Thursday, March 18, 2010

Parental Spanking

And not even for ME this time (even though I try to earn them with some regularity). This is an open letter to the parents and teachers of today.

Hey Fellow Parents, Esteemed Teachers:

Y'all are insane! I don't think it bodes well for our future. Let me e'splain...

SIX SUSPENDED AT MIDDLE SCHOOL FOR PINCHING: St. Patrick's Day goes awry in middle school madness!

You think I'm kidding, don't you? If my older child, the drama queen, had come home with this story, we might have questioned it. She is prone to exaggeration, and I think she truly edits events as they happen, so she remembers them the way she would have LIKED them to be (read:  DRAMATIC er... and not her fault). My son though, is a more reliable witness, so I believe him.

He is a newly budding fashionista and pays attention to things that drive my husband crazy. He's got that crazy longish hair swept way to the side so he has to hold his head tilted. He wears fragrance. All those signs he is becoming aware of GIRLS. (aware nothing, report is, he HAS a girlfriend, though at 11, I think it is pretty mild)

Night before last he asked for some help finding a green shirt. This University of Oregon grad was ashamed he didn't have a UO shirt to call on, but there we have it. We finally found a gray shirt with green stripes and called it good. What this makes me THINK however, is that among the sixth grade set, there had been some discussion, nay... anticipation... as to what happens to kids who don't wear green.

You got it. They get PINCHED. They had been anticipating standard middle school silliness, probably for a week. Now I don't know the origin of this tradition, but it's been happening for eons—well before I was in school. So why the kerfuffle?

The only reasons I can think of are:

1)  Sexual Harassment: I can see this taking a butt pinching vent and I know there is a no tolerance on sexual harassment that has been taken WAY too far. A friend of mine saw a grade school girl suspended for hugging a boy because he was holding a stuffed animal she was enamored with. My thought on this? SINGLE EVENT HARASSMENT MAKES NOT (Sorry, my Yodaish is rusty). Harassment, by definition GOES ON. That doesn't mean tolerance for inappropriate behavior, but it really DOES mean you get a warning first. And I think this pinching thing could ONLY be considered sexual harassment if it IS done in a sexual way--which I don't know that it was, but to be fair, I don't know that it wasn't.

2)  Escalation: Maybe one person pinches, another pinches back, the 2nd pinchee gets mad because they are wearing green and shouldn't have been pinched.... builds up to a fight. I can see it. Boys aren't going to pinch boys, I don't think, but there are some tough girls who might get into this cycle. Bad idea. I get it. Slippery slope, so a blanket ban on pinching. STILL, isn't a WARNING adequate?

3)  Serial pinchers: Okay, maybe these kids DID get warned and kept doing it. Then they asked for it, right?

Which leads to my next point.


How are people getting CAUGHT? Back in the day, we did a lot of this, and I'm sure we were told not to, but I can't remember anyone getting in trouble (at least not more than a 'Lance, keep your hands to yourself.' I can only think of two ways these kids are getting busted like this.

1)  They are DIM and so doing it in front of teachers.

2)  They are being tattled on.

And thus begins my doom of the world saga.

Nation of Wimps

My husband has had this book on our bedside for a long time and I've thumbed through it. For a naked chick who just thinks everyone ought to be nice to each other, it's sort of odd that I agree so strongly with most of the premise.

We have become so protective, so guarding of fragile self esteem, such advocates for equality among all, that we've created a generation that will NEVER take responsibility and can't shrug ANYTHING off. You heard me. By never letting kids fail, by not allowing their peers to chastise them into place, they don't learn what behaviors are inappropriate, they don't learn the difference between minor infractions that peers cope with WITHOUT authority intervention versus serious stuff, and they never think they are in the wrong (unless of course they are trying to correct somebody ELSES bad behavior, when in fact they get in trouble).

Long time readers may have heard me mention issues related to this with my son. My son's peer group (this was 2 years ago) was working NORMALLY (excluding a boy because he always wanted them to play his game and if they didn't he'd go tattle—making stuff up if he had to 'they said my ideas are stupid' when really they said, 'no, we already decided to play this'). My son (the mouthpiece because he was the only one naive enough to not know better) said 'we don't want you to play with us' and got in trouble for bullying. Group decision. MY POINT: That boy SHOULD have been excluded in the short term for tattling—those are kid rules and everyone should follow them unless there is physical danger or a chronic problem. He would have been given a chance again after he learned his lesson—I know these boys—they are NOT mean and rotten. They were peer correcting and got in trouble for it. So that OTHER boy, now in middle school, has no friends because he never learned how to behave, because the no tolerance bullying policy wouldn't allow his peers to train him. [Though admittedly, his chances were low because his mother behaves the same way *cough*]... still, that peer system WORKS. My peers corrected some of MY inherited neuroses...

I don't sound very much like a pacifist at the moment, do I?

I guess though, I am thinking the world is a rough place and we all need a little bit of thickness to our skin. I don't think kids should EVER be allowed to pick on others because of what they ARE (a different race, gender or religion, fat, short, pimply, slow at learning, uncoordinated—even dirty)--those things aren't the kid's fault, but it seems there should be some tolerance for kids to correct other kids BEHAVIOR. ("If you don't stop picking your nose, we won't play with you!") Because eventually, the OTHER kids are going to have a choice who they hang out with... eventually the social time moves away from school.  It is a huge incentive for kids to mature and grow at the same rate as their peers and is absolutely critical to later life where things WON'T be tolerated.

You know what else? Learning to peer correct in an environment where some rules can't be crossed (on a playground) means it is done within boundaries--it doesn't become a fistfight, or one kid at the center of a dozen badgerers. If it ISN'T learned there, people go overboard elsewhere.

So I think these kids haven't learned not to tattle, even though it is the most basic honor code among kids. And I think they haven't had enough behaviors corrected by teachers, so they don't realize one little thing could get them kicked out of school for a few days. They don't self monitor because good behavior has never been enforced, so this little, joking tradition doesn't cross their mind as any worse than things they get away with all the time. I just think we have been rather puritan in how we draw our lines, when in reality, we should be drawing them in ways that make more sense...

The Future of Publishing in this light.

BLEAK. Twenty years from now when these guys are joining the field, I predict they will not have developed the perseverance or thick skin necessary to go through any 'reviewed' process. They may self publish, but I don't even think they will be able to stomach peer review, and their peers will have learned they aren't allowed to be critical, so the quality will be POOR.

I just think it would help the kids, help society and help the future of literature if we reintroduced a little sanity. Establish a tiered system where kids don't get any hard knocks when really small, but that allows some peer correction as they age, then some institutional correction (read: competition--yes, some people have to lose for there to be winners, but losing now and then makes most people work harder) as they get a little older than that. Kids need to LEARN how to push themselves, so this needs to be a SLOPE, not a STEP... right now we expect NOTHING, then suddenly they have to be 100% ready... Everything is either totally okay, or completely unacceptible.

My own world is a little grayer than that.


Leanne said...

Hear, hear! I am SO sick of dealing with coddlers. :-P My current favourite take on the situation comes from The Incredibles - y'know, Pixar film about superheroes? The mom is ragging the dad because he thinks 5th grade graduation is pointless, and he responds with something like, "They just keep coming up with new ways to celebrate mediocrity, but when someone is TRULY exceptional..." Yeah. It's nuts. Sometimes kids have to fail/be punished/be excluded/learn their damn lesson. 'Cause lets face it, it's a big mean world and Mommy and Daddy are not always going to be there to smooth it all out. [/rant]

Helen Ginger said...

Sometimes Mommy and Daddy won't step in and smooth it out because they're scared of repercussion from the other parents in their social circle, and they teach their kids to get along and not make waves. If the parents won't step in and the kids won't, someone has to, and that often falls on the teachers.

Straight From Hel

Watery Tart said...

Leanne-I'm sure you get a TON of the 'nurture their creativity' parents, which is all well and good, but somehow interpreted as contrary to disclipline.

Helen-I know a TON falls to teachers. It's funny though--some teachers will do it, others won't. I had a friend with an unruly child (I wouldn't let him play inside at my house, as something always got broken)--they transfered him from a different school to the one my kids were at and my friend thought SUDDENLY her son was acting badly. It took everything I had to say, 'no SUDDENLY you are getting honest feedback'. Note I never told her WHY I made the kids play outside--I'm a chicken and her son was a different age, so they didn't play together all that often, so I felt like maybe our friendship couldn't take that test...

My issue though, is the all or nothing. Zero tolerance bugs me because I think you miss a learning opportunity. There are very few behaviors middle schoolers get into that I think merit a 'zero tolerance'.

Marjorie said...

I wish that nurturing creativity was not seen as contrary to discipline. It's not fair to the kids. Kids WANT discipline.

Watery Tart said...

I am SO with you, Marjorie--they like structure--need it. You don't KNOW how many Ann Arbor parents though, think if they give their kids rules, their kids won't be able to properly express themselves. We had a LONG list of kids when mine were young who we didn't invite to our house--playdates at PARKS, go to some event, the pool... but NOT INSIDE THE HOME.

B. Miller said...

Bravo! What a wonderful post. I think our nation has become a country of spoiled children. How do kids know they're succeeding if there's no way to measure themselves against their peers? Have you heard of the new trend in team sports? No scores... everybody wins! I mean... WTF?! We're turning into a nation of marshmallows. Sigh.

Marjorie said...

@B. Miller- Or everybody gets a trophy. When I was a kid you got a trophy if you WON the game. Part of the point of enrolling your kids in sports is that they get a chance to lose with a little grace. They learn how to "take a licking and keep on ticking" as Timex would say.

Watery Tart said...

Thanks, B.! Yeah... I can get along with no scores for the first year or two learning the game--kindergarten, first grade, but eventually kids DO have to learn to lose. (though I remember some really coordinated people who sort of became monsters because they never DID! *snort*)
And yeah... I suppose we have a lot of those 'thanks for participating' trophies, though they are 'end of season' things. Neither of my kids is 'competitive' in a traditional sense, and I wonder if this system contributes there, or if they are like me--though I AM sort of competitive about brain stuff--have always liked being fairly smart (their dad is relatively competitive sportswise and gets annoyed that they play only 'because it's fun' rather than to win)

My daughter has been on some really good teams, and she has some definite strengths, but she doesn't necessarily see the hard work/excel connection. (at that age, I didn't either)