At the present time our schools hampered by political correctness, permissiveness and “open minds” are rarely capable of either producing or following laws and rules that make common sense. Often making zero tolerance utterances and rules by fiat based on some current “acceptable” thinking fad. This is of course is often compounded by our schools seeming inability to draw a line in the sand no matter how reasonable or needed, at any time, for any reason. Line drawing is now so out of fashion it has almost become the very definition of bad teaching. I believe that this failure to draw clear lines is the main reason our schools and our society are in trouble today. This is true because its hard to tell which way to go when you don’t know where you are and often times lines define where you are at and where you should go. Many parents and students are lost in a maze of conflicting desires and rules that no one clearly understands or can delineate and therefore none can follow or arrive at their proper destination.
My father, mother and several of my teachers for example could draw lines in the sand just by looking at me, lines that I normally dared not cross and when I did cross one I paid the penalty. I not only paid the penalty I understood that when I crossed the line I was most likely going to have to make that payment and accepted that reality. Today it is often, “Yes I crossed the line now lets negotiate.” I believe someone somewhere has to start drawing some lines in the sand or at least begin again to enforce lines that have already been drawn or chaos and anarchy will prevail in many of our schools and our society. Perhaps even more ominous and dangerous to our society and our students are the parents and schools that do draw a line in the sand and then, too easily, ignore it or simply erase it without comment when someone crosses it. Teaching thus by example that in our modern world of grays nothing is black and white even when it should be. At the present time only five visible lines govern our schools, the racism line, political correctness line, anti-bullying line, the gay and lesbian line, and the gun/weapon line. All other lines are negotiable and excusable; including those that deal with assault( home life/poverty), swearing(environment), not working( Hyper or Hypo anything or disability), disruption(society/ethnicity), social promotion(social concerns), suspension(unfair and disproportionate), and gang activity( social clubs, no parental involvement).
I know that lines have to be redrawn at times as they fade with use, but they must be enforced until redrawn, erased or re-traced as new lines and then enforced or their value is nil. All lines must be definable and defendable in terms that the person or student looking at the line can understand. That is how lines become real and of value.
Even though I am in favor of lines I prefer lines drawn in sand instead of concrete or with an easily smudgeable #2 pencil rather than indelible ink. I prefer this because as a teacher I know that every time you make an either/or statement you end up catching the wrong person or discovering a valid exception to your rule. A line etched in concrete stinks of zero tolerance, inability to change as appropriate, and lack of thought process while a line in the sand or written with a primary fat # 2 by its very definition is observable, may be followed but also has soft edges that allow it to be applied humanely and appropriately.
The two paragraphs above may be seen as contradictory however by their very nature reasonable rules, currently in force, must, for the sake of consistency and honesty be enforced until they are either altered or deleted. Failure to do so invites
future present day confusion, conflict, and chaos things that rules and laws should attempt to reduce not create.
When a child tells you that one of your rules is unfair invite a discussion and listen, defend, explain or change. Not surprisingly the governed often have a better idea of what is needed than the government( see US congress/Presidency 2011 for a reference point). It does make a difference whether your feet are on the ground or your head is in the clouds and when it comes to rules “point of view” is always important.