In a Lincoln Journal Star letter 3/27/16, C.Patrick Rowan applauds Lincoln Public Schools (LPS) expansion of behavior programs for “the new populations of students” and laments parents no longer assume their role as behavior skills leaders. LPS’ growth in the number of students with serious behavioral problems has necessitated the addition of a third behavioral skills program school. The Nuernberger Education Center joins the Sherrill Education Center and Yankee Hill. Principals have been named for each school. (Margaret Reist, Lincoln Journal Star 3/21/16)
Mr. Rowan doesn’t reveal how long he has been working closely with students, parents and schools, but is apparently unaware the changes in parents and students pales in comparison to the changes in schools’ curriculum, instruction and teacher training.
Research shows that boredom, lack of mental engagement, ineffective curriculum and instruction are often the root of classroom misbehavior. An analogy for lack of mental engagement would be to take a 2 year-old child to a tablecloth restaurant for a 7-course meal. One could predict the dinner would not be peaceful. The 2 year-old’s behavior would likely deteriorate and become quite inappropriate for the environment and task at hand. Attempts to improve the child’s behavior at the restaurant with behavior modification strategies, special food treats or punishment, are likely to result only in temporary improvements and long-term negative impacts.
Instead, it is more productive to review what is happening around the child to determine what changes or inputs have contributed to changes in behavior. At the restaurant, 2 year-olds are not wired to sit patiently and enjoy a 3 hour meal and conversation. The innate human takes over. Continued focus on changing the child to adapt to an inappropriate situation is time and labor intensive and of negligible benefit to the child. The adults may reap satisfaction from possibly molding the child’s behavior to conform.
It would be beneficial to remove the 2 year-old from the inappropriate inputs (3 hour meal) and instead, allow the child to play at a park, sandbox or with approved toys which interest them. Within broad guidelines, the self-directed play allows the child to pursue their interests to the depth and at the pace appropriate for them. Behavior improves as the child is productively engaged. Liberty is individual nonconformity and differentiated thinking.
The same process works in the classroom as well for any age child. If a child’s behavior deteriorates in the classroom, the first order of business is to determine changes and inputs impacting the child’s school day. Translation: scrutiny of curriculum and instruction. Does the curriculum effectively teach the subject or does it prolong and confuse achieving mastery?
Example: children should all be taught to read well by the end of first grade when taught phonics and only phonics, first. Phonemes, distinct units of sound, neural connections in the left hemisphere of the brain are how the human brain has learned languages for 50,000 years. Presenting “sight words” or whole words, neural connections in the right hemisphere of the brain, before the child has mastered letters, sounds and rules for pronunciation, phonics, cripples the child’s ability to master reading.
Have teachers been trained to correctly teach reading? The National Council on Teacher Quality scores Nebraska teacher colleges as failing to provide teacher candidates tools necessary to teach reading. Sixty years ago, all students learned to read by the end of first grade. If taught correctly, reading is quickly mastered.
Why has student learning and achievement been thrown under the school bus in favor of scrutinizing students’ behavior and that of their families? It pays. The education system expands at every level with accumulated student failure.
A recent example of education system architecture is LB773, The Early Childhood Workforce Development Task Force. Designated members will include education (preschool to college), labor, health and human services. Taxpayer-supported organizations which directly benefit from system expansion and reign over current learning failure will advise the governor and legislature of needs, competencies, current status and future plan.
In the courts:
- Schools are not responsible for child safety
- Schools determine curriculum, not parents
- Under expanded truancy laws parents and children may both be prosecuted for truancy
Nebraska parents are denied school choice
In 1788 James Madison described tyranny in Federalist Paper # 47. “The accumulation of all powers, legislative, executive and judiciary, in the same hands, whether of one, a few, or many, and whether hereditary, self-appointed or elective, may justly be pronounced the very definition of tyranny.”
Tyranny? Captured by law and forced to participate (in an environment which may cause grave harm and little gain to a child) out of fear of retribution is more accurately defined as a form of slavery. This arrangement represents more than half of your property tax dollars at work.
Allow those under the microscope and held responsible for student behavior and achievement, parents, to choose best education options for their children. Provide education dollars directly to parents in the form of Nebraska Academic Savings Accounts. Hold parents accountable for student learning, achievement and behavior when they have control, liberty and the freedom to choose.
“…all power is vested in, and consequently derived from, the people;…” The Virginia Declaration of Rights June 12, 1776