Nov 2, 2015

The Changing Face of Delinquency At William Allen

When I was at William Allen in the early 60's,  I was considered a delinquent. I got sent to the vice-principal's office once too often, and had to seek an alternative education. But my offense was speaking out in class, not knocking a policewoman to the ground. A month ago, the news was filled with a student walkout, supposedly protesting institutional racism.   I discounted that accusation then, and now,  but feel the real  problem reared its head last week. Student fights are nothing new, but what is new is students being enthralled by gangsterism.

 The school board candidate race is more intense than it's ever been in previous years. The liberal candidates have campaigned that some of the incumbents are too conservative.  The conservative candidates have countered that some of the liberals are tools of Pawlowski,  and have emphasized that connection.  In my opinion, it's not the school district that needs to be reformed, but rather some of the  values of the prevailing student culture.  Such changes will benefit the students much more in their life than any new curriculum, or different administrators.


Anonymous said...

The school district is doing the best it can, with maybe one exception. Unless something has changed since I left employment, the class sizes are too high. Issues occurring in cafeterias, auditoriums, classrooms too small with cramped seating, and passing through halls are often continued outside the building.

Whenever kids are packed-in too tightly, tensions rise. Someone bumps into someone, looks at someone, squeezes by too closely, hears something whispered, etc. Some kids immediately turn to physical violence to express their displeasure, even after apologies. If encouraged, the bully reaction is even continued later.

This is not new to schools, just MUCH more frequent.

Look at the environment in which these kids are growing up. For some, it's 'survival of the fittest.' Whoever is bigger, stronger, louder, and more brazen wins the moment and gets their way. Add-in our current political culture in which rules are bent, ignored without consequence, together with authority continually being challenged by an adoring, radical element and thuggish behavior will rise.

Finally, we have individuals at the highest of levels setting an example that discredits our law enforcement community, a weak criminal justice system, political correctness run amok, a decline in morality, and a failure to accept responsibility for one's behavior. No surprise America is in decline.

Oh, yes. Student test scores and graduation rates are also down in our cities. Hmmmmm . . .

Fred Windish

michael molovinsky said...

fred@8:15, as a former allentown teacher, your comment is valued. as an observer, i'm always amazed how school systems and critics want to use the standardized test scores as the sole benchmark. i'm more concerned with the student's attitudes. motivated students will always find the help that they may require.

Dreaming of Justice said...

Oh, gangs have always held allure for those children with no sense of self-identity, lack of self-esteem, chaotic homes, or parents that belong to gangs. This has been going on in larger cities since the 1950s. "West Side Story" this isn't; however beat patrols have brought crime down significantly across the city. School-age children and young adults need guidance from other responsible adults within their families or extended relatives- schools can't be expected to fill in those blanks. Big Brother/Big Sister programs, after school sports, scouting all helped to fill those needs besides recreation. What is there now for these tether-less children? If one's family is divided by incarceration, or crippled by drug or alcohol use, it is second nature to look for another family unit and in some cases, that means join a gang. This is not a racial phenomenon, it is observed across racial types. When you feel your future is bleak and there are no jobs and no adult to show you how escape from this bleak way of life can be achieved through school or training, you search for other ways to attain status. Selling drugs, climbing the ranks of a gang. This is similar to what is seen in prisons as well. Living here in Allentown to some of it's residents at least is very much like doing time.

Anonymous said...

I think Dreaming is right - the allure of gangs is nothing new. What is new is the level to which it's tolerated.

Recently, a police officer was fired in South Carolina for forcibly evicting a female student from her classroom chair and handcuffing her. He was brought in and tried to make the arrest after the girl was asked to leave, first by the teacher, then a school administrator, and then the police officer himself. She put the chain of events in motion.

I'm sorry, but a forcible arrest doesn't look pretty. If the police officer is just there to politely ask the person to leave, and then give up when the person refuses, why even call for the police officer? And when the officer is fired for ejecting the girl from her chair, what kind of message does that send?

I don't really care what the student's background is, how many of their parents are at home, or what kind of "nurturing" they're getting at home. No matter how bad they have it, all students need to be held to the same standard. Equality for all. Not to do so puts innocent students, teachers, and police officers at risk.

Until the schools make it clear that this type of behavior will not be tolerated, and until we as a society decide to enforce some standard of behavior on students, expect more of what we saw in ASD last week.

Chris Cocca said...

not since the 1950s...try since the 1850s.

Having said that, I was encouraged a few years ago that the ASD was getting restorative practices training from IIRP in Bethlehem. The restorative model is documented as having really made an impact in many schools; the West Philly example is especially interesting.

I don't know, though, if there was ever true buy-in at LEDHS and WAHS. I think the shortness of tenure of the last Allen principal probably didn't help. That's not a criticism of him; I found him to be open, honest, and wanting to make a difference. When he said he was leaving because he couldn't really make in-roads socially in the Valley, I believed him, but also have always wondered how that related to how he may have been treated by the Superintendent.

When schools fail, kids fail. When cities fail, schools fail. It's not just about the allure of gangs, but the vacuum gangs or gang mentalities fill when so much else is missing in a young person's life. Cycles of poverty, which can be institutional, are part of this.

One of the bright spots in the ASD is the United Way's Community/Compass School initiatives. They are private/public partnerships in schools designed to supplement so much of what kids need and aren't getting by default given the ASD's lack of resources. Things I used to get as a matter of fact in public school (I went to Parkland in the 80s and 90s, but the point holds) are near-luxuries now in many schools, and I'm talking about frills...I'm talking about art, music, and gym. If the Community Schools succeed over the next few years, the culture at the high schools will be different. If you're not familiar with these programs, look into them and support them.

Anonymous said...

Restorative Justice is great stuff, it's also extremely labor-intensive and time-consuming.

Whethervain said...

>but rather some of the values of the prevailing student culture.
I spent idle time surfing the Facebook page of the young man credited with taking the viral video of the A'town police brawl; his Facebook page is rather wide open for review by anyone (his choice). I also explored his FRIENDS list to get a feeling for his peer group. I should have played the lottery that day as a few of my first choices had one interesting characteristic in common: their listed location of where they were originally from...Queens!

It actually alarms me to see what these youths do to occupy their time. Pictures posted by both the videographer and his friends had a high incidence of selfies & two-somes displaying 3rd finger salutes. ??? Okaaayy then! You must be mad about something?! And you can't help but notice the preponderance of coy & revealing shots of some of his young teenage girls acquaintances being displayed to...ummm, present their newly-acquired maturing "developments". What really amazed me was a girl (very recently graduated) who was showcasing her pregnancy while a very young lad was in the background. There were comments associated with this post where her friends were complimenting her beautiful & growing family; oddly, not ONE of the pictures in her album displayed any father (or even a boyfriend) in her life. Her profile indicated that she's attending LCCC and that she just acquired a job (after just having left another one). Wonder if she'll need a baby-sitter? How can she even AFFORD a cellphone?

It appears that these youth have a dismal and challenging life ahead of them. Who will lead them - to show them their way out of this sad state of affairs? With all these feelings, distractions and aimless goals in their lives, I can't imagine a healthy student culture developing amongst these kids during their time at school. Their culture - and attention - is elsewhere.

I'm sorry, I can't see it improving. I know, I know, this goes on all over our country. We're in big trouble as a nation!

Anonymous said...

I appreciate reading Whethervain's thoughts. That's one poster who 'gets it.' American public education in larger districts has been destroyed. It is NOT going to improve. It can only be managed at whatever depth it falls.

There will be various pilot programs attempted, as the one described above, but they will be short-lived. Their success insignificant on the bigger scale. They will be replaced by another well intended plan as soon as other adults take over. Like the lives of today's kids, nothing is steady.

What saddens me most, as a retired Allentown teacher, is the public's insistence on a quick, simple fix. Many want other teachers, or existing teachers to do a better job, work harder. I agree, REAL education takes place in the CLASSROOM. Not in the Administration Building, or the School Board Room. Certainly NOT in the political office. Most impediments to success have come from our elected representatives!

Folks, the daily classroom teacher is not the problem. Sure, a few do fail and are dealt with like in other employment places. But, overall, the ugly issues coming forward more each day are well beyond their control.

I truly believe Allentown teachers are the most highly skilled and capable instructors in the Lehigh Valley. I've seen it first hand, and have directly observed teachers in scores of other districts to compare.

If you do vote today, I encourage you to NOT vote for school board candidates attached to the Pawlowski control regime. Better to keep this endeavor as apolitical as possible.

Fred Windish