Thursday, October 14, 2010

This Rule is My Rule

Over at Kid-Friendly Schools, FedUpMom has a post about the trend toward dressing up disciplinary programs in the language of “choice” -- as if the children are freely choosing to subject themselves to whatever punitive system the schools have dreamed up for them. She cites “Make Your Day,” a kindergarten behavior program with various punitive “steps” for non-compliance, which depicts a child saying, “Choosing step doesn’t mean I’m a bad kid, it just means I need help making better choices.” FedUpMom concludes: “It means that progressive ideas like respecting the child have gotten just far enough that a management system that openly used coercion and punishment would not sell well. But a system that uses coercion and punishment disguised as ‘choice’ can sell very well indeed.”

I have always felt the same way about the use of so-called behavioral contracts. (Example here.) In the old days, the school told you what to do and punished you for not doing it. In today’s enlightened times, the school makes you sign a “contract” “agreeing” on what to do, then punishes you for not doing what you “agreed” to do. How progressive!

As someone who has taught Contracts many times, I can assure you: Nothing could be further from the concept of “contract” than forcing a minor to sign a document and then using her “agreement” as a basis for punishing her.

This attempt to paste a progressive face on the same old punitive coercion seems to be a common feature of current educational techniques. There is apparently no limit to the shamelessness with which schools will pursue the tactic. The “Make Your Day” program’s website, for example, contains the following song to be sung with the children:

The Rule Song
(Sung to This Land is Made for You and Me)

The rule is my rule.
The rule is your rule.
It is the student’s rule.
It is the teacher’s rule.
It is the parent’s rule.
It is the community’s.
This rule was made for you and me!

Yes, that spinning sound you hear is coming from Woody Guthrie’s grave.


StepfordTO said...

This song is truly revolting! It's all part and parcel, IMHO, of the re-invigoration of Orwellian double-speak that began in the Reagan era, when missiles were dubbed "peacekeepers" and the right type of terrorists (e.g., Nicaraguan Contras) were called "freedom fighters." That this double-speak is now spilling over into the schools is deeply disturbing to me, even though I haven't seen a lot of it in our schools--yet!

Chris said...

Yes, and in the schools, it seems designed either to completely alienate the kids or to teach them to abuse language themselves. Sometimes I wish it was the alienated ones who went on to get education degrees.