The 3 D’s

6/28/07 at 8:36 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

In schools you may hear an emphasis placed on learning the 3 R’s. Perhaps we need to emphasize the 3 D’s before we can get to the book “learnin'”. Daniel Henninger over at OpinionJournal wrote about the recent Supreme Court decision on the “Bong Hits 4 Jesus” case, where a principal demanded a sign with that saying displayed on school property be taken down. The principal won on a split 5-4 decision.

Mr. Henninger repeated some interesting items from Justice Thomas’ opinion and how he looks to the precedents set in the 19th century:

A North Carolina court in 1837 spoke of the need “to control stubbornness, to quicken diligence and to reform bad habits.” In 1886, a Maine court said school leaders must “quicken the slothful, spur the indolent and restrain the impetuous.” An 1859 Vermont court spoke of preserving “decency and decorum.”Missouri’s court in 1885 found reasonable a rule that “forbade the use of profane language.” Indiana’s in 1888 ruled in favor of “good deportment.” An 1843 manual for schoolmasters speaks of “a core of common values” and teaching the “power of self-control, and a habit of postponing present indulgence to a greater future good.”

Antique words from a world long gone? Even Justice Thomas admits “the idea of treating children as though it were the 19th century would find little support today.” I’m not so sure about that. How else can one explain the flight from the public schools–into home-schooling, parochial schools, private schools and even charter schools, which invest public principals with greater control? Parents are spending thousands to have what American schools had from 1859 to 1959–some basic measure of the Three Ds: decorum, decency and diligence. Self-control as a higher “common value” than out-of-control.

Yes, those D’s: decorum, decency and diligence. I wonder how many kids in high school would have a difficult time effectively defining those words, let alone following them. You’ll hear the tired, old excuse of, “Well, if they’re not learning it at home you can’t expect them to learn it at school.” Unfortunately, out-of-control is more common than self-control, and that is something that should but is not being effectively enforced at home.

It comes back to expectations and the parents backing up enforcement of discipline at schools. Hmm, discipline – there’s a 4th D. Society has reaped the planting of “free-love, whatever goes and getting in touch with your feelings” from the 60’s and beyond. Yes, I may be over-generalizing some, and there are many school systems that successfully enforce discipline. Mr. Henninger started out his article:

The U.S. began as a complex country–thus the genius of the Founders’ template Constitution–and now finds itself in an infinitely complex era. The solution of we moderns to this inexorable multiplier effect has been to burden our institutions with more laws and more lawsuits. The inevitable result is a society steeped in unintended consequences. Ask the principal of a public high school.

The ever-growing litigious nature of society will be the death of us yet. Don’t like the principal telling a student what poster he can fly on school property? Sue the rascal!


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  1. I agreed with you

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