No-Rules School

In my day-to-day work I have found myself at some of the more elite private schools in the DC area and, in working with the students, have found that one trend among private schools nowadays is to have few rules and to allow the kids to call the teachers by their first names.

Okay – the name thing could be cool and can really help establish a great rapport between students and teachers. This could be really powerful if the teachers kept their spots as authority figures but more often than not what I see is a buddy-buddy relationship. These are the same schools that allow the students to more or less do what they want and go to class or not, depending on their moods and how they feel at the moment. And the kids pretty much run wild, show little respect or even good manners to outsiders like me who are there to do a service for them. It looks more like indoor recess than like classtime.

I don’t expect much respect and usually I am not disappointed. I just don’t want high school kids to whine about stupid things when I don’t let them get away with the nonsense that the school puts up with. And I don’t want a power struggle over silly things such as how to pose for a picture and whether they can stick out their tongues. A few were taken aback when I told them that for high school seniors they were pretty embarrassing because they were acting like ninth graders. Apparently nobody takes them to task about their immature behavior.

Is it a generational thing? Am I finally old enough to complain about kids nowadays? I have worked with other kids the same age and would rather deal with the gang members and youth offenders from the GED classes I taught than these spoiled kids who have no sense of personal restraint or discipline.

Is that really school? Is this lack of boundaries really good for young people? Is this helping them prepare for life after high school, when you are expected to show up to class or work regardless of where your emotional barometer is reading at that moment?

It strikes me as ultimately negative to not hold young people accountable for their actions. Am I missing something here? I don’t get why people would want their kids in consequence-free rules-free environments as a supposed preparation for whatever lies ahead.

2 Comments so far

  1. smouie kablooie (unregistered) on September 26th, 2006 @ 10:56 pm

    I have three younger brothers (different mom) who run a gamut of grades in elementary school. Based on my observation of their behavior – I would offer the following responses to the questions you pose.

    Many parents and teachers alike have assumed that the relationship they have with children is better when it’s more “buddy buddy” – but as anyone who’s ever watched Nanny 911 will tell you – you can have a positive relationship with your child but still instill a good sense of manners and discipline.

    Then again, there is also the problem of how overly structured and planned a lot of kids’ schedules are. My brothers are all active in soccer, swim team, fencing, tae kwon do, and private music lessons… not to mention the homework they have on top of that… and this isn’t uncommon for a lot of kids in the area. Having no children of my own, there is this sense I get as an outside observer that so many children are suffering their parents desire to “keep up with the Jones'”

    When your kids are doing SO MUCH as part of a scheduled routine – when do they have the time to just – well – be kids? So I think that when they are in school – or family dinners – where they are in this “buddy buddy” environment – they go nuts :-)

    We should hold our kids accountable for their actions – they should be expected to demonstrate discipline and respect at appropriate times. They also need time to be kids – to run around and go nuts when it’s ok – and not have every minute of their lives scheduled. Just my two cents…

  2. Carl Weaver (unregistered) on September 28th, 2006 @ 4:30 pm

    Yeah, I can see that. Kids have too much on their plates nowadays. Also, this might be a backlash against the other trend in schools, which is to make them a bit like prisons or at least daytime holding tanks for kids. I think that type of situation may be even worse because the emphasis is on following rules rather than learning. Yuck.

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