31 January 2012

The War on Kids

The title of this post is the title of a film that provides a fresh look at the problems inherent in the modern, government-run system of education.  It covers all of the various issues that sometimes get attention in the media, but highlights that these problems are all related to the way the system itself is designed.  In other words, the problem isn't so much one of deficiency, but rather of intent. 

The film itself is posted in six parts at TagTele--  very revealing.  Thanks to Karen de Coster for the referenced link.  Below is the synopsis of the the movie, taken from its website: 

Blame for problems with schooling in America is often assigned to insufficient funding or the inherent failings of today’s kids. In rare cases, parents, teachers, and administrators are also implicated. However, all efforts to improve the quality of education are doomed to fail if the system itself is not examined and understood to be the most significant impediment. After over six years in the making, THE WAR ON KIDS reveals that the problems with public education ultimately stem from the institution itself. Astonishingly all efforts at reform consistently avoid even considering this to be a possibility and the future for children and American democracy are at stake.

In 95 minutes, THE WAR ON KIDS exposes the many ways the public school system has failed children and our future by robbing students of all freedoms due largely to irrational fears. Children are subjected to endure prison-like security, arbitrary punishments, and pharmacological abuse through the forced prescription of dangerous drugs. Even with these measures, schools not only fail to educate students, but the drive to teach has become secondary to the need to control children.

THE WAR ON KIDS begins with the history of “Zero Tolerance” policy. In the 1990s, almost all schools began instituting guidelines that were originally designed to keep weapons and drugs off campus. Very quickly, school officials began to arbitrarily decide what should be considered a weapon and what should be considered a drug. Hundreds of situations followed where children were (and continue to be) suspended or expelled for possessing food knives, nail clippers, key chains, chicken strips, aspirin, and candy. Kindergarteners were even suspended for playing cops and robbers and using their fingers as guns. Under the guise of Zero Tolerance, administrators have been able to wield tremendous power without the burden of responsibility and this authority continues to be increasingly abused. Students invariably feel despondent and fearful in the Kafka-esque state that has been created.

The film reveals that students’ civil rights have been virtually obliterated. They can be searched, drug-tested, denied the right to express themselves verbally and in print, as well as be physically punished without due process. They are routinely deprived of protection from self-incrimination and in some circumstances can even be strip searched without the consultation of parents. Courts typically uphold the rights of schools to behave in whatever manner they deem appropriate where children’s rights are involved.

Ultimately schools now look astonishingly like prisons in their structure and operation and the film shows that it is hard to tell them apart. A side by side comparison in the form of a tour displays the apparent inferiority of the average public school with regards to prison in terms of its resources and upkeep. Most disturbing of all, the school environment is clearly much more oppressive and dreary.

Schools have become obsessed with security and THE WAR ON KIDS shows how none of the profoundly invasive measures are effective. Security cameras were present at Columbine High School, for example, and did nothing to mitigate the massacre. From the students interviewed in the film, it is clear that cameras are unwelcome and breed paranoia and fear and may actually contribute to creating a hostile environment. Locker searches and metal detectors have been shown to be ineffective and contribute to creating an oppressive environment.

Police footage is shown from a 2003 SWAT team raid on Stratford High School high school students in Goose Creek, SC when the principal suspected illegal drug activity. In spite of the aggressive search involving guns and dogs, no drugs were found. The raid highlights the persistent scrutiny that students are under and the complete lack of boundaries that exist when children are involved.

Beyond physical intimidation, psychiatric abuse in schools is also rampant. Experts are interviewed about the epidemic of ADD and similar diagnoses. The preponderance of evidence is stunning and implicates drug companies in blatantly nefarious activities. Ritalin and other pharmaceuticals that are being heavily prescribed to children are not only physically harmful with lifelong consequences but can and do lead to murder and suicide. What is presented as treatment is more dangerous and debilitating than the condition it is supposed to cure. In addition, the condition itself is clearly dubious, and the kids getting treated are often the ones who question teachers and authority. Invariably, these kids are drugged into submission.

THE WAR ON KIDS shows how schools are authoritarian institutions that by their nature cannot be reformed. Children are subjected to the most invasive forms of control and are deprived of the most basic and fundamental human rights that are afforded even to prisoners of war. The net effect is chilling not just for the kids who are subjected to these extreme forms of control, but also for American society’s future as a generation grows up with no first hand experience or understanding of civil rights in a democracy.


Latinmassgirl said...

I know public schools are the worst offenders of children's liberties, but Catholic schools are a problem as well. My niece's parents were told that their daughter must go on Ritalin, or be kicked out of the Catholic school because her grades were poor and she had a hard time not fidgeting and day dreaming. She stayed on Ritalin for seven years, until at age 14, she committed suicide. We think the Ritalin was the main culprit and of course the drug pushers - the school.

Anonymous said...

It is really sad when kids can no longer show up in schools fully armed, or show off their capitalistic skills of running drugs. Yes, I get a little nostalgic of the days when we could bully kids to the point when they had a choice: drop out of school, seek revenge, or commit suicide.

Yes, schools were so much better when there were no healthy boundaries and clear-cut expectations from students. Schools were far superior when children had to worry about being bullied or beaten. But that is far better than having a 'police state' that 'strips away the civil liberties' of gun ownership and self-medication.

I'm sure that freedom, democracy and civilization as we know it will be destroyed by attempts at reigning in the extremes at schools.


@ LatinMassGirl - I am so terribly sorry for the loss of your niece. No child at age 14 should ever feel their life is no longer worth living. Incredible, heart-rending loss for humanity.

marlon said...

The underlying problem with the schools, both public and Catholic, is that they are staffed by people trained in a philosophy which is totally secular. Unless the underlying ideas (about the nature of a human person, of the nature of truth, free will etc.) are changed, whatever system that grows up to take the place of the old system will not in an essential way be different.

PSR Teacher said...

Yes, the Catholic educators are trained in the same philosophies as gummint educators.

So much to respond to about this film. The tragic irony is that all the problems of discipline, lack of respect, violence, drugs, delinquency, etc., are worse than ever. You don't have to go to an inner city school to see this. And the administrators who wish to build their bureaucracies as usual will seek to apply more money and restrictions on the kids.

I teach PSR to middle-schoolers. I discussed w/my mom how I would never have conducted myself in class the way these kids do. I have to say I just told her how I found some things missing from my purse recently. I had considered I lost the first item, then a week later a 2nd was gone. I think it may be that my purse was robbed at PSR. I can't say for sure, but I think it's possible. It makes me feel very sick to my stomach.

Anonymous said...

I taught PSR too, and it is a humbling experience. It is a reminder that children have the energy of a bee, and the attention span of a 24-hour fruit fly.
Plus, most children live in homes where the TVs are always on, where parents have TVs in their bedrooms, and where the best conversation they can muster is related to American Idol or other insipid shows.
Pre-teens and teens spend far more time texting and tweeting than they do conversing.
These are not issues taught in schools, but are part of our culture.
I love our faith for being counter-culture, for standing up to America's culture of materialism. I love how our church reminds us that the path to salvation is only through Christ's suffering and death, and in our own suffering and death.
We can blame our schools all we want, but the average American watches 4 hours and 49 minutes of TV a day ... and 61 minutes of TV ads and promos a day. What do we learn? That we can love objects far more than relationships because relationships are hard. That buying things will make us happy. That sex is the gateway to love. That commitment is old fashion. That we can buy happiness, and the happiest people of all are rich. That greed is good, and sharing is bad - unless we're buying things to essentially buy friendship and love (see virtually ALL Valentine's Day ads.)

To blame it solely on schools when our culture reeks of anti-spiritual materialism makes no sense, and is an easy scape-goat.


Anonymous said...

*sigh* (#2) (I assume you are a different *sigh* than *sigh* #1):

Right on. We have become a society that values leisure and wasting time and mediocrity over hard work and improving oneself and excellence. Add onto that chicken the egg of an all-intrusive federal government that is constantly swallowing the functions historically performed by other societal institutions like the Church, the family, and local government, and you have a recipe for the very very ill society in which we live.

Things like our schools are symptoms of those severe underlying structural problems.


Subsidarity Is The New Black