July 9, 2007

"Clarence Thomas Is Right" about "Bong Hits 4 Jesus."

This goes on the top 10 list of TimesSelect frustrations. We lawbloggers -- yeah, sometimes I'm a lawblogger, when the Spirit of the Laws moves me -- really would love to talk about this Stanley Fish piece. I'll skip all his background on the case. You can refer to my old post or -- better -- to the original source, the case of Morse v. Frederick. The key thing is that Justice Thomas looked back to the historical model of public schools:
Teachers instilled [a core of common] values not only by presenting ideas but also through strict discipline. Schools punished students for behavior the school considered disrespectful or wrong.... Rules of etiquette were enforced, and courteous behavior was demanded. To meet their educational objectives, schools required absolute obedience....

[I]n the earliest public schools, teachers taught, and students listened. Teachers commanded, and students obeyed. Teachers did not rely solely on the power of ideas to persuade; they relied on discipline to maintain order.
Fish's calls Thomas on his exclusive reliance on the traditional understanding:
Although Thomas does not make this point explicitly, it seems clear that his approval of an older notion of the norms that govern student behavior stems from a conviction about how education should and should not proceed. When he tells us that it was traditionally understood that “teachers taught and students listened, teachers commanded and students obeyed,” he comes across as someone who shares that understanding.
In Fish's eyes, Thomas doesn't just have a theory of original intent, he has substantive values that he believes in personally.
As do I. If I had a criticism of Thomas, it would be that he does not go far enough. Not only do students not have first amendment rights, they do not have any rights: they don’t have the right to express themselves, or have their opinions considered, or have a voice in the evaluation of their teachers, or have their views of what should happen in the classroom taken into account. (And I intend this as a statement about college students as well as high-school students.)
Hey! Teachers! Leave them kids alone!

Fish sounds like one severe disciplinarian. I've opposed the too-liberal notion that the classroom should be all about student self-expression. (See my NYT op-ed disagreeing with "Paper Chase" author John Jay Osborn Jr.) But Fish is way ahead of me here.

Fish writes that people are confusing education and democracy. And schools are not "democratic contexts."
They are pedagogical contexts and the imperatives that rule them are the imperatives of pedagogy – the mastery of materials and the acquiring of analytical skills.
Fish won't accept the Supreme Court's idea of free speech rights weighed against disruption (which meant that, for example, the students in Tinker had a right to wear black armbands to protest the Vietnam War). Like Thomas, he says students should have no rights other than "the right to be instructed by well-trained, responsible teachers who know their subjects and stick to them and don’t believe that it is their right to pronounce on anything and everything."

Wait! That's a huge right! Isn't it worth much more than the piddling Tinker right?

ADDED: Bonus "Mysteries of the Althouse house" photo:

The lower level

38 comments:

ricpic said...

Democracy in a classroom? Insanity. How can anything in the way of learning be accomplished other than in an instruct-recieve instruction environment?

John Kindley said...

"Like Thomas, he says students should have no rights other than "the right to be instructed by well-trained, responsible teachers who know their subjects and stick to them and don’t believe that it is their right to pronounce on anything and everything."

Wait! That's a huge right! Isn't it worth much more than the piddling Tinker right?"

Absolutely! And, in the law school context, this right is doubly important so long as the government insists on infringing on the right to practice an occupation by prohibiting anyone from "practicing law" who has not attended three years of law school.

An Edjamikated Redneck said...

I would have to quantify the "no" First Amendment rights statement; students only have the First Amendment rights granted to them by the original holder of that right, such as Parents or schools.

My minor child doesn't have the right to post a political sign in my yard. If I agree with the purpose behind the sign I may allow it to stay, or if I disagree I will pull it down.

Functioning under the concept of in loco parentis, the schools have the same right to control speech on that depends on the First Amendment rights (which to me was the basis of the 'Bong Hits' case, not drug references).

This continues down to the classroom. The student has as much right to free expression as the teacher is willing to grant, and based on the proper use of that right, this granting can be extended or revoked.

Why is this so hard to understand?

Gahrie said...

An Edjamikated Redneck:

The whole concept of schools acting in loco parentis
has become outdated. Trust me.

Today many parents see the school, and school staff as adversaries, not allies.

Take corporal punishment. It was once commonplace, it is now literally a crime. Dress codes are now completely unenforcable. Banning cellphones is a weekly struggle. all but the most basic discipline requires phone calls home.

George said...

A great quote from Thomas' opinion...from an 1886 ruling:

[The teacher] must govern these pupils, quicken the slothful, spur the indolent, restrain the impetuous, and control the stubborn. He must make rules, give commands, and punish disobedience."

I read that aloud to my teenage son and his friend.
Their eyes just plain popped out of their heads.

An Edjamikated Redneck said...

Gahrie- to me thats the problem.

Why don't parents trust the schools and teachers more? Is it because of a general lack of respect for authority figures, or is it a lack of trust in the public educational system?

I don't blindly trust any of my kids teachers on anything- I talk to the teacher first and find out what their basis and biases are and then act accordingly.

Does this add to to the general lack of respect or not?

Let me be clear that my kids all know or knew that the teacher is always right; in the moment. Bring your diagreements with the teacher to me, not to the teacher. Right or wrong I never allowed any action that would subtract form a teacher's in class authority.

Wurly said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Seven Machos said...

I agree with Stanley Fish and Clarence Thomas.

Theo Boehm said...

One difficulty I have with Thomas' opinion is that he posits a Golden Age of education, located in the hazy past, with citations spanning some 200-odd years poking up through the mist.  The difficulty is that things were not always as Justice Thomas would prefer, or the way society would tolerate today.

On one side of the scale, read about Bronson Alcott and his whacked-out educational attempts in the 1830's.   Although extreme, he was not alone.  Education reform was in the air, and had been since the late 18th century. 

On the other side, look at the website where I took some of the photos from my comment in Althouse's original post.  These photos remind us that: 1.) Things were not always wonderful in American schools in the past. 2.) The past was real life to those who lived it, and no one thought they would be an object lesson for the future. 3.) Children were frequently treated horribly in those palmy days when "...teachers taught, and students listened. Teachers commanded, and students obeyed."  The conditions of childhood for some of those kids in the photos are beyond modern belief.  Yet the society at the time tolerated them.

What part of 19th century child rearing should we adopt?  The severed fingers of the cannery or the strict discipline of the classroom?  Bronson Alcott or the willow switch?

Justice Thomas may have his normative ideas about education and discipline.  That is a fine thing.  I realize that, as a judge, he looks to precedent.  But, please, when giving us his ideas about how the modern classroom should be run, it might be a good idea if he consulted history a little more closely, and left off bellowing from the mist.

John Kindley said...

"the right to be instructed by . . . teachers who . . . don’t believe that it is their right to pronounce on anything and everything."

I assume that Fish is a lefty. So long as a lefty or righty instructor respects the above student right, things should proceed conveniently and optimally and learning will presumably take place. Disrespect that right by spouting his/her lefty or righty opinions and all bets are off, particularly if the student's choice of whether to be there is severely constrained, as in a public grade or high school or in a law school. In other types of schools where students attend of their own free will, an instructor and his students may welcome and foster free-swinging debate on controversial subjects, and that's fine too.

Troy said...

George... the fact that those kids rolled their eyes says more about them and modern education than it does about the quote -- which is mostly right on if a tad overstated.

John Kindley said...

"Disrespect that right by spouting his/her lefty or righty opinions and all bets are off"

And I would include in that category an "educational" campaign telling kids they shouldn't do drugs. An objective health class on the known dangers of drugs would probably be okay, but then you get into health classes on the dangers of STDs and how to put on a condom, which are almost inevitably laden with explicit or implicit value pronouncements and judgments to which the students or their parents might legitimately object.

I'm all for society encouraging kids and people in general to lead clean and sober lives, but not in the context of compulsory education.

TMink said...

Theo, thanks for the website, there were some really interesting photos.

Most of the ones that raised my concern were of what looked like child labor issues. Did I just not scroll far enough for the school photos?

I cannot blame teachers exclusively for discipline problems at school. I think parents get a double dose of blame. For one dose, they often neither maintain disclipline over their children at home, nor do they demand that their children act in an acceptable fashion at school.

Secondly, they second guess and undermine the school's authority to discipline children. They threaten law suits, they raise a ruckus, even when their children are clearly in the wrong. So the schools get far too little support from parents in maintaining appropriate discipline.

In my experience, children are born feral. They are wonderful, full of potential, but basically feral. They need adults to turn them from wolves into civilized companion dogs.

I know the metaphor is awkward, and will surely draw at least a little silliness in the way of "critique," but there you have it.

Trey

Pal2Pal said...

I was in high school in the early '60s and we would not have dared to talk back to a teacher or caused any kind of disruption. Dress codes were strictly enforced, i.e., boys could not wear hush puppies or pegged pants, no leather jackets, no tee shirts, girls wore dresses or skirts, no pants/jeans allowed. Chew gum and you would wear it on your nose for the rest of the class. If teachers thought a boy and girl were getting too lovey dovey between classes, a trip to the principal would follow and parents would be called. Lockers were to be kept clean and clutter free and were inspected every Friday before first bell. Light lipstick was allowed but no other makeup. We started each day with the Pledge of Allegiance, a Bible reading of 10 verses from the Old Testament, followed by the recitation of the Lord's Prayer. We got Christmas vacation from Dec 23 to Jan 2, we got one week at Easter, the Jewish students got off for their religious holidays and everyone was jealous because they got those extra days off that the rest of us did not. You had to carry a B average to play sports or serve in Student Government or on the school newspaper and yearbook staffs. We started school at 8:10 am and went straight through until 3:30 pm, with 7 period days. We could not leave the building during school hours including lunch which was provided free in the school cafeteria, but no vending machines and never candy, soda, or other snack items.

Somehow, compared to my son's education twenty plus years later, we got a superior education without the nonsense that children should be given free expression.

Adrian said...

"And I would include in that category an "educational" campaign telling kids they shouldn't do drugs."

That's what I find funny about this whole thing. Schools are absolutely taking over what should be the parental role in so many moral areas - drugs, sex, in some cases even religion - yet they have less and less of the traditional parental authority to discipline their students.

Basically, parents get to shrug off all the boring lectures to the local school board, and keep all the fun stuff (grounding, spanking, the ol' 'as-long-as-i-feed-you-and-clothe-you-you-will-damn-well-help-me-with-the-dishes-young-lady' routine, etc) for themselves!

Ron said...

Exactly how much respect will children learn for democracy when the person at the front of the room jabbering about has the power of a tyrant, and lets you know that?

No disconnect there at all?

What if the person in the front of the room really, really likes bringing the whip down? Apparently students have no right to tell him to get his jollies elsewhere.

What will you really learn about how to restrain the powerful, when the person teaching you is doing with a gun to your head?

Synova said...

I actually agree that a "no frills" approach to education is better and that a strict environment is appropriate.

I disagree with the "no rights" angle because of the non-voluntary nature of public schooling.

I also disagree with the government being in charge of teaching government.

Synova said...

And what Ron said.

TMink said...

Ron asked: "Exactly how much respect will children learn for democracy when the person at the front of the room jabbering about has the power of a tyrant, and lets you know that?"

An excellent question, and the other side of the coin to the discipline problem. Children learn to ride a bike with training wheels, but the training wheels have to come off for them to truly learn to ride. And that process involves some bumps and bruises.

In the end, it must be a matter of balance: freedom and responsibility, discipline and opportunity.

Trey

Theo Boehm said...

Trey--Yes, many of the photos were to illustrate child labor.  That site and its related ones are amazing sources of old photos.

My point is that the society that Justice Thomas thinks so highly of not only educated kids but barbarically exploited them.  Contrast the photo of the kids playing on the roof of the Washington St. School in Boston with the pictures of the kids working in sweatshop conditions not far away in Massachusetts, all within a few years of each other.  If you look closely at the condition of the building and equipment, the way the kids and teachers are dressed, that Boston school appears to be about as nice an environment as the era could supply.  Look at the boys in night school in Boston.  What were they doing during the day?  Look at the kids in the cannery in Maine.  What were their lives like?

The past may teach us many things.  Our morality, our religion, our models of government all come from the past.  But we should beware when we begin to quote practices from some imagined Golden Age.  For every historical example, there always seems to be a counter-example.  It is tedious in the extreme to lecture people about the superiority of every era but our own.

I agree with your comments, though, and would only add that the task of civilizing those little feral ones is something we are responsible for today, with our resources, our morality, and our sense of responsibility to the present and the future.

And I pray to God that 100 years from now we will not be found as wanting as the society that produced Shorpy.

Ron said...

I, for one, welcome the sound reasonings of Justice Thomas, as no one in a position of unfettered authority has ever abused that position! For the nonce, he is allowed to stay up here at the Big House and mix juleps, until he incurs my wrath and it's to the back 40 with him! I need "not rely solely on the power of ideas to persuade" him to do this, rather I MUST rely "on discipline to maintain order."

I'm sure Ann will agree when she is done cooking my dinner!

Everyone likes "old fashioned values" until their ox is gored.

Revenant said...

Exactly how much respect will children learn for democracy when the person at the front of the room jabbering about has the power of a tyrant, and lets you know that?

In my experience, people who have lived under tyranny appreciate democracy a lot more than people who haven't. Just look at the dolts insisting that the Iraqi people would have been better off if we hadn't removed Hussein from power, for example.

I'd also point out that all decent parents are tyrants to their children. Try giving kids a vote equal to your own and see how they turn out!

Theo Boehm said...

If my comment is the Superego, then Ron's is the Id of the same idea.

blake said...

This is one of the (many) occasions where I say, "I'm glad my kids are home-schooled." I've yet to say, "I wish my kids went to a school."

For those who think it's the parents' fault, I offer a little anecdote from someone who taught in a Japanese pre-school. She said it was always the kid with the biggest problems who determined the course the class was going to take. And as wild as they were in the classroom, when lunchtime came, they all sat quietly and went through the pre-meal ritual.

Other point of interest: It's a lot easier to teach kids when you let them pick the material. Democracy works well in that context.

Balfegor said...

Wait! That's a huge right! Isn't it worth much more than the piddling Tinker right?

Maybe. At least at the collegiate level, though -- the level you and Fish are talking about, as I understand it -- that's undercut by the fact that, quite apart from the First Amendment, many schools have voluntarily adopted Free Speech codes. Sometimes they're "Free" Speech codes, in that they actually restrict freedom of speech outside of circumscribed free speech zones. But they're just as often genuine free speech codes, making representations to the students paying for the privilege of being part of that community, under those rules. So whether the first amendment guarantees it or not, in those circumstances, I think students do have rights of free speech, in and out of the classroom, since the institution has undertaken to guarantee them.

Re: pal2pal:

Somehow, compared to my son's education twenty plus years later, we got a superior education without the nonsense that children should be given free expression.

I don't doubt it. But heck, let's go whole hog! British public schools for everyone! We can let the older boys discipline the younger:

And Comus indicated the chair that stood in sinister isolation in the middle of the room. Never had an article of furniture seemed more hateful in Lancelot’s eyes. Comus could well remember the time when a chair stuck in the middle of a room had seemed to him the most horrible of manufactured things.

“Lend me a piece of chalk,” he said to his brother prefect.

Lancelot ruefully recognised the truth of the chalk-line story.

Comus drew the desired line with an anxious exactitude which he would have scorned to apply to a diagram of Euclid or a map of the Russo-Persian frontier.

“Bend a little more forward,” he said to the victim, “and much tighter. Don’t trouble to look pleasant, because I can’t see your face anyway. It may sound unorthodox to say so, but this is going to hurt you much more than it will hurt me.”

There was a carefully measured pause, and then Lancelot was made vividly aware of what a good cane can be made to do in really efficient hands. At the second cut he projected himself hurriedly off the chair.

“Now I’ve lost count,” said Comus; “we shall have to begin all over again. Kindly get back into the same position. If you get down again before I’ve finished Rutley will hold you over and you’ll get a dozen.”


(From The Unbearable Bassington) The chalk line is to ensure that the cane lands on the same point every time. That way it will hurt more.

Beth said...

But we should beware when we begin to quote practices from some imagined Golden Age.

Thank you, Theo. The myth of the Golden Age persists.

I'm still working on a T-shirt slogan, but I'm just not satisfied with "Bong Hits 4 Humorless School Administrators." Everything after Bong Hits disappears beneath my bosum.

I don't think high school kids ought to be running the school, but there's a lot of room between that and "sit down, shut up, and be grateful, you little yap!"

As for college age, I can't see how anyone can argue for less than full 1st Amendment rights. I don't teach children, I teach adults. I have never, in 13 years of teaching, had a problem with too much or inappropriate speech in my classroom. I have watched college administrators try to muzzle campus newspapers, shut down campus organizations, and keep "free speech" confined to some "free speech alley" location. I oppose all those efforts, despite my sympathy with the admin's sometimes-worthy aims.

Balfegor said...

Re: Blake:

Other point of interest: It's a lot easier to teach kids when you let them pick the material. Democracy works well in that context.

Yes, my parents would have had an easy time of it, had they chosen to teach me about, oh, Transformers or dinosaurs or something. Fortunately, they chose to teach reading skills and basic maths to me instead. Letting children pick the material works fine if you've got decent studious children, as I'm sure you have. But most children are neither decent nor studious, and would prefer to learn about useless things like toys and how to draw extinct animals, and would find learning to read to be an awful chore when there are picture books to be admired. If they had not been beaten into me, I expect I should never have learned how to read or do sums -- certainly the teachers at school tried and failed miserably with their newfangled humane learning methods. Even today, I remember the words of those first books --

"Grey goose and gander,
waft your wings together,
and carry the good king's daughter
over the one strand river . . ."

Actually, that was the second book. The first one involved grey goose going around and biting everyone.

Ron said...

In my experience, people who have lived under tyranny appreciate democracy a lot more than people who haven't.

Wow! Do let me come over to your house on a regular basis, beat the stuffing out of you, and take your money so you can appreciate your paycheck even more than people who don't get beaten up!

If we are still referring to 19th century behaviors shouldn't we beat up our wives and girlfriends so they "appreciate us" more? Is that their logic?


I'd also point out that all decent parents are tyrants to their children. Try giving kids a vote equal to your own and see how they turn out!

Dolt! No one is suggesting that! But kids do understand when you are keeping info from them for their good as opposed to your good! The problem with the older archetype is that it's too quick to grant too much unchecked power to people who may very well exploit that power over children!

downtownlad said...

So according to Clarence Thomas, if an 18 year-old wants to feel-up his 18 year-old girlfriend during summer vacation, his school can have him suspended.

It's amazing how much Republicans are AGAINST liberty now.

Revenant said...

Wow! Do let me come over to your house on a regular basis, beat the stuffing out of you, and take your money so you can appreciate your paycheck even more than people who don't get beaten up!

Well, thanks for that window into the mind of a half-wit -- but I think most people were smart enough to realize that my observation that people who live through tyranny appreciate democracy more was not advocacy of tyranny. I was simply pointing out the obvious fact you'd missed, which is that people who've lived without something are often the ones who most appreciate having it later. Only a great fool could think that children taught in "tyrannical" schools (such as, for example, most of the Founding Fathers) will grow up unable to comprehend the benefits of democracy.

Dolt! No one is suggesting that!

It is pretty obvious that you have no coherent idea *what* you are suggesting. You rant against "tyrannical" treatment of children but then sneer at and ridicule the notion of giving them a real say in how they are treated. Well, either they get a say or they don't, ronnie -- make up your mind. Either you tell the kids how things are going to be or you let them tell YOU how things are going to be.

But kids do understand when you are keeping info from them for their good as opposed to your good!

You've apparently never dealt with kids as an authority -- which is unsurprising, given that your attitude suggests you're still a child yourself.

Children quite often fail to understand that the rules you lay down for them -- "no, you may NOT go to the party this weekend", "yes, you have to finish your dinner", "no, you may not go out dressed like that -- are really in their best interests. They quite often put it down to you just "not understanding", "being mean", or "not wanting them to have any fun". And that's the *teenagers*, who are closest to being rational adults. Younger kids are even worse. If kids only obeyed the rules the rationally understood it would be impossible to ever raise children.

George said...

Yes, Rev, exactly.

The higher your expectations are of your students (or children), the better results/behavior you're likely to get.

What a mistake Bush made after 9/11 when he (or someone in his adminstration) told the American people to go shopping, when asked what we could do to help out.

Go shopping. Jeez.

Synova said...

And you don't understand *why* he said to go shopping do you.


As for authoritarian schools teaching an appreciation for democracy...

I go to a school that is highly regimented. It's not just the teachers but all of the students. Not only does one not talk back to the teachers, one does not talk back to any student above you.

There are strict rules about behavior and custom. We do what we're told to do, "yes Sir" "no Sir". And we're bowing constantly. No one, not a child, not an adult, goes without being permitted to leave. We walk backward so that we are always facing our instructor.

There are *no* discipline problems.

The difference is that every one of us choses to be there. Our democratic choice and our expression of liberty happen *outside* the dojo. If we don't like the rules there is nothing keeping us there. Our freedom and our choice is to take the class or not take the class.

This is the difference with public schooling. Students, many of them, have no choice whatsoever. Their parents have no choice whatsoever. Some of us do, we have options, but many do not and in no way have they or their parents chosen the class and in no way can they leave.

blake said...

Balfegor,

I'm assuming your post is tongue-in-cheek and that you don't actually believe most children are not decent. And children are indeed studious by nature, though it's drilled out of them pretty fast either by pre-school or soon after they start.

It's a myth about toys. Children have very specific behaviors about toys innately which are: they experience all that the toy has to offer in its natural state, then they break it to see how it works.

The easiest thing as far as reading (and arithmetic) is to teach them as babies. For the first couple years they'll do anything to get and keep your attention, and get your praise.

Remember, this stuff is taught because it's valuable.

Dinosaurs? Awesome. You teach about the various ages and speculate with the experts on whether T. Rex was fast, or birdlike, etc. Drawing dinosaurs? Sure. The fine motor control is pretty much the same they'll need for writing. And you can't read about dinosaurs if you can't read.

Transformers? Again, no problem. Pictures are great but eventually you want to know more. Build your own Transformer (harder in the '80s than today, 'course but you're still talking about mechanical/electrical/software engineering).

I've used the hated video games to teach math (an intuitive understanding is necessary for a lot of games).

"American Idol" fan? Musical training, singing, dancing.

"Top Design"? Primary colors, design.

And it all plays into history. What did people wear before (and why?), what music did they listen to, what giant metal robots, er, uh....?

Seriously, though, if creative and attentive it's not hard to take any "childish" interest and spin it into something valuable for the future.

And from what I've seen (perhaps because I'm not rich) they're fascinated by money which opens the door to math (and place notation), economics, etc.

blake said...

Roald Dahl's book Boy talks about life in an English boy's school, and he says in his later Going Solo that he left out stuff that was too brutal for his younger audience.

The old way was undermined for a reason. The new way will be, too, most likely.

Ron said...

Well, thanks for that window into the mind of a half-wit

What's this, talking to yourself again? Yes, we see that.


-- but I think most people were smart enough to realize that my observation that people who live through tyranny appreciate democracy more was not advocacy of tyranny.

Then why mention it? I have known many people raised under tyranny who became tyrants within their own lives, and more with no experience of tyranny who understand democracy quite well. You observe...what, exactly?


I was simply pointing out the obvious fact you'd missed, which is that people who've lived without something are often the ones who most appreciate having it later.


Having seen a large number people who have experienced tyranny on quite an intense personal level become quite despotic in their day-to-day dealings with others, yes, I miss your "obvious fact."

Nice thought, but not a universal truth, not by a long shot.

Only a great fool could think that children taught in "tyrannical" schools (such as, for example, most of the Founding Fathers) will grow up unable to comprehend the benefits of democracy.

Well, perhaps a greater fool thinks I made such a witless, mechanistic assumption... oh, that would be you , buttercup. Even if people can learn under tyranny, do you want them to?


You've apparently never dealt with kids as an authority -- which is unsurprising, given that your attitude suggests you're still a child yourself.

Wow, rather than ask and find out I raise a 5 year old, -- and now a 4 month old, you just chose to spout off. Yep, mature and impressive!

It is pretty obvious that you have no coherent idea *what* you are suggesting. You rant against "tyrannical" treatment of children but then sneer at and ridicule the notion of giving them a real say in how they are treated. Well, either they get a say or they don't, ronnie -- make up your mind.
Lack of understanding on your part is not lack of coherence on my part, Revvie!

Either you tell the kids how things are going to be or you let them tell YOU how things are going to be. I see you got a good grade in "False Alternatives 101." Good for you!

My mind is quite made up, thanks. Ultimately, I choose, but as much as I can, I try to get to the child to take as much responsibility as he can muster, and praise him when does. And when I choose? He asks me why, I tell him, and will try to follow my reasoning later. He doesn't always get it, but he tries.

Yeah, "dolt" is still in play...as evidenced by your comments.

Freeman Hunt said...

The easiest thing as far as reading (and arithmetic) is to teach them as babies.

Blake, did you use Doman, Shichida, or some other method? (I would email you, but your profile isn't available.)

I agree with the strict conception of schools, but not as they are now. The teachers' unions need to be addressed first. In my opinion, a teacher's authority is illegitimate if he can't be fired for poor performance and receives no compensation or promotion based on merit.

Yet another reason we plan to homeschool...

rightwingprof said...

Interesting, given that Fish is the father of the postmodernist takeover in the humanities. I suppose he's finally growing up, now that he's no longer on campus day in and day out.

sippy said...

to rightwingprof:

I am not a prof, right wing or left, but even I know that Fish, regardless of the associations his name may have with postmodernism, has never been one to espouse the orthodoxies of either the right or the left, the avant-garde or the traditional. So I'm not sure his essay should be read to reflect any "growing up," as you condescendingly put it, on his part.

My generally directed comment:

It seems that people here are forgetting that this is not just a simple matter of policy--the policy issues are constrained by a well-developed, if not always coherent, body of constitutional law. I don't understand how "in loco parentis" can possibly be reconciled with our modern understanding of the relationship between the individual and the state, which may be fine with loony strict constructionists (although I question even that), but certainly should not be for those of us in the mainstream.

It is one thing to say that a parent can abridge, for example, a 16 year-old student's speech rights at will (example: kid says, "I think President Bush is the bee's knees," parent says: "This is heresy, you're grounded and you shall never speak those words again"), for this is private action. It is quite another to say that a low-level government functionary can do the same because the student expresses his or her opinion at school. Is student speech somehow so similar to libel, fighting words, child pornography, obscenity and the like as to be similarly carved out of the protections afforded by the First Amendment? How so?

I suspect that many people jumping on the Thomas bandwagon would not actually be okay with the fact that the standard he espouses would allow a teacher to discipline your child for making the statement above, and in fact would appear to do so whether the student is 16 and in high school or 20 and in college, and regardless of whether s/he makes the statement in class or outside of class during school hours. Before you all endorse his opinion to show off your traditionalist cred, think about the actual ramifications.