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Disciplining Our Youth

Education is a major source of concern in Black communities; they are understaffed and under resourced. Hence, our children are being gravely under served in perhaps the most important social institution. We are in the midst of a new wave of school reform in the nation and there are several models attempting to overturn this fate. Examples include schools focusing on Black male pride, health and wellness, or school culture and safety. The last focus is one I am most interested in because my observation has made me concerned although I have yet to make a judgment. In a school where the school culture strives to provide safety for its students, is it necessary to implement more rigid discipline measures? Can urban children have the freedom to express themselves in lunch and in the halls without threatening the well being of themselves and others?

One school in particular that comes to mind has traded some freedoms for order in the building. The children range from age 5-12 and are expected to pass through the halls in gendered single file lines silently, the lunch is strictly monitored for noise level, and the classrooms have behavior charts ranging from green to red. In the last example each student has a pin, which they are asked to move up (towards green) or down (towards red) depending upon their classroom behavior. The main opportunity for typical childish behavior is during a ten minute recess each day. This model demonstrates a tightly run ship to say the least.

In my experience in attending both urban public and suburban private schools, I have found the latter to be more accepting of expression and freedom. Granted the circumstances are not the same in each setting but I would argue that the latter setting was no less riddled by sexual, violent, and drug related behavior yet youth were allowed more liberties. Thus, it begs the question of our purpose in monitoring our youth so closely. Are we reinforcing ideas that they are destined for delinquency or are we simply providing an environment that will allow them to focus and succeed?