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The former Daily Statesman is now The Dexter Statesman and currently does not have an operating website.

Where is our common sense?

Posted Monday, October 19, 2009, at 7:55 AM

Zachary Christie, age 6, plays with the Boy Scout knife/fork/spoon which caused him to be expelled from his Newark, Delaware school a few weeks ago.
When I first began teaching more years ago than I care to count, I would, on occasion, poke my head into the office and say to my principal, "Mr. Duckworth, I have a problem."

"Okay, Mrs. DeJournett," I remember him saying. "Let's go talk about it," and we would go into the little make-shift room that functioned as a teacher's lounge, sit on folding chairs and drink a nickel Coke. (Okay, maybe it was a dime...I don't really remember, but it was cheap!)

He had such a sense of humor. By the time he had analyzed my "problem," we had a solution which often (back in those Dark Ages) involved a swift swat to the bottom for the student who was giving me trouble. He referred to it as "adjusting his attitude."

I often thought about him in later years, when the issues of discipline became cloudy and uncertain. Our world was so simple back then. We had no way to know how it would change.

A recent news item hit home, when I saw the picture of 6-year-old Zachary Christie, who was so happy with his new Boy Scout tool that he wanted to take it to school and use it to eat his lunch. I was struck by his innocence, which reminded me so much of my oldest child. Todd is 35 now, but I can see him in my mind, being so pleased with a similar knife that his father gave him.

That little boy from Newark could be my boy. I wonder how many parents related to the incident in the same way. Our eyes tear up when we think of the harshness that our children will face out there in the hard, cold world.

Surely, the zero-tolerance laws weren't meant for these naive little children, so innocent in the ways of the world.

In doing some research on this topic, I learned that 87% of all schools have zero-tolerance policies for alcohol and drugs, quite often resulting in mandatory expulsion. Ninety-one percent of schools have zero-tolerance policies for bringing a weapon to school.

This all seems straight-forward and obvious: I'm sure most of us would say, "Well, of course, those rules are quite reasonable!"

But what about the second-grader who brought her grandfather's gold-plated pocket watch to school? She was booted out, because the ancient timepiece had a tiny knife attached.

What about the 10-year old in Colorado, whose mother put a small knife in her lunchbox to cut an apple? Or the kids who have been kicked out of school for possession of Midol, Tylenol, Alka Seltzer, cough drops and Scope mouthwash?

What about the students who have been expelled for Halloween costumes with paper swords and fake knuckles? How about the kids with rubber bands?

I found a quote by Sandra Feldman, president of the American Federation of Teachers, the nation's second largest teachers' union, which has pushed hard for zero-tolerance policies. "I'm terribly embarrassed when I read about some of these cases," she said. "These are examples of adults not exercising proper responsibility. I'm always in favor of just plain common sense."

Well, Ms. Feldman, you should be terribly embarrassed. Zero-tolerance law would seem to be a broken system, crippled by a fear of lawsuit when school administrators use a little judgment on who to discipline and how to do it.

It reminds me of the plight of airport security personnel, who drag a little old couple aside and subject them to horrible search procedures, just because they don't want to be accused of "profiling."

Zero-tolerance laws date back to 1994, according to my research, and statistics don't make it clear if these policies are having much effect on the violence in our schools.

I wonder what my old principal would have to say about all this, if he were still around? I heard that he left education not long after our association. He must have seen the storm coming.

For those of you who would like to read more on this very complex topic, I recommend the article in USA Today where I got most of my figures. You can find it at http://www.usatoday.com/educate/ednews3.....

From the cool, sunny hills of Tillman, Mo., where the greatest discipline problem I have these days is teaching my big pup Bucky to "sit," this is your rural reporter Madeline, glad to be alive and out of teaching!

Showing comments in chronological order
[Show most recent comments first]

I heard about this on the radio. Another example of bureaucrats using the wrong head to think with.

-- Posted by BonScott on Sun, Oct 18, 2009, at 8:47 PM

Madeline, you are exactly right. This country has lost all common sense, and to go a step further, enacted laws so 'we' don't have to take responsibility for our actions. If it isn't law we don't have to abide by it. And any behavior not covered under 'law' is rationalized in some convenient way.

On the one hand, I understand why we have to have some of these laws, but I don't agree with the zero tolerance. Here in Abilene, the middle schools and high schools are pretty rough. A few years back, a student walked into one of his classes and shot his teacher because he was given a bad grade. There are gang fights and drive by shootings on a regular basis. A couple of years ago 5 year old was killed when 17 shots were fired into her house as she slept in the front bedroom. And then you have the kindergartener who was suspended because he kissed another little girl.

-- Posted by BarbaraNTexas on Mon, Oct 19, 2009, at 7:47 AM

Oh, my, Abilene has changed a lot since I lived there in the late 40's, early 50's! My memories of the two grade schools where I attended are very pleasant.

-- Posted by goat lady on Mon, Oct 19, 2009, at 7:52 AM

Yes, gl, it is not even close to even when I came down here in '75. I lived in a little duplex a few blocks north of Lincoln Middle School in the late '90s. Across the street from me was a vacant lot where the gangs from Lincoln would meet and fight out their turf wars...

Vandalism is horrible...gang graffiti everywhere.

You ought to check out Abilene Reporter-News online sometime.

I think you are beginning to understand why I want to come home...

-- Posted by BarbaraNTexas on Mon, Oct 19, 2009, at 8:10 AM

I've said the for a long time, this country can't do anything in the middle, we have to go all the way from one side to another.

I see most of the problem, we as parents, we have no dicipline in the homes, we have no respect for the other people and their belongs, etc., we run to school when our little Jonnie or Susie gets in trouble in school and blames everyone else. What happened to, if you get a spanking at school you get one at home? This zero-tolerance and politically correct is crap.

-- Posted by garden lady on Mon, Oct 19, 2009, at 4:08 PM

You have a good point, garden lady. The "zero tolerance" used to be at home, when your parents found out you were in trouble at school!

-- Posted by goat lady on Tue, Oct 20, 2009, at 6:21 AM

Where is ShannonHoon?

-- Posted by geezerette on Tue, Oct 20, 2009, at 3:25 PM

Hoon left some time back..said it was for good.

-- Posted by BarbaraNTexas on Tue, Oct 20, 2009, at 3:39 PM

I think one of the requirements or qualifications of a bureaucrat is no common sense.

MD, we need more teachers like you from the "old school". We may differ in our politics, but I believe we need more educators like you who are still part of the real world.

-- Posted by swift on Tue, Oct 20, 2009, at 4:51 PM

"Old school" is not in fashion anymore, Swift. An "old school" teacher can get her butt in a lot of trouble these days!

Geezerette, you've been away for a while, haven't you? Hoon gave a big speech and then vacated the premises in a cloud of smoke. No, I don't believe it was an ascension...though he might have thought so...

I still have the speech, but it's X-rated.

-- Posted by goat lady on Tue, Oct 20, 2009, at 9:12 PM

The problems with political correctness is it rewards conformity. Mind-numbed kids get along fine -- but curious and creative kids (and teens and adults) aren't like that. I know many extremely successful business people and to my knowledge not a one of them ever attended a day of college and some didn't finish high school. Heck, Bill Gates is a college drop out. My point is that political correctness is destructive to the economic well-being of society -- because economic progress is fueled by innovation and daring and risk taking and challenging the status quo -- the exact opposite of the attitude of don't rock the boat that underlies political correctness.

A hundred years ago it wasn't acceptable for a student to use a weapon to cause harm ... it is called committing a crime. The zero-tolerance rules are doing absolutely nothing to make public schools safer -- or to facilitate learning, or creative expression.

-- Posted by FJGuy on Tue, Oct 20, 2009, at 10:45 PM

Isn't that ironic? Most people would expect it to be the opposite: That zero-tolerance would mean violent behavior would no longer be a part of our schools. Instead, time is wasted on picky, foolish cases like the one mentioned above.

And, of course, zero-tolerance laws don't apply to kids who are classified as "special." In one school where I taught, a child was allowed to bite the other students, and there was little the teachers could do about it without fear of losing their jobs.

-- Posted by goat lady on Wed, Oct 21, 2009, at 6:48 AM

GL, something I forgot to mention about how Abilene schools have changed since you were here...they now have on duty police officers assigned to each campus and metal detectors at the entrances...some schools have done away with lockers entirely and no one comes on campus without checking in at the office and getting an ID pass.

I stand by Swift about the old school genre of teachers. Couldn't care less about being politically correct, myself. Just do the right thing regardless. If I lose a job because I'm not PC, then sobeit..I don't want that job.

-- Posted by BarbaraNTexas on Wed, Oct 21, 2009, at 7:30 AM

Sorry to hear of Hoon's departure. I rather enjoyed the "good-natured" back and forth with various other participants. Perhaps he is still watching so he will know there are those who quietly (usually) agreed with him. Come back, Hoon!!

-- Posted by geezerette on Wed, Oct 21, 2009, at 2:23 PM

Considering that Shannon Hoon died in 1995, I'm skeptical that he will be coming back anytime soon. But that is pretty commonsensical, so maybe he will surprise us?!?

-- Posted by FJGuy on Wed, Oct 21, 2009, at 2:57 PM

Barb n Tex: That's what I meant by "old school": not bowing to political correctness. MD represents those educators who are independent enough to still use good ole common sense.

MD, I love your blogs.

-- Posted by swift on Wed, Oct 21, 2009, at 3:15 PM

Me, too, MD.

I knew that's what you meant, swift...I'm beginning to think you and I think a lot alike..

-- Posted by BarbaraNTexas on Wed, Oct 21, 2009, at 3:36 PM
Madeline DeJournett's response:
Thanks, guys! I appreciate the kind words, but you do realize that the only reason why I can be politically incorrect is that I'm not still in the system.

It's interesting to be able to look back over (I'll admit it) the last 45 years of education. So much has changed. I absolutely loved teaching. I could never see myself doing anything else but working with teenagers. A lot of people say, "Oh, how can you stand that age group?" but they are (can be) just wonderful!

It's so sad when the system gets in the way.

I have been on safari in Mooloolaba on the aptly named Sunshine Coast in Australia and have just noted that Hoon is no longer contributing. I am sad about this - his offerings were often controversial but usually valid and thought provoking. Here's hoping he will come out of the woodwork and continue to assail us with his musings.

-- Posted by wartz on Fri, Oct 23, 2009, at 2:59 AM

"On safari in Mooloolaba"!? Wartz, I know you're from New Zealand, but you have to be making that name up!! Hehe! Should we all google "Mooloolaba" and see if our down-under bloggin' buddy is puttin' us on?? ...Pullin' our leg? ...Pullin' the wool over our eyes? ...Takin' us on a snipe hunt?

-- Posted by goat lady on Fri, Oct 23, 2009, at 9:03 AM

If those of us who miss ShannonHoon keep asking for his return and those who feel it necessary to verbalize their relief at his departure keep making inane comments, perhaps he will return to the blogs. His presence insured some entertainment and added validity to the opinions shared by reasonable people (an oddity for Southeast Missouri). Would welcome his return!

-- Posted by geezerette on Fri, Oct 23, 2009, at 1:02 PM

GL; I did not make up the name Mooloolaba. It's a great beach resort full of Aussies stuffing themselves with muffins and latte coffees. Have a look at the Mooloolaba Beach web cam site - it shows live camera shots of the beach providing you steer clear of their night time,(not much to see), and early in the day before the operators have had time to clear the salt spray off the camera lens.

A great place to visit and much enhanced by the Aussie humour, (sorry, humor). I went into a bar, and as I was driving on further that day, ordered a tomato juice. The bartender duly obliged with the comment, "here's your soup!"

And finally, clarification on another of those great differences between out countries, what is a snipe hunt please?

I still say, "come back Hoon".

-- Posted by wartz on Sat, Oct 24, 2009, at 4:03 AM

Wartz, I've never been on a snipe hunt, and I don't even know if such a creature exists, but for all practical purposes, it doesn't. If you ever come to America, don't let snyone take you on such a hunt, as the purpose seems to take advantage of the gullible and naive by driving them out to the middle of nowhere and dumping them out with a sack. The perpetrator then drives off (or goes to another location) and leaves the victim to find his/her way home the best he can.

Now, now, Geezerette, my comments are not "inane." Uncaring, unsympathetic, critical and borderline rude, but never inane. In fact, they make perfect sense. Had our rowdy friend not passed the line of propriety by attacking a member of his own political party and everyone else who didn't voice their absolute faithfulness to his riotous cause, he might still be here to call the Statesman site his own personal playground.

-- Posted by goat lady on Sat, Oct 24, 2009, at 7:43 AM

I remember back when my brother was in high school during the 60's...he and Jimmy Brentlinger would go hunting early in the morning, then go on to school. Their guns were in their trucks! No one thought a thing about it. After school, they went "huntin" again.

Can you imagine if someone did that now? They'd be branded terrorists and hauled off to some black hole.

-- Posted by lovebooks on Sun, Oct 25, 2009, at 10:46 AM

One activity never fails to ruffle the feathers and that is the one during which someone chooses to play word games with me. I chose "inane" because that is exactly what I meant. If one chooses to define one's comments in one manner, that is fine with me; but, if I choose to interpret comments in another manner, it should be my right to do so. Opinions are those comments lend themselves to interpretation. Just because you prefer to regard them as "uncaring, unsympathetic, critical, and borderline rude" (all excellent descriptions) does not mean I must follow suit. You chose to place yourself in the pool of those whose comments I labeled as inane. If the shoe fits...

Come back, Hoon!

-- Posted by geezerette on Sun, Oct 25, 2009, at 1:41 PM

Oh, my, geezerette, don't get your feathers all ruffled. I certainly don't mind being placed in the Inane Pool. Not at all. I've had worse. Your friend used to accuse me of wetting my pants! Oh, my!

As for the Word Games, sorry 'bout that - I'm afraid that Word Games are my favorite kind of game. Old English teachers never die, they just lose their class. (In more ways than one.)

If you want to lure our friend back to the site, that's certainly your prerogative. It appears that you aren't alone in your wish, so best of luck!

-- Posted by goat lady on Sun, Oct 25, 2009, at 5:37 PM

Amen gl, I was also called 'bed-wetter'. What class!!!!

-- Posted by Dexterite1 on Sun, Oct 25, 2009, at 8:56 PM

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Madeline DeJournett
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Madeline (Giles) DeJournett is the Advance writer for the North Stoddard Countian. A retired high school English/history teacher, she spent 32 years teaching in 5 schools in Missouri and Alaska. These days, she lives quietly with a menagerie of wild and domestic animals on 52 secluded acres in the remote Tillman hills south of Advance. She graduated from Dexter High School in 1960 and Southeast Missouri State in 1964. She can be contacted at advancensc@sbcglobal.net.
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