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Child Combatants: The Disenfranchisement of the Public School Student

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Child Combatants: The Disenfranchisement of the Public School Student

Shortly after my first week at my public high school, I was introduced to the widely circulated rumor that the architect for my new home of higher learning was also the noted architect for many of the nation’s prisons and correctional facilities. A few steps into the dismal corridors of my high school and you were apt to believe the lore. A few weeks later a gruesome incident sealed the fate of this institution, and allowed the oppressive architecture to take hold of the very soul of the place. Long story short: one afternoon, a few former students at my high school came back to campus looking for trouble, for no particular reason. Some people said they were looking for a particular person that had wronged them. No one knows. Either way, they picked a fight with an innocent student walking alone in the halls and shot him dead fifty yards from where I was. The school went into lockdown (understandably), students were evacuated, and media and law enforcement swarmed, and nothing was ever the same after that. Metal detectors and security guards were posted at every door, and the place became a highly charged, highly paranoid, almost militaristic institution that had lost its innocence.

It could be said that over the last few decades, we have all lost our innocence in regard to personal safety in our public school system. From the events at Columbine High School to the implementation of the Zero Tolerance program, a program designed to keep drugs and weapons off of school campuses, we have entered into a highly alarmist state, where security and discipline has become job #1. The lasting effect of this development has drastically changed the school landscape and moved school administrators and educators into a role of strict authoritarians, and rendered students as inmates to be controlled as well as protected.

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Eric Steinman

Eric Steinman is a freelance writer based in Rhinebeck, NY. He regularly writes about food, music, art, architecture, and culture and is a regular contributor to Bon Appétit among other publications.


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10:02PM PDT on Mar 24, 2010

thank you

2:39PM PST on Feb 25, 2010


6:41PM PST on Feb 14, 2010

This is very sad....we will just have to......KEEP THE FAITH...PRAY....and BECOME the VILLAGE...that our CHILDREN need....

4:19PM PST on Feb 14, 2010

It truly is such a sad truth to see how dismal public schools are becoming. This is one of the reasons I transferred to a high school at the state college (combined type thing to where I will graduate high school with my AA in May of this year). I couldn't take the profanity, promiscuity, and downright disrespect. Something really needs to be done.

7:00AM PST on Feb 11, 2010

I think the problem is that they often go after the wrong kids. I mean really, suspending a kid for holding the knife in his locker that his friend tried to use to kill herself with?
When we hear stories like that, it does seem like the whole thing is ridiculous. The dangerous part of this is that there are truly disturbed children out there and while I do hear about them, it's not as often as hearing about the innocent kids getting suspended.
Are there investigations happening so that the innocent kids don't get punished? I don't know, it sure doesn't seem like it.

4:46AM PST on Feb 11, 2010

Thanks for the article

8:59AM PST on Feb 10, 2010

you cant be save in schools anymore =(

5:40PM PST on Feb 6, 2010

Sorry, Eric, but it is "the children of today." As an educator, I can attest to the fact that most teachers have to face daily extremely distructive students. Not "disruptive" students. "Destructive" students. Teachers have to deal with a more violent breed of kids. I don't blame the kids, though. I place the blame entirely on the laps of the parents, who have completely failed to instill basic values of respect in their children. I see it every day at work. The kids come to school acting crazy, and the heroic teachers have to spend minutes every day dealing with them instead of going about the business of teaching the remaining students in the class. Students being arrested at school? Necessary. Sorry if I'm a bit hardened, but it's the way things are now.

9:50AM PST on Feb 4, 2010

makes you sick to think of what goes on in our school, can't feel safe anymore and that used to be one of the safest places to be.. sad..

9:07AM PST on Feb 4, 2010

JERILYN C. - How dare you belittle single parents! I am a single mom raising an 11 year old son and a 6 year old daughter. I would rather (and am happy) be divorced instead of staying with the husband/father just because you or anyone else thinks it would be "better" for the kids.

My son is an A student, an athlete and is very polite. I am raising him to be a GENTLEMAN. My daughter is following his footsteps. Having a son without his father involved is the father's choice, and my son is doing just fine! I am a strong and capable woman who can raise a boy and a girl. Being a single parent has nothing to do with kids getting out of hand.

Having a father for a boy to grow up a "man" is ridiculous. Having a good, trustworthy, loving parent is all a child needs!!!

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