Sunday, August 03, 2008

In This Case, Duct Tape Won't Fix Everything

Being a guy, I tend to subscribe to the idea that duct tape fixes almost everything; I even made a temporary saxophone ligature out of it a few years ago. But I don't expect duct tape to solve the problem of students sneaking out past curfew on school field trips; evidently, the Dallas Independent School District begs to differ.

I just now realized that I never blogged about the original incident that led to the decision that I'm about to discuss, seeing as how it happened during a very busy time that was immediately followed by my computer being out of commission for a couple of weeks. I'm talking about the hit-and-run death of James Kings, a talented drummer from Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts (a.k.a Arts Magnet, Arts or Booker T.) in Dallas. Kings died in late March in Austin when he was hit by a car on I-35 at about two in the morning; the group from Arts in which he was playing was scheduled to perform at the State Capitol later that day.

(I should mention, since I didn't blog this story before, that Kings was an exceptionally-talented drummer who had received a full scholarship to the Manhattan School of Music; he was also a good friend of my Webmaster, an '07 Booker T. graduate himself. I've heard some recordings of his playing, and his untimely passing is quite a loss to the music world; this young man would have gone on to big things. A video of one of his performances--with vocalist Tierney Sutton at the final IAJE conference in January--can be seen here.)

As you can imagine, the DISD brass had to make some sort of ruling to reassure parents that their kids would be safe on field trips in the future, but their decision proves to be puzzling: Chaperones will be required to seal students' doors shut with duct tape after curfew hours:
Here's the new rule: Trip chaperones are to now seal shut their students' motel room doors with duct tape. The idea, apparently, is not to prevent students from opening the doors, but rather to create a seal that will be visibly broken if the kids sneak out past curfew.
Wow. That's logic that only an administrator could conjure up. Are people now required to undergo a partial lobotomy when accepting a job in that area?

The commenters at the Morning News' DISD Blog, where this was originally posted, the commenters seem to agree that this may be one of those quick-fixes that gives the appearance of doing something, but it's not the final or best solution to the problem (not to mention that little problem of it being a fire hazard). Others wonder why students (if not their parents as well) can't be held a bit more accountable for their actions: Get caught breaking curfew, and you're on the next bus or plane home, and no more field trips for you for the duration of your high school career.

Of course, I had to chime in as well:
Time and time again, we see knee-jerk, quick-fix, poorly-thought-out decisions like this, made by career bureaucrats who haven't been at the helm of a classroom in 10, 20, 30 years or more, and the already-overworked teachers are expected to implement these ridiculous policies.

It's time for teachers to regain control of our schools--either by returning administrators partially to the classroom (thus saving money and dismantling the proverbial "ivory tower") or by inviting those without the talent or desire for teaching to kindly join another profession.
And lest it sound like I'm using this as an excuse to push my pet agenda once again, this really is a great example of the folks in the ivory tower being so far removed from the real world that it's a wonder they're not laughed out of their offices. (If they were forced to interact with actual teachers and not hang around other administrators all the time, perhaps they'd see the error of their ways.)

Since I didn't say it earlier--R.I.P., James. One can only hope that the district will come up with a better idea to keep things like this from happening again.

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