Strategizing Horror

When I watch TV news, it’s Fox News–well, it usually is, except my current cable company doesn’t offer the channel and I’m moving soon enough that I haven’t bothered to change over. But I was out of town and oh, hey, look, Fox. I didn’t even know what show I was watching when suddenly….

You can see the whole 8 minutes of the Forbes on Fox segment here: Searching for Unifiers.

In a nutshell, David Asman and three panel members–Steve Forbes, David Webb, Sabrina Schaeffer–all observed that what Ferguson needed was more Polly Williams— black Democrats pushing for school choice. The key to fewer Ferguson incidents is educational freedom. Vouchers bring families together because they can’t just be passive recipients. “The people to blame [for Ferguson] are the Democrats and the teachers unions,” thundered Schaeffer. David Asman argues for giving poor parents the $12K it costs on average to educate a public school student, let them use that money for an elite private school to get a real education. (John Tamney, the one voice against the magic choice pill, said that academic outcomes are a result of kids and their parents, and that choice won’t fix that problem.)


So sure, the Forbes on Fox folks sounded like middlebrows because they can wallow in their own nonsense without fear of contradiction, and thus sound like a bunch of yutzes to anyone with a passing knowledge of the research, much less working experience educating poor kids. And remember, I actually watch Fox News, because I’m basically a Republican, if just across the border, and I find such yammering marginally more tolerable than similar nonsense at MSNBC or CNN, so I understand the context.

That’s not the point. Choice is a stupid idea, but whatever.

The point, the part that enraged me to the point that I haven’t done much but write this piece for the past 24 hours, is that Forbes on Fox engaged in political strategizing that I already find incredibly offensive and wrongheaded.

Briefly: Republicans attack teacher unions and exempt cops and firefighters from their cutbacks. These guys–and they are almost entirely white guys—are all given a pass because they traditionally vote GOP. So much better to attack teachers, whose list of job protections reads just like cops and firefighters except teachers don’t get overtime, generous retirement packages at 20 years, or disability, to try and scale back union protections without offending their own base. They can get to cops later—or, more likely, once the protections are scaled back, the cops will lose inevitably, leaving Republicans with cleaner hands. (If the Politico story is any indication, cops aren’t buying.)

This has been dismally ineffective in terms of moving the public opinion needle. Teachers are routinely well-represented in public respect polls–consistently above cops, generally below firefighters (who don’t even fight fires, dammit). Those most likely to attack teachers are politicians or their proxies (lobbyists), journalists, or business execs—all with very low rankings. So when this all gets too aggravating, I remind myself that journalists, politicians and business leaders attacking teachers is analogous to a bunch of carrion crows bitching about hummingbirds, in terms of their professional public respect.

The public policy needle has moved slightly more in their desired direction, but there’s a reason Bill Bennett calls the public education machine The Blob. I suspect, ultimately, that teachers will move off the political hot seat in a few years—possibly after the public is outraged at the utter waste of time and money now known as Common Core.

But to shill this during Ferguson is simply outrageous, for reasons best articulated by Jonah Goldberg. I quite like Goldberg despite his own tendency towards the middlebrow on teachers, as is evidenced in this diatribe on the evils of public unions that mentions teachers twice, the DMV once, and but neglects to criticize Walker for protecting cops and firefighter unions. He wrote a marvelous piece after the Newtown tragedy that you should read, saying What I dislike is the immediate rush to turn the slaughter into an any argument at all.

Yes. Bad enough that on ordinary days I have to listen to both Republican and Democrat politicians preach that education is a “civil rights” issue, that the reason the country must act to purge teachers is because of the immediate need of our disadvantaged youth. Let’s go ask the disadvantaged if their civil rights are violated more by cops or teachers, shall we? You think the high numbers in those “professional respect” polls are all coming from white people?

But when the world is watching riots occur because a white male cop shot a black male teenager, I find it beyond repugnant that Republicans of all ilk (and conservatives, whatever that difference is), decide to use the horror to blame teachers. Christopher Caldwell, another writer I admire, ends his piece with a school slam. Kevin Williamson of NRO blames defective schools 4 times in an article on Michael Brown that mentions—not blames— the police just once.

And no one objects. The left also bewails the schools but not the teachers, so they’re perfectly happy with the segue from–let’s just say it one more time–a white male cop shooting a black male teenager on a public street to see, this is what happens when schools suck for poor kids.

Let it be known that Darren Wilson resigned and was not fired. It would have been near impossible to fire him, as it is near impossible to fire all “bad” cops—because he’s got the gold-plated union protection that everyone in the public debate seems determined to pretend is available only to teachers.

But Darren Wilson isn’t a bad cop, you say. He had reasonable cause to fear for his life. Michael Brown shouldn’t have charged him.

I normally wouldn’t comment, but everyone else keeps dragging teachers into this mess, so I’ll point out that while I’m unqualified to judge Darren Wilson as a cop, I can say without question that using a teacher’s standards, he handled the encounter very badly. I have actual experience facing down very large male teenagers, be they black, white, Hispanic, or Pacific Islander. (I suppose there are large male south or east Asians, but frankly I’m considerably more terrifying than the many I’ve met thus far.) I have seen kids of all ages, genders, and incomes go from zero to boiling hot angry in seconds. I have seen kids make their lives miserable by not walking something back, and I’ve learned how to help them walk it back, how to ignore an outrageous insult or a blatant rules violation from a kid with an ankle bracelet who really needs a second, third, or tenth chance to reconsider willful defiance that will earn him a visit with his probation officer.

In Title I schools, the hard truth is that some days, some times, high school teachers face situations not dissimilar to the sort of situation Darren Wilson found himself in when Michael Brown and friend refused to get out of the middle of the road. You see a boy ambling around the courtyard and because you know he spends most of his time outside the classroom, you tell him in no uncertain terms to get back to class and on a bad day, the kid tells to f*** off. Or you tell an angry girl to put something away and she throws it across the room, just missing you (other times, it hits you, but then there’s no walking it back). You see a guy texting during class for the kajillionth time and you sigh and go over to take his phone away, and he smacks it into your hand with an expletive and then flips a pencil in your general direction, claiming it was an accident. All of these situations come from my own experience, and all of them are mild compared to the kids who flip out and physically attack teachers for telling them to put their cell phones away or trying to stop them from selling drugs. Despite these showier cases, we teachers are told constantly do not physically touch students. Even self-defense is incredibly iffy. And while relatively few teachers get attacked and occasionally killed by their students, the poorer the school district the more at risk the teachers are. We deal with obnoxious, angry, offensive, stoned, abusive teenagers as a not infrequent part of our job.

When Darren Wilson told the two kids to stop walking down the middle of the street and they mouthed off, he was dealing with irrational pain in the ass teenagers, quite possibly stoned or otherwise high, and that’s my turf, baby. And what you don’t do, if you are thinking about that teenager and your own responsibility to that teenager, is physically block the teenager to try and get him to follow your orders. You don’t want to ignore the slight, because that way lies a whole different side of crazy that we can’t have.

Here is a possible reaction from the viewpoint of a teacher, just to illustrate. You GET OUT OF THE DAMN CAR. You stand at a distance, stop all movement, and say, loudly, “HEY. What did I just tell you to do?”

“F*** OFF! I told you we’d be off soon!”

“Yeah, well SOON doesn’t protect you if a car comes by and for reasons passing understanding I don’t want you to get run over. So finish crossing the street!”

There are many things that could happen from that point, from grudging or even laughing obedience to the same headlong charge that ended Brown’s life. If Michael Brown charged me, I couldn’t get out my gun and start blasting. I’d just run or get in the car and drive away or get help or whatever, satisfying myself that he’d probably end up in jail because I’d sure as hell press charges.

I am not suggesting this as an alternative reaction for Wilson. Teachers are legally and morally responsible for the well-being of their students. Protecting students is their top priority. Darren Wilson isn’t a teacher. He’s a cop, responsible for public safety, and for a number of good reasons, public safety is determined to be best served if cops feel safe and unthreatened, which means challenges to their authority are akin to a death threat. He doesn’t have to help kids walk it back. He has a gun. Like anyone, cop or no, he can use that gun if he reasonably feels his life is in danger. Juries take a very broad view of “reasonable”, as we’ve seen time and again. One could say that Michael Brown is dead because he was foolish enough to treat a cop like a teacher.

This is why I laugh when politicians–usually Republicans–suggest that arming teachers could prevent another school shooting. Insane nutjob shooting up a school happens once every so often, scattered around the country. Teachers being put in fear of their lives happens every day. Give teachers guns, and “school shootings” will start to have a very different meaning. Which is why I think it’s a stupid idea despite being a second amendment purist.

Education is complicated. It’s incredibly difficult to educate those who have no interest or ability. School choice will not make kids polite to white cops. It won’t stop them from bullying liquor store clerks. It won’t make them any less likely to commit petty theft. It won’t get them better test scores, even if they were able to go to the best private schools, which is very unlikely. Elite private schools, or even expensive suburban public school districts, will never willingly corrupt their environments with low-income brats who walk down the middle of the street for no other reason than to inconvenience people with the wherewithal to purchase automobiles. The only schools that will take such kids are those legally required to do so: the public schools who do their best to educate those with no interest and ability (they do a pretty good job educating low income kids with one or the other, by the way). Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn’t go away..

Slamming teachers for the same job features that cops get a pass for purely to achieve a limited political objective is mildly irritating. Blaming teachers and schools in any way for the events in Ferguson is pretty pathetic. I’m amazed that elites on both sides of the spectrum seem to think it acceptable discourse.

About educationrealist

69 responses to “Strategizing Horror

  • Lagertha

    Well, F me…you sure are emotional, and, perhaps, admitting to too many things you should keep secret, btw. But, I do agree with you on some things. I never bought the Wilson claim, and, believe he panicked and shot the victim 12 fracking times (“he looked like Satan”) and then, lied (omitted the truth) to the grand jury. He’s a real Nervous-Nelly coward, sorry folks. I am not a big fan of cops. I’m ok with military, not local cops, or NYC cops – Tompkins Square still irks me, so that, yeah, yeah I could punch someone.

    Not that I don’t have a problem with belligerent teenagers of any race. I hated some British punks back in the day, and, Scandinavian mega-tattood, surly, ignorant skin-heads are the worst! But, I wholeheartedly agree with you that blaming teachers for race relations in this country is so off-base! It is like claiming that preachers, going to church and praying is keeping US teenagers from having sex. Sheesh. Ha, ha, haa….the naive view of the Republicans and fracking Conservatives! I mean, I would not be able to control myself if I had to sit on a panel and listen to this monumental bullshit (about teachers) by a bunch of pontificating, supercilious blow-hards who are so out-of-touch with reality and true-life in the streets….I want all those people to go out for 24 hours and sleep in a card-board box under an overpass before they have my respect to walk onto a TV studio set with their asinine opinions about low-income Americans. I might be one of the set-designers who could humiliate anyone just asking for it with their pasty face and paunchy belly.

    By now, I must confess that I loathe both political parties ( I guess you didn’t know,) and, and really, Jonah Goldberg, FOX, Bill frickin’ Bennet???? Please re-educate yourself with quality news from the internet only (it’s still free and renegade-only) ..and like, duh, reddit – out of desperation, but…something besides the pugnacious FOX…not very foxy, btw. Why is that none of the guys on FOX are hot…and none in the Republican party? Everyone is so meh, or just yeeeech; pasty looking, fat, bad fashion, bad jokes, no style, no HOT factor. And, they HAVE NO IDEAS, PRESENT NO IDEAS, aspire to NOT HAVE IDEAS to deal with ALL the problems we face as a nation. They are not the party of “No” they are the party of “Never gonna happen” or the party of “Nih,” teehee!

    But, yeah, rewind: teachers are just the only punching bag the Repugs can find since no one, NO ONE, knows what to say or do to improve schools; deal with low-income neighborhoods full of minorities; deal with segregation, first of all, duh; deal with students who are not ‘getting on’ in school; deal with large amounts of non-English speakers; deal with everything that the idea of ‘Detroit’ brings to one’s little mind. Repugs and Democrats are impotent over these issues – they have NO GAME. And, honestly, I know so few white people, so FEW, who really are friends with black people/people-of-color…that, everyone just needs to go look in the mirror if they actually believe they care about solutions – or care about “Jack Shit” like a homeless WHITE guy I befriended in the 80’s in NJ. Solutions are ALL I am interested in…blaming anyone for race riots is really, really, folks, so fracking yesterday, and so fracking petty. Blaming teachers is just so wussy…so what a loser with no game, would do – ouch.

    I’ve lived in this country since 1968, and, I can honestly say, the USA, as far as their society today, after 48 fracking years is WORSE…is sick and in trouble, but NOBODY cares. Nobody cares about the masses of people who are really, actually, really, against some odds, trying to live a decent life. So, I guess F me and F you. Just be part of the solution…aspire to be positive and constructive. I volunteer, financially support and work towards solutions to make things better in this country.

    • educationrealist

      Not particularly emotional on this. Just annoyed.

      • not too late

        Great post. Thank you.

        One question. Do you think that as the population of, uh, at risk students grows, that it will be necessary for teachers’ compensation packages to get more like that of cops in order to get teachers to do a job that is ever more like a cop’s?

      • educationrealist

        I don’t know. The thing to remember is that a lot of teachers do the work despite the difficulties. They find their pain point. For me, I like working with mid level at risk populations, otherwise known as suburban poor. Poor kids with rich and middle class environments around them. Other people do great with a much tougher crowd.

  • Mags Janus

    Except Michael Brown was not a student in a classroom or school. He was a man who had just committed a crime (shoplifting) and committing another (jaywalking) and another (not complying with police officer’s instructions.)

    It is simply silly and naive to suggest the police officer should treat him with kids gloves. I mean give me a break. The problem in this case has nothing to do with Wilson or how he acted, but Brown and more importantly the media reaction to it. THATS the problem.

    Not a cop doing his job, but the progr media acting like that is something he should not be allowed to do in the context of black people, cuz feels.

    I’m pretty sure in 1920s Alabama, Brown would definitely have complied with the officer’s instructions, and he’d likely be alive.

    • educationrealist

      I’m struggling of a way to tell you without profanity that you’re a moron.

      You didn’t understand a thing that you read. find a two year old to explain it to you. Read it again, moving your lips to see if it aids in comprehension.

      If at the end of the second reading you still think I was arguing that Darren Wilson should have done things differently, go find a blog for stupid people. Or start one.

      • Jaymo

        Hey, you *are* emotional. Walk it back, as it were.

        I strongly suspect this person did not read the whole thing (or is in fact very dumb.) Some of us managed to read the whole thing without leaping to the conclusion you’d gone all lefty… I thought the post was very reasonable.

      • educationrealist

        I’m not even remotely emotional. I just don’t believe in being polite.

      • Ha'Rav Kook

        “I’m not even remotely emotional. I just don’t believe in being polite.”

        Well, not polite to the white folks writing on this weblog, certainly. But we don’t put you in “fear of your life every day” as you said your students do.

        And that is because you have fundamentally different educational, cultural, and behavioral standards for your inner city students than you have (or would have) for suburban white students and their parents.

      • educationrealist

        I have no idea what color the people posting are–except cro, who says he’s multi-racial. Well, I’m figuring if Roger Sweeney uses his real name, he’s at least part Irish.

        And I don’t live in fear for my life every day, nor did I say I did. Read again, jackwit.

        I don’t teach inner city students.

    • steve

      Don’t forget beating up the little Asian liquor store clerk or did what passes for media edit that part of the video lame stream sat on for over a week after other outlets showed it.

      • educationrealist

        God, I hate it when commenters litter the post with the obvious. I mean, good lord, what idiot thinks I was sticking up for Michael Brown? Answer: Steve.

      • Lagertha

        DUDE! (Steve) you are not allowed to comment SO late in the zeitgeist of this thread. For God’s sake man, were you on a bender or something? – your grammar sucks, btw. I hate, hate, hate stupid guys of ANY race, nationality, or any age, pontificating about a national crises while exhibiting tepid bull* not worthy of educated/rational people …and, yeah, I am 100% WASP and female, married with 3 children, paying tuition, working, living in a ‘blue’ state, so don’t go there, you will regret it.

  • anonymousskimmer

    “both Republican and Democrat politicians preach that education is a “civil rights” issue, that the reason the country must act to purge teachers is because of the immediate need of our disadvantaged youth.”

    Wow, says the people who legislate the curriculum down to the level of testable, and tested, line items.

    • educationrealist

      No idea what you mean with this.

      • anonymousskimmer

        State legislatures are mainly Republicans and Democrats, and in many states at least I believe they legislate curriculum requirements, the major yearly tests, and in certain states actual line items (e.g. “founding fathers”, evolutionism/creationism-by-any-other-name).

        If they’re going to put their fingers in the pot they have to point at least some of the blame at themselves and not the teachers.

      • anonymousskimmer

        ” Despite these showier cases, we teachers are told constantly do not physically touch students.”

        And this is on account of the legistaters (failing to fund security or make this legal in various situations), etc….

      • anonymousskimmer

        It takes mentally and morally deficient assholes to blame down the chain of command to the extent the legistraitors have over the years (apparently they can’t be satisfied with blaming their fellows).

      • anonymousskimmer

        Yeah, I’m sorry, I let my anger at legislators and their diddling in the secondary educational pool get the better of me with what is realistically an off topic comment.

  • cro

    This is a little to the side of what you were addressing, but it’s what I thought about when I read your post, so here you go.

    As a cop, I have to take the bait and argue your point. Just a little. I’m sure you would agree to what I’m saying in part at least. I’ll start with agreeing about the ridiculousness of blaming teachers in the way the piece on fox news did. It’s simply using a non-sequitur as a segue to someone’s pet issue. Idiocy. But…not entirely. At least the part about blaming teachers. A little.

    I worked in the social work field for about a year and a half before joining my current profession. I was a ‘Youth Care Worker’ at a group home on a campus where there were two group homes and an alternative school. That job, social work in general, and by extension teaching as a profession suffer under the same curse. The entire spectrum of these ‘social’ professions labor under a philosophy that seems to often do incredible damage to their ‘clients’. It’s the damage inflicted by their foundational philosophies that has been integrated into their structure, pedagogy, and practice. (I started reading your blog because I recognized the pun on Dewey, founding saint of the fields whose philosophy I’m decrying here) As part of ‘services to clients’ those worldviews are propagated to those kids who absorb them and then are damaged or destroyed by them in the real world. I call it ‘The Monster Factory’. It’s not that without the intervention of our social-welfare and teaching institutions these would all be happy, smiling, super-productive citizens. I’m not under any illusions here. It’s just that the constant inculcation of certain practices and behavior by these institutions lead to bad outcomes when reality-tested in the real world.

    I have seen it over and over again. Due to their behavior a child or teenager needs ‘intervention’, ‘help’, or is ‘at risk’. Teachers at first usually, and then a combination of teachers, social workers, and case managers come up with various ‘treatment’ and ‘goals’ for the child/teenager to strive for in their behavior. If the child or teenager ‘acts out’ the members of one of the institutions staffed exclusively by graduates of an approved social-work or education school, or some form of ‘line-worker’ like a (youth care worker) that has been vetted for ‘professional disposition’ by one of those graduates will ‘confront’ the child or teenager about their behavior. It is these confrontations about behavior that lie at the source of the problem. They happen almost entirely on the child or teenagers terms. By design.

    A teacher, social worker, mental health professional, or case manager will for good reason make sure they do not touch, lay hands, or physically restrain their ‘client’. The fact that they can be sued is only the start. You may well have a teenager or even a child who is bigger and stronger than you. There are techniques for attempting to resolve the issue at hand or at least deescalate tension that may arise during a confrontation over behavior or that was present prior to it. However, these techniques all belie what is at issue and at stake; that the child or teenager has violated a rule or norm and that someone with the authority to command their behavior is telling them to stop and they are not doing it out of either ignorance or willful defiance. If you have the authority to command a stop to a certain behavior or change in it you do not need to negotiate your position on the matter. That is ceding authority to the kid. That is a horrible decision and especially practice to make but we do it anyway. Because it would be foolish to command behavior that you have no ability to back up with some form of consequence. THAT is why teachers, social workers, mental health professionals (I am thinking of them in institutional settings) and case managers do not physically restrain or push matters too far usually. Because you call the cops to do that. That is what we are for.

    There is a problem with handling confrontations in this manner for children and teenagers who are treated this way their entire lives by institutional employees. They come to believe that when handling confrontations with employees of institutions (any institution: a school, a social work institution, law enforcement, companies, etc) that they can always dictate terms through their refusal to obey ‘the rules’ and by physically resisting or even physically escalating against whatever order they’re being given. ‘You can’t tell me what to do or else I’ll!…’ fill in the blank. This works fine if you’re in one of the institutions that is staffed by people who are given to avoid physical confrontation anyway (not everyone obviously) and are governed by rules that dictate that that is how confrontations will go, but if you run into people who won’t follow those rules in the real world you quickly run into problems.

    A cop cannot get yelled at and simply back down. By law and certainly by case-law there is no requirement of a cop to cede ground. As a matter of fact in general you’d better not. You ARE required by law to enforce it whether you like it or not. We have discretion only when we know intervention will definitely cause more damage to life and property than can be reasonably justified, but as always, you’d better be ready to articulate it in court. You might back up to tactically gain advantage but that had better be the only reason you’re doing it. No law enforcement agency will employ a cop who backs down from enforcing the law. You aren’t ordered to take a suicidal position when enforcing the law, but you have to make your best effort and call back-up if you need it. This isn’t a chest-thumping, braggadocio’d position to take. It is the bare minimum required of any law-enforcement officer.

    I’m not going to sit here and defend exactly what Officer Wilson did. He might have had better technique, though unless I got to watch the video that he clearly never had I wouldn’t want to make a judgment. I’ve talked down criminals, people who weren’t criminals, and socially judged a situation to ‘use my words’ effectively to resolve situations often enough without escalating to violence to know that communication is far and away your best law-enforcement ‘tool’. But frankly, that statement is kid’s stuff. We ALL know this in law-enforcement. Of course you get people who are just bad at it and everyone has an off day, but that ‘communication is the most important part of law-enforcement’ is the bread and butter of law-enforcement. Wilson probably knew it too. I don’t actually know that he noticed the cigars in Brown’s pocket or hand or whatever. I don’t know that despite his testimony otherwise he didn’t match Brown to the description given over the radio earlier. I have no specific reason to automatically disbelieve him, but it makes no difference in the initial confrontation. If you are walking down a street (with a doubleline down it, signifying that cars can travel at a speed perilous for pedestrians to avoid) and a cop orders you to get out of it, it is the law that you have to get out of it. Your feelings toward the cop and his toward you have nothing to do with it. You don’t have a right to confront him over it. And remember, if you decide to confront the cop over it and aren’t moving yourself to comply with the order, you might have made the decision for him. Because unless the officer has a specific call to answer immediately, now he has to enforce the next law you are breaking. That of not following his order. (This is often why we try to get compliance and control a situation as quickly as possible. To keep the consequences from piling up. They can. Rapidly.)

    Michael Brown decided for whatever reason to physically confront Darren Wilson. When he did so, probably without knowing it, he created a situation Wilson could not back down from. But this is really understating the case. When have you ever contemplated grabbing a cop’s gun? What would possess you to do that? What would make you think the cop would just let go? I know in heated confrontations actions taken by the participants often don’t make sense when Monday morning quarterbacked by others. But I can’t come up with an even slightly good reason why Brown should have shoved Wilson into his patrol car or grabbed his gun. Either was extremely dangerous. There are laws against it. There is case-law governing the officer’s behavior when someone tries it. There is no police academy in the country that teaches you to allow anyone to take away your gun during a fight. It doesn’t matter WHAT their psychological state is either. You are responsible for that gun and if someone takes it from you then you literally have no way of knowing what they are going to do with it once they have it. It is ALWAYS considered a deadly force situation. You don’t know if they are going to kill you with it, someone else, themselves, shoot it randomly in the air and then the bullet manages to kill a one-year-old two miles away, or maybe they go walk up to the first one-year-old they see and kill them. YOU DON’T KNOW. But you are under orders to kill that person if necessary to retain your weapon. I doubt most people realize that when they speak about the Michael Brown shooting. If you try to take a cop’s gun by force they are trained to kill you and they aren’t supposed to debate whether they want to or not. When you look at the logic of that situation, how you can never allow a deadly weapon to come into the custody of someone trying to force it from you, you see why lawmakers and the courts will never change it.

    …But back to teacher’s roles in all this. Back to the role they might have played in Michael Brown’s decision to attack and then try to take Officer Wilson’s weapon. There is such a thing as learning. Whether conscious or unconscious we learn. There is such a thing as character formation. What we learn to believe, act on, and then experience the rewards to, be they positive or negative, tends to form character. I’m not so much a ‘behaviorist’ that I believe that we have nothing innate in our characters. Far from it. But at the level that we’re operating on I believe that Brown’s experiences with confrontations with employees of institutions may have help set a mental background for him such that his expectations of what his behavior in this situation might cost him were not in any way realistic. He thought he could simply, openly, and physically defy a law enforcement officer. He then thought he could hit him strongly and try to take his weapon.

    This is the opposite of what someone who has been dealing with educational institutions as a student or client for twelve years would have expected if he was instinctually going by prior experience. He would have expected the institutional employee to use calming, non-confrontational language to de-escalate the situation and try to reason their point in a negotiation of viewpoints by stakeholders to come to an understanding of what everyone needed to do. He would not have expected that after physically confronting the employee of an institution that the employee might respond back with force. Certainly not that an employee might respond back with aggression as they were trained to.

    I see this day in and day out in the behavior of criminals and inmates in the jail and on the streets of the county I work for. My favorite situation is when fresh from being whisked from the juvenile detention center on their eighteenth birthday an inmate new to the jail will demand to see a supervisor when, “I don’t like the level of service being provided.” It’s the same on the street. After a few years the criminal type will get to know their rights in the system due to familiarity and their expectations will change. They won’t complain about things they can’t legally expect. They certainly don’t try to take your gun away and understand that it’s suicide to try. But the young ones… the ones that have only their prior experience with their schools or the juvenile system to operate on, they make very bad decisions. The world does not have to conform to your barbaric yawp. You must learn that no one kow-tows to you.

    I feel I haven’t said near enough, or qualified near enough to adequately explain what I think about the conjunction between the philosophy of our learning and social welfare institutions, the behavior they create in their clients, and what I actually think should be expected of law-enforcement. (Which is a good deal more in general, but that’d be another post reply).

    Nonetheless, there you have it. Feel free to critique away or question me and my assumptions.
    (That’s called ‘conversation’!)

    Oh! And one more thing. Maybe this will also color your perception of this reply. I am from a multi-racial family. One of my younger siblings is special needs. She is an adult now, but still in need of provided living places and ‘managing’. These factors DO tend to lend other perspectives when addressing people from backgrounds different from my own. I understand how some people DO have a harder time dealing with life and different situations because you might not from birth be as smart or as good at dealing with difficult situations as the ‘average’ person. I HAVE SEEN people treated unfairly because of their race and the prejudices accompanying it because it has affected members of my own family. You view things very differently then. It can cause deep hurt and antipathy when it is the sole cause of someone being stopped by the police. And it is sometimes the only real reason. However for all the above I RARELY meet someone that has a problem with understanding how to obey an order from a law enforcement officer. That is a question of rebellion.

    • educationrealist

      I’m going to go back and read this more closely, but wanted to say that I agree that cops should *not* be expected to respond as teachers. I thought I said so, in fact. What I was trying to get across was

      1) teachers in certain environments routinely get into situations in which one could reasonably argue he or she felt endangered, and occasionally felt in fear for his or her life.
      2) teachers in these situations have nothing like the arsenal of options cops have to mandate behavior, and in fact (not mentioned here) are often pressured not to use all the discipline tools at their disposal.
      3) *As a teacher*, who often deals with smart ass kids, I could see other ways of trying to defuse the situation without it leading to violence. I understand these options would not be acceptable or even a good idea for a cop. However, when people say “no one knows what a cop has to deal with”, my response would be that teachers quite often do. NOt the most dangerous, out of control situations, but those asshole teenager moments that suddenly change on a dime and escalate or defuse without warning. And yet we don’t have guns.

      Now back to read it again. I edited it to add paragraphs–I think wordpress deletes blank lines.

      • Mark Roulo

        Ed: “I’m going to go back and read this more closely, but wanted to say that I agree that cops should *not* be expected to respond as teachers. I thought I said so, in fact.”

        You did say that: “I am not suggesting this as an alternative reaction for Wilson. Teachers are legally and morally responsible for the well-being of their students. Protecting students is their top priority. Darren Wilson isn’t a teacher. He’s a cop, responsible for public safety, and for a number of good reasons, public safety is determined to be best served if cops feel safe and unthreatened, which means challenges to their authority are akin to a death threat. He doesn’t have to help kids walk it back. He has a gun. Like anyone, cop or no, he can use that gun if he reasonably feels his life is in danger.”

        But you buried it a few hundred words after you wrote *this*:

        “But Darren Wilson isn’t a bad cop, you say. He had reasonable cause to fear for his life. Michael Brown shouldn’t have charged him.

        I normally wouldn’t comment, but everyone else keeps dragging teachers into this mess, so I’ll point out that while I’m unqualified to judge Darren Wilson as a cop, I can say without question that using a teacher’s standards, he handled the encounter very badly.”

      • educationrealist

        But that’s the point. USING A TEACHER’S STANDARDS. He’s not a teacher. So anyone who reads that and thinks I’m judging him as a cop is bringing their own baggage.

      • Roger Sweeny

        ed, True, but I suspect there are a large number of people in the helping professions, or who read or write for the New York Times, who think that all situations like this SHOULD be handled the way a teacher would. (And by “this” I mean any “refusal to comply” that is not causing immediate personal injury).

        To them at least (and they are not an unimportant minority), saying, “while I’m unqualified to judge Darren Wilson as a cop, I can say without question that using a teacher’s standards, he handled the encounter very badly” is saying, “blah, blah, blah he handled the encounter very badly.”

    • Retired

      Brilliant essay, never heard it stated like that before.

    • phillipmarlowe2terry

      “But I can’t come up with an even slightly good reason why Brown should have shoved Wilson into his patrol car or grabbed his gun.”

      Did we get a report on the levels, if any, of drugs in Michael Brown’s body that could explain such seemingly irrational behavior?
      I’ve spoken with teenagers high on pot or stronger stuff who are not fully aware of what’s going on around them, are forgetful, and/or hallucinating.

    • Roger Sweeny

      It sounds like you are providing detail and context for ed’s statement, “One could say that Michael Brown is dead because he was foolish enough to treat a cop like a teacher.”

    • Mark Roulo

      This reminds me of a passage from a Heinlein story (from “Starship Troopers”) written in 1959.

      Heinlein is preaching/lecturing via a Mr. Dubios (a teacher of History and Moral Philosophy), a minor character in the book. Mr. Dubois is talking about how the justice system in late 20th century North America handled juvenile criminals:

      “Back to these young criminals — They probably were not spanked as babies; they certainly were not flogged for their crimes. The usual sentence was: for a first offence, a warning — a scolding, often without trial. After several offenses a sentence of confinement but with sentence suspended and the youngster placed on probation. A boy might be arrested may times and convicted several times before he was punished — and then it would be merely confinement, with others like him from whom he learned still more criminal habits. If he kept out of major trouble while confined, he could usually evade most of even that mild punishment, be given probation — ‘paroled’ in the jargon of the times.

      This incredible sequence could go on for years while his crimes increased in frequency and viciousness, with no punishment whatever save rare dull-but-comfortable confinements. Then suddenly, usually by law on his eighteenth birthday, this so-called ‘juvenile delinquent’ becomes an adult criminal — and sometimes wound up in only weeks or months in a death cell awaiting execution for murder.”

      Your explanation sounds similar, though maybe not with an age difference but simply a location difference (school vs. street/cop).

    • Ha'Rav Kook

      Brilliant exposition, Cro. And I believe the general American public has somehow become so detached from reality and “therapeutized” that they believe that folks should be “reasoned” and “cajoled” out of bad behavior … even by cops!

      This is why teachers, students and administrators view fist fights as “kids’ stuff” and decry calling the police. Schools are supposed to be the place where violence is overlooked and minimized because the students are “juveniles” and therefore not fully human or responsible for their acts.

      But, after years of mollycoddling, a time comes when the student step off school territory and punches a little old lady (and not a punchable fellow student or teacher’s aide). It then becomes a matter of public safety and law enforcement.

      If corrective violence is not calibrated and escalated over the years from a toddler’s fanny swat, to a grade schooler’s slap on the hand, to a middle schooler’s spanking, to a high schooler’s paddling (as it was in my day), their behaviors go unchecked until that fateful and unfortunate contact with a police officer.

      Thanks again.

      • educationrealist

        Trust you to agree vehemently with the one part of cro’s post that’s completely inaccurate.

        I guess I should be pleased the ratio of idiots to great comments is so small, but still.

  • cro

    Ah, thank you for the editing. It DID have paragraphs.

    I think you did get your point across and rather well. I think your third point is well taken, but I have to repeat it is routinely pounded into cops that speaking to someone in the right manner for that time and place is always the first thing you should think of. The other ways of defusing a situation you speak of we are supposed to be trained in and learn. Time can dictate how you get to communicate. If you don’t have time to communicate much, communicating effectively to get the result you need to get to the best of your abilty is what you have to settle for. If you must be rude, be rude. It’s of course better not to be, but your responsibilities come before being nice. That being said, law-enforcement is EXACTLY the type of work that a lot of people who WANT to get into fights or relive the fights they lost growing up tend to gravitate to. Police departments need to constantly be on the lookout for these types since they tend to violate rights with much less thought than you would hope for. We have ‘good’ cops and ‘bad’ cops.

    I like your point about teachers dealing with violent and potentially violent situations and for the most part having only their wits and words to solve them. It’s very true and I think very highly of the teachers who deal with dangerous situations everyday. I don’t think it should be like that. I think if someone is an even remotely violent risk they should be removed from the classroom. Expelled. But..due to politics…I don’t think there really is an alternative. Imagine if we did arm all teachers and then…what? what happens when a teacher is overpowered by someone who knows they have a gun and then they take it? Who is responsible for that? Do we really expect teachers who are armed to kill students when they think they are on the edge of losing a fight? That is precisely what cops are trained to do. If you are about to lose a fight in a manner that would cause you or someone else to be at the mercy of your attacker and so be placed at risk of death, great bodily harm, or loss of control of your gun by your attacker you are supposed to kill your attacker. You may get lucky and the gun going off scares them into submission or they run away, but if someone is close enough to be taking your gun and have a reasonable chance of gaining it there is a good chance they will not survive the gunshots. Is it reasonable to expect teachers to do this? Are they strong enough to retain a gun someone is trying to take from them? I train on this scenario annually as part of my recertification. Would teachers have to?

    My main point was on the formational effect growing up in an institutional environment where the authority figures must nearly always back down when either physically or even strongly verbally resisted by children or teenagers. I think it primes people to unconsciously expect that people and authority figures will continue to back down once you become an adult. This seems especially prevalent among large, young men. Usually they have time to learn otherwise. If that was a factor in Brown’s life he did not live long enough to learn the lesson.

    Despite thinking that my point may be true, I also don’t believe we should be pointing at teachers directly to blame here. HOWEVER I do think that for many young people we do not realize that a system that either defers or treats bad behavior lightly is a system setting them up for failure.

    • Fourth doorman of the apocalypse

      I think the police will need to get used to the fact that this sort of thing is going to happen.

      They will likely (IMO) find that quite a few AfAm males will do that, and maybe a few AfAm females will try it as well. There might also be a few white males who will try it, but I doubt that any white females or Chinese males of females will try it. Perhaps some Hmong males will try it. Somewhere along the line an AfAm male, or perhaps a group is going to be successful and kill a cop.

      This is because of a confluence of factors, some of which you have already mentioned but some which you (and society) seems to have studiously avoided. The one you mentioned is that all high school students for the last 20-30 years have been carefully shielded from the consequences of their actions, and quite a few college students have as well.

      However, the ones that were not mentioned are largely to do with human nature, or rather the several human natures. Firstly, we know that people of lower IQ make many more poor decisions in their lives than people with higher IQ. There are ample studies showing that. We also have something like 100 years of data showing that AfAms have an average IQ around 1 SD lower than the white mean and there is more recent data suggesting that at least the Chinese who have come here have maybe a five point advantage over whites in IQ. (I am white but am married to a Chinese.)

      Further, the males of different racial groups have differing propensities for mindless individual and group violence (as apposed to very organized large-group violence that whites and Asians are capable.) And, further, teens are not noted for being able to make good decisions at the best of times.

      All of these mean, in my mind, that the Elites in our society have set up the police to have to kill more black teens, a few white teens and no or very few Asian teens (although they are almost all likely to be pretty much adults in my mind.)

      Have a nice day.

  • Anon

    First of all, if you don’t want to be outraged by right wing shouters, turn off your TV. Fox is less worse and lies less than the rest but I still won’t watch it. All you get from TV is on the net, without all the trash.

    Second, no one can talk about the Voldemortean roots to the Brown/Ferguson disaster and keep his job. maybe isteve. Parents, culture, … even I won’t go on in print and I’m retired. I don’t think there is a public policy solution to Brown/Ferguson.

    Third, while blaming the teachers’ unions is missing point number 2 on purpose, the union is the whipping boy for the country’s extreme frustration with public education. While they are a secondary contributor to the school problem (the real culprits are voters’ votes and the culture we allowed to arise) the unions have earned every bit of scorn and contempt they get. Most teachers many want to do a good job but the union could not care less about the students. They are the public employee union us parents have to deal with every day and they are a huge obstruction to our kids getting educated. Police and firefighters’ unions, while wasting huge amounts of tax dollars do not obstruct the performance of their members’ jobs in a such a visible manner. Parents don’t have to deal with bad/lazy cops and malignant fire department administrators daily. Teacher’s unions own and operate the state, being the largest single democrat campaign contributor.

    Education is a battleground and most of us who can afford it have given up and are paying for both the public and private school systems. The rest have to suffer a crappy education for their kids.

    May God help those of you willing to teach in the Voldemort ring.

    • educationrealist

      Most of what you said is both obvious and irrelevant, except your idiocy on teachers unions. I am uninterested in defending what they do. But what they don’t do is obstruct teachers from doing their jobs, visibly or otherwise, and they sure as hell don’t own and operate the states. If all that were true, if parents were that miserable, teachers wouldn’t outrank cops and firefighters in terms of professional respect, and reformers wouldn’t be wondering why after 20 years they haven’t achieved much.

      And there are plenty of places where very rich people send their kids to public school because they are nicely ringed in and protected from poor folks.

      Honestly, it’s like you cut and pasted from the Big Book of Conservative Ed Shibboleths.

    • Ha'Rav Kook

      Sadly, we no longer hold students or their parents responsible for behaving in a civilized fashion. And as long as teachers are not willing to speak out about lunacy like Minneapolis’ recent agreement to “reduce the [school] suspension gap to zero” (i.e. a guarantee that Somalis don’t get suspended more frequently than “Minnesota nice” Swedes) it will not change.

      Urban teachers have become much like battered wives, who constantly assess how they handle their violent husbands, trying to figure out how they can manage his drunken mood swings without him getting REALLY p!ssed and slapping them around. “I must have done something wrong. What can I do differently so he doesn’t get ‘that look’ and come after me?”

  • Tort

    Regarding the insanity in our school system (Really, it’s the society we live in):

    A poster on a CNN blog wrote the following succinctly accurate statements. I am not sure of the rules on using his name, even though I applaud what he wrote below:

    Teachers do not say much because they do not want
    to admit that teachers can teach effectively only when they are given students who show up ready to learn – and that teachers cannot make children ready to learn.

    Furthermore, they do not want to be seen as “blaming” the children.
    Republicans do not say much that is rational because they resent the teacher union’s steadfast and very effective support of Democrat candidates and they will say anything they think will weaken the
    teachers politically.

    Democrats do not say much that is rational because their politically correct belief system will not tolerate any suggestion that inadequate families disproportionately generate unraised (sic) children who become unsuccessful students – even when they know it is true.

    Teacher training faculty do not say much because they fear that if people begin to examine things closely they will discover that most of what goes into making a good teacher happens before kindergarten
    rather than after high school graduation.

    Source: “Don’t believe critics, Education reform works,” by Jonathan Alter, 6/3/11. Bloomberg View,

    I heard a former principal tell a cop friend of mine, “If I could still spank kids, your job would be easier.” Yeah, that’s just one thing that we’ve given up.

  • Roger Sweeny

    Wow. And some interesting comments. Within this are a few 800 word columns l wish I could see in the New York Times.

  • panjoomby

    the last half of your post is jaw-droppingly amazing – & cro’s responses are equally amazing – that’s hands-down the best info i’ve ever read on this topic & its wider philosophical implications. thank you both.

  • cro

    I have to laugh at getting comments of praise from anyone. Thank you. I’m used to getting blank stares instead. I’m not really on the classical liberal political spectrum anymore so my political viewpoints or any other opinion I have regarding behavior that springs from human nature are mainly just confusing to most people. It’s a nice change. E.R. I’m sure you’ll have a very well thought out response and I hope you’ll take my comments with the grace that they weren’t necessarily well thought out before I posted them. I just thought I’d comment while the thought had come to me and before I prefered to simply observe vs. contributing. Thank you for thinking enough of my comment to comment back I will likely apreciate whatever response you have.

  • mr tall

    Just want to second the praise for both Realist and cro for their exchange here. This thread comprises, hands down, the best analysis I’ve read of the Ferguson mess.

    Realist, ‘One could say that Michael Brown is dead because he was foolish enough to treat a cop like a teacher’ nails it. This rings exactly true.

    But then I was left wondering, how does a kid like Michael Brown end up assuming he can treat a cop just like a teacher? And that’s exactly the gap cro fills so admirably.

    So a few questions to both of you: is there anything the public schools/teachers can do to prepare the Michael Browns out there for dealing with the world outside institutionalized education? Would it be different if schools could administer timely physical (or other) consequences for rebellion against ordinary day-to-day authority? Or are we just flat-out stuck?

    • educationrealist

      Definitely not physical consequences. Oddly enough, black parents and teachers are far more in favor of that than white, but only administered by blacks. And I don’t think that’s the answer.

      What I’ve suggested in other posts is that we “flip” the charter population. take the kids who are simply unpleasant and unmotivated, give them to the charters, which can be run a step up from reform schools with very tough love. However, when you start with the notion of education as a right, not a privilege.

  • panjoomby

    Cro-bro, credit where credit is due: ed realist & cro.

    I had never put 2 & 2 together like cro & ed realist – that youths may get used to the environment of de-escalation & assume that applies to the whole world.

    Back in the day I worked on an acute psychiatric unit, & later at a high school program for kids expelled for guns &/or drugs. At both places the most effective staff/teachers were the de-escalators — people who could ignore minor affronts instead of saying, “what’d you say!?” (thru good behavior kids earned privileges/less restrictions, etc.) BUT, both places had security/resource officers who could be there in 60 seconds to provide physical enforcement. Though that sometimes started the “juvenile intake assessment center” carousel.

    I don’t know that there is a solution. You can tell kids all you want about police having the authority & responsibility to bla bla bla, but a lot of kids will only hear the bla bla bla (education is overrated as a means to make nonbright kids smarter).

    Navy boot camp was effective at eliminating the back talk, but they could also kick people out.

    • Lagertha

      Yes, Cro and Ed have provided insightful ideas about the monumental problem of the behavior of youths who are falling apart in society. But, sadly, the conundrum exists, and continues as everyone involved with education reform/improving communities/improving family structure/dealing with badly behaved kids sits in their own echo chamber unwilling to collaborate honestly with others who present different opinions. It doesn’t matter what your political affiliation is.

      And, duh, most civilized societies have moved away from corporal punishment of children, or prisoners ( not all ) for that matter, as far as discipline.

      I have also always agreed that these so called Charter Schools should actually be set up to deal with the ‘unmotivated/unpleasant’ kids. And, never in a million years should some TFA elite college graduate be allowed to step foot into these classrooms (or any, in my opinion – they can’t hack it, after all). But then it would be years of cat-fights by SO many people as to who/what determines which kids should be enrolled at said school – unless, there is some sort of magical Hogwarts Sorting Hat. No parent is going to accept the fact that their child should be sent to a Charter School where all the kids have behavioral issues. It’s another system to try to separate the “good from the bad” and one that nobody will want to promote, or stake their reputation on.

      There was an article in an opinion section recently promoting the idea for young people to serve a year doing public service – a sort of “gap year” to promote civility and responsibility with the eventual idea, I guess, of having less rudderless kids of all races. But, since it would be a volunteer operation, well, good luck with that! Conscription (one year) for all young men in Finland, for instance, has always worked well, will never be terminated because of the societal benefits (determined in the 80’s since Sweden ended it,) and Russia is not tempted to mess with Finland because of a highly trained army & navy since 1950. And, my friends there have always told me that it was a pivotal year, a wonderful year full of “eureka” moments despite living the regimented, extremely physical, no-freedom, no-privacy, barrack-lifestyle for a year.

      Lastly, the conundrum that poverty/segregation/ broken families/substance abuse and educational achievement presents just can not be politicized, or have teachers (or unions, sheesh!) be the scapegoats …it is a deep, deep problem with no immediate solution. And, it requires a summit of some kind to really begin the process of examining every solution presented by anyone who feels they have the answers. Other wise we’re right back to: “are there no prisons, are there no workhouses,” for the kids that fall through the cracks. So, how do you change behavior?

  • Steve Sailer

    Republican politicians would be smart to pick less on teachers (there are several million of them, they vote at high rates, lots of voters talk to teachers at parents night at school and like them, etc.) and pick more on downtown headquarters educrats (they are fewer in number, nobody knows what they do, and lots of school teachers resent them).

    • educationrealist

      Yeah, you’d think. There’s plenty of opportunity to do that, too. For example, that New York school where the principal did nothing for years. The DISTRICT allowed that. Yet you’ll see the NY post and others blame unions. Or the LA case with Mark Berendt. LA Unified screwed up by giving him money to retire, and had continuously neglected to report sexual offenders to the credentialing commission. Unions didn’t even protect the guy. But somehow, it’s all about bad teachers. As you say, from a pure numbers standpoint, it’s nuts.

  • Steve Sailer

    Private schools frequently use assistant football coaches and the like as disciplinarians. If you want teachers who really care about explaining the symbolism in The Great Gatsby, you probably also ought to employ guys with thick necks who are good at putting punks in their places to back up the Fitzgerald fans.

    The funny thing is that the punks often come to see the assistant deans of discipline as role models for staying out of a life of crime: they can’t imagine themselves growing up to get jobs teaching the The Great Gatsby, but they can imagine themselves getting honest jobs putting punks in their places.

    • educationrealist

      Doug Lemov, the guy who pretends to be a teacher and does Teach Like A Champion, is a big guy who played (I think) soccer in college. In both the private school where he “taught” for a year or so and the charter school he “founded” (not really), he was moved after barely a year into a discipline position. Because he’s a big guy. Very common.

    • Hillbilly Jim

      Ronnie L. got three swats with a paddle by the math teacher (jr. high school football coach) for acting out in class. I saw him crying silently when he got back to class. I asked a classmate why. The student said that the high school football coach would give Ronnie double-swats for any swats Ronnie got in class. And when Ronnie got home his father said he would get as many swats at home as he got at school, for a total of 18 swats with a paddle. Ronnie never dealt drugs, beat old ladies, or challenged a cop in his life … and he didn’t act out in school but 2 or 3 times in his 12 years.

      • educationrealist

        I do not understand why the hell anyone sane would recommend corporal punishment. It’s ludicrous and even if you want me to be polite and pretend otherwise, the research supporting corporal punishment by *parents*, much less schools, is non-existent.

      • Lizardbreath

        educationrealist, did you ever happen to read /Running on Ritalin/?

        Presumably you’ve seen Gottfredson or someone on how low-g and high-g students need, basically, opposite teaching styles. There’s research on that. There’s no research that I know of on whether ADHD (or ADHDish) kids need corporal punishment where other kids don’t, but /Running on Ritalin/’s author explains his clinical impression that they do. It’s not controlled research, but it does suggest such research would be useful.

        His argument is along the lines that since ADHD(-ish) kids have trouble thinking ahead (or back), they need more immediate and concrete consequences.

        Be interesting to see research breaking out such subgroups.

      • educationrealist

        “Presumably you’ve seen Gottfredson or someone on how low-g and high-g students need, basically, opposite teaching styles. ”

        Yes. This gibes with my own experience–well, high school teachers don’t get much experience with “low-g” (below 90) , but the difference between 95-105 and 110+ also requires different teaching approaches. You don’t hear about this in ed school; I’ve written a lot about the lack of research in this area from a practical standpoint.

        However, I absolutely reject the idea of corporal punishment from the state, or indeed that corporal punishment is ever needed. My belief is grounded in philosophical and practical reasons.

        Now, I’m all in favor of putting troublesome kids in some equivalent of reform school, a brutal place where they get yelled at a lot and no one cares about their feelings. But spanking? No.

      • Lizardbreath

        The US military is a source for research on teaching low-g students, since they’ve repeatedly experimented with taking recruits who score below…well, whatever their cutoff is at the time they try the experiment. (Every time they’ve tried this, they’ve concluded that those below about the 10th-15th percentile, or about IQ 80-85, are too costly to train, and that even at that high cost they still have unacceptably high failure rates. That’s why their cutoff has been, at various times and for various branches and backgrounds, the 10th, 20th, 25th and 30th percentile.) But yeah, military research focuses on teaching specific task skills, not more general academic skills.

        I’m coming at this from a psychology standpoint, and so I wonder: Officially you’re not supposed to / it’s supposed to be very difficult to move someone to special ed (for intellectual disability) with an IQ above 70. So…how do high school teachers (at least where you are) miss out on the 70-90 crowd?

        (The 70-85 crowd–approx. 2nd to 15th percentile–is who used to be called “borderline retarded” before the name change to “intellectual disability.” See this post on a school psychologist’s blog for an example.)

        I know these students tend to drop out as soon as they can, but…what about when they’re *under* 16? Do you have a lot of students who are retained to the point that they hit 16 in 8th or 9th grade and so high school teachers never/rarely see them? Are your school psychs putting students in special ed with higher IQ scores than that? Are students who would otherwise “fall through the cracks”–as the “borderline MR” used to–being labeled as having “specific learning disabilities”? Or what?

        As for corporal punishment, good point that we need to make a distinction between “corporal punishment from the state” vs. “…from parents.” I used to oppose corporal punishment, but these days I don’t have a strong opinion on it.

        I *do* have a strong opinion that the sort of “brutal” school you seemed to be referencing–“a brutal place where they get yelled at a lot and no one cares about their feelings. But spanking? No.”–

        is *not* the sort of school that helps students who struggle with impulse control. (As opposed to other misbehaviors. I’m just talking about the impulsive students here.) If anything, they need the opposite. That is, a place *with* corporal punishment (or with some other, non-corporal form of swift and concrete punishment), but *without* getting yelled at and having their feelings disregarded.

        IMO the key is having punishment meted out calmly by someone who remains sympathetic, rather than being hostile/scornful/shaming and prone to yell. I oppose the “teachers just go by their emotions, yell when they feel like it (and not when they don’t, so it’s unpredictable), and generally exude scorn for their students” type of school. Students with impulse control issues don’t need that type of “brutal” environment, they need a calm, predictable environment.

        (I’m not sure we actually disagree here. I think by “don’t care about their feelings” you might have meant “don’t reduce punishments out of pity,” which I completely agree is needed. I’m just trying for increased clarity.)

      • educationrealist

        “So…how do high school teachers (at least where you are) miss out on the 70-90 crowd?”

        Well, it depends on the school. In all black, high poverty schools, I imagine there are a lot of kids with 70-85 IQs in normal classes. I don’t know this for sure, but that’s a reasonable guess given average IQs of blacks and the additional push of poverty.

        But the schools I work in are socio-economically diverse. As I’ve mentioned a number of times, I’ve always thought that high school teachers in these schools, particularly math teachers, rarely see anything south of 90 IQs. They would go into special day school. I recently had some evidence to back this up, that I wrote about here:

        TL;DR: I learned the IQs of two kids who were noticeably incapable of grasping algebra, considerably worse than any other kid I’ve ever worked with. One was misclassified, one was a special day student. Both had IQs south of 90. I learned their IQs several months into the school year, not before I began teaching them. That is consistent with my belief that high schools with mixed socio-economic populations shunt IQs south of 90 into special day, without anything so cut and dried as a rule.

        No, we disagree. I do not want a place sympathetic to kids who continually misbehave. I’m not talking about “impulse control” problems, either. Those, teachers can usually handle.

      • Lizardbreath

        “No, we disagree. I do not want a place sympathetic to kids who continually misbehave. I’m not talking about “impulse control” problems, either. Those, teachers can usually handle.”

        Sympathetic how? “Sympathetic,” when used in the phrase “a place sympathetic to kids who continually misbehave,” normally means something different from what it means in the phrase, “[a person who’s] sympathetic rather than hostile and prone to yell.” To equate the two is to commit the fallacy of equivocation.

        And. One minute we disagree on how to educate those with impulse control issues because [fallacy of equivocation], the next minute you’re not talking about those kids, you’re talking about a different group of kids about whom I never expressed an opinion. But we still disagree, because…

        Because it sounds good to start out with “No, we disagree,” that’s why. 😉 I’m still not clear whether we’d actually behave any differently toward actual kids with impulse control issues.

        Meanwhile, did you read the school psych’s blog post? Since it *is* from a school psych’s POV, I thought you might find it interesting.

        “That is consistent with my belief that high schools with mixed socio-economic populations shunt IQs south of 90 into special day, without anything so cut and dried as a rule.”

        Well, there are, in fact, actual rules that school psychs are officially supposed to follow. If they’re shunting kids in the 70-90 range into special day, they’re getting around the rules, is my point.

        That post you linked–which I’d already read, I’ve read your whole blog, I’m a fan 😉 –shows an oddly high degree of apparent confusion about something you could’ve learned by simply opening a book. Psychologists’ cutoff for “intellectual disability, scores above this don’t qualify for special ed,” simply *is* two standard deviations below the mean (IQ 70), and their cutoff for “borderline” simply *is* one (IQ 85). Open a book and see; any undergrad-level psych textbook for “Intro to Psychological Testing” or “Intro to Exceptionalities” will do. Or you could just check the DSM-V. The school psych who wrote the blog post I linked also mentions these cutoffs. In passing, as if “everybody knows.” Because every school psych does.

        So I believe you that you “haven’t taught many kids with IQs south of 90,” but my question remains, how is the school pulling this off? Because no, there really are official rules and this really is against them.

        If they’re labeling these students as having intellectual disability/mental retardation, they’re doing it by gaming the “adaptive behavior” (what the blogger called “daily living skills”) checklists.

        (These checklists are administered not to the student, but to their parents and teachers, who are asked to rate the student in comparison to age-mates. Old research showed this to be less accurate than actually, you know, interviewing the actual student–IOW, administering an IQ test–but unlike IQ tests, adaptive behavior checklists have not officially come under “disparate impact” challenge.)

        If, OTOH, they’re giving these students the label of “specific learning disability”…since many school systems do have special day programs for SLD students, I can believe that they are, but yeah, officially not supposed to do that. It’s easier now with the abandonment of the “discrepancy model,” which required a difference between achievement and IQ; but even so, SLDs are still supposed to be *specific*, not general the way a low IQ is.

        Students with SLDs are officially defined as average-to-bright kids with just one problem area. Which is why special day programs for SLD students are officially supposed to hold the kids to the regular curricular standards. So it’s interesting that you as a teacher have a very different impression of special day students.

        A student with a “real” (that is, actually specific) SLD *could* master the regular curriculum. Which, again, is officially what kids in a special day program for SLDs are doing. But if every kid in the 70-90 IQ range gets the SLD label, they’ll swamp the “really SLD” kids–there’ll be more of them in special day than kids with actual SLDs. So then teachers’ general impression of special day students will be of “slow” kids, not “average-to-bright kids with just one problem area.” As you mentioned a while back WRT Kashawn Campbell, they’ll be tempted not to really hold special day students to regular-ed standards.

        So the system gets by with “abusing” a program that’s officially for those with *specific* learning disabilities–using it instead for those with *generally* low intelligence.

        (And–re Kashawn Campbell–that would also be why a good college would accept such a student. Because students with “real” SLDs can have very high IQs. And an SLD often impedes performance on paper-and-pencil, group-administered “aptitude” tests like the SAT, far more than on individually- and orally-administered IQ tests. The college would think, “He’s labeled SLD. So a school psych found that he was smart, just has a specific neurological weakness. That’s what lowered his SAT score. But his grades show he really is smart.”)

        If this is what’s happening, it’s a shame for those with “real” SLDs. But I suppose this would happen because, as the US military found, students in the 70-90 IQ range do need special help. If they can’t officially get help under the name of their real problem…then teachers and school psychologists will find a way to get them help through another label, even if that other label doesn’t “really” apply to them.

        (Heck, the same thing happened with gifted students and the “Asperger’s” label. That’s one of the reasons the DSM-V did away with it. The APA cares more about theoretical accuracy than the “in the trenches” users do–as far as the APA is concerned, if a label is being “abused” in this way, do away with the label. ;))


        IQ 90 = 25th percentile (current US military cutoff)
        IQ 85 = 15th percentile
        IQ 80 = 10th percentile
        IQ 75 = about 5th percentile
        IQ 70 = about 2nd percentile.

        So when you say you teach at a “socioeconomically diverse school,” what exactly do you mean?

        Is its catchment area representative of the general population, so that of the local 14-18-year-olds, about 25% would have IQs below 90?

        If it is, are all those kids in special ed? Or have some of them dropped out?

        Or is your school’s catchment area likely to have a higher mean IQ than the imaginary “perfectly representative district” I just made up? 😉

        And, 25% of US students are not in special ed (it’s closer to half that). So if the above is happening at all, it’s sure not happening everywhere.

      • educationrealist

        “something you could’ve learned by simply opening a book”

        You might have read that post, but didn’t understand it or anything else I’ve written. Lord save me from condescending fools. Done talking to you.

      • Lizardbreath

        That’s a shame, ed, since I’d hoped to have an interesting conversation with a fellow smartie. I meant it when I said I’m a fan of the blog.

        I’m a SET member and was also a subject in a study of kids with ratio IQs above 160. And I wouldn’t bother mentioning this if I didn’t know you have a similar history. We’re both rare birds; we *ought* to be allies.

        But in this conversation, the condescension started with you. You repeatedly interpreted everything I said as if I were an idiot. Whenever any phrase I’d written could be interpreted in more than one way, you didn’t pick the way that actually fit with everything else I said, you picked the way most likely to have been written by a moron.

        I persisted as long as I did because, as far as I’m concerned, my “tribe” is the high-g, especially women like me and you. I can’t stop you from thinking I’m a fool or a jerk, but I also won’t stop thinking of you as “one of mine.”

        Or reading your blog. Muhahaha. 😉

  • Anonymous

    When I read Cro’s comments, I immediately thought of “Snookie” getting punched in the face on MTV’s The Jersey Shore. She thought she could just do that and nothing would happen.

    I think women have much the same kind of coniditioning at work as Cro describes by young people dealing with education/social work system. They receive deference and kid-glove treatment. I’ve seen lots of videos on the internet with females getting really agressive with police officers. Any sane man knows you just plain do not do that to a cop, but the women seem oblivious, because they’ve done it to everyone else, so why not?

    • Lizardbreath

      I think it’s not quite the same thing and here’s why: Women don’t treat *each other* that way either. What looks to a man like “deference and kid-glove treatment,” looks to a woman like “how normal, sane people normally treat one another.”

      We mostly just plain don’t go around hitting each other. (With the exception of a few subcultures, of course.) (This is also why–as Gavin McInnes once wrote a whole article about–moms can give sons bad advice about dealing with bullies, and/or tell them some kid is a “psycho” when really he’s just a “garden-variety bully.”)

      I’m reminded of the section of Sherman Alexie’s fictionalized memoir, /The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian/, where he punches the verbally-bullying jock at his new high school. The jock is shocked. “You *hit* me,” he says, in wounded tones. Alexie was from the rez, where (he writes) everyone was constantly getting into fights in which they hit each other. The jock…was from the “middle-class white” culture which fed that high school, and, the Alexie character realizes, in that culture “nobody ever hit each other.”

      • educationrealist

        “We mostly just plain don’t go around hitting each other.”

        You are speaking only of your limited knowledge of that “middle class white” culture, no doubt, in which neither girls nor boys ever hit each other.

        In many schools (including all four of those I’ve worked in), fights between girls are far more an issue than fights between boys. That’s because the boys go off-campus to fight. It’s usually a planned activity. But girls fight plenty.

        And I doubt it will surprise many to learn that they are usually fighting over a boy.

      • Mark Roulo

        Ed: “… ‘middle class white’ culture, no doubt, in which neither girls nor boys ever hit each other. ”

        Am I missing some context here (like … are we only talking about “at school”?) or are we treating “ever” as “rarely”? Because I grew up in a middle class white culture and was beaten up and pushed around more than once.

        My son, who is also growing up in middle class white culture (but with more Chinese and Indian folks), has gotten into more than one fight.

        This isn’t weekly (or even monthly), but often enough that signing him up for martial arts training *early* was an explicit “to-do” when raising him. I wanted him to have a fighting chance (pun intended) if/when he experienced what I did growing up.

      • Lagertha

        ok, this marks the end of this week’s dialogue on Ed. (and my patience to deal with morons.) And, some of you posters: – don’t make me feel embarrassed that I emigrated to this country with the highest university degrees attained by my parents and me (for 7 generations – oh yeah). Let’s not slide into bull-shit grievances over stuff that the initial post may, may, may have presented or allowed for dialogue
        , which is, in case you drank/smoked too much tonight: ‘ teachers are NOT responsible for M.Brown’s death.’

      • Lizardbreath

        educationrealist, that’s why I specified “mostly” and “with the exception of some subcultures.”

        My argument is that the feminine *mainstream* doesn’t hit each other, while the masculine *mainstream* does, and that, not “deference to females,” is the reason for the *general* difference in outlook that Anon noted.

        And yes, the masculine mainstream also has exceptions, such as in the subculture Alexie encountered, where, as you both said, *nobody* hits each other.

        I’ve attended both a school with a “nobody hits anyone” subculture and one with a “girl fights” subculture. Neither was the mainstream.

        I’m a generation Xer. If your argument is that times have changed and the *teenage* feminine mainstream does hit each other, well, I wouldn’t know, so I’ll believe you.

      • educationrealist

        Well, “mainstream” in public school wouldn’t be white kids these days. But I take your larger point.

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