Re "Got discipline?" Opinion, June 28
Jonathan Zimmerman's critique of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas' position intrigued me. Yes, Thomas' nostalgia is sentimental and certainly limited -- he's never worked as a teacher in a junior high school classroom. But Zimmerman simply replaces one nostalgia for another one: Boys, sigh, will be boys. Schools have always been and remain violent places (Virginia Tech?). What's changed is that the male schoolmaster is a vanishing creature -- eight out of 10 teachers are now women.
How interesting that Zimmerman ignores implications of the "boys will be boys" logic for the embattled female principal, who doesn't have to be "particularly cruel" to find herself unsupported in the desire to feel safe or establish limits at school. She may be targeted by students or parents for standing up against student-to-student bullying, or bullying against herself. This principal simply took down a banner, and the plaintiff sued her. The real difficulty with the new Supreme Court ruling is that, once again, judges are replacing teachers, parents and local communities as the final arbiters of when it's OK to say no to a kid. On the front line of this conflict, inevitably, are the women who work in schools.