What Your Children Face in School
IN TIMES past the school played an important part in the moral development of a child. But school was then much more than a place of instruction where students filled their heads with facts.
The early American philosopher Jonathan Edwards explained that in his day (the eighteenth century) education meant “discipline for life’s duties, discipline to life’s natural moral laws, discipline in the rule of life’s Great Exemplar.” At that time moral training was viewed as more important than gaining knowledge.
Things are much different today. Few people now enter school to acquire moral discipline. There is a totally different atmosphere in today’s schools from that in the schools of years gone by. How does this affect your children? What do they face in school today?
Indifference Toward Study
One of the problems your child is likely to face in school today is indifference toward study. In his book School Discipline in an Age of Rebellion, Knute Larson explains that perhaps the most difficult problem that teachers now face is “the problem of just plain ‘turned off’ kids.” Teacher Bel Kaufman asked: “How do you overcome apathy? . . . These girls are heavy with apathy. I ask them what they would like to do: I offer them choices. They would just as soon sit there till the period is over.” She described the situation in today’s schools as “ominous” and “frightening.”
Why are so many students today indifferent toward their schoolwork? One reason is that some children take a materialistic view of their education. They will apply themselves only to subjects that they feel will benefit them materially. Knute Larson observes: “Outside of directly job related learning experiences, many high school students regard the entire academic curriculum as a complete waste of time.”
Other youngsters refuse to study anything. They have the attitude that ‘the world owes them a living’ and they see no need to acquire skills to care for themselves in later life. These individuals go to school only because they have to or in order to cause mischief.
One of the sad results of apathy toward schoolwork is that many children do not learn to read well. An article appearing in the Dallas Morning News for June 24, 1973, said: “At commencement exercises throughout the city recently, anywhere from 500 to 1,000 of Dallas’ 9,000 graduating seniors, according to official estimates, walked across stages to be handed diplomas they could not read.”
Of course, poor reading may not be wholly the fault of a child. Some methods of instruction in reading have proved woefully inadequate and have come under attack by educators. A San Francisco student recently filed a million-dollar suit against the city and state because he graduated from high school without being able to read adequately.
How well does your child read? How does the atmosphere in his school affect him? Have you visited his school and spoken with his teachers recently? More importantly, have you talked with him personally about his experiences at school? Children benefit when their parents take an interest in what they do.
Attitude Toward Authority
Until recent years the schools did much to engender respect for authority in young people. But now many children do not develop such respect. One educator from the United States observed:
“As we proceeded into the seventies, a formidable youth rebellion started to move down from the colleges into our secondary schools.”
A former assistant principal at Peoria High School, Illinois, made the following comparison of his own school days with what goes on in schools today:
“I know there was some mischievousness when I was in school too, but it wasn’t on an organized basis to disrupt or disparage or cut down the teacher’s authority or respect as it seems to be now. . . . There’s been a decided depreciation in the attitude of many of the students. . . . Discipline and standards seem to have ceased. . . . [It used to be] when I’d go in a classroom if there was quite a bit of noise, it would quiet down within seconds. I was a symbol of authority. But not any more . . . they have no respect for authority.”
This is not because teachers fail to instruct pupils concerning respect for authority. But how is a child to reconcile what his teacher tells him with what he sees adults doing? For example, when he sees perhaps his own teacher, the police, firemen or other civil employees go on strike for more pay in defiance of the law, will the youngster not conclude that rebellion is the only way to get ahead?
Disrespect for authority exists even in grade school today. Because of this, one teacher retired early. She explained: “The language some of [the smaller children] use is one thing. In some cases it’s just unbelievable.” A high school teacher who also retired early said: “They whine a lot, about things like the dress code, and they go around the halls looking like animals, . . . bare feet and all, . . . It’s just depressing.”
Rebellion against authority spreads outside the classroom too. Young people often look down on the authority of the police and of the government. A New York high school boy declared: “Kids view the police as a waste of time. If they want to have a gang fight, the kids feel that the police have no business breaking it up.” As to government: “Many young people feel that they should be their own rulers,” he said.
Violence and Vandalism
Youngsters have been subjected to a worse influence in this generation than in any previous period of time. Each day news reports tell of war and of nations accomplishing their aims by aggression and other underhanded means. Children spend thousands of hours watching television programs that glorify violence, crime and sadism. The effects of this influence are seen in the conduct of children at school.
The Register of Orange County, California, reported: “Today the newspapers that speak of mugging, vandalism, robbery at knife point, assault and rape refer, not to the underworld, but to our schools, our children.”
Newspapers report shootings and knifings in classrooms and schoolyards, rapes, even “vendetta” attacks upon teachers. The Health and Education Committee of the New York City Council reported 5,700 major crimes involving drugs and including rapes and assault on teachers and students during 1971. The special report entitled “Vandalism and Violence” declares: “Teaching in school is twice as dangerous as working in a steel mill . . . [There is a] constant need for disciplining aggressive pupils, which in some schools takes from 50% to 75% of a teacher’s time.”
Many school locker rooms have become deadly arsenals. A New York schoolboy says of his classmates: “Practically everyone in the whole school carries guns or knives.” A high school principal states:
“We’ve gone from finding water guns and bubble gum in lockers to grass [marijuana], ice picks and guns. We’re rapidly developing an environment of fear for the student who wants to come to school to learn . . . The few are terrorizing the many.”
Violent behavior at school is not limited to high schools and colleges. Even the very young face this.
Destructive vandalism regularly confronts schoolchildren today. The report Vandalism and Violence says: “In the past few years, school vandalism and violence, once the marks of a few destructive ‘bad boys’ and ‘psychotics,’ have taken on the magnitude of a national dilemma.”
In some areas students face pressure to join gangs. A high school student stated: “If someone looks strong, a gang will ‘draft’ him. First they will ask him to join. Then they will tell him to do so. Whether he agrees to join them or not, they will beat him up.” Fear, coupled with the desire to be accepted by fellow students, moves many to do what others demand.
Drugs and Sexual Immorality
Another difficulty that your children are likely to face in school is drug abuse. In 1972 a government report from Sydney, Australia, revealed that “up to 50,000 N[ew] S[outh] W[ales] schoolchildren could be experimenting with hard-line drugs.” The report pointed out that 85 percent of New South Wales’ senior students had been offered marijuana or other “soft” drugs in high schools. An undercover narcotics agent who said that she had worked for more than three years in New York city schools stated: “In general, school is like a haven for drugs. It’s a big business there.” She claimed that in some schools 90 percent of the students were using some form of drug. Even some teachers have been arrested for “pushing” drugs to students.
Some schools have taken steps to combat drug abuse by students. But the drug problem among youngsters is so widespread that your children are likely to encounter it in some way. Will they be prepared to resist successfully the temptation to experiment with drugs?
The moral climate among today’s young people may present yet another problem for your children to face in school. Many teachers and students have adopted the so-called “new morality.” It is common for unmarried teen-agers to have sexual relations today. They view it as simply ‘keeping up with the times.’
Overly explicit discussions of sexual matters in class often turn young minds in a wrong direction. School discussions of sex are often based upon the teacher’s personal point of view. Some teachers approve of, even encourage, sexual relations between unmarried persons, homosexuality, masturbation and other sexual perversions. One eight-year-old girl came home from such a discussion at school and asked her mother: “When can I start doing these things?”
Of course, some teachers deplore the excessive immorality practiced so openly today. Not all schools present the same pressures. But what about the school your children attend? Do you know exactly what they face in school in this regard? As a parent, you should. The best way to find out is to talk with them about it.
The School Course
Schoolchildren may face a variety of other difficulties in school. The school course itself can present problems. For example, children whose religion is different from that of the majority of their classmates may encounter customs and practices in school that are incompatible with what they have learned at home. Those who have been raised strictly according to Bible principles may face problems during holiday seasons that they know are of pagan origin. Teachers sometimes expect the entire class to participate in activities related to these holidays. But some children may not be able to do this with a clear conscience. This may even cause other students to ridicule and abuse them.
The widespread teaching of evolution is another problem. Often, courses in biology and history present evolution as a fact. Examinations may be graded as to whether a student agrees with evolution. This can cause difficulties for those who do not accept this unproved theory.
School courses may even include witchcraft and other occult subjects. The Prince George’s Sentinel of Hyattsville, Maryland, reported the following:
“[Citizens for Community Schools] members plan to protest the distribution of a series of handbooks and teachers’ guides which introduce students to the basic principles of astrology, palmistry, fortune-telling by dice and medieval spells and chants. . . . [They] plan to argue, however, that their children in county junior high and senior highs have already taken part in ‘spell-casting’ and ‘witchcraft’ sessions in English classes, in addition to writing papers on their horoscope or zodiac signs. . . . The students are required to prepare creative writing pieces, for example, on exercises contained in one book called ‘Fortune Teller’s Handbook,’ in which chapters on graphology, astrology, and other occult activities are included.”
Indeed, your children can face serious problems in school today. Widespread apathy toward schoolwork and disrespect toward authority can adversely affect their thinking. The crime, violence and general disregard for other people among youths today can have a harmful effect on them too. Even the course of study may contain subjects that are detrimental. Can anything be done to counteract these influences? How can parents help their children through the difficulties they face at school?