The Disintegration of School Discipline and the Lonely Life of Julia

by Christopher Paslay

Just as men are replaced by bureaucrats in “The Life of Julia,” so are parents being replaced by schools in today’s public education system.

The Philadelphia School District isn’t the only school system who is revising their discipline code and easing up on school suspensions.  The state of New York recently announced it is doing much of the same.  The reasoning behind reshaping discipline in public schools, which is a movement that is gaining national momentum, is the belief that suspending students is ineffective and causing children to miss too much school.

The major purpose behind suspensions, however, isn’t to keep a child from learning or getting an education.  As any seasoned teacher or school administrator will tell you, school suspensions are primarily issued as a means of home remediation–they are given when the school’s limited resources can no longer adequately remedy a problem behavior and the full might of parental power and influence is needed to rectify a problem.  In other words, suspensions are a red flag to a child’s parents that they had better start circling the wagons at home in order to instill in the child–as only parents can–that school, and respecting the student code of conduct, is super, duper, important.

In all my years in school I never once was suspended.  Ever.  Not for chronic truancy, or tardiness, or uniform violations, or for talking back to (or cursing at) a teacher.  This is saying something, being that I went to 12 years of Catholic school.  If I would have ever gotten suspended, it would have been curtains for me.  Lights out.  My parents would have dropped the hammer, and I didn’t take this reality lightly.  But I mostly respected the rules because I loved my parents and they loved me, and because doing well in school and following the rules was the right thing to do; back in the day, when traditional families with common core values were still the norm, there was something known as morality.

Today things are very different.  In many cases, especially in urban districts, suspensions no longer result in effective parental remediation.  A child is sent home for a week to think about changing his behavior, and to force his or her parents to use family resources to address the situation head-on, but not much happens.  Single parents (over 70 percent of African American children are born out-of-wedlock) are too overwhelmed to become reliable agents of change.  Many parents, who became pregnant in their teens, are too inexperienced to even know what to do.

So often times, school suspensions don’t result in much of anything at all.  Kids who misbehave continue to miss school and fall further behind.  The government’s answer to this problem, as noted above, is to cut-down on suspensions.  The only problem is, schools don’t have one-tenth the amount of resources to properly rectify the kind of behavior problems exhibited by students in the 21st century.  In the end, cutting-down on school suspensions ends-up compromising the educations of the hardworking majority of kids whose rights are violated daily by a minority of violent and unruly students forced to coexist with them in the classroom.

But out-of-touch civil rights groups and government bureaucrats don’t seem to care.  In fact, the current White House believes so firmly in the nanny state that Education Secretary Arne Duncan truly accepts the notion that schools can take the place of parents.  What used to be achieved at the hands of an out-of-school suspension must now be somehow achieved in-school by teachers and other school administrators.

Such thinking is not only absurd and unrealistic, but is truly un-American.  Our country’s Founding Fathers envisioned a place where people were free to pursue their own destiny through individual achievement and personal responsibility.  When Thomas Jefferson invented the idea of a public school system, the purpose was “to enable every man to judge for himself what will secure or endanger his freedom.”  Jefferson started public schools so all children, not just those who could afford to pay, could have the opportunity to receive an education.  He offered the opportunity.  Those who do not wish to take advantage of this opportunity, however, shouldn’t be free to rob others of their right to learn.

Again, today’s Big Government policy makers see things a bit differently.  An example of this is President Barack Obama’s “The Life of Julia,”  his administration’s plan to allow Americans to live off the government from the cradle to the grave.

According to The Wall Street Journal:


Barack Obama has a new composite girlfriend, and her name is Julia. Her story is told in an interactive feature titled “The Life of Julia” on the Obama campaign website. Julia, who has no face, is depicted at various ages from 3 through 67, enjoying the benefits of various Obama-backed welfare-state programs. . . .

In a column amusingly titled “Who the Hell Is ‘Julia’ and Why Am I Paying for Her Whole Life?” David Harsanyi raises an obvious objection to the story: “What we are left with is a celebration of . . . how a woman can live her entire life by leaning on government intervention, dependency and other people’s money rather than her own initiative or hard work. . . .”

At 31, the story tells us, “Julia decides to have a child. Throughout her pregnancy, she benefits from maternal checkups, prenatal care, and free screenings under health care reform.” In due course she bears a son named Zachary, the only other character in the tale.

Harsanyi is right. Obama is setting forward a vision contrary to the American tradition of self-sufficiency–a welfare state that runs from cradle to grave. And it’s a dishonest vision, because it presents all of these benefits as “free,” never acknowledging that they are paid for through coercive taxation.

The most shocking bit of the Obama story is that Julia apparently never marries. She simply “decides” to have a baby, and Obama uses other people’s money to help her take care of it. Julia doesn’t appear to be poor; at various points the story refers to her glamorous career as a Web designer, and it makes no mention of her benefiting from poverty programs like Medicaid or Temporary Assistance for Needy Families.

In 1999 Lionel Tiger coined the word “bureaugamy” to refer to the relationship between officially impoverished mothers of illegitimate children and the government. “The Life of Julia” is an insidious attack on the institution of the family, an endorsement of bureaugamy even for middle-class women.

Just as men are replaced by bureaucrats in “The Life of Julia,” so are parents being replaced by schools in today’s public education system.

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2 Comments

Filed under School Violence

2 responses to “The Disintegration of School Discipline and the Lonely Life of Julia

  1. David Locke

    Christopher Paslay’s remarks are a mishmash of illogic, self-admiration, and twisted grammar. He parades conclusions based on opinion and assertion, not fact or evidence. He applies labels, like “un-American”, that are inaccurate and incendiary. Such poor writing and reasoning capabilities demonstrate that students who avoid suspensions and stay in school do not necessarily learn to think or write.

  2. phillystyle71

    Thanks Dave! Your comments are overflowing with evidence as well!! (BTW, commas go inside quotation marks). Thanks again for writing.

    Chris Paslay

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