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A Matter of Principals

“Learn, or we will hurt you” is a prevailing gospel in the nation’s primary, middle, and high schools, a longtime educator said during a panel discussion Wednesday, and it’s one that needs to change.

“Think about all the ways we have devised to hurt people who don’t learn,” complained Roland Barth, a former Harvard Graduate School of Education (HGSE) faculty member, who described measures like detention of students and the threats against educators who could lose their credentials if they fail to comply with certification demands.

Barth, the founder of HGSE’s The Principals’ Center, described coming across a group of high school students who were nearing graduation. The students, gathered around a burning 55-gallon barrel on the campus, were joyfully tossing their books and notes into the flames.

“What those students were telling us is, ‘You can’t hurt me anymore. I am throwing this stuff away, and nothing bad is going to happen to me.’ ”

To combat that pervasive attitude, educators and administrators need to make the problem more visible, Barth said, and transform their message to become “learn or you will hurt yourself.”

To read the full story, visit the Harvard Gazette.


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