Abraham Lincoln once said, “The philosophy of the school room in our generation will be the philosophy of the government in the next.” If President Lincoln's assessment is accurate then America has some very serious problems that need our immediate attention. “A mind is a terrible thing to waste” (Author unknown).

Somewhere around the 1950s, a list of the top seven public school discipline problems became public and they were: 1. talking; 2. chewing gum; 3. Making noise; 4. Running in the halls; 5. getting out of turn in line; 6. wearing improper clothing; 7. Not putting paper in waste basket. But thirty years later, school problems have become far more serious: 1. Bullying; 2. Alcohol abuse; 3. assault; 4. drug abuse; 5. robbery; 6. pregnancy; 7. Absenteeism. Bullying is very serious at this time because it often affects other people. First of all, bullies often get what they want from the bullied, who are afraid to tell. There is a third factor: the bystander who will participate, watch or look away. Then there are adults who see what is going on, but consider it to be just teasing or normal juvenile behavior. On some occasions, bullying can be the cause of suicide.

Teachers complain that they receive very little respect from students whose parents often choose not to cooperate. Students are quick to remind the teachers that they have rights and that their parents can sue. These misbehavior problems are causing many good teachers to quit teaching and go into a different line of work. The result of this can be that good teachers are not teaching and students are not learning. Teachers believe that good discipline and behavior are necessary for a successful school. It is the duty of schools to teach kids to follow rules in an effort for them to join society when they become adults. The harshest testimony today is that many schools must keep an armed policeman on the school grounds at all times.

Unfortunately, school administrators do not always use common sense. One case in point is there was a very good teacher that had been teaching the same class for many years. A new assistant administrator noticed that she, as always, was wearing a necklace that had a cross on it. He told her that she must never wear that necklace to school again. She resisted because she had worn that necklace for many years. He would not give in to her therefore she resigned. The school lost a great teacher because of his lack of common sense and the students lost a great educator. In what possible way was her cross a problem? Lots of people can be seen wearing a necklace with a cross on it.

At a school in Ohio, a little first grade girl came to school wearing a necklace with a 3/4th inch, 100 plastic G.1. Joe toy pistol attached to it. It had been given to her by her little brother. The principle saw this little toy pistol on her necklace and he suspended her from school for three days. He informed the parents that the school had a zero tolerance for guns of any kind being brought to school. But was that tiny G.1. Joe plastic toy pistol really a pistol? Imagine what the parents must have said. There are many stories of schools using a lack of intelligence in their judgments. Perhaps he felt that she might perform an armed robbery using that G. I. Joe pistol?

One elementary boy lived near his school and he rode his bicycle to school most of the time. To honor his grandfather, a veteran, he installed an American flag on the rear fender of his bike. When he arrived at school, he parked the bike in the usual bike rack and the school principle told him to remove the flag. It seems like a lack of common sense for a school official to be concerned over such a trivial matter. The boy's father fought the school about the flag and the boy still flies the America flag on his rear fender.

Printed with permission of the late Bill Conry.