From today’s Opinion in the Wall Street Journal, Why Freer Schools are Better Schools by Philip Howard. I agree.
Public school failure can be traced directly to the technique of reform: centralized legal dictates. A steady accretion of law since the 1960s has smothered personality and individual responsibility in schools. There’s no oxygen left for educators to build healthy school cultures.
Looking at daily choices as a matter of legal rights polarizes people. One effect is paralysis: Educators will do almost anything to avoid yet another legal argument. Another effect is bureaucracy growing at warp speed, as educators write rules to validate the legality of ordinary choices. Fairness disappears when rules replace common sense, as in the recent suspension in Michigan of a 6-year-old for pointing his finger like a gun, mandated under “zero tolerance” rules.
And from the true measures department:
Experts say you can tell a successful school within five minutes: There’s a palpable sense of productivity, the low hum of activity, quiet classrooms, students striding purposefully to the next class, and an absence of loud disputes.
The last few paragraphs remind me of this post of mine from last October:
First, we must restore teachers’ authority to maintain order. Teachers must be able to remove disruptive students immediately. Otherwise the other students have no chance to learn. Formal due process should be limited to severe suspensions and expulsion.
Second, we must replace bureaucracy with individual responsibility. Both teachers and principals are immoblized by law. The cure is mutual disarmament. Teachers must be given the freedom to be themselves.
At the same time, principals must have freedom to get rid of bad teachers. If teachers want to be free to use their best judgment, principals must be free to decide whether the teacher is doing the job.
Too bad only myself and Philip are the only ones that know the answers. Actually, this is basic stuff. It’s human interaction. But we’re far away from it. Human interaction and common sense have been replaced with rule books and dictates.