Lack of discipline in schools is constantly in the headlines these days. We need a code of conduct and discipline in our schools, every educator laments. The Ontario Minister of Education has promised to issue a standard code of conduct for all schools in the near future. And the Minister suggests that school uniforms should be a part of discipline reform. "Not soon enough," the educators cry, "we need to do something now." And so, we are back to a familiar scene of tossing back and forth the hot potato of accountability-- who's responsible for school discipline?
In discussing the discipline problem with teachers, it becomes clear that every school ALREADY HAS a code of conduct and discipline. So, what's the problem? Why and how do educators think a new document issued by the ministry will magically eleviate school discipline problems?
According to teachers the problem is not the lack of written rules of conduct, it's the fact that no one is willing to enforce the existing rules. Teachers unanimously say they don't get any support to enforce discipline. No support from the principal, in most cases, and if they do get the principal's support the board superintendent will surely reverse his decision. Further, teachers claim they get little support or sympathy from parents, and so they become disenchanted and simply abandon all pretense of enforcing rules or maintaining any sort of discipline. Discipline, for teachers, has become a festering sore. Resentment, frustration, humiliation, and apathy are common byproducts of the dilemma.
In many schools today, the battle cry has gone out to halt the blatant erosion of discipline. The enemy– our children– is charged, using the ultimate weapon the "educators" have: ZERO TOLERANCE. Use of this weapon is a preposterous decision prompted by vengeful bitterness turned into suppressed rage that blinds all rational thinking.
Surely every sane citizen knows that the more laws one makes the more will have to be enforce and, even more importantly, the more laws there are that will be broken. And to create laws that are unenforceable is the zenith of absurdity.
Creating more laws or rules creates more law breakers, which, in turn, leads to more laws and so we have a self-perpetuating phenomenon that leads to an oppressed society of law breaking citizens, soon to be designated as a society of criminals. It's a little like increasing the number of gates on the slalom course by a factor of ten, and then, disqualifying every skier that touches a marker post. The whole event becomes a nonevent, not to be taken seriously, because it's impossible to make a "clean run."
What do "educators" mean when they impose a policy of ZERO TOLERANCE? Zero tolerance of what? Will students have to sit in the corner in silence and not touch anything in order to be in compliance with the zero tolerance edict. Or does it mean "off with the head" if a child can't restrain a snicker in response to a fellow student making a funny face. Just what are educators trying to curb or control with the ZERO TOLERANCE proclamation? What punishment will they hand out whenever this all-embracing law is broken. When I went to school we weren't allowed to chew gum in class– so we didn't. But we weren't expelled if we did; we were simply asked to throw the gum into the waste basket and then stay after school to write on the blackboard 500 times, "I will not chew gum in class anymore." We hardly ever broke the rules. Did we live under the yoke of ZERO TOLERANCE? Hardly.
Here are some cases of absurd rulings and "sentences" spawned by the ZERO TOLERANCE policy implemented in some schools: In one school a student was expelled for wearing yellow shoe laces (on suspicion of gang affiliation). --A grade three boy was charged with sexual harassment for giving a girl chum a peck on the cheek. --A six year old boy was suspended and tarnished with a school "record"for bringing a nail clipper to school. --In another case, a girl was suspended because she was caught cutting up an apple she brought to school with a plastic knife from home. –And in one school in Halifax, Nova Scotia, under a new ZERO TOLERANCE program, authorities boast that they have suspended over a hundred students for rough housing– playing tag, touch football, snowball fights, making motions of throwing something, and two student were even caught fighting. –In one school on the Prairies, students were suspended for being under suspicion of playing in the snow, because they had snow on their jackets. –Kissing or the teen phenomenon of "mass hugging" is also punishable by suspension in some schools under the ZERO TOLERANCE program. –Intolerance is no longer tolerated in any school across the continent (isn't that a moronic paradox, or is it just an oxymoron thought up by a maxi-moron?).
There is no better way to promote disdain, loathing and disrespect for school authority among the students then by enforcing stupid, petty rules. There is no better way to promote rebellion and to polarizing our schools into adversarial camps of "them and us" then by trying to enforce unenforceable rules. The ZERO TOLERANCE policy will only serve to alienate our youth from authority– from teachers, principals, even parents and, in the end, society in general.
There is nothing wrong with our youth. Our schools only have to point the way. A good school is run by leaders not dictators. Our students need more responsibilities, not more unenforceable rules that are antagonistic, demeaning , and without real purpose. Strict discipline, obeying the rules, good manners and deportment, as well as respect for elders starts in the home and must be enforced starting in the first year of school. ZERO TOLERANCE is an irresponsible concept based on hare-brained logic that belongs to the lunatic fringe.