Re: [xmca] Got discipline?

From: Mike Cole <lchcmike who-is-at>
Date: Tue Jul 03 2007 - 11:44:27 PDT

That is REALLY a beautiful, concise, exposition of the issues.
Thanks a lot

On 7/3/07, Hasty, James E. <> wrote:
> Just thought you'ld appreciate ths. Peter is a professor at UGA. In
> fact, he is sitting on my committe when I finally get around to writing and
> defending my comps in the next decade or so.
> hasty
> -----Original Message-----
> From: on behalf of Peter Smagorinsky
> Sent: Tue 7/3/2007 8:13 AM
> To: xmca; Alysha; Anne; Antoine Joseph; Bill Slusser; Bob Fecho; David;
> Eric Koppert; Fred; Jack Nicholson; Jane; Jeff Golub; Jim Marshall; Jim
> Myers; Joel Taxel; Larry Johannessen; Mark Faust; Marty Nystrand; Michael
> Smith;; Peg Graham; Russ Durst; Terry; Tim Roberts
> Subject: [xmca] Got discipline?
> The Thomas opinion is at
> Got discipline?
> In a free-speech ruling, Justice Thomas misstates the purpose of
> education.
> By Jonathan Zimmerman, JONATHAN ZIMMERMAN wrote "Innocents Abroad:
> American
> Teachers in the American Century."
> June 28, 2007
> WHAT ARE schools for?
> For the last decade, I've taught a history course with that title at New
> York University. My students and I examine the different purposes that
> Americans have assigned to public schools, including:
> A. to teach the great humanistic traditions of the West;
> B. to develop the individual interests of the child;
> C. to promote social justice;
> D. to prepare efficient workers.
> Over the last four centuries, Americans have struggled to balance these
> goals - and many others - in their schools. To Supreme Court Justice
> Clarence Thomas, however, there's only one right answer:
> E. to instill discipline and obedience
> That's what Thomas wrote this week in his strange concurring opinion in
> Morse vs. Frederick, better known as the "BONG HiTS 4 JESUS" case. A
> banner
> with those words was unfurled by senior Joseph Frederick outside his
> Alaska
> high school, and he was suspended.
> Ruling 5 to 4 in favor of the principal who censored the banner, the court
> decided that the school's interest in discouraging drug use outweighed the
> student's free-speech rights. But Thomas went further, insisting that the
> student had no right to free speech in the first place and that the
> history
> of American education proves it.
> He's wrong. Simply put, the accurate history in Thomas' opinion is not
> relevant. And the relevant history that he recounts is not accurate.
> Let's start with what he got right. As he correctly asserts, America's
> first
> schools primarily promoted discipline. "Early public schools were not
> places
> for freewheeling debates or exploration of competing ideas," Thomas wrote.
> The mostly male teaching force in the early 1800s brooked little or no
> dissent, often whipping children who challenged adult authority.
> True enough. But so what? Here's the part that Thomas leaves out. From the
> very birth of the common school system in the 1830s, the strict discipline
> that he celebrates came under fire from a host of different Americans. The
> most prominent champion of common schools, Horace Mann, warned teachers
> against excessive force and the suppression of students' natural
> inclinations.
> That's one reason Mann and his generation backed the hiring of female
> teachers, who were seen as more kind, tolerant and nurturing. (The other
> reason was that schools could pay them less.) By 1900, roughly
> three-quarters of American teachers were women.
> The early 20th century would bring another burst of change to American
> schools, centered on the question of democracy. To reformers like John
> Dewey, schools based on strict discipline - and its pedagogical companion,
> rote memorization - could never give citizens the skills they needed to
> govern themselves. Instead of fostering mindless obedience, then, schools
> needed to teach children how to make up their own minds - that is, how to
> reason, deliberate and rule on complex political questions.
> To be sure, plenty of Americans still wanted teachers to bring the kids to
> heel. And it's fair to ask whether schools today promote the kind of
> inquiry
> that Dewey envisioned.
> The point is not that Dewey was "right" or that everyone agreed with him.
> Rather, history teaches us that Americans have always disagreed on the
> proper goal for schools.
> None of this debate appears in Thomas' opinion, which gets cut off just
> when
> things get interesting. To Thomas, American educational history seems to
> end
> at the start. Our first schools aimed to instill discipline, he wrote, so
> that's what schools should do.
> Worse, Thomas assumes that the schools succeeded in this task. "Teachers
> commanded," he wrote, "and students obeyed." But this command melted away
> in
> recent years, Thomas claims, when courts invented specious student rights
> -
> and "undermined the traditional authority of teachers to maintain order in
> the public schools."
> Here's the part of Thomas' opinion that would be relevant - if it were
> true.
> But it's not. Yes, teachers tried to establish strict order and discipline
> in early American schools. As often as not, however, they failed.
> Consider the 1833 memoir of Warren Burton, a New Hampshire minister. When
> faced with a particularly cruel teacher, Burton writes, his classmates
> revolted. They tackled the teacher, carried him outside and threw him down
> an icy hillside.
> The theme appears in other memoirs and especially in fiction from the 19th
> century, which depicts unruly students - usually boys - challenging or
> mocking teacher authority. Think of Tom Sawyer lowering a cat by a string
> to
> snatch his bald teacher's wig. Such stories resonated with Americans
> because
> they understood - in ways Thomas does not - the chaos and violence that
> pervaded so many public schools.
> So Thomas can spare us the nostalgia. Our schools were never the paragons
> of
> discipline he imagines. And pretending otherwise simply diverts us from
> the
> big question, which will never have a single answer:
> What are schools for?
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Received on Tue Jul 3 11:45 PDT 2007

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