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Posted by Richard D. Stafford, Ph.D. on July 18, 2001 18:27:52 UTC

One should expect no improvement in the Public school system of the US. I am of the (decidedly minor) opinion that the problem with education in the United States is a direct result of the interpretation of Law.

Enforcement of law in the United States has a very strong bias against making an example! The idea is that no punishment should exist for an unacceptable action unless that punishment is applied uniformly. Now that sounds like a good idea, but it contains within it an insidious flaw.

An "exact" line between acceptable and unacceptable behavior cannot be drawn. It is the nature of children, in any society, to test the limits of acceptable behavior. The point is, that once the line is drawn, some child will eventually try to see how close he can get without suffering punishment. Since an "exact" line cannot be drawn, a conflict will eventually arise: a question as to whether or not the line was actually crossed.

As an exact line is impossible, if one chooses to consider that particular act "over the line", it is highly probable that an example of the same behavior may be found somewhere which has already gone unpunished. Thus the punishment comes to be in violation of the law! Thus it is that the only option available is to move the line and accept the behavior. Movement of the line in the opposite direction is not possible.

The fact that our public school system is bound by such a biased constraint means that, over time, behavior problems cannot do anything but increase. So it comes to be that the teachers job is more and more that of a guard or policeman than a teacher. It astounds me that anyone can expect anything but failure from such a system.

Back when I was a student, the line between acceptable and unacceptable behavior was very vague and kept vague by random enforcement. Sometimes one student would go further and further into that unknown region without suffering punishment (he usually got some eventually) while another would no more than push a little into the area and get punished (as the teacher would say - I'm making an example). Anyone who had any brains stayed well away from the area and the teacher had little worry about discipline.

Just an opinion! Of course, my father said the school system in the United States went to Hell when they dropped the old one room school idea.

Have fun --- Dick

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