Human beings can't be forced to think. This runs absolutely counter to all kinds of notions and traditions, but it's how nature is. Wishing, legislating and expecting that facts be otherwise won't work any better here than it would in the physical sciences (imagine how you might react to such a stance against thermodynamics or the inverse square law).
Edit: if you disagree, say why instead of just voting me down.
Students don't have to attend class. They just have to go to school. They can choose, on a daily basis, what class they want to be in. If they disrupt, they're kicked out of class for the day, since attendance at that class is a voluntary association.
To get credit and a grade for a class, you have to complete X homework assignments and pass Y amount of tests.
If a kid decides they wants to hang out all day in the cafeteria, good for them. Teachers might want to check in on them and see why or offer books or computer access to do some self-education.
You'd also want to diversify the classes if possible. Add classes in video game design, automotive engineering, etc. Make these classes enticing, and hard. Rope the kids in to hard classes by making them seem like blow-offs.
But most of all, let the kid choose to learn, and you have a lot more power over the kids who come in just to disrupt. You also have the added social pressure of the other kids, who will recognize that the disruptors don't have to be there and are only ruining it for everyone.
Never underestimate the motivating power of boredom.
It would certainly be a good starting point though. Something must change, and mandatory testing changes nothing.
This led to some interesting subjects like yoga and womans rights but it also provided subjects of interest to nearly all the students so there was more desire to attend and learn.
An additional bonus of this kind of system is that often subjects like computer games development require some grounding in maths which makes these kinds of abstract subjects more desirable.
It was also clear that these core subjects are requirements for further education so there was always enough desire from people wishing to attend university to keep the core subjects going.
Teachers are professionals who are generally trying to help you become a better person (even if a few degenerate in Stanford Prison Experiment style guards, and they are the ones some people really remember).
You can't be home-jailed.
At the end of it, you get a degree.
Prison education is pretty common
Granted, not everyone can leave jail. But take a boarding school and a minimum security prison and you're getting pretty close to the same thing.
So your analogies don't exactly work. I would suggest reading the work of John Taylor Gatto, A.S. Neil, Francisco Ferrer, and Paulo Freire, though, if you're interested in critiques of education systems and their alternatives.
I didn't downvote you, but I strongly disagree. I personally don't want to live in a society full of kids (did you see his percentages - up to 25%!!) that are considered unmanageable at age 12. If they are unmanageable at age 12, what do you think they are going to be at age 25? Angry, illiterate, jobless oh and yeah, still unmanageable. Or, in jail and unmanageable. Can you build enough jails for 25% of the population?
There are no easy answers to the problems of universal education, but let's not forget why it is there in the first place.
I don't think letting a 12 year old decide they don't have to go to school is the answer. But I do think they should not be allowed to disrupt the education of others.
There are some intereting alternative schools that may be a way to tackle the issue. It's not an easy problem.
With that said, I think what this essay addresses, while seemingly obvious, is one of the biggest problems we face, and education reform generally doesn't mention it.
And I do speculate it hides one of the reasons why places like Promise Academy do so well. The students, even from broken homes, who go there are strongly pushed by mothers (or grandmothers) that this is special place. The expectation of good behavior is much higher there.
"... In the early 1800s, a survey in
Boston found that 90% of the school-age children were
enrolled, even though attendance was not compulsory and
public schooling was not widespread. (3) At that time, the
U.S. was considered the most literate nation in the world! We
learned more when we weren't forced to do so!"
Before you post a rebuttal, please read the link I've given. It has answers to six related questions in this area, so your questions may already have been answered.
With parental involvement and peer group being such an enormous pressure on kids, taking away 1 of the 2 toxic influencers can do wonders for the other 75-85% of the kids.
That being said, universal education can certainly be seen as an attempt to eliminate poverty. The problem is that the cause of learning is not being advanced, for the majority of students, by forcing kids who don't want to be there to keep coming. All many kids are learning from this experience is to hate learning and to associate it with painful experiences. The ones who don't want to be there resent their teachers, and the ones who want to be there resent their classmates.
It seems likely to me, then, that we are making it more difficult to escape poverty, not less, by forcing school attendance on every student. Though the analogy can only be taken so far, I can't help but think of a lifeboat onto which everyone is fleeing as a ship sinks. Will we try to force everyone onto the lifeboat, in the name of egalitarian principles, even if that means that the lifeboat sinks and no one survives?
The choice isn't between universal access to education and easier expulsion. We need to find a better way to deal with the problem kids, and to improve our education system in general.
I understand that the analogy is seductive for you because it leads to a "throw them overboard" proclamation on utilitarian grounds. But it glosses over a facet of the school system -- it's not a logical necessity that failures are required for successes.
It was a big problem in the industrial revolution - trying to get people to understand that they had to turn up at the same time in the summer and winter - which was a big change if you had been used to getting up with the sun for the previous 2000 years
Perhaps, from a certain age, a choice is given ; attend school, and don't disrupt, or end up in some type of system which is far less free than the school system. I'm thinking some type of national service system, in which the kids are away from their home during the week, have freedoms restricted (as in freedom to do what they want after hours) and have extra (skill gaining) tasks to complete outside of regular schooling. The service could be anything from national parks management to military service, at the students choice upon enrolment. The idea would be to locate them away from family, friends and influences, and work with people who demand respect and hard work.
There needs to be a credible threat to the bad behaviour. Getting told off, or threatening to contact the parents has no effect if the parents aren't on board.
I agree that you just don't want to release unmotivated kids onto the streets, bored and with no skills and no future. It's not good for society, it's not good for the student.
My sister participated in the New York Teaching Fellows program (similar to TFA) and worked in Spanish Harlem and her experience was much the same as the author's. So I'm not saying the current situation and the current programs are ideal or well managed, but there are interesting hope-inducing projects and people out there.
p.s. Go watch season 4 of The Wire and see if it tugs at your heartstrings a bit. It also paints a good picture of how screwed up the school system itself is in poor urban communities. Not to mention how pedogogical innovation is treated in the academic setting...
p.p.s. If you're curious about the role of academic philanthropy and the Broad Foundation which the author mentions, have a read: http://dissentmagazine.org/article/?article=3781 . I haven't read a counterpoint to that piece yet, so I'm not sure how well the criticisms stand up.
It's simply acknowledging my status as a human being.
I'll submit that some aspect of keeping kids in school is an attempt to keep those kids out of small trouble now and big trouble later. Paternalistic laws/rules very often rub the most responsible members of society the wrong way when they apply them to themselves. Moreover, applying rules for children to adults will also push your intuitions in a certain way.
Believing in a kid's potential to be a productive member of society, I'd argue, is an even more edifying way of acknowledging their status as a human being. Your version when applied to poor city kids is basically, "sure, it's cool if you want to go become a vandal/drug dealer/future inmate; whatever."
Also, you're giving kids too much credit. Kids will almost always maximize short term payoff at the expense of long term success (hyperbolic discounting?). And good parenting is about balancing those inclinations. In the absence of good parenting, schools can pick up some of the slack.
But what about moving them to an alternate system that addresses their basic, fundamental issues with school and education?
It seems backwards to allow the minority to prevent learning for the majority. It also seems backwards to address these kids' issues in the same way as kids ready to learn.
(I'm not sure if you're trying to weaken my argument by challenging the idea of childhood altogether (which would be weird), or if you're just curious. If it's the former, we're probably not going to have a productive discussion. If it's the latter, I'm open to suggestions, though it probably deserves the attention of an educational psychologist or someone like that.)
The breakdown of the family is what I consider the largest contributor to failing students. It's already hard enough to work and come home to do more work. Add in the guidance a kid needs and you are too tired to provide. You have a good chance that your kid is being raised by their friends and not you. Even if most of your kids friends are good it only takes one to spoil them all.
Cute - anyone who disagrees with you is incapable of compassion....
It doesn't matter what your intent is or how good a person you are. The system, which is largely driven by folks like you, is largely a disaster, and an expensive one at that.
That's on you.
I agree with you in theory, but in practice this doesn't seem to work out so well. Look, for example, at the chapter in Dan Ariely's book Predictably Irrational: about prebinding commitments and universities. In one experiment, he (and his co-authors) took a group of similar classes and divided them in threes: one group was told that it could turn in three papers whenever each member wanted; another group was told it could pick due dates; and the third group was given conventional due dates spaced over the course of the semester. The last group did the best, gradwise; the second did reasonably well too, since most students picked conventional due dates; and the first did by far the worst.
The lesson: people are often bad at committing to things.
I've observed the same effect teaching freshman composition at the University of Arizona. I used to conduct many more experiments by ranging the number of mandatory drafts: sometimes I'd require as few as one, and sometimes as many as five. The more drafts, the better papers tended to be. Even when I only required one, I would tell students they should do at least four to five on their own, with editing from other students, the writing center, etc. Few did. They (mostly) got bad grades and then resented me for it. Solution: require more drafts.
EDITED TO ADD: I would also say that it's relatively easy to advocate no truancy laws on Hacker News (and don't such laws only apply up to 16?); if you were actually a school principal or district superintendent who did, you would probably be fired or voted out of office if such a policy were implemented and you or your community had to face the consequences of it.
Clearly not a problem for the school itself. But it suddenly reminds everyone else that these kids exist, and we can't have that, right?
The old-style solution was much simpler: The principal beat the kid. The kid would go home, and father would beat him a second time. This also doesn't work for similar reasons.
While I never received physical punishment at school (I do believe it occasionally happened at my elementary school, I never got into that level of trouble there), I was occasionally spanked by my parents when I acted rotten. I don't resent my parents for it, in fact I think they're great people and love them very much. I knew at the time why I was receiving that punishment, and I'm mature enough enough now to respect them for it.
"I do not approve of running a school, or any organization, based on fear, much less the threat of physical violence." You've made a leap here that I don't think holds up. The fact that I could have received a spanking at school or that I did receive spankings at home doesn't mean either my school or my home was run "based on fear" or "the threat of physical violence." A spanking is essentially a last resort, and you know it. That's hardly "basing" anything on fear.
"We shouldn't beat children just because they're smaller than us and can't fight back." The line between basic corporal punishment of a kid who refuses to be reasonable and beating a child is a broad one. Equivocating may make your position feel superior, but it's not accurate.
That's not to say corporal punishment in the schools is a grand idea... in part because there are people out there who would enjoy hitting kids, and so screening for that kind of trait would be important. I don't get the feeling your statement was really based on any sort of reasonable accounting of those odds, though. I'd love to hear how you've arrived at your opinion regarding corporal punishment, though. It's not an unpopular one, so I don't think you're some kind of weirdo or something, I'd just be interested in knowing what kind of background you're coming from.
I'm not really advocating the return of corporal punishment in American schools. It's such a political issue, and potential liability, that I have a hard time seeing it ever making a return.
First I tried not resorting to the stick, then I would scare the students with the stick (by swinging at them and missing or stopping just short or their body), but eventually they learned I wouldn't actually hit them.
The class would occasionally get so bad that the child in charge of the class would go around and hit his own classmates.
Unfortunately they responded to the abuse and would quiet down.
I think it's all the culture. It goes back to how the parents discipline the kids and how primary school teachers discipline the students.
I don't believe in corporal punishment in any school, I think this problem can be solved in
Yes. We call them police, but instead of paddles, they have guns.
(Well, I guess in the U.K. they have a grown up kind of paddle?)
The fact that order is ultimately enforced with violence is an unpleasant constant of human societies.
Besides, when was the last time you were in a high school? The teachers are mostly older women, who most definitely cannot afford to play a game of physical escalation with teenage boys.
Also, to address your second point, when I was in elementary school and a few kids did receive corporal punishment, it was always meted out by a principal, and not directly by the teacher.
The part that scares me the most isn't the students though, it's the `adults'. The amount of evil and incompetence from the school board level down is astonishing. I wouldn't trust those people to take my order at a fast food restaurant.
Uhm, yes, except we call it the death penalty or, alternatively, life in prison.
Another plane crashed today - one of the turbine blades was cracked but we decided to give it sensitivity training to get in touch with it's inner strength rather than callously replace it.
First, for a democracy to function, the voters need to be at least sufficiently educated to understand the issues.
Second, for an advanced capitalistic society with heavy automation to function, the work force needs to be at least sufficiently educated to handle nontrivial jobs.
And third, minors, lacking in experience, often make decisions that their older self would regret. Right or wrong our society tries to protect them against at least the worst of these bad decisions. This is precisely why we permit minors to rescind contracts (under most circumstances).
Now, with all that said, I think our society might benefit from offering trade schools/apprenticeships more readily and earlier in the educational system then it currently does, given consent of both the minor and the gaurdian. This may prove more useful to many of them then an academic course that is largely geared towards the college admissions process.
Part of the problem is that education is not valued - neither by the kids, nor their parents. As a culture we need to make sure education is valued across the board.
Another part of the problem is that once these kids are out of school they'll be causing trouble at home or in their neighborhoods.
I think a better plan would be the following:
- Make attendance voluntary, but put programs in place that allow people to return to school and learn regardless of their age.
- Put trade schools in place that teach practical skills quickly. This way even if you're not cut out for school, at least you can learn a skill that can make you some money. A lot of these kids are coming from low income families.
- Make parents responsible for their kids. Right now a lot of parents treat school as daycare for their kids, they don't care what happens there as long as the kids aren't at home. Schools need to be able to expel and discipline kids without being fiscally punished. (either by lawsuit or losing funding because of poor performance)
Long term maxharris is absolutely right, you can't teach someone who doesn't want to learn. It doesn't work. We need a cultural shift that places education at the top of the list. And we need political leaders who are willing to risk their necks and hold parents accountable instead of throwing money and bad policy at the problem.
Absolutely agreed. There's very little that a school can do for a kid if the parents don't care what the kid does at school. I'm not sure the solution needs to involve expulsions, but parents definitely need to have a greater responsibility in their children's education. You can't just drop your kid off at school and mind your own business.
If greater parental involvement in education means that one of the parents can't have a full time job and save money for college, so be it. Especially if you're already middle-class! I'd much rather have a caring parent than an extra vacation. Well raised kids should be able to pay for college on their own, anyway.
1. Stop forcing people who don't want to go to school to be there.
2. Make it easy for people to change their minds and return to school later.
I think #2 is absolutely necessary if #1 is to be implemented. Appropriate programs would have to be available for older students to continue their education, and they'd have to be available on a subsidized basis.
My only concern about this whole line of thinking is the issue of parents forcing their children to leave school against their will and work instead. I haven't been able to come up with a convincing solution to that problem yet. I feel certain that the current system is undesirable, though.
I'm certain that I'm mischaracterizing why kids are misbehaving in class, but what I am sure about is that the standard method of bucketing 30 kids into the same class, and expecting them to learn the same material at the same pace does a disservice to them and the teachers. I was a math tutor in my younger years, and all too often I saw how many kids were left behind (even in the suburbs). Alternatively, many kids were ahead of their grade level and boredom became inevitable.
Even worse, forcing bad kids to attend school against their will diminishes the quality of good kids' educations. The good kids are the ones whose powerful minds actually stand a chance of improving civilization in big ways.
Not saying I was a great, great student (I was in the top 3% of a huge public HS, but plenty of other kids were smarter than me), but if I had known how badly I was getting screwed over by taking classes with bullies/people who did not want to learn anything in school except that Jesus is God and every non-Christian is going to Hell, I would've tried to switch schools at a very young age. If I only knew then what I know now...
Dropping out makes it much, much more difficult to return, or even to decide to return.
And what does it mean for something to be in "society's interest," anyway? I'm honestly unsure of what that means.
Do kids who would have been truant give up some of the legal protections they enjoy as minors? Do we set up some sort of public "work camp" in lieu of schools for kids who aren't manageable in the classroom? It's not as if these kids have parents who will take responsible custody for them - that's a huge part of the problem. I'm not sure what the best answer for society is, but I'm not sure you're quite there with your suggestion.
I'm not saying that your idea doesn't have some merit, and I agree that there are good kids getting screwed because they are stuck in crappy schools. But I think that unleashing the worst of that demographic from the only "responsibility" they might have is a dangerous idea.
The unfortunate thing about this situation is that I don't believe there is an easy and quick answer. I believe the bad behavior is largely caused by 2 things:
1. Bad influences from the community - parents, siblings, friends, and possibly surrounding media/entertainment.
2. The school system. More than for anyone else, the way the school is structured is (clearly) ineffective for these struggling students.
Even if there were real disciplinary actions taken, the methods of disciplining (that I have observed anyway) are often out-of-date. Our understanding of behavior change has increased greatly in the past several years and needs to be more widely understood.
Solutions I see:
a. Quit making a large part of school so incredibly boring and seemingly pointless. Spend A LOT more time focusing on topics closer to what students care about (and should care about).
b. Behavior issues will happen and are normal. Work on changing bad behaviors by understanding how the environment shapes behaviors. Understand that behavior change is more likely to happen when new behaviors are supported/introduced/allowed to thrive, rather than continuously trying to suppress current behaviors -- there's a reason for those bad behaviors existing in the first place, you can't ignore them. Understand how incredibly ineffective abstract commands are ("don't be bad" as an extreme example), and fear tactics.
c. Bad behaviors are often caused by bad influences in the community (issue #1 from above). Changing the community behaviors changes the student behaviors (perhaps over long periods of time). I realize this is difficult, however very essential.
To stop disruption, one should look at streaming by achievement as an option. This is already widely done in High School, and could be expanded to middle school with enough ease. Kids who are overly disruptive will disrupt only other disruptors ( and those who do badly in their classes... these people will be failed, but I look at it as for the greater good.).
Actually, my home province has this- to some extent. It's called the "Knowledge and Employability" program. I don't know much about it, but it seems to have been moderately successful.
Also, if a child commits a crime in school (vandalism, verbal assault, physical assault, disturbing the peace) and is found to be a threat to the learning environment then they should be suspended. It's simply a matter of giving some power back to the authorities. Right now the children know that the teachers are their bitches. Until that changes the fight can't be won. Especially in children who have a gang member mentality.
I don't think the commenters saying that discipline is the teacher's responsibility understand the circumstances involved in some of these schools. We're talking about kids pulling knives on each other or throwing desks, not passing notes in the back of the class.
The teacher also has no control over how much the parents (or in many cases grandparents) will help. My girlfriend had one kid who had to be suspended for throwing a chair at her. When he came back, he said that while he was suspended his dad took him out on a boat and got him ice cream. Suspension was more fun than going to school, so is it surprising that his behavior never changed?
As for your second point, I think it is a gross simplification to say "It's simply a matter of giving some power back to the authorities." We do need to give some power back to the authorities, but there's nothing simple about it.
Now I'm sure there are a lot of mitigating factors on the parental side, in terms of having to work long hours to put food on the table, but in the end, discipline and respect begin at home.
There's also an HBO miniseries based on it (which I haven't watched, so I can't vouch), and Season 4 of The Wire is partially about a Baltimore inner-city school (The Wire is fantastic). Simon also spent a year embedded with the Baltimore police homicide division, which became a book, a TV serial (called Homicide), and informed much of The Wire.
Some people are commenting that the solution to the problems at these schools is to completely give up on the troublemakers; I don't think it would be that clear-cut for you after you read or watch these. The kids you give up on are the ones lost to the hardcore drug culture forever. Those same kids are the ones that perpetuate the problem- there's a terrible feedback loop going on.
In response to jmm, who suggests that by allowing kids to decide freely whether to go to school I am advocating, as he says, throwing some of them overboard: I really don't feel that that's an accurate description of my feelings about this topic. I think that kids are people, not slaves of the state or of their parents. I am not advocating simply abandoning kids who are not interested in attending school; instead, I'd like to see a variety of educational, vocational, and artistic services available for them, free of charge, which they can take advantage of whenever THEY come to the conclusion that they want to do so. I'd like those services to be easy to access, with no red tape involved, and I'd like them to be well publicized and well known within the community.
I simply don't understand how allowing kids the freedom to make their own decisions about what they want to learn and when they want to learn it can be anything but a good thing. Must everyone be subject to coercion and force from the earliest ages? Do we have to crush the genuine love of learning most children are born with under the boot of an oppressive school environment they have no choice but to be a part of?
My views on this topic are derived in part from my own experience, but they have also been shaped a great deal by the writings of John Holt. For those who are interested, I'd recommend How Children Fail as a great book to start with; it has really been influential in my thinking about education and the nature of school.
The school my mom used to work at was rampant with corruption and ineptitude. It was taken over by the state BOE and three years later, nothing has changed. When the school falls into dire straits, why not offer it up as a test case for passionate researchers?
As a resident New Yorker, I can answer this one: entrenched interests. There are a lot of people who have bought a lot of influence to achieve the status quo, and they don't really see what the problem is.
It doesn't work in lower density areas. That was one of the most horrible provisions of NCLB, trying to make generalizations that could be applied equally well to an area where there are a wide array of schools and communities where you have one school for 500 students and getting to any other school is a serious hardship for the students involved.
And in those circumstances, trying to improve the existing school is the only option, since doing worse is unacceptable. (We're talking about years of children's lives here, and the only real source of education these communities have.)
It's as frustrating to the those who use the system as to those who work in it.
In our private schools, we simply swap out the teachers. In such schools where the teacher cannot be changed, one can ask an assistant to sit in, or send the teacher on more training courses.
A teacher is to train students, and part of that is making the students respect education enough to sit down and listen. If the teacher can't do that, then sorry, but that's not a good teacher. If the teacher realises that a particular class constellation does not work, then he or she should do something about it, not blame an invisible 'system'.
Most private schools that I have visited don't admit or will expel any student that is disruptive on a regular basis which would mean the teacher has a way to enforce policy and rules which is different from what the author of the post has to deal with. On top of that most kids that go to private schools have a much different home life than urban schools. It's just not a valid comparison.
Because, when I use the word 'unruly,' I'm including the 6'0" seventh grade 15 year old male student with behavioral issues physically threatening the 5'4" 22 female new teacher in my definition.
But even the best of teachers will be helpless if the system doesn't support them. I highly doubt that criminally disruptive students are allowed to stay in your family's private schools -- so you're quite likely already doing exactly what this teacher thinks you should be doing! Your whole argument is disingenuous; the system isn't invisible, your family of private school owners are one such system.
I'm sure lots of people here has worked in a job that changed management and went from having a productive department to unproductive chaos (and vice-versa). The people doing the work on the ground didn't change.
In a classroom, the teacher's authority derives from the school. If the school does not backup the teacher's authority, then the teacher has none. (Within reason - I don't want schools to backup teachers who make poor choices as to how to wield their authority.)
Two part question, if I may - how many students have brought knives to class?
You are correct though about private schools taking positive elements from the state school system - when you look at who typically attends a private school here the parents are typically successful, extremely motivated people who tend to pass these values onto their kids.
If the kids are raised by single parents, parents who have to work long and underpaid hours or parents who have substance abuse and/or crime issues the best teacher in the world will not, in most cases, be able to have impact. Yes, there are exceptions. And teachers need to be accountable for what they do in their classrooms. But the pervasive problems can't just be blamed on the teachers alone, the problems need to be addressed by promoting family support systems, promoting teachers who care and school systems provisioned with resources.
In that environment, a teacher should be able to control the students. But you can't expect a system that works in those conditions to work in non-optimal conditions.
That being said I love your point about not blaming an invsibile system. Every teacher I talk to blames someone else for all the problems in his or her clasroom. The public school system in this country is far from perfect but I believe many of the problems brought up in the original article arise from teachers who are unwilling or unable handle their students appropriately. Stop blaming everyone else and start solving the problem on your own.
The root cause in all of these issues is parenting. If the parents don't bother to care about their kid's education, it's already lost. The education and school system is part of the problem, but you can trace the child's inability to learn back to the parents.
1) Parents dont care about the child's learning
2) The child realizes the parents dont care and so they mess around in class
3) Teacher and school has no authority to really enforce learning. Meaning, you can assign homework, you can punish them for not doing them, but beyond that, you can't force them to sit down to read and learn.
4) Student fails.
5) Parent is up set at the school system so they complain to the principle, and the school district
6) School district pressures principle, principle pressures teacher to water down the curriculum
7) FAILURE of the entire system
This idea that a teacher can stand up in front of the class and say something so inspiring that it magically makes the goof-offs and the slackers want to be A+ students is great for a Hollywood movie, but completely unrealistic. On a 1-on-1 basis, sure that's probably possible if you're really good, and really can take the time. But if teachers had the power to inspire and move those troublemakers en masse with the power of their words without taking half their class time, then they wouldn't be teachers, they'd be world-class salespeople or winning politicians.
When a parent can understand at what level their child is at in their educational path, then they can make an impact. Meaning, if my child has problems just sitting down and absorbing information, they can go out and find answers.
One large part of why the educational system is so bad right now, is that parents are not taking responsibility for their child's education. They blame it on others.
I mean, maybe that really is it -- we have truancy laws where a parent can get in actual legal trouble if their kid doesn't go to school, perhaps there should be laws where a parent can actually get into trouble if their kid is a disruptive student. I have a hard time seeing such a system actually working, "can't legislate morality" and other platitudes, but it's a thought, I suppose.
I'm not saying that all children should mindlessly obey whatever they're told by authority figures, but I think we can all get together on "shut up while the teacher is talking"
See, eg,  for a chart of teacher salaries vs inflation over time. Quoting the article: "[...] we also find dramatic erosion in relative teacher earnings since 1960." See also figure C, "Real weekly wage trends for teachers and others, 1979 - 2006". In short, teacher's have been taking a hit in the wallet for the privilege of teaching for 30-40 years. In fact, if you're familiar with employment in America, you'll know the quality of teachers has fallen as women have been able to find alternate careers; we used to have a surplus of talented, skilled women who entered teaching because they were unable to pursue alternate careers.
A big part of this is no doubt due to Baumol's cost disease , but the trend in wages is real nonetheless.
I'm not sure why people on HN in particular, with an IMO more entrepreneurial mindset than most, are surprised that quality tends to follow wages. In this case, away from education.
When I was in school and played cards on the bus, sometimes we played capitalisim, a fun game if you were on the top of the heap. Invariably the lowest status role was named teacher. Next up was garbageman.
One solution is to create a separate school with an educational model tailored to the problem, such as a military academy. This only works if there is a high enough population density to fill that school, the educational model actually works, and parents are willing to admit the problem and send their kids to that school.
There are a lot of disruptive students who are best served by going through the normal school system with a moderate amount of discipline when they act up. Many of these kids don't want to be in school, and would prefer to be at home playing video games, or barring that, in an easy, low-effort class. Allowing these kids to skip school, take easy classes, or putting them in a separate system risks allowing them to jeopardize their own future because of the impatience and short-term thinking common to almost all teenagers.
But then kid A's parents get mad - or think they can make some money - and it turns out that kid A is belgian/green skinned/three eyed/an FSM worshipper and you have a lawsuit. Or at least the threat of a lawsuit which can go away with a large enough payment.
Throw out all kids that break any rule and you have been perfectly fair
In a poorer minority neighborhood near where I used to live I remember reading a report about a super market closing down a few years back -- when times were relatively good. They cited shoplifting and numerous slip and fall lawsuits against them as reasons for shutting.
I'd often interrupt class and get into arguments with him because I called him out on this bullshit pretty regularly and frankly I just couldn't take him seriously even at that age. This was in a public school system in a small city in Texas, so I suppose it's kind of expected.
My second point was that I suspect the easiest fix would be to adopt a zero tolerance policy or three-strikes-then-expelled. The harder solution, though it is better in the long term, is to do something that ensures that the parents take more responsibility and make better life choices and set a better example both for their own kids and their neighborhoods. Ultimately, solving this is not rocket science. Folks are just choosing, explicitly or implicitly, to not implement them. They then reap what they sow.
My third point is that it may be that some percentage of kids can never be made to behave properly (short of brain surgery or cognitive drug therapy, for example) and so we may have to adjust our system to accomodate. Arguably, we already have. If a child misbehaves enough they tend to end up dead or in prison.
When 90% of a specific race statistically have a broken family with no father figure around, it's no wonder that the kids turn out the way they do. It's a vicious cycle.
Another problem is that because the kids are getting nothing at home, they would need tons extra attention in school. How can a teacher possibly fill the role of parent when she has many other students that also need the same kind of attention?
Until we can come to terms with things like this, the problems will never go away.
"The harder solution, though it is better in the long term, is to do something that ensures that the parents take more responsibility and make better life choices and set a better example both for their own kids and their neighborhoods."
This is the problem right here. It's the parents at home, but you can't force parents to do anything...and you probably won't ever be able to, unless we were under some sort of totalitarian dictatorship.