Ask Dr. Dobson

QUESTION: What immediate changes would you make in junior and senior high schools to improve the learning environment there?

DR. DOBSON: Most importantly, we must make schools safer for students and teachers. Guns, drugs, and adolescence make a deadly cocktail. It is unbelievable what we have permitted to happen on our campuses. No wonder some kids can’t think about their studies. Their lives are in danger! Yes, we can reduce the violence if we’re committed to the task. Armed guards? Maybe. Metal detectors? If necessary. More expulsions? Probably. No-nonsense administrators? Definitely. When schools are blessed by strong leadership, like the legendary Joe Clark at Eastside High School in Paterson, New Jersey, they make dramatic progress academically. Above all, we must do what is required to pacify the combat zones in junior and senior high schools.

We will not solve our pervasive problems, however, with the present generation of secondary school students. Our best hope for the future is to start over with the youngsters just coming into elementary school. We can rewrite the rules with these wide-eyed kids. Let’s redesign the primary grades to include a greater measure of discipline. I’m not talking merely about more difficult assignments and additional homework. I’m recommending more structure and control in the classroom.

As the first official voice of the school, the primary teacher is in a position to construct positive attitudinal foundations on which future educators can build. Conversely, she can fill her young pupils with contempt and disrespect. A child’s teachers during the first six years will largely determine the nature of his attitude toward authority and the educational climate in junior and senior high school (and beyond).

Send your questions to Dr. Dobson, c/o Focus on the Family, PO Box 444, Colorado Springs, CO 80903. These questions and answers are excerpted from books authored by Dr. James Dobson and published by Tyndale House Publishers. Dr. Dobson is the President of Focus on the Family, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the preservation of the home. Copyright 1997 James Dobson, Inc. All rights reserved. International copyright secured