On Campus
Feb 22, 2024, 06:27AM

School's Out

Disruptive students in schools has reached a breaking point.

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In Childhood’s End, Arthur Clarke writes of a future earth where human beings experience dramatic increases in intelligence. Life evolved while earth was moving through a cone of radiation that beams out from the center of the galaxy, which depresses mental functioning. Children born after earth’s emergence from the damping radiation are practically a new species, with psychic powers and a collective mind. A race of aliens—who evolved outside of the harmful radiation—arrive to observe the changes, and help the children join a universe-wide collective mind that’s kind of a deity.

Recently friends have complained to me about children in D.C., whose evolution is going in a different direction. One couple showed me their home in the gated community of Hillandale in the northern end of Georgetown, where attached houses begin at just under $2 million. They’re leaving D.C., tired of shopping in Georgetown where the CVS drugstores are stripped bare by shoplifters and you must ask an employee to bring out items you’d like to buy. They’re tired of shopping at the Safeway grocery chain where feral kids wander about shoplifting and the store has increased the number of security guards. They’re tired of a car that sells illegal drugs to people who work at Georgetown’s Medical Center. They’re tired of homeless people and beggars. These people aren’t complaining about Anacostia, or Ivy City, or some downtrodden or recently gentrifying neighborhood, the ones you hear about in the news. They’re complaining about Georgetown.

Since the Covid lockdowns I rarely shop in DC, though I live there. I go to northern Virginia every day, where restaurants stayed open later during lockdowns and re-opened earlier than in DC. Briefly I rented an apartment there, even though I own a co-op in DC. I moved my real estate licenses (DC, VA, and MD) to a Virginia office. I started teaching in Virginia schools. So in D.C. I only sleep, visit friends, or show property. Even my car is garaged in Virginia—I take the subway to get to it.

But the situation isn’t completely different. In one class (I push into a number of classes to teach remedial literacy to the students with the worst assessments in these areas) a kid begins to admit to others asking that he’s “banned” from Target. He’s walked off with $500 worth of merchandise (“I borrow”) and when it hits $900 his Virginia county will prosecute.

The students—I suspect half from Latin immigrant families, the rest a diverse collection of every other ethnic group—do everything wrong. In many rooms of 20-24 students, two will sleep through an entire class. Several others will go to the bathroom and miss most of the class. Several will forget their laptop or the charger for it (I then take them to the library to do their work on library desktops—but all classes don’t have a spare person like me). One girl will spend the entire class applying makeup, and one or two others will watch fashion videos. Several boys will play video games. Half a dozen will pass snacks back and forth and have inane conversations. Asked to work on the assignment presented produces responses of how they’ll do it in a minute or at home. Absenteeism is rampant, especially among the children doing badly.

The works that Virginia Common Core and Standards of Learning demand be covered—Julius Caesar, Romeo and Juliet, The Odyssey—may be beyond these students. Many of the students are like Penelope in the Odyssey, weaving a burial shroud for her husband Odysseus by day, unraveling it at night, and telling her house full of ravenous suitors that she can’t pick one of them until she finishes the shroud. These students are almost as clever in finding ways not to learn.

Perhaps one solution would giving them what they want: no school. Why not legalize child labor, down to a certain age (12? 14?) at least for illegal immigrants or their children? Why not end mandatory public schooling at least for illegal immigrants and their children? Let them go to work. For a year, or two, or four. And then see if perhaps they’d like to try education, at least a G.E.D. or a “career center” plan of vocational instruction.

Currently these teens are a waste of space, money and resources. They disrupt the school. They set bad examples for better students. They drag things down. They depress teachers. Let them go. Let childhood end.


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