This week, I had the opportunity to volunteer for a science field trip at my daughter’s school. The prospect of spending the day with a group of 13 and 14 year olds filled me with some trepidation as this is a difficult age. And while there was much juvenile behaviour and lack of focus on the work they were supposed to be doing, there was one situation that bothered me even more.
One boy was unable to follow simple instruction from a single sheet of paper to do his experimental test. Others had this problem. He was unable to listen and follow instructions of any kind and complained about everything. He was supposed to start a second test, but instead wandered off to goof around with one of the girls (who was “underdressed” – if you have seen how some people let their daughters go to school recently). Again, not surprising for a 14 year old boy. What severely disappointed me is that when asked if he had completed his second experiment (far simpler than the first), he grudgingly admitted he had not and slinked over to do so. He then performed the two step process successfully. He announced that he was “proud of himself for having done the test all by himself”. He asked if myself and the guide were proud of him, and seemed honestly shocked that we said no. I thought he was going to cry. He ranted that he had “done good” and yet we were not proud of him. This kid believed that one (very minor) good act, regardless of his previous bad behaviour meant we should shower him with congratulations.
It is obvious that either his parents, the school system, or both have been coddling this child for his entire life. No one has made him work hard, no one has truly disciplined him, and if he continues down the road he will most likely be a failure in society.
I discussed with the students and their teacher that perhaps we should return to the days when teachers could use corporal punishment, or at least throw chalk at the students to ensure they paid attention. The students were horrified that this had ever been allowed. They seemed shocked that in my day (which was not that long ago) we sat in neat rows and sat quietly in class and were disciplined, often harshly, for misbehaviour.
The inmates have taken over the asylum – we need to put teachers back in control of their classrooms. And put students back in their place.