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Reforming education through discipline

By Scott Tibbs, October 5, 2010

NBC News has been running a series this week about reforming the nation's "failing" government school system. One thing that has been noticeably absent from the policy discussion is ironically the system's the most important failure: the lack of discipline that has plagued government schools for decades.

The problem is not the teachers' unions or the system itself. The problem is that the children lack discipline, and that is the fault of the parents. I am convinced that any child can get a good education, if he/she cares and his/her parents care. As one teacher put it a few years ago, "If the kid don't care and the parents don't care, there's nothing I can do."

We can complain about the education system as much as we want, but the basic responsibility for children to get educated lies first and foremost with that child's parents. That responsibility is given to parents by God, who entrusted those parents to care for the souls of their children, and to train those children. See below:

  • And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. -- Ephesians 6:4
  • Therefore shall ye lay up these my words in your heart and in your soul, and bind them for a sign upon your hand, that they may be as frontlets between your eyes. And ye shall teach them your children, speaking of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, when thou liest down, and when thou risest up. -- Deuteronomy 11:18-19
  • Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it. -- Proverbs 22:6

Far too many parents take an "us against them" attitude toward teachers and strenuously object to what little discipline teachers and administrators attempt to impose on their students. Other parents simply do not care and think of school as a day care for their unruly children. One former government school administrator told me many years ago about a "parent" who lectured him the first day of class that the child was the principal's responsibility and he does not want to hear about the child until school is over.

Unfortunately, there are going to be irresponsible "parents" who simply do not care about their child's education and/or will refuse to discipline their children - which leads to that child robbing other students of the legal right to a good education by stealing the teacher's limited time which could otherwise be used in a productive manner.

What we need to do is stop wasting so much time on the minority of students who are disruptive and instead focus on those who actually care. These students will need to be removed from the classroom. We cannot simply cast these children off, so alternative arrangements will need to be made. However, we need to start caring more about those children and teens who are trying than we do about those who are disruptive.

Furthermore, parents will need to be held accountable. The first place this should happen is the church. Pastors and elders should exhort, encourage and sometimes rebuke parents regarding discipline. Some parents, especially single parents, may be overwhelmed and need help, but it needs to be very clear that parents bear the primary responsibility for the education of their children.

One thing we do not need to do is have more involvement by the federal government in K-12 education, which was one of the many failings of the Bush Administration. If anything, we should abolish the federal Department of Education and get the federal government completely out of K-12 education. The best place for education policy to be set is by local elected school boards, with some standards set by state legislatures. Washington needs to butt out.