There are lots of stories in the media right now about the anniversary of the Tinker vs The Des Moines Board of Education verdict (Students do not shed their rights at the school house door). Most articles gush delightedly about how wonderful it is without fully considering its net results. The initial decision having to do with free speech was fine I have no argument with children advocating positions that run contrary to the norm as long as it runs both ways. It is very important for students to learn the principles of free speech in the public schools because it is not being taught in the home, on TV or the Internet. Schools can help student’s understand that you can disagree with someone or some idea without hating that person or that idea and that compromise is not a four letter word. The problem with Tinker and our educational system began with the application and the philosophy underlying Tinker which boils down to, “children should have the same rights as adults,” an idea that neglects to notice the fact that children are not adults and that rights given to anyone, adult or child, without accompanying responsibilities is not a viable long term option.
In my mind it is not a coincidence that the first signs of educational deterioration occurred shortly after Tinker became law. Not because of Tinker but because Tinker made popular and generally acceptable, the philosophical attitude, that social issues are more important in school than learning.
Tinker wasn’t the last nail in the educational coffin but it held the lid closed while the NCLB and the deification of standardized testing began nailing it down.