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Educate, Medicate, or Litigate?: What Teachers, Parents, and Administrators Must Do About Student Behavior

reviewed by Brian Marcotte - 2002

coverTitle: Educate, Medicate, or Litigate?: What Teachers, Parents, and Administrators Must Do About Student Behavior
Author(s): Robert C. Digiulio
Publisher: Corwin Press, Thousand Oaks
ISBN: 0761978240 , Pages: , Year: 2001
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This slender volume reviews some of the well-regarded literature and best practices available concerning violence and other kinds of anti-social behavior exhibited by school age children. DiGiulio’s perspective is global with special interests in South Africa and the US. The book is divided into five chapters which are uneven in content and presentation. I wish the first chapter had been left in a trash bin in the editing room. It introduces the subject of the book but does so with so many undefined, politically loaded terms that this reader was confused on where the author was going or how he was going to get there. It provided the only intellectually "squishy" moment in DiGiulio’s presentation, indeed this chapter has the feel of a late, editor-induced add-on.

One is on much firmer ground in chapter two which details the scope of the problem. Americans are more violent than citizens in any other industrialized country. Nevertheless, rates of violent crime by and directed at American school aged children are declining. For example, in 1998, American children younger than 13 years old committed almost 50% fewer murders than they did in 1964. In fact, violence in school is declining worldwide. Students are safer in school than anywhere else. Boys in school are more often the initiators and victims of violence than are girls. Young adolescents are victims of violence more often than are older adolescents or young children. Harsh consequences (suspensions, expulsion or incarceration) visited upon violent students do not benefit student behavior in or out of school. Security measures (guards, metal detectors, and other forms of surveillance equipment) do not make schools safer but actually make students feel less safe. Aggressive behavior and dependency in children age two is one of the best predictors of criminality at age 18.

In chapter three, DiGiulio begins in earnest by defining terms and presenting the scope of the psychological, philosophical and practical issues involved in socialization of children. Sources of primary and secondary socialization for children are reviewed and four views of the role of schools in the socialization process are introduced. In the midst of this valuable discussion, DiGiulio introduces the 2000 year old Chinese notion of legalism: adherence to Law as supreme authority in social interactions. This is not the usual western notion of legalism (justification through action). DiGiulio does not provide a historical connection between the Chinese notion and legal developments in occidental cultures. This lack of historical context is the only regrettable lacuna in this chapter.

Chapter four provides a discussion of how social behavior tilts toward anti-social. Both types of behavior begin at home, but schools and the peer group assembled at school play key roles. Oppressive school environments and corporal punishment in particular are unhealthy, unproductive and completely avoidable causes of anti-social behavior. When oppression or corporal punishment is used in response to violence, a kind of death spiral is established. No one wins.

Chapter five reframes the issues and presents a review of best practices that promote pro-social behaviors and reduce or eliminate anti-social behavior by students. Here DiGiulio excels. He covers subjects as diverse as school architecture ("owned" versus "unowned" spaces), administrative and personnel policies that promote teaching pro-social behavior and community development of pro-social environments for students to learn appropriate behaviors. You will need to read the book to learn the details of DiGiulio’s many practical suggestions and examples of best practices.

Educate, Medicate or Litigate? is a provocative title. These are the brittle options contemporary American society has placed before educators; they are not the author’s alternatives. His work is more intellectually nuanced and much better informed on alternatives that work. The alternatives of the title, however, do reflect a naive (Platonic/Stoic) noetic current in modern America and other western cultures: knowledge by confrontation. In this model of knowing, there are teachers and pupils. Teachers know The Truth, pupils must learn it. If a pupil disagrees with a teacher only two cold alternatives exist: either the pupil is ignorant and can not learn or immoral and will not learn. An alternative noetic does exist: knowledge created through understanding. In this model there are no teachers or pupils. Everyone is a student, though some are more experienced and better informed than others, and disagreements are opportunities for new understandings. Had the author explored the historical context in which oriental legalism was introduced into western culture he would have found a nexus in the reign of Augustus Caesar from which governmental, legal and educational reforms sprang and remain in place to this day. The naive noetic of knowledge by confrontation was part of this nexus.

Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 104 Number 5, 2002, p. 893-895
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 10799, Date Accessed: 5/27/2022 12:16:18 PM

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About the Author
  • Brian Marcotte
    Strategic Analysis Inc.
    E-mail Author
    Dr. Marcotte is Director and CEO of Strategic Analysis, Inc. a research and education consulting company and a principal in thecollegium.org. Dr. Marcotte is a cognitive scientist and educator. He has published over 50 peer-reviewed research reports and reviews; the two most recent are: Marcotte, B. M. (1999) "Turbidity, arthropods and the evolution of perception: toward a new paradigm of marine Phanerozoic diversity". Marine Ecology Progress Series 191: 267-288; and Marcotte, B. M. (In Press) "Literacy, testing and the American educational agenda". American Language Review.
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