On a recent December morning a mother called the office of John Bapst Memorial High School to inform them her son wouldn’t be present that day as they were traveling to Boston for an admissions interview with a prestigious university. Thus began the near Dickensonian destruction of a child’s good record and his ideology about fairness.
The interview was a success and the student returned to Bapst the following day feeling great pride and presenting a follow-up note from his parents reiterating the reason for the previous day’s absence. Bapst adminstrators, when attempting to woo and recruit incoming tuition-paying freshmen, regularly quote high statistics of graduates transitioning into superior post-secondary institutions. These same administrators met the student, not with applause regarding his college entrance efforts, but with crossed arms and punishment. The student was given eight days of detention for an “unexcused absence.” His parents’ attempts to advocate and point out reason and logic in the situation failed.
For eight days the child sat after school not productively completing homework for that was forbidden. Rather he was forced to sit for eight days and contemplate the error of his ways for not notifying the school well in advance of his intended absence so that they might approve the event. He did not contemplate the error of his ways, but sat and experienced the destruction of his beliefs that good behavior garners good consequences.
In a day when the newspapers are full of stories in which youngsters go astray, throwing caution and consequences to the wind, Bapst added fuel to the fire. Instead of forming a partnership with students and parents, they opted for autocratic control. They destroyed an honor student’s perfect attendance record and taught him that his world does little to support the notion of positive cause and effect. You are not the sum of your behavior, but rather the victim of the rules and control of those in power over you. Ann Smith Veazie