by Linda Schrock Taylor
by Linda Schrock Taylor
You may have noticed students headed towards school — carrying sleeping bags, toothbrushes, clean underwear — and wondered why they weren't going home, instead. Well, those students are headed for school-sponsored activities called "Lock-Ins" and must arrive before all doors are locked. Children locked in; parents and values locked out.
Many of us wonder… Why would schools sponsor events where young males and females spend the night together in huge buildings with limited adult supervision? Why would schools encourage, even tempt, young hormone-driven teens to attend such activities? Why would administrators assume the risks involved, when it would not take a rocket scientist to count how many responsible teachers are willing to stay awake all night to supervise the crowd (fewer and fewer) vs. how many nooks, crannies and shadows are accessible to youthful couples wishing to cuddle (more than a typical adult would stop to consider and too many for a few chaperones to patrol).
What is the pay-off for the educational establishment? To further break a family's value system? To increase school enrollment with 'unexpected' teen pregnancies? To encourage children to think of the school as their home, instead of that house provided by their parents?
That these events would be held for the high school group is enough to cause concern, but now there are lock-ins for middle schoolers! After the recent one, my 6th grade students could not wait to tell me all about it. One boy, a twelve year old, had spent the night wrapped in the arms of his girlfriend. I was stunned! "Didn't any teacher see you and put a stop to it?" I asked. They explained that it was "OK" because they were in the library watching one of the late-late-late movies and they were permitted to sit beside whomever they pleased. I protested, "But you admit that you weren't sitting!" They sighed, with that pained tolerance that teens feel or feign when explaining mundane things to adults then said, "Whatever." The boy, whose mother I know, did hurry to reassure me that "We didn't do anything!"
(As you might expect, they feel very sorry for my homeschooled teenager who is neither encouraged, nor allowed, to grow up too fast and couple too soon.)
The description of the lock-in encourages parents to trust and believe that their children are attending a wholesome, chaperoned activity — all night gym; movies; pizza and pop; board games; library full of books; supervision. But really… by 3:00 AM most kids become bored with board games and basketball. A few do go to sleep; the rest are intent on staying awake for the entire night. Many use the early morning hours for behaviors that, hopefully, would never be allowed at home.
We often hear of trouble after a lock-in and word goes out that there will be no more unless the sponsor has lined up at least 12 adults; or 15; or however many the administration pretends will be a safe number. I would like to tell them that the only 'safe' number is one adult for every two students and that each adult must stay at the side of those two students for the entire 12+ hours of the lock-in.
One young female employee, liked and respected by the students, agreed to supervise a lock-in and arrived, as usual, carrying her 'club' — a long cardboard gift-wrap tube decorated with colorful paper flowers. At every school dance she 'jokingly' used the tube to gently tap those in need of reminders about decency and values — those who were dancing too close; showing too much affection in public; misbehaving in numerous ways. Following the lock-in, however, this young woman who had always enjoyed being with the students — for dances, sporting events, bus rides, class activities — stated that she would never again supervise a lock-in. Her reasons were fair: too few adults; some adults became tired and left despite their agreement to stay on duty for the duration; she had grown weary trying to supervise gym, library, halls — in addition to the individual classrooms where films were being shown, in the dark, for better 'viewing.'
One high school girl entered a darkened classroom to watch a film, then realized that a couple was involved in a heated activity on a table in the corner. No adult was supervising the dark room and she left to report the situation. She blushed as she recalled the experience and told us that she would never attend another lock-in. When students were caught sneaking alcohol into the SADD lock-ins, there were a few reprimands and a couple new threats. "Bags can be searched anytime." Probably nothing has stopped the bootleggers.
Would it not be easier, and safer, to have dime dances after basketball games? My schools might not have been perfect back in those Fifties and Sixties, but I studied hard, learned a lot, then had fun at a wide assortment of appropriate school activities — dances, sports, clubs; float-building; prom decorating; trips to see live theater, Ice Capades. Our youth group at church also planned fun and interesting experiences. One time we dressed up in our nicest clothing then drove into Canada to see a film and eat at a fancy supper club. We enjoyed dress-up parties and dances. The thought of having a pajama party — at school, and with the boys — would have been abhorrent.
One of my high school students said to me — probably after I had dressed as a 50's teenager for Halloween, brought my 45 rpm's to school, and demonstrated the dances in my realfromwaybackthen saddle shoes — "Mrs. Taylor, I think you had more fun when you were a teenager than we do now." My response was, "I think you are right. I didn't have to worry about drugs or booze or smoking or sex. Mom and Dad handled that by saying 'NO!' That left me free to attend to my studies, enjoy my friends, and grow up safely."
I think parents must get back to telling kids, "NO!" I think our schools must get back to making responsible decisions and providing activities that encourage decent, age-appropriate behavior. I think the entire culture should take the weight of making heavy life decisions off the backs of our children. We need to say "NO" to all the bad and distracting things; we need to protect our children from damage. We must do everything possible to help our children focus their attention on their educations; on healthier activities; on strong relationships with family and close friends.
If the schools are unwilling to act as a moral compass (my thanks to Mr. Holland's Opus), then we must seriously reconsider whether they should be entrusted with children. We, as mature, responsible adults, should move to censure and shut down any establishment that acts to corrupt, diminish, and dumb down the youth of this nation, be that Hollywood, public schools, the publishing industry, or others. Our children are the only hope for the future. If we hope to return to a free and constitutional America, we need to raise competent, knowledgeable, moral, mature, emotionally healthy young people who have been well-educated in the foundational philosophies of America.
Lock-ins, early mating, video games, suggestive television, brutal films, and all the awfulness the culture currently throws at our kids, harm and destroy lives, rather than prepare young people for a life of moral leadership in their families, their communities, their country. The ads tell kids, "Just Say No to Drugs." We should be telling the parents, "Just say NO to anything that harms your child's emotional, physical, and intellectual...development, well-being, and future…even if that means saying no to questionable school activities and dumbed-down educations."
I cannot help but believe that most children would be far better off if we locked them out of, rather than into, the schools.
October 20, 2003
Linda Schrock Taylor [send her mail] lives in Michigan. She is a free-lance writer and the owner of "The Learning Clinic," where real reading, and real math, are taught effectively and efficiently.
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