Thursday, October 29, 2015

Where Echidne Complains About Blogging. Or Researching the Ben Fields Case.

I've been researching the Ben Fields case.  Others have talked about the way black students may be punished more harshly at school than white students (other things being equal*), about the apparent aggressive past  of deputy Ben Fields, about the pedagogical choices available and not available to the teachers in this case and, obviously, about the out-of-proportion violence Fields used against a teenage girl.  Some have also argued that the girl should take some responsibility for her own behavior (refusing repeated orders or requests by teachers and an administrator).

But then, of course, she is sixteen and Ben Fields is an adult.  And yesterday I read in the New York Daily News that the girl had recently lost her mother and is now in foster care.  Something like that could explain aggressive behavior at school, so it is relevant.

Today, however, the reference to the girl's mother's death has been removed from the New York Daily News story.  It seems, based on other sources, that it was the girl's lawyer who gave conflicting accounts.  The New York Daily News now says that the girl lives in a foster home, but this source notes that it isn't clear if this is the case.  But her mother and grandmother are both alive, in contradiction to earlier news.

None of this matters anywhere as much as tossing a teenage girl on the floor and letting her then slide across the room.  Still, I wish journalists took enough time not to disseminate inaccurate information just because of the 24/7 news cycle.

More seriously, I also wish that this country could have a real conversation about what good teaching requires in resources, how we should put more resources into schools which cater for more troubled children and how we should avoid turning everything into a police state.

*See here  for a reference to a study where the authors state that it controls for the actions of the students.