Schools should not be like prisons

Tuesday, September 18, 2012    

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Dear Editor

I recently saw several news stories in which students were turned away from school because of dress code violations. While I acknowledge the necessity of having a dress code, all rules should be constantly evaluated to ensure that they are achieving their desired result.

I believe that the current rules governing students are excessive and undermine the education of student, so they might just produce more indiscipline. Clearly, the primary role of a school is to educate its students, so it should raise concern that most rules seek to influence factors that have no material impact on learning. As a student who was turned away from school put it, "Tight pants nuh have nutten fi do wid education." Given that this student's peers in Australia, Europe and North America are on average achieving higher test scores, with a less restrictive dress code, I must agree.

In fact the many rules actually diminish the level of education in schools. First, with so many rules in place, teachers must waste time investigating and enforcing breaches. The time spent checking whether a student is wearing the correct colour socks could be spent teaching! Furthermore, all the rules teachers are asked to enforce create unnecessary animosity between teachers and students.

Some have argued that these rules help the education process by limiting distractions, but this fails to take into account the distraction caused when teachers stop teaching to enforce rules. Furthermore, given the success rate of students in other countries while being plagued with these so-called distractions, one has to question the legitimacy of the "distractions prevention" argument.

The hard-line, "do as I say approach" in schools has not worked. Massive gates that are often closed, high fences covered with barbed wire, and extensive rules make schools feel like prisons. This high-handed approach does not serve to foster the type of maturity we wish to see our children develop. We should not be surprised that some students end up in prison - after all, we treat them like prisoners.

I had a maths teacher who allowed me to listen to music while doing my work in class. While I am not advocating that MP3 players be allowed in schools, it is this type of autonomy and flexibility that teaches teens to be mature. Telling someone how to dress, where to eat, etc, fosters rebellion - not the mature young adults our schools should be producing.

As Einstein said, repeating the same action and expecting a different result is insane. We are not satisfied with the education or discipline our schools are providing, therefore it is insane to continue on the current path of excessive rules and authoritarianism where teachers are more enforcers than educators.

Clevon Meikle

clevonium@hotmail.com

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