The artwork on the left is from Susan Simensky Bietila. The picture is a depiction of her son eating his lunch at school. He’s got 10 minutes, and as you can see, the lunchroom monitor is keeping a close eye on the time. This work, amongst others she has done in her On Time series, is Ms. Bietila’s response to modern educational methods. She reacts specifically to the way teachers are trained to maintain control in the classroom by a method known as “Assertive Discipline.”
Assertive Discipline manipulates students by using a system of rewards and punishments. Bietila believes it goes hand in hand with a “stultifying, watered down curriculum.” I discovered her thoughts on this (as well as her artwork) in the April issue of Cascadia Subduction Zone.
Obviously one cannot form an intelligent opinion by simply reading a few documents on the Internet, but I immediately form half-baked opinions, anyway. First off, I’m not sure Assertive Discipline would lead automatically to stultifying curriculum. A good teacher will ensure the classroom stays lively. But not all teachers are good teachers. Not all of the non-good teachers are bad teachers. I imagine most teachers are probably average. On a good day they let their natural creativity take the class to new heights of productivity, on regular days it’s just plain ol’ slogging through fractions and phonics.
And don’t teachers today need a tool (besides corporal punishment) to maintain discipline in their classrooms? Isn’t it a good thing to put the responsibility for behavior back on the child?
On the other hand I’m picturing the average teacher applying this technique or any canned program, and I’m seeing stultifying results. It reminds me of the goals/rewards program in the corporate world. Stick to the program, don’t wander. Stultifying.
Now that I’ve discovered this strange new world of educational process, I will pay attention to what the teachers say about it. They’re the ones that get blamed, or take credit, for everything that happens in the classroom. Somehow I suspect that there is no easy answer, no easy one size fits all tool, process, or style.
In the end, don’t you think a lot of these discipline problems would go away if the class size was reduced to, say, five? Let’s go back to the methods of the middle class in the 1800s when each privileged family had a teacher for their brood.
Of course that wouldn’t work. To make it fair and available to all levels of society, we’d have to funnel some of the funds from the military to pay for it. Sorry, what a dunce I am. I’ll go stand in the corner now.