Dis­rup­tive stu­dents must be ex­pelled

Baltimore Sun - - COMMENTARY - By Jonathan David Far­ley Jonathan David Far­ley (www.lat­ticethe­ory.net) is a co-founder of Girls Equal Math and has been an ad­vi­sory board mem­ber of the Bax­ter Acad­emy for Tech­nol­ogy and Science in Maine.

We’ve seen the video of the white Bal­ti­more teacher who used the N-word to steer a mis­be­hav­ing black stu­dent onto the right track. The teacher was fired, but we should fo­cus on what the stu­dent did wrong. The prob­lem of dis­ci­pline in school class­rooms harms the prospects of the very com­mu­ni­ties of color lib­er­als pro­fess to want to help.

I stopped teach­ing at an ur­ban high school in Rochester, N.Y., one week af­ter I started. One boy’s first words to me were: “Get your a** out of my face.” Another stu­dent, whom I’ll call “Dae­mon,” was swear­ing in class. I asked him po­litely to stop, and he snarled at me to stay out of his con­ver­sa­tion.

I half-overheard Dae­mon con­tin­u­ing his con­ver­sa­tion with another boy, “Goelem,” and a girl (who re­peat­edly called me “ig­no­rant” and “rude”), talk­ing about “grenades” and do­ing drive-bys at other stu­dents’ houses.

I in­formed the ad­min­is­tra­tion of Dae­mon’s Columbine-like re­marks, say­ing that I wanted him out of my class. I also called the homes of Dae­mon and Goelem.

The ad­min­is­tra­tion cau­tioned me against call­ing par­ents too much, say­ing, “We can’t ex­pel stu­dents.” I had no tools with which to deal with trou­ble­mak­ers, even such ex­treme be­hav­ior as threat­en­ing to punch girls in the throat.

I told the stu­dents that kids in In­dia, where I was a vis­it­ing pro­fes­sor for a sum­mer, would love to have the fa­cil­i­ties the stu­dents at my school en­joyed. One of the stu­dents said that In­dia was ir­rel­e­vant.

In another class, I tried to point out that ed­u­ca­tion was the route by which they could es­cape their cur­rent cir­cum­stances, that peo­ple like Frederick Dou­glass had en­dured far worse and emerged vic­to­ri­ous. Rather than rise to the ex­am­ple of Dou­glass, one girl said that maybe they had a dif­fer­ent learn­ing style than he.

Stu­dents an­grily erupted if I cor­rected their gram­mar, with a stu­dent, “Paex,” in­sist­ing that the stu­dents not cor­rect their gram­mat­i­cal mis­takes. If I cor­rected a stu­dent’s Ebon­ics, Paex would shout out once more the un­gram­mat­i­cal state­ment that the other stu­dent had made.

When I men­tioned the great math­e­ma­ti­cian Ra­manu­jan and magic squares to the stu­dents, one girl shouted, “We don’t care!” — a girl who had weeks ear­lier shown in­ter­est and some ap­ti­tude for ad­vanced math­e­mat­ics in the selec­tive, whole­some en­vi­ron­ment of an op­tional sum­mer pro­gram that I had taught.

One day, a girl who usu­ally en­tered the class­room with a shout, spark­ing a class re­volt, was ab­sent, and the other stu­dents re­mained quiet. This led me to the so­lu­tion: ex­clud­ing a few dis­rup­tive stu­dents — one or two out of 30 — might help teach­ers do their jobs with the ma­jor­ity.

My brother, a cer­ti­fied teacher in South Carolina, has taught at least 5,000 stu­dents. He found that at the low-per­form­ing schools, there are usu­ally three ring­leaders and up to five stu­dents be­hav­ing ter­ri­bly who set­tle down if the ring­leaders are taken to task; there are zero to one mis­be­hav­ing stu­dents in the mid­dle-of-the road schools, and in the high-per­form­ing schools, none.

Is there re­search to back up this idea that a small mi­nor­ity of dis­rupters cause the prob­lems? The Wis­con­sin Pol­icy Re­search In­sti­tute cites sus­pen­sion rates of 1.98 per­cent for ru­ral schools and 6.16 per­cent for city schools.

If we ex­pel chil­dren, they would not be left to rot in jail but would have the op­por­tu­nity to get their GED­sonce they see that McDon­ald’s wages can’t get them the lat­est iPhone.

But let­ting the dis­rup­tive stu­dents de­ter­mine the cur­ricu­lum, forc­ing teach­ers to teach to the low­est com­mon de­nom­i­na­tor, would be the real crime.

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