Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Review on: The War on Children

The video The War on Children was extremely eye opening and appalling. Not having been in the public school system for high school, I was fortunate not to run into this jail-like institutions. However, looking back on it, when I did attend a public middle school we had cameras everywhere, a “resource officer,” and large gates around the property. Referring back to the movie, I thought it was cleaver and ironic that there were pictures of students being physically assaulted while a song was sung in the background by little children with lyrics such as “school is cool,” and “follow the rules and we’ll all have fun,” in the introduction. That short introduction exemplified the conformity that is taught to children at a young age through these communists-like subliminal messages in the from of nursery rhymes and catchy tunes. 

I thought that it was ridiculous that today’s generation of children are being referred to as the “super predator generation,” that need to be treated as criminals before a crime is even committed. It is the pessimistic expectations of the generations before us that are causing children to feel that they have little hope to succeed. Making students feel like criminals creates a sense of resentment towards faculty and the school system itself which in turn makes students unmotivated to learn. 

The phrase, “zero tolerance” seems like an excuse to promote conformity and punish students for being outside of the box. Suspending a child for pretending a chicken strip is a gun can hardly be justified by claiming that they are keeping students safe. As the video mentioned, “97% of infractions that resulted in suspension involved no weapons, drugs, or alcohol.” That is outrageous and clearly a flaw in the system. Obviously if someone actually has a gun, or alcohol, or drugs they should be suspended but drawing a stick figure with a gun, using a chicken strip as a gun, or even using a nail filer can hardly be seen as being dangerous. 

Going back to the idea of absolute conformity or as the video mentions this “one size fits all” mentality, we are subjecting our students to fitting into this single mold and punishing those who don’t. One thing that is used to promote this conformity is the use of perception drugs. We are promoting these pill-popping tendencies to over four million children in our society simply so sedate them into learning the boring topics that they are force fed. Studies show that there is in fact an inverse correlation between suspension and achievement, thus expressing that as the number of suspensions increase the achievement rate actually decreases. 

The fact that schools are beginning to resemble prisons is just sad. Watching the movies it was almost comedic as the principle gave us a tour of his school while is was simultaneously being compared to a prison tour. The metal detectors and check-in station were nearly the same while as the tour continued it seemed as though the jail was in better condition than the school. In the jail the police officer mentioned that the walls get a fresh coat of paint every year, while the camera then pans back to the school and shows that ceiling panels are missing from the gym and is blamed on the leaking pipes which also seems like it would not be up to code. The school also has these multipurpose classrooms that serve as both a classroom and a locker room. It was sad that the jail had a better classroom, with books and color throughout the room, while the school classroom was drab with only desks and one window. I thought it was most clever when they had little children classify whether the building shown was a prison or a school and most of the time they thought that the school was a prison. 

In terms security cameras throughout a school I can see how they would be necessary in figuring out who did what and what exactly happened, however, I do agree that these cameras do not prevent acts of violence in a school and should not defined as being in place for safety reasons. As the video mentioned, “there is no data showing that cameras, police, and metal detectors decrease violence.” I can understand the intent of the school board but that does not directly translate into the impact they are having on students and even the faculty because they are invasive. The video stated that, “Destructive behavior is often a reaction to an abhorrent environment,” which I could not agree with more. I believe that all of these so called safety measures being taken create an environment that creates aggressive and defensive behavior and is not conducive for learning. 

A final comment on these so called “preventative” measures that are being taken at school, “studies show that the D.A.R.E programs that are in place to turn kids away from drugs actually have the reverse effect and end up causing more students to become curious about the substances they are taught to avoid. I believe that this is yet another example of how the school system has failed because they are trying to teach conformity. These “zero tolerance” programs along with the false sense of security that these schools are attempting to create is a sad excuse for a conducive learning environment and when you set a child up for failure like that, they are going to fail. 

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