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"An effort is underway in Los Angeles County to push a landmark proposal by school board President Monica Garcia that would make L.A. Unified the first school district in California to ban suspensions for willful defiance."
So begins an article in the LA Times regarding the current state of education in the public school systems in California. My first observation when I read this article regarded the last two words of the article: willful defiance. What is the difference between normal 'defiance' and 'willful defiance'?
I scratched my head for a while as I considered the article's rendering of President Monica Garcia's proposal regarding "willful defiance." To my way of thinking, to be wilful is to be defiant. To be defiant is to be wilful. Being wilful and being defiant are the same thing. But not according to LA Unified Schools District President, Monica Garcia. Apparently, from the school board president's perspective there is a category of involuntary defiance as opposed to wilful defiance.
But, in case you're wondering what difference this might make in the course of public education in California, don't worry. It doesn't make any difference at all from the School Board's perspective. It doesn't matter at all what type of defiance your child is engaged in within the public classroom. They won't be expelled. They won't be disciplined. Nothing will happen at all to address either willful or involuntary defiance. So the categories don't really matter.
There are many within the LA Unified School district who feel that suspending children from the classroom is very important, indeed, a move in the right direction:
"This will be a transformational shift," said Tonna Onyendu of the Liberty Hill Foundation, a Los Angeles nonprofit that is coordinating the campaign for the Garcia proposal, along with more than a dozen other groups. "Instead of punishing students, we're going to engage them."
The article goes on to refer to two students who are a classic example of the type of student that this proposal is intended to benefit:
"David Chinchilla, 15, of Augustus Hawkins High School in South L.A., was suspended for interrupting and cursing at a teacher.But he and the teacher engaged in a "restorative justice" exercise in which they exchanged letters, each taking some blame and pledging to better cooperate."
In the case of David Chinchilla it is apparent that he presented a significant disruption to the classroom. The article asserts that he "interrupted" his teacher, and "cursed" and swore at his teacher. Rather than suspending the child from the classroom, the school recommended that Chinchilla and the teacher engage in, "restorative justice." Apparently, the teacher accepted some of the blame at the school board's direction.
Here's the other example mentioned:
Damien Valentine, a Manual Arts Senior High School sophomore, has been suspended several times since seventh grade, when he was sent home for a day and a half for refusing to change his seat because he was talking. He said the suspensions never helped him learn to control his behavior but only made him fall further behind.
"Getting suspended doesn't solve anything," Valentine said. "It just ruins the rest of the day and keeps you behind."
This last quote gets to the heart of the problem. According to the article, Valentine talks to another student during instructional time thus interrupting and disrupting the class from learning. The teacher asks Valentine to switch seats in order to help him exercise some self-control. Valentine refuses. The teacher sends Valentine to the prinicpal's office where Valentine is suspended. Valentine then complains that the suspension, "never helped him to learn to control his behaviour."
The problem here is not with the suspension but with Valentine. Valentine was given an opportunity to learn to control his behaviour when his teacher asked him to change seats. Valentine refused correction, refused the assistance of the teacher, and ultimately refused to be educated. He presented a significant disruption to the classroom, wasted the teacher's time and energy, and ultimately interfered with the education of other children. The article makes it clear that Valentine is entirely to blame, but Valentine goes on to assert that the suspension just, "kept him behind."
Ummm... I beg to differ. Valentine kept himself behind. The suspension removed a hindrance from the educational environment and freed the other students to continue with the learning. But with the LA Unified proposal schools are becoming more like prisons. A school is now a place where you get thrown in, but no matter how bad you are, you can't get thrown out. This begs the question: what is the purpose of school? It can't be education! How can we tell ourselves that we are educating our children in the public school if we refuse to throw children out who a.) refuse to be educated, and b.) disrupt and interfere with the education of other children?
But more important is this little nugget: children are no longer being taught that they are responsible for their actions. The Bible says that the Fear of the Lord is the beginning of Wisdom. Education can only truly begin when we first recognize and assent to the basic truth of cause and effect. For every action, there is a God who will hold us accountable. We are responsible for our actions before Him. If we do not believe in the law of consequence then nothing matters, but more than this - there is no basis for anything in the entire universe to matter. All education stops. Chemistry no longer makes sense if the law of cause and effect is thrown out. Math no longer makes sense if there is no concrete relationship between numbers. Society no longer makes sense if there is no appreciation for a person's personal actions in relation to others.
There is a clear drift away from truth towards anarchy that is being embraced by the public education system.