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Civil behavior should be expected of all students, 1/21

Published January 21, 2007


With no discipline, there's no learning Jan. 14, column by Bill Maxwell   

I like the premise of "with no discipline, there's no learning." However, I was very disappointed with some of the views that Bill Maxwell expressed in this article.

"Scholars have labored to understand why black children disproportionately receive exclusionary punishment in school." There's no big mystery here. All students, no matter their color, are expected to comport themselves in a civil manner while in school. Those who can't or won't, get punished.

When are people going to learn that school is supposed to be a place that prepares students to function and succeed in the real world? It should never be a place where teachers are trained to "recognize and accommodate" aberrant behaviors.

Students who don't behave in school have no chance of surviving in the real world. No one tells employers they must "recognize and accommodate" the unhealthy attitudes and negative behaviors of employees. If you don't follow orders on the job, don't produce, don't arrive on time, don't treat customers or the boss with courtesy, you get fired!

The truth is that most schools do not prepare students for this reality. Why? Because schools must be "politically correct."

I taught children of all races and nationalities for 26 years. I can assure you that black children do not need "physical movement" or "vocal interaction" any more than other students. What they do need are teachers and parents who make them feel like they have value, like they count for something. They need role models who praise them when they behave or produce good work and who are willing to listen when they speak.

We need to stop placing blame, doing studies, etc., and give these kids what they need. Then, and only then, will the behaviors improve and the punishments equalize.

Sondra Biggart, Largo

With no discipline, there's no learning Jan. 14, column by Bill Maxwell

Formula for failure

I read with great interest Bill Maxwell's column concerning the disparities in school discipline. In fact, I had to read it twice lest it really was a Swiftian satire. When I discovered I had read it correctly, several thoughts occurred. Primarily, even allowing that Maxwell's assertions concerning cultural heritage are true, there are several problems with their implementation:

After these kids have been accommodated for moving about in class, will this behavior be excused as a cultural difference during a business meeting when they are employed? Will the African-American tradition of "call and response" during the same business meeting evoke praise from someone with a limited amount of time to deliver a large amount of data? I seriously doubt it. Hence, this only prepares black kids for future failure.

The fact that he believes teachers can be trained to accommodate students' "unique cultural propensities" only suggests that bad manners be once more swept under the rug. I am tired of bad manners and poor parental supervision masquerading as cultural differences.

If you want to level the playing field with black students, start by minimizing cultural differences and start teaching students that they have to get along with the teacher for a change. Doing things like this sets goals by which they just might succeed when they go out into the world to work.

Ronald Byers, Largo

With no discipline, there's no learning Jan. 14, column by Bill Maxwell

A rude response

"Call and response" may be acceptable in some churches, but in a classroom where quiet is necessary to understand the lessons, "call and response" is simply rude. It shows the teacher and fellow students that you simply do not care to allow others to teach or to learn.

"Call and response" may offer some an excuse, but to those who know better it is talking out of turn and showing an extreme lack of self-discipline.

Glenda Pittman, St. Petersburg

Of Jesus, bong hits and free speech for students Jan. 14, column by Robyn Blumner

More bad behavior

Robyn Blumner's columns are like water to a drowning man. Worse, actually, because they are morally reprehensible most of the time.

This column celebrates a high school student who displayed a banner reading "Bong hits 4 Jesus." The message is offensive to Christians like me (whom Blumner regularly offends) and to antidrug advocates (whom even secular humanists should support).

Blumner decries the actions of a principled principal who crumpled the banner and suspended the student. Had I been there, I would have been happy to help. Had the student been one of my sons, the suspension would have been the least of his worries.

Blumner cites this as a free speech issue, but it was just a harebrained high school student acting badly. Had everyone accepted the principal's actions, the student would have learned a valuable lesson in behavior, and that would be the end of the matter. Instead, we're wasting court time, telling students there are no limits to bad taste and behavior (see Bill Maxwell's column, Page 3P on the same day), and creating a hostile environment for teachers and school administrators.

Paul Carlson, St. Petersburg

Backers of war haul out excuses Jan. 14, column by Philip Gailey

Congress' mistakes

As Philip Gailey rightly points out, members of Congress who backed the war with Iraq now voice a myriad of excuses for doing so. The two biggest mistakes made by Congress in the march to war with Iraq, however, continue to escape the attention of its members and the press alike.

The first mistake was procedural: Congress failed to exercise its authority to declare war as contemplated by Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution, instead abrogating its responsibility for this monumental decision and effectively disenfranchising the American people by passing a resolution authorizing the president to use military force at his discretion. By avoiding a declaration of war, of course, members of Congress can backpedal and make excuses to their constituents - as many are attempting to do at present - when a military adventure goes badly. Their constituents should not absolve them of responsibility for evading their constitutional duty, even if they were misled by the administration.

The second mistake was substantive. International law permits the use of proportional force against a sovereign state such as Iraq only in self-defense in response to the use of force or an imminent threat thereof. Congress essentially gave the president carte blanche to initiate the use of unbridled military force, and not in response to an attack or imminent threat of attack on our country or its allies, but to pre-empt the mere likelihood that Iraq, at some unspecified time in the future, could pose such a threat.

That the administration has, since the invasion, conceded there never were any weapons of mass destruction in Iraq posing such a threat demonstrates with stark clarity why the international legal standard for the use of force exists in the first place: to prevent a needless and unjustified war and the human suffering such a conflict entails.

Sidney W. Kilgore, Tampa

Backers of war haul out excuses Jan. 14, column by Philip Gailey

A man of character

Philip Gailey's column in Sunday's Perspective was welcomed.

Gailey's remembrance of Sen. Bob Graham as a statesman of character who voted his principles stands in contrast to most of Congress with their feet of clay. Clay is soft and makes people lean with the wind. You don't have to agree with a man of principle, but ignoring his counsel (e.g. on the invasion of Iraq) can sure get you in lots of trouble.

Bernard Waryas, Dunedin

What the senator learned in Syria Jan. 14, interview with Sen. Bill Nelson

Empty words

Thanks for the tremendous insight into the "British-trained eye doctor's" current thinking on U.S. involvement in the Middle East.

Give me a break. I'm a sales rep for a manufacturing company and I could have told you everything Syrian President Bashar Assad had to say. Or maybe my untrained mind can't see the significance in his willingness to conduct the interview in English. What a waste of time, and I am embarrassed for Sen. Nelson.

Assad allows terrorist leaders to live unmolested in Damascus and will not recognize Israel's right to exist peacefully in the region. Why not make these two issues starting points for any further negotiation with Syria?

Ronald Smith, Gulfport

[Last modified January 20, 2007, 20:32:05]

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