If Criminals are What You Want, Criminals are What You’ll Get (UPDATED!)



One man. Two boys. Twelve kids.

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22 Responses

  1. Avatar Vikram Bath says:

    I understand your lack of surprise at the success of such a policy. On the other hand, I would be surprised if the same results were found in every school it was attempted. (But that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be attempted more.)Report

    • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Vikram Bath says:

      As with any successful education strategy, it should be carefully parsed to find out what worked, why, and how adaptable it is. All that said, as Lee outlines below, many of the security measures undertaken in current school are noxious on their face.Report

      • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to Kazzy says:

        I’d also like to point out that a prison-like environment is probably not the most conducive one for education. I wouldn’t be surprised if grades go up just like crime goes down.Report

        • Avatar Kazzy in reply to LeeEsq says:

          This assumes that the people who enact such measures are interested in education. It wouldn’t surprise me if many of them thought, “Let’s just get them through high school alive and then they can be someone else’s problem.”

          This and other forms of “social promotion” are a real issue.Report

  2. Avatar LeeEsq says:

    I’d argue that barred windows, metal detectors, and police really have no place in any school, even a really “bad” inner city one. One, for the reasons outlined above. The other thing is because treating people who aren’t criminals, who never committed a crime in life like criminals by putting them in a prison-like enviornment is wrong on its face. Just like there is a presumption of innocense in criminal trials, there should be a presumption of non-criminality in people of any age. There is no justification for this even if the school has lots of problems.Report

  3. Avatar Chris says:

    +A Gazillion, KazzyReport

  4. Avatar DRS says:

    You might find this article relevant to this discussion: http://www.wheels.ca/news/mom-pursues-softer-side-of-vigilante-justice/

    “What Webb ended up doing — taking the 19-year-old and a cohort door-to-door through her neighbourhood to apologize and return items they’d stolen from 13 unlocked cars — made a lasting impression not only on the boys and their families, but also on many of her neighbors.”Report

  5. Avatar Art Deco says:

    But instead, new numbers seem to show that in a single year, the number of serious incidents fell by 90%.

    I’d audit their statistical reports.Report

    • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Art Deco says:

      Read the link. Or, I’ll just show you:
      “The size and immediacy of the drop will strike some as suspect, but Memphis Street Academy stands by accuracy of their numbers, saying that they are required by law to report the same types of incidents any other school must report. Nothing about the reporting process or the kinds of incidents that must be reported was changed.”Report

  6. Avatar George Turner says:

    Well, undoing decades of knee jerk responses to protect the children would be a vast improvement. Until fairly recently, in many areas, kids could take guns to school.Report

  7. Avatar DRS says:

    Some of those twitter responses to Obama’s talk are rather depressing. Why is it so hard to admit that a problem exists?Report

    • Avatar Kazzy in reply to DRS says:

      For a long time, I thought Obama was trying to avoid being the “black” President, often times shying away from racial issues or culling from his experiences. To me, this is a welcome change on that front. Unfortunately, as you point out, it is just going to serve as more grist for the mill for some folks.Report

      • Avatar zic in reply to Kazzy says:

        I don’t agree that Obama has been trying to avoid being the ‘black’ president; I think he is our first black president, and he’s smart enough to know that he cannot avoid it.

        But I also suspect that he’s approached his presidency much like what Thompson says in the second quote:

        Seriously, imagine a life in which you think of other people’s safety and comfort first, before your own. You’re programmed and taught that from the gate. It’s like the opposite of entitlement.

        As president, Obama’s got to weigh the cost of provoking that discomfort in the ‘norm.’ Consider the anti-Obama sentiments on almost any topic. Even when he’s embraced conservative policy, there’s been a loud ‘NO.’ If he had come out of the gate full throttled here, I think he realized he’d do more damage then good, potentially harm thousands upon thousands of lives by directly inflaming overt racism.

        He’s spoken out when there’s been cause; Jeremiah Wright, Martin’s shooting, and now with this travesty of justice rooted in a travesty of law.

        I don’t always agree; I thing more assertive efforts are needed. But I suspect Obama’s facing a finer balance then I; that he’s measuring the balance of his success not in what he achieves in his administration, but on how quickly a second president can also have opportunity to make racial progress. He’s not the answer, he’s the beginning of the answer.Report

        • Avatar Kazzy in reply to zic says:

          Good points, Zic. I think he has been careful to choose his spots. Early in his presidency, he rarely discussed race, even when it was directly pertinent to what he was attempting to achieve. I don’t think he wanted to give his opponents the opportunity to say, “See? He’s just looking out for black folks. Notice how he talks about health care access disparities between the races, or educational disparities between the races, or disparities in the criminal justice system between the races? It’s all just code for his racist, pro-black agenda.” And despite his avoidance, a number of people still made these arguments. Don’t get me wrong, I think many of his actions were motivated by his unique understanding (at least among presidents) of the issue of racism; he just didn’t always come out and say it. He actually caught a lot of flak from certain black leaders for not being more explicit about race, but I think he was biding his time, picking his spots and, as you said, attempting to start something rather than just be something.

          I don’t know if he would have made this statement in year one or two of his presidencyReport

        • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to zic says:

          To be fair, many people are mindlessly partisan rather than racist. There would be the same sorts of attacks on any Democratic president, and the Wall Street Journal hasn’t accused Michelle of murder or called Barack a rapist.Report

  8. Avatar Mike Schilling says:

    This principle applies to adults, too. Visit a place where the employees are instructed to do exactly what they’re told and not ask questions, and you’ll find a work force that appears disaffected and lazy. Visit one that welcomes creativity and new ideas, and you’ll find one where people are enthusiastic and productive. Costco knows this; Walmart doesn’t know or doesn’t care.Report

    • Avatar DRS in reply to Mike Schilling says:

      It is really impressive how small gestures send messages to staff that then result in what managers would consider bad behaviour.

      A friend of mine used to work at an architect’s office where there were monthly fullstaff meetings where staff got to give feedback on all the designs the firm’s architects were designing. Everybody – receptionists, draftspersons, junior architects, communications staff – no exceptions. Also they had “Soup Wednesday”. Every week a staff member was given funds out of petty cash to create a big batch of soup for a communal lunch in the boardroom. Even the senior name partners – one of them in his early 70’s – did it. It was very inclusive and when my friend left the firm (to move across country with her family) she cried for a week.

      Another friend worked for a high tech company with about 35 employees (about the same as the architect’s firm above) that had provided a Starbucks-like machine to make fancy coffees, a large fridge to hold not only lunches but food that could be prepared in the full kitchen for groups. A couple of years ago, “cost cutting” measures abolished most of this. With no warning. Staff were told it was taking too much time to make fancy coffees but they could take two breaks a day to go to the coffee franchise place in the food court. Well, guess what? Coffee breaks used to be 5-10 minutes long, now they’re 20 minutes and more. People who would prepare meals and clean up the kitchen spotlessly afterwards now ignore the mess. And workers who ate at their desk to work thru lunch go out for hour-long lunches instead. Passive-aggressive, definitely. But rather effective for all that.Report

  9. Avatar Badtux says:

    A major problem we have is the organization of middle school as a whole. These are still children, they need guidance and structure, yet suddenly we are treating them like high school students rather than teaching them how to thrive in a high school environment. We assume they just “know” how to behave correctly in that kind of less-structured environment (compared with elementary school), without any attempt to teach. Nobody would ever just assume that a child will just “know” how to tie his own shoes, everybody understands that a child must be taught how to tie his own shoes, yet somehow children are supposed to just “know” something much more complex — how to survive and thrive in a high-school-like environment.

    Furthermore, administration, upset about test scores, often fights efforts by the teachers to teach behavior as well as teach academic subjects under the notion that any minute spent teaching kids how to behave and interact with teach other in the middle school environment is a minute spent not teaching academics. Their solution to kids who don’t behave correctly is to send them home — suspend them — and teach only the kids who already know how to behave either due to parental guidance or simply being observant or just normally docile kids to begin with. But that doesn’t solve the problem because sending a kid home doesn’t teach, it just gives him a reward for misbehavior.

    In the end, we are “failing our hoodies”, as EmptyWheel put it. We’re expecting our kids to act like little adults, but we’re not teaching and guiding them as to how to do that. Instead we’re attempting to punish them into behaving right. Well, one thing I learned in behavioral psychology classes is that punishment doesn’t teach behavior, punishment extinguishes behavior. To teach behavior, you have to actually teach and reward behavior (and by reward I don’t mean M&M’s and such, I mean simply making schools a pleasant place to be). Punishment will always be necessary to deal with behaviors that present a threat to the safety of the school, but if punishment is *all* that is on offer, what you get is what others have described above — a bunch of surly passive-aggressive students who might not be murdering each other but who certainly aren’t going to be doing a whole lot academically.Report

    • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Badtux says:

      Dude or dudette,

      I just want to say this is an *awesome* comment. I might look to do a comment rescue on it and, if so, I’ll be in touch. Suffice it to say, I think there is a ton of good stuff on here and should I have the time and know-how to do something worthwhile with it, I hope to be able to.Report