Thursday, November 12, 2009

School Violence

I have commented to my husband several times about how school violence isn't new. If you look to schools 100 years ago or more, many schools had problems with bullying and violence--frequently against the teachers themselves.
Now the two examples I will give are from stories, but stories that were at least based on fact, if not written from real life examples.
The first one that comes to mind is from Farmer Boy, written by Laura Ingalls Wilder. It is the story that tells about her husband Almanzo's growing up years. One of the tales told is about a bully who frequented their schoolhouse named Big Bill Ritchie. He was the son of a French trapper who lived in a little village of trappers. He was notorious for his fighting, his temper, and his ability to break up the school the other parents worked so hard to bring to their community. He had been known to beat up the teachers, one so badly, he died from it later. Mr. Corson, Almanzo's teacher, was described as a slim, pale man with small features--not a fighting man. When Almanzo expresses his concern to his own father, his father replies (more or less),"The school board hired Mr. Corson. It is his job and his problem to figure out, and I am expecting him to come out on top."
Anyway, later on when Big Bill finally starts to go after the teacher, Mr. Corson pulls a blacksnake whip, that is 15 feet long out of his desk, that has a solid iron handle, and proceeds to whip this bully to shreds. He lashes his skin and clothes to the point of bleeding, blubbering, and whimpering to leave. All his cronies slink out the back door, and Mr. Corson wins the day, and Almanzo is both amazed and relieved.
Now, my understanding is that Mr. Corson is NOT fired for such actions, but commended. He stood up to the bully, and gave him a taste of his own medicine. He also protected the other students from harm, and earned the respect of those who would otherwise have scorned him.
The other story I am thinking of is The Strawberry Girl by Lois Lenski. When Birdie (the main character) starts school in their neck of the woods(Florida), a local bully does the same thing, only in that case, he is beaten to a pulp, and the school is let out for some time, because he is so injurred. However, the teacher takes his rod and does attempt to defend himself, but he was outnumbered 3 to 1.
Just gauging from these two examples, school violence isn't new. However, tying the teacher's hands and lessening punishment and discipinary action are.
Can you imagine what would happen today if a teacher attempted to do the same in a classroom today--even if he was faced with a student who was endangering everyone? Not that you want schools to be places of warfare, but with the reality of shootings, bomb threats, and other lovely(hint:sarcasm)modern contrivances of violence, it seems to me, it would be wise to have some kind of action available against such students. Perhaps a rotation of armed teachers? Only a few, and it could change from day to day, but it's a possibility.
I could see a teacher faced with a student who could be blowing his fellow classmates away, doing something to stop him, even if it harmed the student, and getting in trouble, or losing his job for doing so.
Seems to me things are getting a little out of whack?? And the government wants the schools to be even bigger, causing some students to feel even more alienated and afraid. I attended a large city-type school when I was 11, and the experience is not one I wanted to repeat or one I would want my children to endure. There were fights constantly, it was filthy, the food was rancid, and it was extremely overcrowded. I remember my science class housing 40 students in a college-type tiered classroom stepping down to where the teacher taught--in sixth grade!!
I think the older ways of school are more appealing-before the days of football, million-dollar budgets, and bussed in students from every corner of the county.
Farmer Boy describes their school system, also--imagine this in your neighborhood. The school Almanzo attended was, I think, a mile and a half from his house, and he and his brother and sisters walked, Almanzo carrying the lunch basket. It was your typical one-room school with the small children up front and the older children in the back. What I found interesting was this--the teacher boarded at each house in the district for two weeks. When the round of two week intervals had been completed for each home,(homes who had children in the school I would imagine)the school term was over. Also, I found it interesting that whenever Almanzo begged too much work at home, he was allowed to stay home and work instead of go to school. His parents were well-educated, and even wealthy for those times, but they still saw value in having their son stay home rather than go to school. Heaven knows he learned plenty of practical hands-on type things that school didn't offer. He also learned work ethic at home, and learned how to contribute to the family he came from. He learned bartering and business watching his mother and father sell their homegrown produce(his mother sells butter for 50 cents/pound! can you imagine?).
Nowadays, Almanzo would be forced to go to school, at least most of the time, and whose to say that the confining nature of the school to a freedom loving lad would have caused him to get antisocial and bitter?? However, we must group all students in the same pot and force them all to go to school so they have a better future, when some children and adolescents might be better off if they had other alternatives to institutional school. Like being at home, forging tighter bonds with mom and dad instead of peers--and so keeping them out of trouble. I understand it's pretty common that children who go to school tend to favor their peers' opinions more than mom and dad's.
I have crossed the line over into rambling, so I will sign off, but I will say that I am in no way trying to condemn anyone for their decision to send their children to school or keep them home, but I do wish more people would actually think about the decision before making it--too many just make the decision by default--public school--no other options.

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please be kind, folks:) Differences of opinion are fine, but let the love of Christ reign here...