Monday, May 25, 2009

Harsh disciplinarian=secret rule breaker?

Have you ever noticed that the teachers who are the most harsh disciplinarians of children, severely punishing minor infractions, are often also the most likely to break rules themselves?

In the teachers lounge at Castle Park Elementary a few years ago I saw the aftermath of a food fight by teachers on the last day of school. It took the custodians a week to clean the sticky soda, whipped cream and other food from the walls, carpets and upholstery. One of the participants in the fight explained to me that "we needed to let off steam." How could this teacher pass the age of forty without discovering some form of stress relief that didn't involve vandalism? And how could she show so much contempt for kids who failed on one occasion to finish their homework (she called them "losers"?

This teacher was a charter member of "The Castle Park Family," five of whose members were administratively transferred out of the school in August 2005. These teachers were not into good behavior, they were into power. They didn't lose their jobs; they were simply transferred to another school. But they themselves had caused a good many excellent teachers and principals to lose their jobs or be transferred out of the school.

The behavior of the Castle Park Family (a group that now has taken over Chula Vista Educators) is bullying, dishonest and disruptive, the sort of that would earn children a trip to the principals office for a lecture on playing well with others.

Not surprisingly, this same type of relationship, in which rule-breakers harshly enforce the rules over those below them, occurs in the relationship between CVESD district administrators and teachers.

The situation is somewhat analogous to the village in the new movie The White Ribbon which just won the grand prize at the Cannes Film Festival. (Is this analogy allowable, Mr. Shinoff? I'll grant you that the children in the movie are the generation that grew up to perpetrate the actions you don't want me to discuss, but surely I'm allowed to discuss the Palme d'Or prize winner without getting sued by your law firm!) Reuters describes the setting for the story: An inhuman, never questioned moral code holds sway, especially over the children who are constantly punished, both physically and psychologically, for the slightest infraction. The women are similarly brutalized and under the thumb of the village's unabashed patriarchy. The male adults, on the other hand, engage in clandestine acts of evil and cruelty that are kept hushed up...One day the order of things begins to unravel.

That last part about hushing up wrongdoing makes the analogy with Castle Park Elementary and CVESD complete.

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