Friday, November 20, 2015

stopping the school to prison pipeline...

Asking the right questions ... The US Department of Education is using google hangouts to address the problem of school discipline. Way too many children are suspended from school and these kids are disproportionately from particular social groups that also are incarcerated in disproportionate numbers. The pattern is well established. Kids perform poorly in school, are suspended and left on the streets where they get in trouble, are then thrown into the juvenile court system for a time, and as they reach prison age without maturing beyond petty criminal and gang activities, end up in prison.

I am curious of course, as I listen, whether or not policy makers will ever get around to the important question about capturing student interest, and the challenge of maintaining discipline in overly large classes, classes that should not be so large in the first place. We know that in small classes, teachers have a better capacity to address student needs.

The way this fits the school to prison pipeline is that too many children are simply suspended as a part of the discipline protocol, and by being pushed from schooling, the issues are compounded.

One good question that was asked the panel had to do with students questioning authority. The questioner was not specific whether he was asking about school authority or authority in general.  The question threw the panel for  a moment or two. But should questioning authority whether it's the school's authority in question or the standard assumptions of society not be an important part of the student's school experience? I would hope that students challenge, and challenge again.

The wood shop offers an important opportunity for kids. My standard response when kids ask, "Can I do this?" is "Try it, See how it works." It's not my job to prove my own authority, but to encourage children to test on their own. The important thing is not to give students a standardized view of reality, but to help them to use their own minds and hearts to test physical and social realities. Woodworking is a bit different from courses in which children are captive in desks, afraid to move without launching a discipline protocol.

A friend asked me about the effectiveness of woodworking in the education of the delinquent or disadvantaged child. It is not a thing I discuss much here, because in truth, woodworking is relevant to all children in their development as responsible adults for the many reasons I routinely discuss. But if educational policy makers were interested in breaking the school to prison pipeline, they might consider wood shop, and giving students something to do that would fully capture their interests and attention.

Yesterday one of my students broke his second bow, due to it having been weakened in one spot near the handle due to a design choice. He had broken one earlier due to a defect in the material. So it was extremely discouraging for him to have had two failures. I offered my own bow that I had done as a demo for him to complete as a replacement for his own. He thanked me, but insisted that he wants to start another and to work on his own to make it more perfect. This is a student that I've had in wood shop since he was in first grade. He was a reluctant student at first and wanted nothing to do with real tools, so it is pleasant for me to observe his maturity and interest.

Marc Adams School of Woodworking has announced its classes for the coming year, with a process for signing up. My own classes are sometimes filled early in the enrollment process so adult students hoping to take one should apply soon.

On an unrelated issue, SWEPCO in their haste to build an extra high voltage transmission line through my home town of Eureka Springs, that they claimed was to serve us  by providing 8 times the currently available power, but was really to provide them with a power transmission corridor to sell wind power to the East Coast, had piecemealed the project. They divided it into smaller chunks,  hoping to get approval for a distasteful project and built the first portion of the power line, doing unnecessary damage to properties to the west.

One litigant filed an appeal to SWEPCO's court settlement on his property, and was awarded over 917,000 dollars in damages. Yesterday the Arkansas Supreme Court upheld the jury's decision. After the way that SWEPCO lied to us and to the Arkansas Public Service Commission and after our long fight to stop them from building their unnecessary and destructive power line through our county, it is gratifying to see SWEPCO facing at least a small measure of justice. As I've mentioned before, if the corporation was a person, it would be ashamed of itself. If one were to assess corporations the way psychologists assess and diagnose patients, SWEPCO's corporate behavior in this issue would be found to exhibit a pathological Anti-Social Personality Disorder.

Make, fix, create, and enable others to learn likewise.

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