Letter: Draconian policies in local schools
October 11, 2014
Aspen Elementary's new policy of "silent lunch," loud whistle blowing to quiet children in the cafeteria, and the "1-inch voice" rule (children can only open their mouths 1 inch to speak), sounds like absurd fodder for a Monty Python skit. Except that it isn't funny at all — it's profoundly disturbing. What's next? Expulsion for kindergarteners who squirm?
If children are to thrive and grow in school, they need to feel safe, loved and respected. Anyone running a school should know that small children are by nature noisy, wiggly and sociable. Dickensian policies that prevent children from talking and socializing at lunch run counter to everything we know about healthy, age-appropriate human interaction. Recess and lunchtime are the only downtime outlets children have during the school day. The rest of the day, they are forced to sit still, be quiet and work at learning facts to regurgitate on standardized tests. Sounds like fun, right?
Imagine that you are the 7-year-old who has been forced to be silent during lunch. How powerless would you feel, in the face of this draconian policy, which was created by the very adults who are supposed to be looking out for your well-being? How happy would you be the rest of the day? How effectively would you soak up the teacher's lesson when you skulk back to class after lunch?
Aspen Elementary School principal Doreen Goldyn and the School District Administration have a lot of work to do. The Aspen Times story exposed more than just silent lunches. The culture of the school district is such that parents feel they need to comment anonymously and teachers feel they can't comment at all. Whitney Foley is a whistleblowing parent of the best sort. She's to be commended for bravely standing up and speaking out about this issue. Hopefully, more parents, teachers and students will come forward and publicly air their concerns about the schools. There are other undercurrents of discontent in Aspen, as evidenced by the fallout from the controversial new changes in the high school schedule.
If you are interested in the root causes of public school dysfunction like this, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and I'll forward you some interesting info from John Taylor Gatto. He is an author and 30-year New York teaching veteran who understands why everyone in both of our valley school districts needs to insist on big, systemic changes in education so that the emotional, academic and social needs of children can be met properly.
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Editor's note: Aspen Elementary School lifted the whisper-only policy after The Aspen Times reported this story Monday.
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