Making Sense of Bad Schools

All along I have been blaming indifferent and lax school administrators and teachers for their permissiveness toward disruptive behavior. As it turns out, the U.S. Supreme Court gave school officials license for inaction.

Phillip K. Howard’s recent book, “The Death of Common Sense,” explains the court’s role. In an unnamed case, the majority opinion adopted Yale professor Charles Reich’s concept that observing due process is more important than actually accomplishing goals. Howard quotes from Justice Lewis Powell’s dissenting opinion, " . . . Few rulings would interfere more extensively in the daily functioning of schools than subjecting routine discipline to the formalities and judicial oversight of due process. . . . “

Instead of legislation on paddling, we need solid laws, ones capable of withstanding judicial review, that both remove the tyranny of the disruptive minority over the majority, and that put accountability for order and discipline squarely in the hands of those responsible. Even nonviolent disruptive students are a problem because they are stealing an education from those who came to learn. Right now the administrators and teachers have an out. We need laws that will both empower them and eliminate excuses.

There’s another change I propose. Charles W. Maddox, a trustee of Rancho Santiago Community College District, exhorts us to seek election to our school boards. He’s exactly right, but that’s difficult given the funds available to the teachers’ unions. Having school boards controlled by unions is like having the fox guard the chicken coop.


While I’m not yet ready to jettison public education, its leaders need to start showing more responsiveness to the customer. They must recognize the need to start re-engineering public education back to what made it successful for 125 years.


Fountain Valley