Military School

“I’d like to go to a normal school,” said Anthony Pachetti, 12, a seventh grader who has been barred from activities for failing math, science and social studies. “It’s not doing anything for me except taking everything away.”

School’s New Rule for Pupils in Trouble: No Fun – New York Times

Whew. The overemphasis and negativity of the disciplinary methods in the school profiled in this New York Times article sound miserable, sad, and desperate. Taking away after school clubs, shaming children, and other harsh measures aren’t, in my opinion, going to help these children take learning seriously. Not to mention associate learning and school with fun.

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One response to “Military School

  1. I’m sorry to disagree twice in two days! But — I think this article is getting this school all wrong. My guess is that these methods are borrowed not from military schools but from KIPP, where we use a similar or perhaps harsher system called “the bench” as our “you have gone outside the boundaries of acceptable behavior” consequence. (Unlike this school, we try to keep it to fewer than 10% of students at any time, and it’s never assigned for poor grades or anything as fuzzy as lack of effort; in general it’s instead of a suspension, which sends the message that no matter what they do, we still want them learning.)

    I came from teaching at an independent school where excluding any child from anything would have seemed insane. But most of my current students come to our school without ever having experienced a consistent rule structure. When they displeased their parents enough, they were beaten with a belt, and that was that. It takes us about six months to convince them that when we say something — like “you have to do your homework” or “you can’t punch people in school” — we’re going to remember that we said it and we’re going to keep trying until they follow it.

    In a way it’s teaching them to trust us, which other children learn at a younger age; if I say you can’t fight at school, I’m going to prevent you from doing it, not just punish you for it, and I’m going to prevent others from fighting you. I’m going to keep you safe from fighting.

    We have to find a way to tell them, “We’re not going to let you do x or y in our community, and we are going to make sure you want to avoid doing x or y, but we still love you, and we still care about you, and we still want you learning.” Maybe the most important element of the bench is that there’s a very structured, ritualized way to get off it by acknowledging and fixing the problem you caused. It gives kids a feeling of control over their destinies that isn’t necessarily innate.

    Which is a long way of explaining, I don’t think this necessarily comes from a place of wanting to shame and hurt kids. Sometimes it’s more akin to, instead of yelling at a small child who reaches for an electrical outlet, picking him or her up and taking him or her somewhere else.


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