TRI In The News
John Whitehead on Punishment In The Public Schools
Mr. Whitehead not only defends our civil liberties in articles that he writes but also in court where he brings lawsuits in defense of our civil liberties. His work is extremely important and worthy of our financial support.
I find Mr. Whitehead’s description of child abuse in the public schools by teachers, administrators, and police to be extraordinary. What kind of perverted brutalized adults are these people who treat children in these ways? Where did these barbaric adults come from? What culture produced them? And where did so much autism, attention deficit disorder, and child misbehavior come from? Are they the result of vaccines, processed and GMO foods, environmental pollutants?
I have written of my experiences growing up in the 1940s and 1950s. In Atlanta, the public schools were neighborhood schools. This was a time before suburbs and the car culture. School buses were for rural areas to collect farm or ranch kids. Atlanta built schools so that those in the neighborhood could walk to and from, which I did from the age of 5 on.
This meant that our schools were segregated by income class. Poor kids went to school together. Middle class kids went to school together, and rich kids went to school together. Since most, but not all, blacks in those days were poor, neighborhood schools also meant racial segregation. Neighborhood school boundaries meant that sometimes there could be a few poor kids and a few rich kids in a middle class school, but never poor kids in a rich neighborhood school or vice versa.
My middle class school boundary encompassed a neighborhood orphanage where the children lived as normal a life as possible without parents. The ones I went to school with were as normal and normally behaved as the rest of us.
The school boundary also encompassed a few shacks along the railroad that ran behind the Atlanta Crackers’ baseball stadium.
In eight years from kindergarden through seventh grade, I witnessed one incident of disobedience to a teacher. Once we had a kid who lived with his father in one of the railroad shacks. He had obviously missed a year or two of his schooling along the way as he was older and larger than the rest of us. From testing him out, we soon learned that Dicky was the boss. But he never took advantage. He was not a bully. He had a sweet disposition and always took up for the underdog.
Every so often the Atlanta Ballet would show up at the school to teach us gymnastics or some such skill. One day the dancers came to teach us how to square dance, a form of dancing we had observed in the Saturday western movies. Since the cowboys did it, we accepted it as a manly thing. But not Dicky.
When the teacher made the announcement, the protocol was that everyone stood by their desk and filed out by row. That day Dicky did not stand up.
The teacher noticed and reminded Dicky that it was time for our square dance instruction and that he should do as always and stand beside his desk ready to file out of the room.
“What do you mean, ‘no Ma’am’?”
“I ain’t no sissy, and I ain’t doing no dancing!”
That was it. He was excused from what would have been for him a traumatic ordeal. No police were called. He wasn’t stuffed into a duffle bag, tasered, or handcuffed. No adult decided that he must break this child’s will.
I then went through 5 years of high school and witnessed no incidents of student insubordination to teachers, coaches, or administrators. Of course, the adults had a great deal of sense and commitment lacking today. They understood growing up and what it was like for us.
If fights broke out between two students on the playground, unless the fight was too one-sided, the monitors usually let it go for a bit. No police were called.
Reading Mr. Whitehead’s description of life in public schools today, it bears no relationship to anything in my experience. What explains the difference? Behavioral problems from pollutants? Loss of parental authority as its exercise is redefined as parental child abuse? A lack of commitment on the part of teachers and administrators? The enjoyment of exercising authority? Or complete cultural collapse?
I don’t know the answer. I just know that if my classmates and I had read Mr. Whitehead’s account back during our school days, we would have regarded it as science fiction about some dark world in the future. Where that world come from and how it got that way, we would have had no idea.