School Guidance, Common Core & the Orwellian State

Our Middle School principal sent guidance on the topic of town safety: students are discouraged from walking into town after school. He shares the numbers and concludes:

Anyway you “do the math”, you can calculate that a large number of unsupervised middle school aged students in town is not an emotionally or physically safe situation. (See full excerpt below)

Here’s the principal’s argument.

Assume 3 out of 10 of the 625 upper division students walk to town: 180-190 students in town

Assume 2 out of 10 of the 625 lower division students walk to town: 150 students in town

Estimate: 350 students in town by 3:15 pm

 (This may be Common Core math, but when I “do the math” I come up with 312.5 students. The 2 out of 10 of the 625 students for lower division amounts to 20% of 625, or 125, NOT 150 . Using this data 187.5 +125 is 312.5 students. Even if you skipped over the percentage calculations, 190 and 150 is 340, NOT 350. But I confess I’m not a Common Core graduate.)

Large groups of unsupervised students = not emotionally or physically safe

Large groups = not careful about personal safety

Students observed darting in and out of traffic

Students are rude to students, storeowners, others

Conclusion: Students should only walk into town if supervised by an adult or they are attending a supervised activity.

 

This is the truly disturbing part.

If you act inappropriately outside of school, you can still be given school disciplinary consequences since your actions may be contributing to another student feeling emotionally or physically unsafe afterward at school

 

I’ve read this sentence several times and realized it must reflect Common Core English. I highlighted it in different colors to help readers understand it.

The sentence has two subordinate or conditional clauses in blue; the first begins with If and the last begins with since. If that’s not muddy enough, then contrast the end of both clauses outside of school and at school. Confused yet?

The main clause is “you can still be given school disciplinary consequences” and that part I think I understand, but it depends on outside acts and whether those acts make another feel unsafe at school.

Did you follow?

Notice the use of the passive voice: students are discouraged and you can still be given school disciplinary consequences. Where do we see this type of language? You guessed it. Politicians. It’s ironic because English teachers instruct students to use the active voice. This is what the active voice looks like: Principal Bob discourages students from walking into town and we will punish students.

Why use the active voice? It assigns ownership to the subject doing the action. Perhaps administrators don’t want to take ownership for this, so they use students as the subjects. It’s the student who is discouraged and given discipline. How convenient that the school isn’t in this at all.

And what does it mean to be given school disciplinary consequences? Students receive discipline and punishment and these are the consequences of bad behavior. They aren’t given consequences; they suffer the consequences of bad behavior. Meanwhile the rest of us suffer from Common Core English and Common Core Math.

There’s more.

Any behavior that causes interference to another student’s right to learn at School X is subject to school discipline and potentially, referral to the local police.

School Resource Officer, John Doe, will be observing the downtown activity this afternoon and will share those observations with the dept. and school.

The police WILL be involved. Officer Doe will observe and report observations to the police department AND the school!

Let’s stop and consider this guidance.

The school is telling us what our children should be doing when they are not in school. The police will observe them AND the police will “share those observations” with the school. The school will take necessary disciplinary measures if it doesn’t approve of that behavior. This is not just a letter, all of it except the Officer Doe sentence is in the Student Handbook, a booklet which students and parents are required to read and sign.

I asked a local store owner to read the excerpt.

“I don’t agree with this. I strongly disagree with this,” she said.

The owner said kids come in to town and try clothes on, put things on lay-away. On a rare occasion she might ask them to quiet down, and they do so. They’re good kids. She said it’s good business for the town because students spend money.

Here are the problems with this Middle School’s guidance.

  • The school should not attempt to override a parent’s choice to allow their child to walk to town alone
  • This should not be in the Student Handbook
  • The school does not have the right to discipline a student for behavior outside of school
  • Coordinating with police about student activity outside of school is outside the school’s sphere of control
  • Police reporting of a child’s behavior off school property after dismissal should be with the parents, NOT the school

The school’s argument is bogus.

They’ve committed fallacies of relevance, presumption, and clarity. They presume that all students will do what a few might do; they attribute crowd behavior to the individual. They presume businesses do not want students in town. The conclusions are unsupported and the writing is confusing.

A principal should provide guidance and report problems to parents. Parents appreciate such involvement. I happen to like this principal and his intentions are good, but this type of guidance has become so commonplace we don’t give it a second thought.

Inclusion in the Student Handbook, telling parents what choices to make, punishing students for actions outside of school, and worst of all, asking the police to take on the role of Big Brother to watch over our children and report back to the school and not the parent, are egregious violations of our basic freedoms.

I’m living in an Orwellian novel.

 

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Here is the Middle School guidance with excerpt from the Student Handbook.

  1. Safety in Town – Excerpted below is our guidance to our students as published in the School X Student Handbook:

     Students are discouraged from walking into town after school.  School X dismisses approx. 625 students at 2:05pm from the Upper Division and another 625 students at 2:55pm from the Lower Division.  If only 3 out of every 10 students in the Upper Division (7th, 8th Grades) decided to walk downtown, we would have 180-190 students in town at approx. 2:30pm.  Then if only 2 out of every 10 students in the Lower Division (5th, 6th Grades) decided to walk downtown, we would have another 150 students for a total of approx. 350 students downtown by 3:15pm.  Anyway you “do the math”, you can calculate that a large number of unsupervised middle school aged students in town is not an emotionally or physically safe situation.  Students in large groups are not careful about their personal safety.  Students have been observed darting in and out of traffic while in town.  Students have been observed giving in to negative peer pressure and acting rude to other students, storeowners and members of the general public.

     We recommend that if you do go to town, you only do so when you are either attending a supervised activity at the teen center or have parent/adult supervision. 

     If you act inappropriately outside of school, you can still be given school disciplinary consequences since your actions may be contributing to another School X student feeling emotionally or physically unsafe afterward at school.  Any behavior that causes interference to another student’s right to learn at School X is subject to school discipline and potentially, referral to the local police.

[this next part of the principal’s letter is added after this excerpt]

School Resource Officer, John Doe, will be observing the downtown activity this afternoon and will share those observations with the dept. and school.

 

View this School Handbook online here, link. (scroll down to page 15 for Safety in Town)

Like this letter? Read about Politically Correct Fractions & Fifth Grade Math Today or Literary Analysis or Amateur Psychology?

About mylinhshattan

MyLinh B. Shattan is a writer who has worked in the private sector, taught at college, and served in the U.S. Army. She holds a B.S. in Mathematics from West Point, an M.B.A. from Florida Southern College, and an M.F.A. in Writing from Queens University.