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Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Police violence in schools: cause or consequence?

Commentary by Carolyn Bennett

The news program Democracy Now shines light on some important issues in American life. 

Stories about police violence in schools and the interface of school and law enforcement are important considerations in the public interest.

But the latest incidents of clashes (think: USA in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Ukraine, …) between American classroom students and police and a deluge of images and retellings, “gone viral on the Internet”—how often do we hear that phrase”—are dealing not with underlying causes but effect; fallout not preexisting conditions or situations, prior acts, neglect, and or a pattern of misplaced priorities and flawed values.

As someone who was a teacher for many years, at different levels of U.S. education (and having seriously studied teaching and learning, school in society, human development), I know that for a long time, there has been a breakdown in the character of discipline and respect in American schools, in relations between teacher and taught, between instructor and administrator, between parents and educators, professors and entrenched politicized power, between schools and society. 

Too many contemporary teachers, K-12 through higher education, fantasy themselves “friends” of students. They pander like politicians to no good effect.  

Students are not helped to “mature”, to develop in healthy ways. Often teachers and parents are not “mature.” Students are not taught how to behave: they are not learning discipline and respect nor are they given examples of these. They are not learning to develop their minds, to think, to expand ethically, civilly, intellectually.

Underlying causes, preconditions first factors

Teachers are not well-trained as educators, neither are administrators; the latter often fail to support teachers, fail to support good teaching and learning. Awards or diplomas in grade school do not encourage development of good character traits or good teaching and learning, though they might support the opposite—lying, cheating and stealing.

Many “teachers” and administrators are not educators at all. They are business people or technicians from, as some are fond of saying, the “real world,” some private sector. A teacher has to be inclined toward lifelong learning but today’s classroom personnel, schooled “in the real world,” know it all. Children and students in classrooms K through college subjected to contractors and entrepreneurs crunching numbers, competing with other numbers crunchers, making up awards, lauding themselves as “award-winners, and taking home the profits. Education is not meant to be profit-taking.

This is not education. There has been a drastic change in the model, in what constitutes “education” – as the “leading out,” “emerging,” “evolving,” a journey. What we have are underlying, crippling causes, prior conditions, we refuse to address.

Law Enforcement an Effect of Breakdown

Because their mission and motives (as with business’s profit motive) is totally different and incompatible with human development and schooling, law enforcement personnel have no business being employed in educational institutions, elementary and secondary or higher education – private, public or parochial. An educator would know this.

The placement of police—people who deal with criminal behavior and criminals, allegations of crimes and collection of case evidence—in schools is a consequence of a prior condition resting with school boards’ (uninformed or ill-informed by school teachers) and municipalities’ flawed decisions, pandering politics, and irresponsibility.

Another factor in a complexity of failures is training. In the broader sense beyond schools, whether on streets or anywhere else, police officers and those ranked above them are poorly trained and poorly supervised; the upper levels of law enforcement, as is true of municipal officials, are often politicized. At all levels there is a sense of inattention, carelessness, the unattended, and out of control, the relinquishing of responsibilities. And instead of fixing underlying problems, each sector engages in blaming one or another individual or sector.

he overarching condition that contributes to America’s problems, the quality of its human relationships, individual human failures—in schools and elsewhere—is round-the-clock violence, support of violence, priorities of destruction (in opposition to civility and dialogue, care, construction, cooperation, uplift, peace, nonviolence) perpetrated by mass media content, commercial interests promoting consumerism, and corrupt government officials.

Corrupt government leadership has effectively destroyed the proper role of government of, by and for the people – in the interest of the common good. In positions of power are corruptible people proposing and perpetrating warped priorities – against the public interest.  If “just” law enforcement existed in America, these people would be brought up on charges for burglarizing the public trust.

In Democracy Now’s headlines today, along with stories of police violence in U.S. schools is the shameful example of corruption-fed chronic waste that destroys America, its people and society. It also destroys large portions of the rest of the world. Though many would like to, we cannot realistically separate decisions in U.S. domestic affairs (neglect of individual and public health, education, welfare, work, human needs and relations, physical and natural infrastructural needs, neglect of cities, states and municipalities) from decisions in U.S. foreign affairs (endlessly arming and bombing the world’s peoples, funding manufacture and trade in lethal weaponry, creating enemies to arm and bomb, in a endless cycle of violence and destruction).

oday’s headline reports an endless bleeding of billions for bombs: “The Pentagon (U.S. War Department) has awarded Northrop Grumman,” world leader in weapons of mass destruction, a contract likely to rise to nearly 100 BILLION. “More than $20 billion…,” the article says, and before all is said and done, the total outlay could “be valued at $80 billion and yield 100 new bombers.”

This outrageous wastefulness in a country where an estimated 1,750,000 people are homeless; 12, 000,000 children languish below the poverty level.

One report ranks the United States second in ignorance and its quality of education inferior to many countries Americans disparage as “second world.” The United States of America moves progressively backward. A study assessing the education systems of 50 countries ranked the United States seventeenth; a year earlier another report ranked the U.SA fourteenth.

Of course no one has to read global reports to deduce with a fair amount of certainty that belligerence and inherent corruption of U.S. leaders correlates directly with the backwardness of America’s people; and that care and substantive curricular content in rigorous subjects well taught in schools advances educational equality among students. No petty rewards, cellular phones or coercion required.

Pertinent links

“U.S. ranked 17th in an assessment of the education systems of 50 countries—behind several Scandinavian and Asian nations, which claimed the top spots” http://www.ibtimes.com/us-17th-global-education-ranking-finland-south-korea-claim-top-spots-901538

“The U.S. ranks 14th in education: According to Pearson, the United States has a “cognitive skills and educational attainment” score of 0.39, which makes the United States rank fourteenth out of forty countries ranked in that category” https://rankingamerica.wordpress.com/category/education/

“Are the world’s schools making inequality worse?” William Schmidt, Michigan State University, September 30, 2015, http://oecdeducationtoday.blogspot.co.uk/2015/09/are-worlds-schools-making-inequality.html

“Northrop Grumman Wins $20 Billion Contract to Build Bombers,” http://www.democracynow.org/2015/10/28/headlines


A lifelong American writer and writer/activist (former academic and staffer with the U.S. government in Washington), Dr. Carolyn LaDelle Bennett is credentialed in education and print journalism and public affairs (PhD, Michigan State University, East Lansing, Michigan; MA, The American University, Washington, DC). Her work concerns itself with news and current affairs, historical contexts, and ideas particularly related to acts and consequences of U.S. foreign relations, geopolitics, human rights, war and peace, and violence and nonviolence. Dr. Bennett is an internationalist and nonpartisan progressive personally concerned with society and the common good. An educator at heart, her career began with the U.S. Peace Corps, teaching in Sierra Leone, West Africa. Since then, she has authored several books and numerous current-affairs articles; her latest book: UNCONSCIONABLE: How The World Sees Us: World News, Alternative Views, Commentary on U.S. Foreign Relations; most thoughts, articles, edited work are posted at Bennett’s Study: http://todaysinsightnews.blogspot.com/ and on her Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/carolynladelle.bennett. http://www.prweb.com/releases/2014/08UNCONSCIONABLE/prweb12131656.htm http://bookstore.xlibris.com/Products/SKU-000757788/UNCONSCIONABLE.aspx Her books are also available at independent bookstores in New York State: Lift Bridge in Brockport; Sundance in Geneseo; Dog Ears Bookstore and Literary Arts Center in Buffalo; Burlingham Books in Perry; The Bookworm in East Aurora