Political correctness is everywhere. You see it in the news media with politicians and we deal with it every day. From an educational standpoint, I am afraid that sometimes political correctness may be dumbing down the actual effect that a situation needs to have. Take for instance a student; we will call him “Johnny.” Johnny has been wreaking havoc on teachers, principals, and just causing chaos to the entire school climate. The teachers and administrators are at their wits’ end. At that time, the parents are called to come to the school for a conference regarding Johnny’s behavior. While having the conference, everyone wants to stay positive and to be liked by the parents, so everyone states good things about the child. They also talk about what the child is doing wrong; however, the need to be positive dominates the entire meeting. One teacher speaks out and says, “Johnny has been acting up in my classroom all year and I need him to stop! I cannot teach and I am afraid that it is hindering other students’ learning!” All of the teachers are aware that this is actually taking place in their classrooms, too. Other teachers chime in and continue talking about all of Johnny’s positive attributes. The principal listens to all of it and yet does not say a word about how Johnny is misbehaving and that this type of behavior is interfering with the climate of his school. The mother and father are now wondering, “Well, the teachers did say that Johnny had some issues, but look at all of his positives. Let’s take Johnny to get some pizza and thank him for all of his goodness and just lightly touch on the things he is not doing well.” People, after reading this, I would like for everyone to understand that this is a lost opportunity. There should have been a very strong message to convey, that Johnny should stop being disrespectful and acting out at school. The principal should have stated, that he will not continue to tolerate this type of behavior and that if it continues the disciplinary consequences will become more severe. So, my question is, what is wrong with telling a parent, “Mama, your child is wrong; we need your help to correct this inappropriate behavior”? Oftentimes telling it like it is needs to happen more often than not. This is how it used to be in the old days! In my opinion, it made better students and those students became better adults later in life. Helping parents to see the real story as opposed to sugar coating the reality will oftentimes assist in turning the child around. Parents play an integral part in helping teachers and administrators to achieve proper school climate in the classrooms, especially when parents are united with the school officials in this effort of maintaining order in school. I have encouraged my principals to be honest without being extremely careful not to offend the child when he/she exhibits inappropriate behavior. There are times when teachers and administrators can be a little lenient with minor infractions but when a child shows continuous disregard for following rules and obeying adults, he or she should be held accountable for that inappropriate behavior. At this point, honesty overrules political correctness. Parents, when teachers and administrators are expressing their concerns about a child’s behavior, we need for you to join in with us to deter negative behavior and help us in solving these issues. We need to return to the days of old when action was taken, not only by administrators but by the parents as well. The situations were handled with efficiency and promptness and most of the time these types of concerns were resolved with parents, teachers and administrators being on the same page. This type of cohesiveness may be unpopular for some students but it will help the child in the long run.
Torrance Choates, Ed.D., is superintendent of Sumter County Schools.