School children have less freedom and choice than prison inmates

Steven K. Graham

From the archives: The original post was posted on 16th May, 1995

In a post to the home-ed list, Jim commented on the importance of attitude, and then suggests the following:

“Where do kids learn to have a bad attitude and where do they learn a good attitude. Speaking as a father, I believe that a bad attitude is learned from peers, especially for children and young adults. One of most damning things that can be done to a young person’s short productivity in the work-force is to give them constant interaction with people with an attitude problem.”

This begs the question. If kids learn bad attitudes from their peers – Where did the peers get the bad attitudes?

We might suppose that bad attitudes are a result of the unusual socialization that goes on in institutional schools – so many individuals of such close ages forced to associate. (I don’t think this is it, but it could contribute.)

We could suppose that the bad attitudes of the students are a reflection of the bad attitudes of the teachers…. Hmmm. This notion might have more merit. I’m not suggesting that all teachers have “bad” attitudes – but in my experiences interacting with teachers, many of them have very negative attitudes about one or more aspects of schools or the students they teach. And it’s often the best teachers who find the situation deplorable (and as a result, have “bad” attitudes). These teachers, by and large, try not to communicate their “bad attitudes” to the students, but … I think students are often quite sensitive to such things, and do pick up on the negative feelings of the teachers.

Or, we might suppose that it is a result of the coercion rife in institutional schools, with students forced to attend, and in some respects given less freedom and choice than soldiers at a military base or even inmates in a prison.

Or, … ?

I believe that bad attitudes typically arise from bad situations. And if the situations change, the attitudes usually can and do as well. Along these same lines, I think children naturally tend to very good attitudes – and it’s the people and circumstance around them (people in authority – in control of the circumstances) that drive the children toward bad attitudes.

See also:

Steven K. Graham, 1995, ‘School children have less freedom and choice than prison inmates’,