Some more debate on the Woodstock School walk out, means, ends, discipline and consequences.
The comments in italics are reader Sandy’s responses to my reply to her comments on the original post.
I do not for a moment suggest that these students should be subjected to any form of severe discipline or punishment. I acknowledge that the days of caning students are long gone – although both my boys, now in their 40s, believe the strict school system they experienced helped them become successful and made them appreciate that actions (or inaction) have consequences.
Certainly, young people need to learn about natural consequences of their actions or inactions. Thankfully, we have a better understanding of the more harmful effects of rigid, inflexible and severely punitive measures.
My concern is that condoning a school walk out for this could be the thin end of the wedge and encourage future walkouts for increasingly trivial complaints.
If there is no clear policy, who gets to decide what is a justifiable walk out and what is not? By condoning this walk out, the school system, parents and the community have eroded the authority of the school administrators and shifted the balance of power towards the students. Consultation and cooperation are important, but every organisation must have leaders who ensure standards are maintained.
There are policies and procedures in place and students, parents and school administrators need to be on the same page. They need both roots and wings to develop and grow responsibly. When there are gaps or obstacles within the school-community social safety net, the youth may easily “cross the line” moving to where they can be encouraged to contribute peacefully and positively to make things better.
Refusal to do one’s duty in the military is a treasonous offence, we would not tolerate soldiers deciding they did not want to defend the country, or police officers refusing to pursue criminal activity.
Sometimes duties are in conflict. Many St Mary’s students chose to not take part in the walkout although they are mourning the recent loss of 2 students to suicide. There was a school mass in celebration of the graduating students planned for the same time.
My opinion is that students should only walk out of class if their lives or personal safety are in danger. For all other concerns, they should publicise their causes outside of school hours.
Many students who take the bus are tied to a tight schedule.
Because of the tragic nature of the students’ concerns, I would suggest that appropriate disciplinary action would be to spend time equivalent to that of the walk out in class after school hours or in some form of community service.
If the outcome of discipline is to learn appropriate prosocial behavior, could attendance at the meeting have been parent-student -professional involvement to boost community awareness?
I again raise my concern that condoning the walk out will not help prevent suicides. I believe that just as the “fix the broken windows and aggressively prosecute minor crimes” policy helped reduce the horrific murder rate in New York a few years ago, allowing youngsters to assume that actions will not have consequences, will make the problem worse.
Why should the suicide rate amongst young people be increasing in times of relative prosperity and peace? Why is it higher than in war-time, apparently higher than amongst people experiencing severe adversity? Why higher than in previous generations?
Good questions. You are helping by keeping the blog going and making us think critically and creatively.
Yes, there are cases of mental illness which need better resources and care, but clearly there is a serious problem in society and it seems that as life gets easier and leisure time longer, the problem gets worse not better.
We need to be mindful that our world is constantly changing for many reasons and that correlation is not the same as causality. Maybe there used to be more fun by sharing experiences and interests and building relationships in schools and workplaces.
Teaching young people that there are no consequences for breaking important rules will not help and is, I am convinced, one of the reasons for the problems we are seeing in modern society.
I appreciate Sandy’s responses, and her point that there was consultation between students and teachers is important. That this was not reported by the media in an attempt to sensationalise the event as a “walk out” is mischievous.
What do you think? leave your thoughts on this or any other area where you think discipline is being eroded.