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Northwest Voices

Seattle Times letters to the editor

March 14, 2013 at 7:00 AM

Discipline in Seattle Public Schools

Lack of comfort should not warrant avoiding an issue

While I was certainly encouraged by Jerry Large’s column covering the Department of Education’s investigation into racially biased discipline rates for Seattle-area students [“Better ways to change misbehavior,” NWMonday, March 11], I found myself troubled with a phrase found within Large’s follow-up column regarding discipline improvement: “And [discipline improvement] could be done without troubling adults who are uncomfortable dealing with race or who are unfamiliar with how bias operates.”

Confronting racial bias can be uncomfortable for some, but this is not reason enough to avoid an issue that has led to such inequality in this country. The Pew Research Center reported in 2011 that the median wealth of white households was 20 times that of black households. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported February 2013, the black unemployment rate at 13.8 percent compared with 6.8 percent for whites. For centuries we have refused to adequately confront the issue of discrimination and racial bias, and as a result persons of color have suffered for it.

Giving a pass to teachers and administrators who are unable or unwilling to confront the reality of racial bias in this country is unfair to students and is not asking enough of the professionals responsible for educating future generations.

–Aaron Clarry, Seattle

Vocational track may suit some students

I tried to be a public schoolteacher, but couldn’t do it. Too difficult. However, during my protracted substitute-teaching career, I at least had my eyes open and could see that some young people wanted to learn, some not so much and a few really not so much. Dan Magill addressed the last group in his piece about student suspensions [“Sometimes, a student should go,” Opinion, March 11]. Thank you, Dan, for stating the obvious.

In a world where young people “grow up” fast and are often adept at learning their legal rights, often for the purpose of abusing them, we yet insist on bending over backward to treat them with kid gloves for fear they’ll ruin their lives while spending, as Dan pointed out, piles of money doing so.

If a kid by a certain age clearly doesn’t want to be in school, here’s an option for them: a vocational track. Let them see that they have a choice that will lead to one kind of job or another.

Any child-behavior specialist knows the value of giving a young person choices regarding behavioral goals, and we all need a good plumber sometimes, and are thankful when we find one. Let’s make it OK for kids to choose that path if it shakes a little fear of reality on the horizon into them and/or they can see that it will lead to a job with a solid income.

–Torger Helgeland, Auburn

Understanding brain function may help students

I have attention deficit disorder and Dan Magill’s student, Rheece, has attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

Dr. Daniel Amen writes about the six types of ADD. The most common type is mainly a shortage of the neurotransmitter dopamine in the frontal lobes of the brain. Low dopamine results in poor executive function, bad decisions and even worse organization.

These people tend to create confrontations and arguments causing their adrenaline to rise. The adrenaline has similar effects as dopamine and you feel much better. Stimulants like Adderall and Ritalin have similar effects.

This might be a good time for an in-depth review of the brain, ADD and similar disorders.

–Henk Kunnen, Seattle

Comments | More in Children, Education, Education reform, Race, Seattle, Teachers | Topics: school discipline, Seattle Public Schools, U.S. Department of Education


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