Effective Education Leaders Challenge the Status Quo
Education leaders know that sometimes when we ignore conventional wisdom, there can be incredible successes and innovations. The key is knowing when to risk going against conventional wisdom and when to embrace it. How can we accomplish this? Conventional wisdom is meant to guide us in the decision-making process by providing us with tried and true methods for handling situations and issues. Those who go against conventional wisdom can reap great rewards if they are correct. However, going against it, and being wrong can potentially cost you your job.
The fight to end corporal punishment in U.S. Schools
Let’s look at an example of how education leaders challenged the status quo by confronting corporal punishment. Corporal punishment involves inflicting physical punishment and pain on students for misbehavior and also for failing academically. Its use is older than America, being a mainstay in the colonial one-room schoolhouses of the 1600s and 1700s. Corporal punishment can be administered with a paddle, ruler, cane, etc. At present, it is outlawed in 19 U.S. states. Back when I was in elementary school (Mississippi) in the nineteen-eighties, teachers could administer corporal punishment to students by using a paddle. All they needed was another teacher to witness the act, in case something went wrong, or they were accused of using excessive force.
Principals could do use it with impunity, and I remember students getting paddled for things like not turning in homework or failing or do their classwork. In the case of the latter, this always seemed especially punitive to me. What if the student is sick, tired, hungry, or emotional, and just doesn’t feel up to completing their classwork? Does that mean that they should be physically punished to convince them to fall in line? It all just sounds like an Orson Well’s dystopian novel.
Corporal punishment is still practiced in 19 U.S. States. As of 2019, my home state of Mississippi still allows school districts to use corporal punishment, but it has to be administered by an administrator. Can you believe it? I can, but that is not the point. At one time in U.S. history, corporal punishment existed in all 50 states, and the punishment was much more substantial.
Now, let’s get to my reason for discussing corporal punishment. At some point, courageous educators and educational psychologists said enough is enough. They started to speak out against corporal punishment and share research on the negative effects that it had on students. Initially, they were ridiculed and dismissed as bleeding heart liberals that did not know how to discipline children. Their critics reasoned that if educators followed their suggestions, students would be out of control and running K-12 schools.
However, they stuck to there guns and changed the status quo. Also, even though corporal punishment is still legal in 19 states, parents have the right to opt-in or out of practice. Most don’t optin, and the practice of corporal punishment is looked at as a barbaric act from days long past. This is because compassionate educators saw that the practice of corporal punishment was cruel and counterproductive, and decided to take action.