Thursday, February 12, 2009

Rector resentment

I've been picking up a free daily publication at work daily. Like many small town publications it has a standard column that reprints the news from some fixed time in the past. Luckily, Carthage has a little history so the column reviews the area's top news stories from 100 years ago.

Last week the title was "A School Excitement."
The public schools at Lowell, the Kansas town at the junction of Shoal Creek and Spring river not far from Galena are closed and the town is in much excitement. Chas. Brooks and his wife have charge of the public schools. Mr. Brooks requested each of his pupils to write him a letter, for the purpose of advancing them in composition. The children acted upon his advice with the exception of one girl, and she took his advice, but she insulted the teacher. She told him in her letter that he was a fool and said other things which Mr. Brooks took exception to and expelled the young girl. Her mother, Mrs. Cheatham, got mad. She went up to the school house and pounded and scratched Mr. Brooks. He did not defend himself because a woman was attacking him. In the general confusion a little girl by the name of Ida Vennette was cut about the head and otherwise painfully injured.

The line about him not defending himself cracks me up, but the idea that even one hundred years ago, teachers had issues with parents who thought their children could do no wrong is of more interest to me today. I'm relieved to find out that's not specific to my parent's generation (I think the old timers forget how things really were back then, or they just didn't know, or I've listened to them to much... the more I learn about history, the more I learn the good old days were just the same old days). I'm also frustrated that parents have foolishly defended foolish children for over a century... I'd hope that somewhere in the last four generations we might have progressed the teacher parent realationship just a little bit. My emotions are leveled by the reminder that people will always disagree, parents are teachers will inevitably argue.. simply because they are human. Likewise, there will always be teacher's making errors, and parents without the full story.

It's certainly a parent's right to disagree with the teacher (let's hope they go looking for answers before a fight). But what really over cooks my grits is when they go straight to the administration who sides with the parent before even hearing the teacher's case. When a principal uses acquiescence to prevent conflict, especially at the cost of a teacher's character... they have failed at education. There are a lot of good teachers out there... and they all have a lot of kids. The chances of one kid complaing about a teacher are a lot higher than the chances of that kid being right.

Certainly the kids and parents can't be ignored... but don't forget innocent until proven guilty. And don't forget that sending a parent home happy isn't always the best thing in the long run.

In education, business, and in everyday America we seem to have a shortage of spines. Many disagreements happen because of a lack of knowledge... but quelling that disagreement does in no way suggest education. A parent and student being in the wrong and thinking they're right is exactly what we don't need more of. Surely, the student will grow up to be another parent in the wrong. There's no way to say who's in the wrong... but educators and their administration are the only people in position to fight the fight, and if they don't try, we're never going to win.

I might blog later on a slightly related topic: It appears to me in education, government, and business... the less you trust the people directly under you, the more waste you create. Easier said than done, but words I intend to live by.