Discipline issues frustrate teachers, students

February 17, 2019

I receive a steady stream of missives from teachers, ex-teachers and other folks who have insider knowledge of America’s schools. They all say the same thing — classroom discipline is falling apart and has been for some time. And they ask the same question: What can be done?

Public-school administrators — not all, but entirely too many — refuse to acknowledge the problem. When I bring the subject up, they dismiss it: “Oh, it’s not as bad as people make it out to be.”

Every teacher I’ve spoken to in the past 20 years, however, has told me it’s worse than the public even imagines and getting worse with every passing year.

One insider recently wrote: “Excellent teachers are giving up. They send kids to the office when they’re disruptive, and in minutes the child is back after having received a cookie or some other treat while they talked about their ‘feelings.’ Also, almost every teacher says that when they call a parent about a child’s behavior, the parent makes excuses or blames the teacher.”

That description is typical. I will simply add that not only are many good teachers leaving, but many good students are as well. They are either moving to private schools (where a disproportionate number of public-school teachers send their kids) or are being home-schooled.

As a result of this exodus, the per capita rate of problem students rises. Add in the steady increase in underdisciplined children coming to kindergarten, and the question becomes: What will public education look like in 10 years if these trends continue?

At this point, the reader should know that I flunked fortune telling in graduate school and had to relinquish my crystal ball and tarot cards; nonetheless, I predict that by 2030 nearly every public school student will have a diagnosis of one sort or another. In most cases, these diagnoses will be bogus (for instance, pseudoscientific — as in attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and oppositional defiant disorder).

Increasing the population of “special-needs” children will not only compensate for funding shortfalls as the student population declines but also will allow public schools to pretty much abandon academic and behavioral standards.

The sound the reader now hears is a melange of screams, expletives and general gnashing of teeth coming from the nearest public school, so let me be perfectly clear: In the course of my career, I’ve come to know many public school teachers. They are, with rare exception, dedicated people.

Teachers are not the problem — not for the most part, at least.

The problem consists of equal parts irresponsible parenting, parents making excuses for the brats they send to school, teachers unions that have been given legal power to game the system, federal aid to education and administrators who strip teachers of permission to discipline and then discipline teachers who have the temerity to do so.

One example of the latter is caving in to parents who accuse teachers of hurting their children’s feelings or having “personality conflicts” with them.

Taxpayer revolt, anyone?

Here’s what no one can argue: America’s children deserve better — much, much better.

Visit family psychologist John Rosemond’s website at www.johnrosemond.com; readers may send him email at questions@rosemond.com; due to the volume of mail, not every question will be answered.