Last week, I participated in a New York Times forum on school discipline and charter schools. I made what I thought was the obvious, common-sense—almost banal—case that:
We need to prioritize the needs of the vast majority of children — the ones who come to school wanting to learn. Yet the needs of these students are often overlooked in today’s debates, as some advocates focus narrowly on the consequences for disruptive kids. To be sure, we should worry about the “school to prison pipeline,” and shouldn’t suspend or expel students any more frequently than necessary. But we also shouldn’t allow disruptive students to hold their classrooms hostage. That’s true for all public schools, charter or otherwise.
So I was surprised by the vehement reaction on social media and in the blogosphere by some folks on the left.
But, upon reflection, this angry pushback is understandable, because I was challenging the very thing that makes a liberal a liberal: an unwavering commitment to equality, universality and, if not identical treatment of everyone, then particularly supportive handling of those who face extraordinary challenges—for surely those challenges are not of their own making. Kids who misbehave in school are, in this view, victims, not perpetrators.
To be clear, that commitment to equality is worthy of respect. We all know the ugly history of civilizations around the world...