction and rape and if their parents or the school can make an example of them and save lots of other kids from making these stupid mistakes in the first place. If we ONLY focus on the benefits of "extreme intervention" then extreme intervention is always justified.

(This, of course, is part of the reason that so many Americans support the so-called War on Terror or the so-called War on Drugs. If by curtailing the civic liberties just a little bit of every American, or by jailing just a few more American citizens for drug and gang behavior we can prevent another 9/11 or save a 13 year old ambitious young black girl from being shot by an assualt rifle while looking out of her front window, well then it's worth it!)

Yet.... Yet... Yet....

I'm sorry to say this, but we also have to look at the negative consequences of these extreme interventions. And there are negative consequences. The loss of civility resulting from every tiny little increase in our fear of strangers in the streets is eventually palpable. Eventually, we lose everything if we give up "only what is necessary" to be "completely" safe from terror, or random violence. We become nothing more than bats huddled in the proverbial cave if we can no longer let ourselves lay without a care on the soft grass in a city park, or take a bus downtown with our kids to visit the museum. We lose an immeasurable amount of parental involvement and fatherly love by locking up so many young men for relatively minor crimes. (Where have all the fathers gone?.....)

What I'm saying is that EVERY social intervention, minor or extreme, has unintended consequences. When teachers become "the MAN" who cannot be trusted because they will inevitably "tell on you if they find out," children put less effort into school, view every rule with suspicion, and begin to work even harder to hide their behavior, becoming "hardened criminals" (instead of just naive kids) well before their time.

I think it makes sense for the tech-savvy teachers to educate their colleagues on the dangers of myspace, and to make sure their students and their students' parents understand these dangers as well. That's our job as teachers: education. But when we start "informing" on kids to parents we immediately begin to tear down whatever trust exists with our students. I realize that in many schools there is very little trust to begin with. My message is that this, too, can probably be traced to things that we or others did in the past, allegedly "for their own good."

I look forward to further discussion.

2 comments:

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