Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Defensive, or Arrogant?

School districts don't really care what parents want, especially if they are chronic complainers (i.e., any parent who complains more than once.) — Guy Strickland, Bad Teachers
This post is a response to Chris' recent post at A Blog About School. To recap: the public elementary school attended by Chris' kids has brought in an authoritarian classroom-management system (PBIS), and, among other problems, has turned lunchtime into an exercise in trying to prevent the kids from talking normally to each other through constant scolding and punishment. Chris is engaged in a discussion with the principal at his local elementary school to discover why this policy was agreed to in the first place. The principal is increasingly refusing to interact with Chris.

Chris says:
This strategy of avoiding public answers genuinely puzzles me. It just makes the district look defensive, as if it lacks confidence in its own practices.
I don't think the district is being defensive, or lacks confidence in its practices. From the point of view of the district, the fact that a policy has been adopted means that it's right. PBIS is the latest and greatest, and will continue to be until the next fad comes along. The idea that parents should be able to question it, or demand answers as to who made what decision, is completely foreign to them.

Imagine that you had an irritating neighbor who was always coming around to complain that you don't mow your lawn frequently enough, or your porch needs to be repainted, or you shouldn't let your kids leave their bicycles out. Would you be interested in an ongoing public dialogue with this neighbor? Of course not. You would say to yourself, "who does he think he is telling me how to run my household?"

This is exactly how a public school district thinks about parents. Who do they think they are telling us how to run our schools?

I close with one of my favorite Guy Strickland (op. cit.) quotes:
Bastions of ignorance aren't bastions for nothing.


  1. testing the recent comments widget.

  2. I have to admit that I don't see it as arrogant. But maybe defensive isn't the right word, either. I guess it strikes me mainly as a kind of bureaucratic risk-avoidance. Stonewalling or shunting people off into closed-door meetings is probably the percentage play, in that it usually succeeds in making problem parents give up or go away. I do wonder what effects the existence of blogs and social media will have on those calculations, though.

  3. This is fascinating to me...both in matching well to my own experiences in dealing with my kids' schools, but also because I experienced this same silent lunch BS when I was in school. And what resulted from that was me growing up vowing to never let the kids push me or my kids around again.

    The schools know full well what they're doing. Divide and conquer. Never let the parents realize that they all share many of the same concerns about how the schools operate.