Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Why the lunchroom?

I posted some comments here, and another on this post, that seem to have coalesced in my mind into a post of their own.

Over the three years I’ve been writing about educational trends on this blog, I’ve become a big believer in local control of educational policy. Someday I will post my Top Ten Reasons to Decentralize Education Policy, but I already know which reason will top the list: the more you put the policymaking power into the hands of the people who actually know the children as individuals – parents and teachers – the more humane those policies are likely to be.

I don’t expect to agree with everything my kids’ teachers do. I wish, for example, that they were less prone to using rewards systems and particularly to using candy and junk food as a reward, and less inclined to punish kids by depriving them of recess. At least some of that, though, seems to be in response to the pressures put on teachers from above; I think we’d see less of it if teachers themselves had more say in educational policy. Anyway, I’m not suggesting that we should write teachers (or teachers’ unions) a blank check about how to run our schools, but I do believe that they are the most humane element in a less and less humane system.

I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the aspect of school that has most visibly been worsened by our district’s behavior management craze is the lunchroom -- the one place where the classroom teachers play virtually no role. In the lunchroom, and in the disciplinary practices described here, we’re seeing what happens when administrative dictates, driven by federal and state policies, are carried out without any classroom teachers serving as a buffer. I would happily trade that top-down system for one based on policies freely chosen by the Iowa City community, in which parents and teachers would likely have a more meaningful say.

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