Friday, January 25, 2013

"He'll Thank Me Later."

One of our students came to school this week, a third grader, and confessed that his father had hit him with a belt because he was not answering math facts quizzing fast enough.  He told his teacher he knows the answers, but he gets nervous (no shit...).  Further, the child is autistic.  Most of us at the school don't think that the father really understands this or the associated challenges.

Stories like this are heartbreaking and send emotions reeling.  What the hell is wrong with this father?  You should have to pass a test to prove your capable to have kids! That poor boy!  (Insert your favorite agency) should be called! That child should be taken away from that monster!!!

All fair and perhaps true.  What really hits me though was when I stopped to think about the father's perspective.  This man, however moronic or ill advised is actions may be, believes he is helping his son and supporting the school! He no doubt believes that math is important and this son needs to demonstrate success in school in order to prosper at some later time.  How else would/could you explain his actions?

What could cause anyone to possibly believe flogging a boy over math automaticity was a good thing?  Maybe we need to look in the mirror.

Generations of sorting & ranking kids, creating unnecessary competition among students, class rankings, etc. have helped create a culture where these (often terrible) things go on.  I can think of countless (perhaps less extreme) examples of punishments (and rewards) set forth by parents based on school performance.  This is list that includes things like withholding food, denying participation in sports/clubs, and (perhaps) less extreme physical actions like spankings.  This is done in the name of 'tough love' with a 'they'll thank me later' mindset.  Maybe.  Or they'll  suffer psychological damage and do the same thing to their own kids when they struggle in school.    

It is imperative that we begin to shift from a culture of sorting & ranking to a culture of learning.  We must legitimately welcome failure as part of the learning process and reteach our parents who were schooled under a pedagogically dated way of thinking.  There will always be lousy and abusive parents I fear.  Let's not provide any excuses for them along the way.  

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