Monday, December 14, 2009

This isn't about cell phones.

APS is set to "crackdown" on cell phones, link.

This isn't about cell phones,
it is about students not following rules.

It is about students who do not recognize the authority of adults.

Were it not for the fact that students don't follow rules about
cell phone use, there would be no need even to discuss a ban
on cell phone possession.

But the leadership of the APS doesn't want to talk about
students disobeying adults, so they will talk instead, about
banning cell phones.

There are only two reasons why students obey rules;

  1. virtue, and
  2. self interest.
Virtuous students follow rules because it is the "right thing to do."

In the absence of virtue, students will follow rules only when it
is in their best interests to do so. It is a cost benefit analysis;
the reward that misbehavior offers versus the cost of
misbehaving (the likelihood of being caught couples with the
consequence of being caught).

In the APS, there are too few rewards for following the rules, and too few consequences for breaking them.

As but one quick example; a student walks into the cafeteria and sees a long line of students waiting to be fed. The student has a choice to make; cut in line, or wait in line.

The reward for cutting is immediate and satisfying. The cost of cutting is inconsequential; even if caught, which is unlikely, the consequence is they will have to go to the end of the line, which is precisely where they would be anyway.

For the student it is a no-brainer, go ahead and cut.

The only reason they might not cut, is that it is the wrong thing to do, and they want not to do the wrong thing; virtue.

APS is doing nothing to build virtue in students. The most immediate opportunity to build virtue is character education. The leadership of the APS has renounced character education. When asked to point to any district wide effort to provide character education for students, APS spokesperson Rigo Chavez could not point to one, though occasionally you still see Character Counts! posters hanging on walls.

In fact, APS Superintendent Winston Brooks has a large Character Counts! tapestry hanging right outside his office.

Yet if you go into that office,
and ask him to hold himself
honestly accountable as
a role model of the
APS Student Standards
of Conduct
, the most
fundamentally important
in character education,
he will not.

If you ask School Board President Marty Esquivel to deal with the issue of executive and administrative role modeling of the student standards of conduct, he will hide from the question.

If you ask Rigo Chavez another question; what is the district's discipline philosophy?, he will admit that there is not one. APS has no written discipline philosophy; no effort has been made to write down the philosophical foundations for effective discipline policies.

So here we are, no effort to build virtue in students, and no effective strategy for making the consequences of misconduct considerable in the cost benefit analysis done by students contemplating breaking the rules.

The result is policies written in the heat of the moment, like the ban on cell phones, with no thought given to any foundation upon which the policy rests. If a student asks why s/he cannot bring a cell phone to school, instead of offering any philosophical justification, we are stuck with; because I said so.

"Because I said so" does not work, it has never worked, and it
never will work. If for no other reason than, students do not
respect the authority of adults. They do not accept that they
have to do as they are told; especially in the light of the fact
that there are so few and ineffective consequences for
their refusal to comply.

And there is so much misbehavior in schools, that it is adversely
affecting the opportunity for all students to educate themselves.

There is no aspect of public education that would not improve
on the day students are expected to follow the rules.

And the very first rule is;
1. You have to obey the rules.
Students in the APS don't accept rule 1.

And the leadership of the APS has no plan to deal with that
fundamental reality, except to limit the right of students to
carry cell phones.

photos Mark Bralley

No comments: