Thursday, October 14, 2010

Anti "Choice"

No, I'm not bringing up any controversial political or moral issues. I'm talking about "choice" as the word is used by snake-oil classroom management peddlers today.

Here's an example from the "Make Your Day" program, which I learned about on Suburban Chicken Farmer's blog, Bon Mot. (Thanks, SCF!) "Make Your Day" is the usual classroom-coercion model, featuring punitive "Steps" that are used if a kid gets out of line.

For instance, in an atrocious list of kindergarten (!!!) steps, we see a child being punished for asking another child for a pencil when he should have been listening to the teacher. As we see the child progress from step 1 (sitting isolated in a special chair) to step 2 (isolation with his back to the class), we are told, "Choosing step doesn't mean I'm a bad kid, it just means I need help making better choices."

As if it wasn't cruel enough to punish the child for a completely trivial offense, the "Make Your Day" folks proceed to mess with his mind. On some level the child knows perfectly well that he never "chose" to be punished, any more than he "chose" to be stuck in this godforsaken kindergarten class. But the teacher says he did, and his own parents might even sign a paper saying so. What does it all mean?

It means that progressive ideas like respecting the child have gotten just far enough that a management system that openly used coercion and punishment would not sell well. But a system that uses coercion and punishment disguised as "choice" can sell very well indeed.


  1. Unbelievable. Sometimes I think you must be making these programs up until I actually click on the link. And words fail me when it come to this.

  2. PsychMom asks:

    Why are teachers having such a hard time managing their classrooms? What is wrong with their training that they are unable to do their job without these coersive techniques?

    My child would never see the inside of this classroom...

  3. PsychMom still dumbstruck:

    Did you see the diagram of the dreaded STEPS? Another example of the school and children separated and put into opposition to the parents. The worse thing that can happen in the final step is for the parent to come to school.

    A parent being involved should be the first (best) thing if there are problems. My heavens, this program is getting it wrong in so many ways.

    Further down, in a document on the philosophy (which it really isn't) the last item on the page states that this method helps develop adult coping skills. In young children?

  4. PsychMom, one thing that's happened is that teachers are under enormous pressure to make kids "achieve" at younger and younger ages. See Susan Ohanian's book What Happened to Recess and Why Are Our Children Struggling in Kindergarten?

  5. Words fail me too. This is so creepy.

  6. Words fail me too. This is so creepy.

  7. Chris, thanks for posting that link. It is not my rule, it is not the student's rule, it surely isn't the parent's rule because no one asked the parent. If you're going to be fascist, be fascist. Because then we know where we stand. But don't disguise it with all this "love bombing."

  8. News Article About Parents Who were trying to do away with "Make Your Day"

    On the Make Your Day website, their philosophy is "School is a privilege."
    How can attending school be compulsory yet also a privilege?

  9. Oh man, I looked at the article, and the school in question has been using this horrible program for 12 years!

  10. The school board cited parent and teacher surveys showed majority approval of the program.
    Some surveys aren't worth the paper they're printed on. They cannot be they main rational/justification for policy.

    I loathed filling out the mandatory surveys at my kids' last school. 1 to 4, strongly disagree to strongly agree- sign your and your kids' names across the top.
    It was a small charter school where teachers were also founders, board members and administration. I never felt free to be honest on those surveys.. not even free to abstain from them, they sent out "reminders" to parents who didn't send one back within a couple days.

  11. PsychMom says...just like at our school, except our surveys are somewhat's almost impossible for a parent to effect change in that environment as well.