This, to me, is the best story of the year thus far. Of course it’s a feel-good, hope-filled ray of sunshine peeking out from the cloudy future we see for our children, but it’s also the best tool us thinkin’ types have to battle the war on education (and intelligence in general) that has plagued our public school system and undermined our political discourse for decades.
Here we have results – a successfully tested formula we could expand to other districts as a broadened experiment on solutions for ailing schools with undisciplined youths. A fiscally-conservative approach that uses liberal methods to stabilize behavior and foster a balanced development. A top-down approach where principals takes it upon themselves to change the culture of their school and nurture an excitement that both teachers and students can feed from. Even the most hysterical helicopter parent should see potential and support this idea, if for no other reason than keeping their child safe and happy at school.
What I love about this story is how Andrew Bott defied the modern paradigm of our educational system:
- He showed his teachers and students that they don’t have to be afraid of each other, a misconception perpetuated and escalated by administrator’s knee-jerk reactions to the threats of the few. It seems obvious that by transforming your school into a prison you will create a prisoner-type mentality in angsty, hormonal teenagers. I can also understand the difficulty in pushing back against two decades of unjustified bureaucratic “solutions” like metal detectors, security guards, banned backpacks and such, but some problems require surgery to heal, not bandages.
- He eliminated the adversarial mindset by removing third-party authority from the equation, the opposite of current legislation seeking to arm our teachers and employ more security guards to lord over the student population.
- He simply reappropriated existing budget back into programs that had been defunded, the same art programs that are suffering throughout America. These programs have been under attack by conservatives for years with no justifiable reasoning or responsibility, and with no follow up on the effect their elimination has had. In a school with thousands of students, you can only roster a few dozen of them on any given sports team, so offering alternative resources for the majority of students to develop their personality, skills, and vent frustration is the smartest, most responsible thing to do.
With school violence fears only intensifying, we need to scrutinize our solutions as much or more as the problems themselves. After every school in the U.S. has armed guards, armed teachers, body image scanners, uniforms with clear book bags, and every other tyrannical solution we can conjure up to strip our kids of their identity and privacy, we will have to reckon with what our children have actually learned.