Modern Schools Fail Students

Students shouldn't be coddled.

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Former teacher Tony Kinnett has the experience to see that our modern system of education is a failure at multiple levels. That bodes ill for American society.

Kinnett: After teaching in elementary, middle, and high school science classes, and directing the science teachers and curriculum for a 35,000 student district, I’ve concluded that our modern methods of managing student behavior are an abysmal failure. I’ve watched as teachers tried to coddle, affirm, and indulge their way to a great classroom—only to be met with disappointment, disrespect, and violence.

The behavioral practices and classroom management techniques we were forced to implement are responsible. Restorative justice, affirmation-based conversations, and soft promises have replaced the clear expectations and consequences that provided children with safety and consistency over the last two hundred years.

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In my classrooms, I used traditional methods of discipline, which required students to follow a certain set of rules in order to participate in the classroom. This maintained a level of respect, ensured all in the room knew their role, their limits, and established that the values and expectations of their homes were being upheld. My classes never had fights, rarely had outbursts, and facilitated quiet learning. Of course, this wasn’t new or groundbreaking.

In its various forms, traditional expectations prevented many tragedies that have become so commonplace in public schools today. There were few issues of in-classroom student-to-student violence, much less any threats toward a staff member. School property remained largely untouched—and a common moral foundation enforced by the home and school allowed students to find purpose and belonging in participating as respectful members of society.

As progressive ideologies were driven by a newer view of morality, teachers colleges began sending out new teachers with progressive ideas. Reprimanding a student academically or socially was now seen as barbaric and abusive. In many cases, bad or violent behavior from students was attributed to systemic racial discrimination.

The “School to Prison Pipeline” narrative gained substantial popularity in the 2010s, suggesting that suspending students for violent behavior made them more likely to drop out, get arrested, and spend their lives in prison. No longer was violent behavior the largest threat to students—but the school’s response to it.

This has resulted in horrifying policies that are driving teachers out of the classroom in record-numbers. While many suggest that COVID-19 and “low pay” are responsible for teachers leaving the profession, pre-COVID studies and surveys indicate this trend was already in full-swing, and that teachers no longer trust their administrations to handle the crisis of behavior issues.

While directing the science curriculum for Indianapolis, I joined fellow administration staff at Crispus Attucks High School, waiting for their principal to join us for afternoon observations. She was late to the meeting because a teacher was handing her an immediate resignation—who couldn’t stand another second of the violence and chaos. George Washington High School initiated a policy of permanently locking bathrooms (unless chaperoned by a teacher or security officer) to prevent students from fighting in them.

In Crispus Attucks’ case, the principal began her presentation informing us that she had petitioned Indianapolis Public Schools to allow the expulsion of several violent students—none of her requests had been approved.

While in the classroom and hallways it’s easy to see the behavior crisis, administrations proclaim the success of these progressive policies by citing lower numbers of suspensions, expulsions, and behavior referrals. What principals and counselors fail to mention is that the criteria for referrals have changed as a result of progressive policy.

David Kamioner
meet the author

David Kamioner is a veteran of U.S. Army Intelligence and an honors graduate of the University of Maryland's European Division. He also served with the Pershing Nuclear Brigade and the First Infantry Division. Subsequent to that he worked for two decades as a political consultant, was part of the American Red Cross Hurricane Katrina disaster relief effort in Louisiana, ran a homeless shelter for veterans in Philadelphia, and taught as a college instructor. He serves as a Contributing Editor for LifeZette.

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