24 09 2006

There was the article about the Texas principal hiding behind his paddle — “He stands behind a practice headed toward extinction.”

Maybe we’re supposed to be comforted by the extinction idea but go look at the picture and maybe you‘ll understand why I’m glad my children are not being beaten by this large man.

On the other hand, just because we homeschool does not mean we don’t hear tales of beatings.

There’s the control over infants that some endorse and the related control issues. When to spank? If this was “when to beat your wife?” most of us would be outraged.

shadow authority figure with paddle

And some parents are outraged when they run into spankers. I run a private school for homeschoolers (an umbrella school) and one parent called me recently to say she wanted to enroll her children because she had to leave the school they were currently enrolled in. Why? Well, it seemed like such a nice idea that the nearby Catholic umbrella school for homeschoolers had park days — until she attended one! And witnessed first-hand the constant yelling at and spanking of children by fellow homeschooling parents.

So she left the group, sad for those children but needing to protect her own children from witnessing such brutal treatment.

We don’t always know exactly how to respond when we see an adult mistreating a child. There’s the recent discussion on an unschooling forum — the Mom’s child was in the hospital and the nurse was beyond uncaring. Speak up? Don’t speak up? Can everyone manage speaking up?

It’s not only children, of course, who are subject to abuse by those in control.

A public school volunteer recently told me the teachers in her school, some of whom have been there for decades, are not happy with the principal. Now, there are a lot of things these teachers aren’t happy about — the mind-numbing script they are forced to follow, the absolute worship of the FCAT, the lack of adequate basic supplies, etc. But when it comes to the things that are directly controlled by the principal, the times when the principal could reach out and work with the teachers and return some small token of respect — well, she doesn’t. She holds onto her power to control and does what she can to make the teachers feel even more powerless.

For example, the teachers are not told which grade they will be teaching until the week before school starts. Imagine the havoc this creates in planning for the coming year, buying supplies, etc.

These yanks of the chain are not necessary for the smooth functioning of the school. But they sure send the message about who is in control. Arbitrary decisions made for nobody’s convenience . . . why? . . . because we can!

Another school principal impressed me recently with his attempt to control a homeschooling parent by denying her daughter the opportunity to volunteer at the local elementary school. The principal’s school had asked for volunteers but he didn’t think her kind of volunteering was allowed. Turns out, when the Mom spoke up and asked that he check on that “rule,” that, of course, her daughter was allowed to volunteer to read to little kids. Even if she doesn’t attend public school full-time. Even if the principal doesn’t approve of their family’s choice of homeschooling for one of their children.

There’s the recent article about a world geography teacher getting in trouble for displaying flags from around the world.

Schools are struggling with trying to control things outside of school — they want to sometimes but, then, maybe that’s not such a good idea.

We might forgive a principal for trying to hold onto some shred of power though. We might not 🙂 but we should remember what controls them — the power of the all-mighty dollar. $100 per child. That’s the going rate in Florida if your school gets a high enough FCAT score.
Some fellow homeschoolers want to control how we speak and what we emphasize when discussing options.

Parents want to push their choice onto other families — for the good of all.

I spend too much time reading about education and schooling and learning. So most of the struggles over control that I notice are in that realm. But not all.

JJ Ross tackled some of this recently. She asked:

Who here is for public compulsion and imposition of standards? Who is for private, individual liberties and choice?

And then she doesn’t tell us the answer! 🙂

Some politicians think they should control my birth control choices — even in an emergency. Some progress there, at long last. Unless you’re under 18. . . then you have no control. Still.

Now, I only started connecting these incidents as one issue recently. These are only the samples I have remembered from the recent past.

We often run up against people and institutions who operate as if they have some right to control us in the most deeply personal ways. These are not mutually agreed upon practical matters like everyone driving on the right side of the street, stopping at stop signs, etc. These are controls that attempt to shape us in a fundamental way.

And how much of that should we be putting up with? I don’t put up with much now . . . but I’m old. 🙂

How much of this should each of our children have to put up with? How much do we even question? What sort of treatment do we expect from strangers, from authority figures, from other parents? From ourselves? Why do some in power feel entitled to impose their will on others, far beyond any practical considerations?

These control issues — now that I’ve started keeping track — are piling up. The list is getting too long.

How can we take the paddle away from some of these bullies?



2 responses

26 09 2006

[…] And as Nance points out in her “Control” essay here, bullies can be domineering grownups armed with real weapons, not just words, and taking their own poverty of ideas out on the babies and children entrusted to their care. Yeah, even at school — ESPECIALLY at school, sad to say. […]

30 04 2009
Can You Go All Day Without Hitting a Child? « Cocking A Snook!

[…] Oh, that’s just the English? Not. My own American South is deeply disturbed when it comes to “disciplining” kids. Control: Being Beaten By This Large Man at School […]

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