By Jane Hayes
Once upon a time, there was a Little Prince who was visiting the Rockford Public Schools from his home planet, an asteroid named B612. While visiting the Rockford School Board meeting Sept. 28, he was adrift in the mass of number crunching proclaiming fewer expulsions and suspensions over the past year. However, as a foreigner, he had witnessed firsthand the disrespect and discipline problems in the Rockford Public Schools, knowing how many actual discipline incidents went unreported to manipulate data for the public. Principals and teachers were discouraged from reporting incidents of violence throughout the school year so that public perception could be tempered and tampered with.
According to the Little Prince, grown-ups were too concerned by numbers of incidents and testing results when they should have been more aware of the appalling school climate, making it challenging to learn in a safe environment. He saw unauthorized spending of taxpayer money by the school district leadership and was saddened that staff was not consulted openly regarding books, costs, curriculum and changes. Oh, but there is a new security firm in place to create a safer environment and make us all better! The Little Prince shook his head in dismay, “Why do adults surround themselves with chaos while trying to impose their matters of consequence on children?”
Of course, the Little Prince knew how important numbers were to adults, who cared so much about objective matters. Children, on the other hand, make their own decisions about what is right or wrong by the atmosphere of fear or hope in the schools. “Grown-ups are so odd,” according to the Little Prince. Children need to explain the essential things to adults all the time, while a child’s subjective view is dismissed as being trivial. Children understand that relationships in the classroom and ethical treatment are far more important than parroting data and displaying objectives on the walls to those administrators doing their Learning Walks. “Pity that these adults on planet Earth don’t understand what’s really important to a child and are so dismissive of their educational and human needs,” thought the Little Prince.
Apologies and thanks to Antoine St. Exupery for showing us the wisdom of a child’s view.
Jane Hayes is a member of Watchdogs for Ethics in Education (WEE).
From the Oct. 6-12, 2010 issue