Tuesday, May 13, 2008

What is a violation?

What do you think is a violation to you, to your person? If someone insisted that you didn't have the right to talk, would that be a violation? Would anyone else have the right to tell you, to make you be quiet? Maybe the old don't yell "fire" in a crowded movie house case applies, you can't be allowed to say anything or in such a way that it endangers anyone else. Barring that, no one has the right to tell us not to talk to each other, do they?

What if someone thought you lean too much, or didn't concentrate properly and so insisted on you wearing a vibrator on your hip to "remind" you to concentrate on your work? Would that be OK with you? Would that be OK for you to wear for about 6 hours or so a day? Oh, and the vibrator would go off every 57 seconds (why not round off to a minute?). Would that be helpful, or profoundly distracting and extremely humiliating and uncomfortable?

The reason I'm asking all of this is to see if we all can agree that these ideas, someone telling you you're not allowed to talk, or someone making you wear a vibrator to "remind" you to work, are a violation. Are they still a violation if it's a teacher making kids be quiet and wear a vibrator? I think it is.

I just heard a woman's story about her son at our library homeschooling open house. In a meeting with the teacher and the principal she learned that her kindergarten son leans as he does his work, and it's not an issue generally, except during story time when he might touch someone else. Could they maybe help him move over a little and then he could lean all he wants? Wouldn't that work and not humiliate or stigmatize? Is leaning wrong? Is it a character flaw? Does it damage anybody else? Does it damage him? He leans. Oh my God! Are 5 or 6 year olds not supposed to lean? Physiologically, are they supposed to be still? Should healthy kids not move?

The mom also found out in that meeting that her little son is also easily distracted (some would maybe re-frame that to say that he is exceptionally observant, but I'm biased that way...). They put a vibrator on him to go off every 57 seconds or so to remind him to concentrate. Um. Not to put too fine a point on it but, isn't that completely screwed up?! Under what scenario would that ever be seen as a reasonable idea, a good idea, a helpful idea? If you buzz someone every 57 seconds how will they be able to concentrate on anything--ever? The mom also told me that the teacher had told her son that the vibrator would help him think clearly and would help him come up with ideas to write in his journal...so, every time the vibrator went off, the kid thought that it would literally give him an idea to write about. Unfortunately, the vibrator did not give him anything except confusion and discomfort and a sad mom. She has pulled him out of school and will be homeschooling him. Didn't they violate his person in making him wear something on his body, without his parents knowledge or approval?

I spoke with a couple of other moms who are both PTA parents who have met with the principal at their school about the lunch policy. You see, the kids, 5th graders, are to come in from recess for lunch and at the threshold are to gain full control of themselves to the point that they mustn't speak loudly or jostle each other, and if they do, the whole lunch room must then be silent and have a "silent lunch". They will not be allowed to talk with one another.

When I went to observe what would have been my son's kindergarten when I was researching homeschooling, I noticed that the only time the kids were allowed to talk with one another was at snack time--they didn't even have a recess for the half day kindergarten--otherwise, the talking kids would be reprimanded (gently, but still) and reminded that they could not talk, but they could raise their hands and maybe be called on. Those kids that are so bursting with enthusiasm or discomfort from a sock seam or just have the wiggles are seen as disruptive, or uncooperative. It quickly becomes apparent that they are "bad".

So these PTA moms are doing their research and are going to homeschool their kids in the Fall. If one of the uninformed arguments against homeschooling is that there are socialization issues, I would ask what happens when kids are not allowed to talk to each other freely in an entire school day? Their only time to commune with one another is at lunch and then that's taken away because people are not understanding the nature of kids and giving them time to transition from recess to inside lunch.

The PTA moms took their "silent lunch" concerns to the principal and he told them he already knew where they were going with this. He felt that some things need to be done for the common good. He felt that silent lunches every once in a while were a good thing for the kids.

Yeah, I don't think so and neither do they. They're pulling their kids out of school and are glad to be joining our homeschooling group in the Fall.

The PTA moms also were telling me about the ironic poster on the hallway wall right outside the principal's office. It says, "In order to get respect, you must give respect." unless you're busy violating little kids in all sorts of ways day in and day out. In that case, they're just expected to give you respect and not receive it in return.


Shez said...

I've just read your post to my husband. Both of us are sitting here shaking our heads in disbelief. The mind boggles that educated people, people who are supposedly educated in how to best educate young children, could behave that way.

now they are losing PTA moms, moms who are involved in the school and make it a better place. I pity all those poor children who don't have involved moms, whose moms don't see their daily abuse.

I'm going to link to this post on my blog.

Shez at Homeschooledtwins

Laura said...

Thanks for passing this on Shez. Isn't it a shame I had anything like this to post?

I'm just glad that these parents realized that they had a choice and could homeschool. Many more people could do it, if they realized that they could.

Mama bee said...

That is so frustrating. Silent lunches? I cannot imagine.

Makes me nervous for when my little one hits school age. I haven't really been considering homeschooling, but that may become an option if I don't like what I see at the school. Hmm.

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