Friday, February 26, 2010

Killer Whale Time Out

Just days ago a "trained" killer whale at Orlando's Sea World killed its trainer. It grabbed the trainer by the pony tail and pulled her under the water where she drowned.

An investigation has determined that the whale may have thought the pony tail was a toy and probably didn't mean to kill his trainer. The whale has been separated from the rest of the whales and at this time there are no plans to relaunch the popular killer whale show to include this particular whale at the Orlando Sea World.

But this wasn't the first time this particular whale has killed. He's linked to three previous killings.

A current online poll suggests that the public prefers that the killer whale return to the wild - be set free.

I have to wonder whether or not forcing a living thing to bend to our will and expect them to behave according to our values when it is not in its nature to do so is wise. You may be wondering why I'm writing about this on an education and parenting blog. There's a sad connection here that disturbs me greatly.

There are students, who, no matter what we do, who have "priors" and who for a while seem to be working with us, suddenly turn and hurt people without remorse.

And yet, they return to school the next day with only a "time out" for the day in an in-school suspension.

You work with them. You try to build a relationship. You "train" them to respond a certain way under certain circumstances, and then, they attack often without provocation.

I see teachers in tears on an almost daily basis. It is wrong. It shouldn't be.

My son, in college, says that teachers aren't paid enough to put up with that. If kids don't want to be in school, and forcing them to stay there just causes more problems, then let them go - in other words, set them free.

I wish it were that easy.

One of the problems is that teachers who are worth anything, love teaching and they love kids and they so deeply desire to make a difference - it has never been a matter of how much they're paid. Dawn Brancheau loved her job. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics an animal trainer at Sea World makes less than a teacher! We can safely assume she didn't do this for the money.

I'm worried. Who should be punished for the crimes committed here? The whale isn't being punished. And all too often, students who hurt other children and teachers aren't punished either. I recently held a debate that asked if parents should be punished for the crimes of their minor children. Wouldn't it be interesting to see parents of these students be the ones who spend the day in "time out"?