Fixing the education system could take controversial ideas
by Anthony Stasi
Oct 09, 2013 | 1426 views | 0 0 comments | 143 143 recommendations | email to a friend | print
New ideas, and sometimes controversial ones, are going to be part of the process in New York if we are to find ways to better educate young people in public schools.

Bryant High School principal Namita Dwarka put problematic students in trailer-like classrooms to avoid them from distracting other students. In cases like this, the controversy can become more about the trailers and less about the reasoning behind it.

I went to a small Catholic high school that did not have enough class space, so we used a couple of these trailers. They were just as well lit, just as well heated, and they were actual classrooms. Perhaps the word “trailer” is giving this a stigma. But it may also be that most people do not want their children to be singled out.

When I took classes in a trailer classroom, it was for an advanced placement law class. It was an issue of space not behavior. In fact, my homeroom was in a trailer for my junior year. I have taught at the college level at three colleges, and I can say with confidence that there are some students who are ready for college and some who are not.

If sitting in an alternative classroom (assuming that it has all of the classroom amenities as a regular room) creates an embarrassing stigma, that is nothing compared to what life has in store for a child that is not prepared for his or her future. Parents should be more concerned about why their child is in that room, and less about what the room looks like.

Not having a child at this school, I cannot say this is a good or bad idea. But I do understand the attempt at changing a poor situation. Public schools are at a disadvantage. They cannot get rid of problematic students, and maybe alternatives like this are just a way to address that.

Have we grown too afraid to actually teach students right from wrong? My history class when I was a freshman in high school meant that we sat in academic order. Every quarter (of the school year) we would be re-seated according to our performance. The best student sat in the front left. Behind him was the second best student…all the way to the rear right of the room.

Nobody wanted that seat. To be moved over one row to the left was an achievement. A system like that would not fly in our public school system today, but are we doing these kids any good by not taking a hard line? Life will not be so generous.

We are already a vastly under-skilled workforce. While we are blaming India for taking our jobs, a school principal (in a pretty good public school, mind you) has to quarantine disciplinary problems. I understand that parents would be unhappy with this program, but if I were ordered as a child to sit in that room, my parents would have blamed me, not the principal.

Having never taught in a high school, I know there are dramatically different challenges to teaching in that environment compared to college. I was told a long time ago to teach to the top of the class. In other words, always make sure your best students are learning. You never want a good student to be bored while you get lost in the weeds with those who are not trying.

If Bryant High School had this in mind when they developed this program, I could, at the very least, understand the thought process.

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