Sunday, November 3, 2013

The Broken Window Theory and Education... What can we learn from crime prevention and ... by extension ... from the advertising world? And what are the suggestions for the Raymond Hartjens idea of the Empowered Student?

Mario Llorente has asked us to participate in a discussion about the Broken Window Theory.   Here is an excerpt from a wikipedia article:

The broken windows theory is a criminological theory of the norm-setting and signalling effect of urban disorder and vandalism on additional crime and anti-social behavior. The theory states that maintaining and monitoring urban environments in a well-ordered condition may stop further vandalism and escalation into more serious crime.
The theory was introduced in a 1982 article by social scientists James Q. Wilson and George L. Kelling. Since then it has been subject to great debate both within the social sciences and in the public sphere. The theory has been used as a motivation for several reforms in criminal policy.
The broken windows theory has received support from several empirical studies[citation needed] and has also been the subject of criticism.

1.  AN ATTRACTION:   One borken window in a building, if left for seeral days, suggests that the owner doesn't car and perhaps it will be fun to create another broken window.   People who like to throw rocks at a target are given a green light when one broken window is left on display.

2.  How does this apply to education?   If we tolerate one instance of bullyng in the culture of the school...  then it invites more bullying.

For instance, bullying is like a broken window.  If the administration doesn't act quickly to replace the window (find a different use for the bullying energy), then more bullying might take place.

What words can you see dancing on
the walls of your school?  How can
you help the walls speak?

3.  THIS IDEA IS REALLY ABOUT "WHAT IS THE CULTURE AT YOUR SCHOOL"?  It will be helpful to read a qute from Dennis Littky about culture in a sachool.   You canm see this quote at the end of this blog post.


ADVERTISING to create a better culture?  

A school with no broken windows?   Beyond not having broken windows, what if thosse windows have remarkable messages?  What if the walls can speak?

No broken windows

no unwanted graffiti

(Sometimes we WANT graffiti to allow the walls to speak, 

like the walls in Enrique Gonzlez's

In other words, is there an action that a principal can take to encourage tachers to actively create positive culture in the school?   Perhaps the displaying of posters and "dancing words" will remarkably inspire students to engage in positive behavior, even encourage them to take control of their classes?   This is what Neil Postman was doing with his provocative Chapter 12 in his book Teaching as a Subversive Activity.   Dennis Yuzenas brought this book to my attention and I have used it as a guideline for pushing me to try something new to engage students.


The entire book is available as a PDF ... the work of Raymond Hartjens deserves mentioning here because if we start with the idea of "no borken windows" and then we move to creating a school atmosphere that invites the world to participate in the school, we then move to empowering kids to take more control of their education.   

You can get some of his philosophy at his blog posts.

The most difficult element of the Sudbury experience to explain to parents is the value derived from their children just hanging out. This paper will attempt to demonstrate that hanging out is a critical period that enables each student to find his/her self-confidence through an experience that defines the elements of conversation and yields a level of self confidence that one student labeled all graduates of Sudbury Valley as Fearless Communicators.

"The principal is a man..."
CONCLUSION:  We have traveled form the BROKEN WINDOW to the concept of ADVERTISING to build the culture of a school to the EMPOWERED CHILD idea that we have to be open to  variety of responses by students...  even the Sudbury experience might illuminate how we can animate schools.   Thank you for taking time to tour this analysis (which started with Mario Llorente asking me to consider the implications for education about the Broken Window Theory).

Listen at three minutes in this video from Highland Park high School

"The principal is a man, not like a suit in other schools"

QUOTATION from The Big Picture

These pages are from The Big Picture by Dennis Littky.   

The segments about CULTURE speak to the "broken windows" because the culture of a building shows the neighbors, "we will defend our appearance."  In the same 

way, the culture of the school is made with every interaction. 

 We will defend our culture with every interaction...


p. 55

Relationships are the foundation of a good, personalized school, and you cannot build relationships without first cultivating a culture of trust and respect. At The Met, visitors are always amazed by the level of respect students show adults and each other. We know that this is primarily the result of the level of respect that the staff shows them. You can sense it in the atmosphere, but it was built as the foundation of the school culture itself.
When it comes to education in the United States, most people think respect is about kids calling teachers by their last names, saying “yes, sir” and not doing bad things in front of teachers and principals. To me, respect includes everyone—kids, parents, custodians—and everything. We must have and demonstrate respect for others, for ourselves, and for the school building itself. If kids are going to be respectful, they must feel respected. And respecting them means allowing them to make deci- sions about the things that affect them and, most of all, believing in their potential.
When you respect kids, and when you make their time at school worthwhile, it is not hard to see how that translates into being able to trust them to behave without all the constraints traditional schools rely on. The culture at The Met is full of respect and trust and the positive behaviors they inspire. We sometimes take it for granted, but it is amaz- ing when you step back and watch what goes on.  

p. 56
One time, I asked a student who had been a real terror in 8th grade why she was doing so well at The Met. It was beautiful to hear her say so clearly, “The first day I walked into the school and I watched the senior girls. I saw how they acted, and then I acted that way.” The staff are role models for the stu- dents and the students are role models for each other. It doesn’t take long for a new kid to learn the cool way to act at school, and it doesn’t really take a lot to make respect cool.

Something I talk about all the time, and something it’s really impor- tant to recognize, is that it is the older kids who help carry on the cul- ture of a school. A principal I knew was waiting to move into his new building, and I asked him how he was going to build the new school’s cul- ture. And he said, “Don’t worry about it. When we move into the new building we’re going to have an assembly.” He really thought it was as simple as saying “Yay, team, you can do it; let’s go, school.” It is the same way that some people think pep rallies are the answer to building a com- mon school culture. The thing is—a school’s culture is not something a principal can announce at a pep rally. The culture of a school is in how the kids act. It is carried on from one student to the next. The kids hold this power. A principal can say anything he or she wants, but if the older kids go around kicking lockers and yelling at their teachers, then the younger kids will go around kicking things and yelling, too. 

p. 57

Exhibitions at The Met are great times to watch how the culture of a school gets passed on. When younger kids are doing their exhibitions, the older kids on their panels ask questions and can be really tough. Like, “Excuse me, I’m looking at your journal and there are only 4 entries but you’re supposed to have 20 by now,” or “It seems like you really didn’t do much work this quarter—why not?” If a teacher was coming down hard like this, the younger kids could write it off as just being the teacher’s job. But they know it’s not the older kid’s job. They get that these are the stan- dards the older kids hold for themselves and that they’d better start liv- ing up to the same ones. It happens all the time at exhibitions, and it just brings a huge smile to my face. All the things we adults want to say are so much more powerful when other kids are saying them.
Another great time to watch The Met culture being built and carried on is when older kids do their exhibitions with younger kids in the audi- ence. The younger kids hear the older ones talk about how they improved from one year to the next, how they persevered, how they worked harder. The younger kids see that and then, naturally, try to do better themselves. Because now it’s cool! 

p. 59
A school has to decide what it thinks is important and make sure it is doing it formally as a natural part of the school’s life, rather than making it seem artificial by separating it out. “Student of the month” assemblies have to be part of a culture where celebrating accomplishments isn’t dis- connected from the daily life of the school. The farce in most schools is that they have assemblies supporting the student of the month, but then don’t celebrate students’ accomplishments on any other day (especially those kids who may not stand out as “students of the month,” but make their own kind of progress and achieve their own kind of successes). The realness is in the day-to-day, and it is most visible in how students are treated.

As a principal, I look at every time I deal with a kid as a moment when the culture of my school is being set. I know that when I am really listening to a kid, I am reinforcing that kid’s sense that our school is a place where he can feel, “Hey, I don’t have to fight them; they really listen to us.” I am also always aware that the same message is getting across to the people who walk by and see us talking and listening to each other 


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