John Merrow asks, who makes the rules? Who decides? He describes the many elementary classrooms he has visited over the course of his four decade career. Usually there is a posted set of rules for behavior. Not at all complicated. Some classrooms, however, have rules that the children devise, which end up looking very similar to the rules posted in other classrooms. It seems everyone wants an atmosphere of respect and good behavior in which to learn and play.

But then, he says, there are the “no excuses” charter schools, which have long lists of offenses that can bring suspension, even expulsion. He uses Eva Moskowitz’s Success Academy as a leading example of a punitive environment where children learn to follow orders without question.

The flip side, the draconian opposite that gives children no say in the process, can be found in charter schools that subscribe to the ‘no excuses’ approach.  The poster child is Eva Moskowitz and her Success Academies, a chain of charter schools in New York City.  A few years ago on my blog I published Success Academies’ draconian list of offenses that can lead to suspension, about 65 of them in all.   Here are three that can get a child as young as five a suspension that can last as long as five days: “Slouching/failing to be in ‘Ready to Succeed’ position” more than once,  “Getting out of one’s seat without permission at any point during the school day,” and “Making noise in the hallways, in the auditorium, or any general building space without permission.”   Her code includes a catch-all, vague offense that all of us are guilty of at times, “Being off-task.”   You can find the entire list here.

(Side note: the federal penitentiary that I taught in had fewer rules.)

Does being able to help decide, when you are young, the rules that govern you determine what sort of person you become?  Schools are famously undemocratic, so could a little bit of democracy make a difference?  Too many schools, school districts, and states treat children as objects–usually scores on some state test–and children absorb that lesson.

Fast forward to adulthood: Why do many adults just fall in line and do pretty much what they are told to do? I am convinced that undemocratic schools–that quench curiosity and punish skepticism–are partially responsible for the mess we are in, with millions of American adults accepting without skepticism or questioning the lies and distortions of Donald Trump, Fox News, Alex Jones, Briebart, and some wild-eyed lefties as well.

The question, I suppose, is whether a democratic society wants “discipline” or “self-discipline.”

Go to The Merrow Report to find this article. I could not create a link for some reason.