DISCIPLINE has gone awry in schools. Teachers today have to think twice about the way they punish students. Better to punish less than to go all the way. Most students of today, after all, are delicate creatures, offsprings of parents who believe their kids must grow up without being violated by unnecessary slaps on the hand or a slightly raised voice. Such is the way educators must operate in the shadow of overly protective parents.
In my school, for instance, we’ve had a bizarre story of a girl, my classmate, whom we’ll call Shane, who got scolded twice for two things: one, for dozing off in class, and two, for not submitting her homework. Within two weeks of the last reprimand, she quit school. Her mother had pulled her out of the school system, and went the home-schooling route.
Whatever reasons I’ve heard concerning her being depressed just doesn’t quite hold water because she was one of the jolliest and chattiest girls in school. The whole decision to pull out of school just felt too sudden. It was as if the school got a slap in the face from the parents. You could almost hear that resentful mutter, “Better to play safe and get our daughter well clear of that scolding teacher than to continue.”
Then, there’s that story about the PSLE student who didn’t get his hair cut despite repeated warnings only to find himself rendered that service by his own teacher. The mother went livid, and the story went viral. She accused the teacher for ruining her son’s $60 hair cut and lodged a police complaint.
In this she-said-they-said drama, one thing is clear. The son was definitely overprotected. If he weren’t, his mother wouldn’t have kicked up such a fuss. She would have accepted that bad haircut for the punishment she and her son had to put up with for not having heeded simple, basic school rules on appearance and tidiness.
Perhaps it was a little far-fetched for the teacher to take on the role of a barber. The school could have shipped him off to the neighborhood Sri Dewa for ten bucks. But that would still have likely kicked up a storm, given the mother’s temperament and her lofty sense of entitlement.
A similar kind of brouhaha brewed recently, except it was over a handphone and not a haircut. A boy was caught using his handphone in class, and it got confiscated for three months. The father sued the school. Granted, three months does sound ridiculous, but the suing, what’s that about? Is the father trying to make a point that no one should ever mess with his son ever again, even in the name of good old punishment? Overprotected kid? Yes. And whatever happened to decent, sensible parent-teacher diplomacy?
Call us the strawberry generation if you want to, but leave me out of the picture. I’ve been through all kinds of punishment in school—from detention to getting yelled at in class to copying whole essays five, six times. That doesn’t include all the nasties, the grueling drills, the bugs and bites I’ve been subjected to at the National Cadet Corps, all four years of it.
I can quite safely say, I’m not a strawberry. And I think my parents would agree.
Jiji Setavoraphan, Secondary Four
For more essays by Jiji, visit Jiji Writes.
This essay was written in response to the ‘O’ Levels 2013 exam, Question #1:
Parents often believe that it is better to be safe than sorry. Do you consider young people to be too protected?
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