Monday, February 22, 2010

Perspectives: A Call for Education Exceptionalism

The purpose of human life is its evolution -- not only Darwinian, but mimetic, environmental, and in other ways as well. For that reason, it’s important to perpetuate enduring growth and development, especially by the examples set for our younger generation.

Learning is not always pedagogical. The best and most influential teachers are those who can also inculcate learning by doing, demonstration, from providing best examples and practices in the way they play, interact, apply their knowledge and skills, demonstrate work ethic, develop relationships, by being proactive, by simply how they live their lives, and in their demeanor. Leading by setting a positive professional and personal example is by far the most effective model for teaching and living a purposeful life. This should be the expectation embraced by the school community.

In life, we learn from supraliminal and subliminal messages. For example, sometimes the stimulus that causes fear can be a result of what is heard and seen, but often by what is simply intuitionally felt.

On February 15th , Pembroke High School in collaboration with Pembroke PD and regional law enforcement employed K9s to search student property and their surroundings for illegal drugs and paraphernalia.

The February 18th Right Opinion column, “Gone to the dogs,” stated “This is non intrusive to most students and their persons and sends a clear message that this community is serious about preventing the sale, distribution or use of drugs in and around our schools. It may seem as though we are telling the majority of kids who have done nothing wrong, have not violated the trust of their parents or principals, that we do not trust them. I would hope these dogs tell our sons and daughters that we love them and will keep them safe. It is precisely the actions of last Friday that demonstrate to students that adults are watching them and will hold them accountable. Schools are a place for kids to feel safe and secure.”

Certainly, the PHS students affected by this search intuitively felt that they are not trusted, and the notion that dogs should be used in this way to tell our sons and daughters that we love them is ludicrous. Bringing police and dogs into a place of learning for no reasonable or probable justification is not about keeping them safe and secure; in fact, it produces the opposite unintended consequence of insecurity, some hate, repugnance for the authority of police and their school, and instills unnecessary fear. The supraliminal affect was that coercion, force, and intimidation by threats of violence are the way to achieve power and control, and fix problems.

Furthermore, it was intrusive and not productive; teaching was stopped for the non-educational purpose of searching for drugs. Donna Lieberman, executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, said the atmosphere created by taking police dogs into schools is “incompatible with nurturing environments that are supposed to be conducive to adolescent education.”

Moreover, police and school officials acted in defiance of the presumption of innocence, and violated reasonable respect for student privacy. Additionally, their action demonstrated that the police, the school, and the community may have failed in their drug education efforts.

The school, by initiating this action, did not contribute to the enduring growth and development of their students, nor did they provide leadership by setting the best positive professional and personal example of exceptionalism.

Therefore, presumptively the columnist was right: education “has gone to the dogs.” However, being that as it may, from my point of view, this search by police, dogs or not, was unacceptable.