The Register ran an editorial today called Better Middle Schools - Listen to Students. Uh-huh... that sounds like a great idea.
Now, don't get me wrong. I'm not saying that we shouldn't get some input from middle schoolers on the strategies they use to succeed. But there are other things that we need to do first.
I speak from some experience as I currently have a 13 year old boy at Merrill and another boy at Roosevelt who went to Merrill a few years back. I've been a Merrill Parent for the last 6 years and have seen a disturbing change. The difference is evident in the halls between classes.
6 years ago, the kids were... well... kids. Adolescent boys and girls in groups are difficult at best. They were rowdy. They were loud.
Today when I walk the halls between classes, I watch my back.
About two months ago, my wife and I were at school for a meeting. We arrived (as it seems we always do) when the kids were in the hall. We saw a girl and boy shoving each other and cursing. My wife gave the girl the "motherly eye" as we passed by. The girl stared right back and said, stone cold "What are you lookin' at?"
To the girl's credit, the word "bitch" was implied, but not actually said. My wife grabbed my arm and dragged me to the meeting to avoid a scene and, given the day and age, a probable lawsuit.
My attitude is also affected by incidents my youngest son has been through. My son is not an honor student. That's the main reason why my wife and I have had so much time at Merrill in the last two years. He is not, however a discipline problem. He does notice and resent the other kids who are. Every day, that's the first topic after we ask him how his day was. "I can't believe what those kids say to the teacher." my son says.
I can't believe that those kids get away with it.
Public Education's answer...? - drumroll please - ZERO TOLERANCE!
Bullying - zero tolerance.
Fighting - even if you're a good kid defending yourself from a known bully - zero tolerance.
Drugs - heroin or a couple of tylenol, it don't matter - zero tolerance.
Weapon at School - Glock 19 or keychain pocket knife - zero tolerance.
Disrespectful and Disruptive low class hooliganism that disrupts the educational process - well now, that's a complex socio-economic issue you see, bladee, bladee blah.
Out of control, inner city kids with home lives so f@#ked up that the kids can't help but bring their anger and frustration to school. That's not what I live in Des Moines for.
I'll tell you what. If I had a kid in 2nd grade, I'd be looking to move to West Des Moines or... God forgive me... Waukee. I don't see this issue getting any better over the next years if educators are so sensitive and afraid of being branded bigots that they will not call it what it is.
This is the stuff that fuels middle class suburban flight. I want to live in Des Moines. I want my kids in a culturally diverse environment.
If culturally diverse means rude, disrespectful and dangerous, count us out.