This past week there was a series of fights at Cardozo High School, which led to 16 arrests and a few students being hospitalized (only one for serious injuries, and my sources at Cardozo tell me that the student is going to be fine). There are plenty of places you can read about the actual fight (news articles, The Washington Teacher, DCist) so I won't bore you with the details. My friends who teach at Cardozo say that the "brawl" was not as bad as the descriptions in the media. One teacher I spoke to said that the day after the article ran in the Post, she and her students had a discussion about the fight. Most students agreed that the media was just hyping things up to sell papers and increase ratings. But that is another post for another day.
This whole situation makes me mad. It makes me mad that news crews will show up at Cardozo to film kids beating the crap out of each other, but can't be bothered to report on the institutional violence that takes place every single day in our cities poorest schools. When poor children from abusive and dysfunctional households come to school, they should be able to come to a place that will nurture, care for, and educate them. Instead they come to holding pins where many teachers give them worksheets and ask them to be quiet until 3:15. Instead of reaching their full potential, students become bored, angry, and violent. They lash out.
The fights that took place at Cardozo technically stemmed from some altercations that had happened outside of school. What the newspapers won't tell you is that these fights would have happened whether an altercation had happened outside of school or not. They would have happened, maybe not with these specific students or at this specific school on that specific day, but they surely would have happened. Our children are desperate for control, and fighting is something that allows them to, for some period of time, feel powerful. They see violence not only as a part of life, but as a legitimate channel through which they can increase their social standing. Whereas more affluent students believe they can achieve power and respect through educational success, many of our students believe these things can be achieved through fighting and physical violence. Who can blame them? They are victims of violent oppression at the hands of their parents, their communities, and their schools.
Our schools certainly don't directly cause the violence -- they don't teach kids how to kick and punch. But they do nothing to stem its tide. Schools should be a place where the most disadvantaged children can become empowered through education. Unfortunately, that doesn't happen. So students fight, the newspapers take pictures of it, and the people with the power to change it sit their clicking their tongues and complaining about "those violent kids."
Sorry if this post is depressing. I'll be back to posting snarky comments about the union or the way my students dress tomorrow.
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