Tuesday Reading List: Discipline at Home, Discipline in School, and Intersectionality

Katherine Reynolds Lewis has a piece in The Atlantic looking at our shifting attitudes towards child discipline:

Many adult assumptions and practices related to children take for granted that when kids misbehave, the reason is that they’re not sufficiently motivated to follow the rules ... The child psychologist Ross Greene upends this conventional wisdom. He disputes the notion that, as he puts it, “Kids do well if they wanna.” Instead, he maintains: “Kids do well if they can.” When adults see a misbehaving child, they should, he suggests, look for a problem in the environment or with the child’s skills that is thwarting the expected behavior. This simple but dramatic shift in mindset underpins the discipline model that he developed in child psychiatric wards, moved into the juvenile-justice system, and implemented in schools. In each setting, his model dramatically reduced both discipline problems and punishments for the most challenging children and adolescents.

Lewis details the ways in which this construct moves adult-child relationships from the domain of "power struggle" to "problem solving collaboration." The more I read about school discipline policies, the more I think that schools are doing the exact opposite and exacerbating tensions in adult-child relationships. Clyde Haberman is in The New York Times looking at how schools enforce discipline, with a focus on how zero-tolerance policies became a fad, and then metastasized:

... the zero-tolerance net came to be thrown ever wider, ensnaring far more than gun toters, knife wielders and drug dealers. Infractions once deemed the province of school disciplinarians — tardiness, say, or mouthing off to a teacher — often made their way to police blotters. There were eyebrow-arching moments like the arrest of a 12-year-old girl for doodling on her desk with a green marker, of an autistic child who had kicked a trash can, of teenagers who got into fistfights ... Zero tolerance kicked into high gear, and stayed there, after youth violence had already entered what would become a steep decline.

I'm not in a position to evaluate the validity of the child psychologist's claims in the prior article. Whether or not he is correct, our schools need to focus more on creating a hospitable environment for kids, and less on correcting individual behaviors with punitive measures. Even folks who once thought that zero-tolerance policies might be useful should be rethinking the ethos in light of its excesses.

To that point, Abesi Manyando, writing in The Huffington Post, sees that more Black families are homeschooling their kids, in order to avoid putting them in institutional environments that criminalize children:

Like an open incision with no intentions of being closed, institutional racism in America cuts much deeper than day to day images of unarmed innocent Black victims being killed by police officers. Institutional racism cuts deeper than not getting a job because you are qualified but Black or have an ethnic/foreign-sounding name. Institutional racism operates through layers of history and psychology where Black children are at times seen as threatening adults and instead of being disciplined like other children, they are getting sentenced as adults in the juvenile court system ... the US World News reports that Black pre-schoolers are far more likely to be suspended than white children and despite the fact that Black children only make up 18% of the population, they represent almost 48% of all out of school suspensions ... If you mix all of this with the fact that the public school curriculum has failed to be academically inclusive as it pertains to teaching Black culture, African history, Native American history and global culture as a whole than it leads to a very discouraging situation for many parents who just want their children to be educated and succeed without their psyche and sense of value being damaged.

I hear this argument from parents all the time. While not everyone who feels this way elects homeschooling, technological advances have caused a rapid proliferation of homeschooling in the last two decades.

Finally today, Damon Young at VSB wrestles with whether or not to support Nate Parker's new film, Birth of a Nation, in light of revelations about the director's past:

Whenever a prominent figure — particularly a prominent figure who happens to be a Black male — goes through the criticism ringer for suspected misdeeds, there’s also a criticism to the criticism. Particularly a criticism from Black people aimed at other Black people who happen to be critical. What these people fail to realize is that we (the critical people) were ready and willing to drink the Nate Parker and the Birth of a Nation Kool-Aid too! I’d much, much, much rather be writing about the 36-year-old Black man who produced, directed, and starred in a film about America’s most storied slave revolt than about a 36-year-old fuckboy who doesn’t seem to have changed much in 17 years. I, like most other people, would prefer to be able to go and see the movie without the aid of any cognitive dissonance.

On the one hand, I've been excited to see this movie for months. On the other hand, I'm troubled by the actor's personal decisions and his reluctance to wrestle with the consequences of his actions. I want to support a movie that centers the perspectives of a group of enslaved people, but I also want to acknowledge the fact that sexual assault - and the culture that enables it - should not be treated as an afterthought. Intersectionality is hard.

The "intense David Bowie gif" makes a good point. Have a great day!