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Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Hellementary Education Quote: Kids Rule Until the Cops Come

     Something's amiss when a girl in kindergarten, all of forty pounds, is led away in handcuffs by police. That's what happened in the spring of 2005 in St. Petersburg, Florida. Equally strange, the whole episode was taped and shown on national television. There's the little girl, hair neatly braided, going from desk to desk, throwing books and pencils on the floor, tearing papers off the bulletin board, and methodically destroying her classroom. The assistant principal circles her, arms outstretched as if in a linebacker drill, but assiduously avoiding contact. (Why not just hold on to her? You wonder, watching…Is the child a hemophiliac?) The little girl is eventually steered into the principal's office, where she continues to wreak havoc on the orderly piles of paper and announcements tacked to the wall. Eventually the police arrive and handcuff the five-year-old. She screams. The tape ends.

     For as long as there have been schools, teachers have had to deal with unreasonable five-year-olds. Calling the cops isn't the time-tested solution. Let's rewind the tape and handle this sensibly. Problem: temper tantrum in kindergarten classroom. Solution: Ask the girl to stop. When she refuses, hold her by the arm, preventing more destruction. If necessary, take her to another room until she calms down. Doing what's right here isn't rocket science.

     But teachers in America can't do this. Taking hold of a child's arm is verboten--touching is taboo, except to prevent harm to others. So a five-year-old ends up in handcuffs.

Philip K. Howard, Life Without Lawyers, 2009

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