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Saturday, April 10, 2010

"'Do what I tell you to do because I'm the boss' isn't the way the world works anymore."

Kids at the Innovations Academy learn the new way.

The method flies in the face of traditional school discipline. Child psychologists typically fall into two camps: Behaviorists believe in using punishments and rewards to train kids to follow directions from adults. Humanists deride them as bribes; they argue for building relationships with children to respect others' needs. David Strahan, a Western Carolina University education professor who has studied discipline, said most educators have only experienced a traditional classroom in which adults have control. It's more familiar -- and it can be much easier for a nervous teacher to handle.

Humanists have an uphill battle to convince others that their methods will work, said R.T. Tauber, professor emeritus of education at Pennsylvania State University. "To the uninformed, it sounds like you're turning over the institution to the inmates."

As schools across California try to curb detentions and referrals, "positive discipline" is the zeitgeist. But educators don't even agree on what that means or what it entails. Few are trying anything as bold as Innovations, where discipline falls at the far end of the humanist spectrum. Experimenting is easy because it's a charter school, free from school district and many state rules.

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1 comment:

  1. The old reward/punishment form of discipline works for 95% of the population. It works for most animals, too.

    "positive discipline" a.k.a. good-parenting, is nothing new. Treating kids with respect, as individuals, allowing them to make decisions and asking them to think through their actions, is normal for some of us.

    Only when kids are assumed to be animals does the carrot/stick approach make any sense. Under a different paradigm, where kids are expected to become adult citizens equal (if not superior) to their teachers and parents, then education becomes a real challenge.

    'Traditional education' models are designed to shut down thinking, to keep kids from asking "Why"? Once children reach the age of reason, around 7 years old, they need to begin taking responsibility for their choices, and they can't do that if we control them. Kids must learn to control themselves.

    Real teaching isn't easy, it's rewarding.