"The whole people must take upon themselves the education of the whole people and be willing to bear the expenses of it. There should not be a district of one mile square, without a school in it, not founded by a charitable individual, but maintained at the public expense of the people themselves." -- John Adams

"No money shall be drawn from the treasury, for the benefit of any religious or theological institution." -- Indiana Constitution Article 1, Section 6.

"...no man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place, or ministry whatsoever, nor shall be enforced, restrained, molested, or burthened in his body or goods, nor shall otherwise suffer on account of his religious opinions or belief; but that all men shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinion in matters of religion, and that the same shall in no wise diminish enlarge, or affect their civil capacities." – Thomas Jefferson

Friday, January 11, 2019

Public Shaming: A Scarlet Letter

Fear blocks learning. Teachers who know this no longer use dunce caps. They don't put test grades on the class bulletin board or punish the lowest achieving students for not succeeding.

Studies involving the neurological impact of shaming and frustration show that children need to feel safe in order to maximize learning.
...if students do not feel comfortable in a classroom setting, they will not learn. Physiologically speaking, stressed brains are not able to form the necessary neural connections.
The evidence is clear that when students feel unsafe, physically or emotionally, they do not learn as well. This isn't anything new. Educational psychology classes cover Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs. We know that safety...as well as emotional security...must be established before higher levels of performance on Maslow's hierarchy can be reached. When students experience humiliation in the form of failure at school, they usually aren't spurred on to higher achievement. They are, instead, left trying to learn with a brain that is disrupted or impaired in its development.
Behavioral neuroscience research in animals tells us that serious, fear-triggering expe- riences elicit physiological responses that affect the architecture of the brain as it is developing. These experiences cause changes in brain activity and have been shown to have long-term, adverse consequences for learning, behavior, and health.


This current knowledge of neuroscience has apparently been lost on the administration at Mingus High School in Cottonwood, Arizona. Students in their junior or senior years who are missing credits must wear a red badge instead of the standard grey badges assigned to upperclassmen. This has the humiliating effect of singling out students who, for one reason or another, have had academic difficulty.

My Child Has to Show Her Entire School That She’s Failing With a ‘Scarlet Badge’
Publicly shaming my child and countless of other students for falling behind academically is wrong. I know how hard my daughter is working to get her grades up, and I know how discouraged she feels when she walks into school every morning with the “scarlet badge.” Yet she knows that every time a teacher or fellow student sees her red badge they think less of her.
Fortunately, the author/parent of the above article contacted attorneys from the ACLU who have informed Mingus HS that the "scarlet badge policy" is in violation of FERPA, the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act Regulations.

The author continued...
This badge scheme subjects all students, particularly students with learning disabilities, to ridicule and discrimination. Students with learning disabilities, who may already struggle to keep up, have faced increased pressure in their academic performance knowing that other students will know what their grades are if they are given a “scarlet badge.”


Shaming techniques are commonly used when children don't have enough money to pay for their lunch. In such situations, children are forced to forego the school's hot lunch and eat peanut butter, or some other meager substitute.
In June of 2016, with just days left in the school year, Jefferson County resident Jon Bivens neglected to reload the balance for his son's cafeteria meal plan. The year was nearly over, and by his calculation, there was still enough money left in the account to get through the year. Then, one afternoon in the final week of school, his 8-year-old son committed the unspeakable act of buying himself some ice cream with his meal swipe card. With just $1.38 left on his balance, the boy was unable to pay for his next lunch.

The authorities at Gardendale Elementary School did the only logical thing in this situation. They branded the child's arm with a rubber-stamped smiley face and the friendly message, “I Need Lunch Money.”

Of course, schools have other options besides branding. The New York Times reports that “in some schools, children are forced to clean cafeteria tables in front of their peers to pay the debt. Other schools require cafeteria workers to take a child's hot food and throw it in the trash if he doesn't have the money to pay for it.”
Shaming, of any kind, has no place in education and thankfully, some states are forbidding it. Unfortunately, it hasn't totally disappeared. Some students are still shamed for not having any lunch money...and others, like those students at Mingus HS, are shamed for not getting good enough grades.

So-called educators who shame children should be relieved of their licenses. Forcing students who are struggling in school to wear a "scarlet badge" or stamping the arms of children without lunch money with ink, is no better than branding them with a scarlet letter.

UPDATE: January 12, 2019


No comments: