There’s a story going around about a teacher in China who repeatedly slaps 5 year old children for missing math problems. Horrible. The Washington Post puts it in the “you-can’t-make-up-this-stuff category.”Well, what do you think happens when we repetitively “slap” (at least symbolically), students (and their parents) for not getting their homework done? There is a category of kids (I estimate from 10 to 25% depending on degree) who are getting pressured and put down, night after night, to do work they cannot do, at least in a reasonable amount of time. We threaten their parents with ominous warnings that their children will fail, now and later on, unless they get their assignments done. These warnings become self-fulfilling prophesies because of the grading system.We don’t stop to see why these children can’t do the work, and, unlike this featured kindergarten teacher who will come and go in these children’s lives, we continue this behavior throughout the child’s life. In fact, our system encourages teachers, year after year, to continue to taunt and punish our homework trapped kids.
Before we just throw stones at others for what is obviously inexcusable behavior, let’s look at ourselves and ask if we are endorsing harm on an institutionalized basis to at least some of our kids.