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Life Arts    H2'ed 5/28/15

A Tale of Two Principals' Principles: Caring vs Brutality in the Classroom

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Two schools and two principals are just 300 miles from each other, but worlds apart in how they treat the students entrusted to their care. One principal brutally attacks the smallest kids' very souls, and the other--well, there's more than one surprise ending here.

In Queens, NY, PS 120 principal Joan Monroe banned the poorer students in her elementary school from participating in their end-of-year carnival celebration.

No pay, no play.

Even though the event was held during regular school hours in a public school, the pre-K to fifth-graders were each charged $10 to attend the outdoor carnival in rotating groups, for 45 minutes each.

Over a hundred kids who couldn't pay were sequestered in a dark auditorium from which they could hear 900 of their more affluent classmates' shouts of delight as they played outside on inflatable slides, a bounce house and a teacup ride, and snacked on yummy treats.

Many of the kids who were denied the chance to participate were too young to understand why. Some cried, and one asked, "Are we being punished?"

Kids who paid also received a gift of a stuffed animal while the poorer kids received nothing. Many of the kids in this school come from Chinese immigrant families struggling to survive.

According to the NY Post, Frank Chow, president of the parents association which sponsored the carnival, noted that the event "cost about $6,200 ... and reaped a $2,000 to $3,000 profit for the school." Chow noted that Monroe insisted that kids whose parents didn't pay would not be accommodated.

Yes, that's right, the school profited while disadvantaged kids' hearts were broken.


What is the lesson that Monroe is teaching these young children? That it is appropriate for kids to be punished for their parents' poverty? And in tax-supported public school?

Not only was one group of kids shamed for being poor, the children who did attend the event were damaged as well, by the insidious implication that they were better than their peers, with an undercurrent of a false sense of entitlement. It's hard to decide which might be worse, but regardless of the celebration, none of these kids won this round.

It was a perfect recipe for planting seeds of discord that might flourish for these kids' entire school careers.

In contrast, just days later, tears of another kind were shed at Bethlehem, New Hampshire's, Profile School.

After the school's beloved principal, Courtney Vashaw, announced that she'd be away from school for a while as she dealt with a rare form of cancer, the seniors voted unanimously to cancel their class trip and donate their hard-earned funds to Vashaw's medical expenses. And they vowed to do additional fundraising for her. Vashaw cried.

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Meryl Ann Butler is an artist, author, educator and OpedNews Managing Editor who has been actively engaged in utilizing the arts as stepping-stones toward joy-filled wellbeing since she was a hippie. She began writing for OpEdNews in Feb, 2004. She became a Senior Editor in August 2012 and Managing Editor in January, (more...)

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