Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Common sense lacking in schools

What is going on in schools today? No, I’m not talking about what seems to be an epidemic of teachers having sex with students. That’s old news.

Recently, there have been more examples of what I can only call an inexplicable lack of common sense on the part of teachers and others at schools. I have blogged about this before when school officials in New York attempted to ban words that might upset some students.

A six-year-old boy, accused of being a bully, was deemed by his teacher to need remediation. A second teacher was consulted. She had the perfect solution--have all the other students in the class repeatedly punch him. Another teacher reported the incident. The child’s mother was not happy. Here is the response of a school official from TV station KENS. “Steve Linscomb, a spokesperson for the district, confirms that the teacher will not be hired again within the school district, but suggests the incident was a result of a lack of experience. ‘This teacher is a relatively young teacher and just needs to be re-educated and reminded what needs to happen in the classroom in order for it to be a safe learning environment,’ he told KENS." No, It’s not about experience or re-education. This teacher has no common sense.

A 17-year-old student was allowed to lose consciousness during an asthmatic attack while the school nurse looked on. Why? His mother had not signed a form authorizing use of an inhaler. It gets worse. The the story says the nurse not only failed to call an ambulance, she locked the door of the office with the boy inside. The school’s response? “Deltona High School and Verona County officials stand by the nurse's decision.” The kid would have been better off had he been in the street. Bystanders would have at least called 911.

At a school field day, two girls were sunburned to the extent that their mother took them to a hospital that evening. It was raining that morning and their mother did not apply sunscreen. When the sun came out later that day, the girls were not permitted to use sunscreen. Why not? According to a published report, “The school district's sunscreen policy, which forbids teachers from applying sunscreen to students, and only allows students to apply it to their own bodies if they have a doctor's note authorizing it, is based on a statewide law.” No one thought to take the children out of the sun or call their mother to come to apply sunscreen. Oh by the way, one of the girls has a type of albinism. Tell me please, how easy do you think it is to obtain a doctor’s note authorizing the application of sunscreen, a non-prescription substance?

In case you think that this is a uniquely American phenomenon, here’s a similar story from England. Pupils in a creative writing class were told to write a note to their mothers as if they had only a few hours to live. When he got home from school, one 14-year-old boy handed the essay to his mother who thought it was a suicide note and was understandably upset. The school apologized "for any distress."

What is going on here? A six-year-old is beaten up by his classmates at the direction of a teacher. What is the lesson for the “bully” and the other students? A nurse watches a child try to die from an asthma attack and does nothing. Two children are sunburned because a doctor’s note is required for the application of sunscreen. A suicide note as a creative writing exercise is understandably of great concern to a child's mother.

These teachers and administrators are supposed to be educating our young. And people ask me why one of my daughters has chosen to homeschool (or rather “unschool”) her two children.

Horace Greeley: “Common sense is uncommon.”

Skeptical Scalpel: “Common sense cannot be taught.”


Diane said...

Home schooling was better for my extremely gifted child and for my chronically ill and gifted child. Both soared academically. Public School accounts for the majority of our dysfunction in society today.

Public School is a classic example of government getting too big- as our founding fathers proclaimed - big government is bad for the people. We are no longer represented, we are ruled.

Skeptical Scalpel said...

Diane, it is a shame. I had a public school education that was second to none.

Jonathan said...

Diane- congratulations for your two 'extremely gifted children.' The weather must be nice up there at Lake Wobegon.

It's common sense, however, that public education is not a sign of an excessive government, but a healthy one. I've been at public schools my entire life, and I'm doing just fine. Success is largely self-determined.

Still, you can't legislate common sense. Indeed, the opposite appears to be true. What if the teacher applied sunblock to the kids, only to have the child turn out to be allergic to the lotion? Huge lawsuit.

Skeptical Scalpel said...

Jonathan, I agree that success is largely self-determined although those who advocate big government and the nanny state would have you believe otherwise.

Teachers didn't have to apply sunblock. They were at school. All they needed to do was get the kids out of the sun or call their mother who would have gone to the school and applied the deadly potion.

SeaSpray said...

Why couldn't the nurse call home to confirm the need for sunscreen?

The asthma case is inhumane. Why didn't she call 911? Asthma can change on a dime ..even the mildest case. I remember an ED doc reaming out a nurse for not bringing a mild asthmatic right back into he ED. But ..he saw his father DIE because they couldn't save his father. It was one of the things that motivated him to become a physician. And that same doc lost an asthmatic patient in a code on the med floor because she was so plugged up.

You have to wonder what kind of education did the teacher and nurse have? It is alarming to think that one's child may not be safe in school. It used to be that was the one place you felt they were in good hands when not with you.

That nurse should be ousted as well.

And the idea have having multiple children punch another child. What the heck? Now ALL of those kids need some form of counseling to undo that damage.

Common sense - severely lacking.

It is sad to see how values and common sense are getting tumbled all around and upside down.

How do we combat this erroneous thinking/behavior? I guess one child at a time. be examples. Speak up where we can. be mentors when possible.

Unfortunately ...parenting values are questionable these days too. Accountability. And thanks to our ever litigious society ...people operate in fear mode versus common sense.

If I tell you I have to kill you said...

Common sense is so rare it should be considered a goddamned super power:-/

RuggerMD said...

Oh common sense is so rare these days.

Last night I got a surgical consult of the up most stupidity.

A 36 y/o lady came in with severe vaginal bleeding from ITP. She was found to have a hgb of 3 and 9k platelets. Well, the ED doc, noting she had a very mild complaint of abdominal pain obtained a CT scan, which showed an appendix with a slightly dilated tip, which of course, the radiologist said could represent early appendicitis.
Certainly, I was asked to take out the appendix.
When I see her she has no abdominal tenderness. I just walked away.

Skeptical Scalpel said...

Sea Spray, good points.

If I tell..., I agree.

Diane said...


A few years ago, the feds did a huge countrywide poll. They wanted to know what parents thought of Public Schools. Nearly 70 percent felt Public Schools in America were in decline and children were not receiving appropriate educations. When these same parents were asked about their own local Public School? 98 percent said their Public School was number one.

I am glad that you live in a community that provides an appropriate education for your children. Unfortunately, statistics indicate that for most American children the quality of public education has dropped dramatically in the past 25 years. Clearly fewer children are finding success. For as much as I would like to blame parents, odds are, I suspect society in general is responsible. Public Education is the one common denominator for the majority in our society. So if not the public schools, what other common denominator is to blame?

Ellie K said...

Greetings, esteemed Skeptical Scalpel!
I had a wonderful public school education in Las Cruces, New Mexico. Well, it wasn't wonderfully fun, as I didn't get along with many of my classmates. But I liked my teachers! They were good. I realized that when (to my surprise) I was as well prepared for college at Swarthmore as the students who attended Andover, Exeter, Choate. It wasn't about being bright. The teachers in my little town helped me develop good study habits, intellectual curiosity, and respect for authority. Membership in Future Farmers of America, and horticulture class work, was mandatory. Same for Home Economics and General Drafting. I survived.

I doubt this is solely a big government problem. Public schooling worked well when you were younger, and for my parents, and grandparents. While I would have preferred home schooling (at the time), I would have grown into an even more mal-adjusted adult than I am now ;o) Public school can cure neuroses, even eczema.

Be all this as it may, I think you, and Diane, have a valid point. There is something amiss. If there were not, we wouldn't have these problems, not on such an out-sized basis. Things are taken to extremes, be it sensitivity to perceived "fairness", or hyper-vigilance about litigious parents.

I am puzzled about the teachers. Teachers do internships (though not as lengthy as surgeons). Teachers have certification and continuing education requirements. My mother taught 8th-grade for 30 years. School curricula was planned and approved by multiple people. It was set according to standards often criticized for being hide-bound and rigid. Such standards did NOT include ad hoc group shaming (inflicted on the little boy whose teacher organized the physical assault activity). Instead, we read, and watched a black and white film of Shirley Jackson's short story, "The Lottery". We also read "Lord of the Flies", several times, for reinforcement about how NOT to behave.

If teachers, or a nurse, are acting in defiance of school board policy, they would be disciplined, right? Yet they aren't. I don't understand. I don't think we are excessively critical or cantankerous. Public school in the U.S.A. was a functional part of our society for the past century. Something is different now. I don't know what it is. I do know that it is distressing, worrisome to say the least.

Skeptical Scalpel said...

RuggerMD, I had similar experiences including being consulted to rule out appendicitis in patients who when I took a history, informed me that they had already had appendectomies. CT scan report: appendix not visualized.

Diane and Ellie K, well said.

Unknown said...

I don't know about other states, but here in Colorado, there is an RN who oversees "school nurses" in their district, but in the schools, it is NOT a nurse, it is NOT even a CNA! In 2 of my kids schools it is a volunteer parent! And they don't know what they're doing. And they still call the postion "school nurse"! As a nurse I find this situation both disturbing and offensive. These people are not trained to respond to any emergency, and like the other comments here, completely lack common sense! Most school policy that parents have to sign have a medical waiver for calling 911 in an emergency, and my youngest was taken to the hospital when she was 16 2 weeks after a tonsillectomy for excessive bleeding by....A TEACHER! No "school nurse" on duty that day, and my daughter bled 1.5L before all was said and done. At least someone there recognized an emergency.

Skeptical Scalpel said...

Tonja, that is an appalling story. But as noted in the asthma case above, it's not a given that a real school nurse would have done any better.

RuggerMD said...

I have had those as well.

We just had a lady with a rare hemophilia who had cholecystitis. Problem is she had Lap chole scars and said they already took her gallbladder out.
Well our US and CT both showed a huge inflammed gallbladder...and some surgical clips on the edge of the liver.
Her last lap chole was in Miami somewhere.

Skeptical Scalpel said...

RuggerMD, nice case. I'd like to see the op dictation and the path report on the "first" lap chole. There are many cases of "stump appendicitis" (recurrence of appendicitis due to incomplete removal) in the literature. But still, one should at least have noted the history of appendectomy on the chart.

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