The Norm Letter #6
August 2012


Elementary, Middle, High School

The function of the school is to police,
to babysit, and to break spirit.

- Erik Erikson, psychiatrist

Parents by the millions have responded to the annual "Back to School!" call of corporate America, followed by hordes of children with backpacks of mixed emotions. They are wise: They know this is a Basic Wrong, but they lack the power to change it.

When I went to school in Upstate New York, it was in the Forties, and violence was all but unheard of; even schoolyard fights were rare. (I was involved in only one, and lost.) And teacher vs. student violence was unthinkable. The best male teachers had been drafted, incompetent substitutes became permanent, and we all had a pretty good time. But we had a central Purpose, and that was winning the War against Hitler and Hiro Hito.

In those days if a student objected to the rules that administration made up, sitting in their meeting-room leather chairs, the response was simply, You have no rights. If you are allowed to do something, consider it a priviledge granted to you out of the kindness of our hearts.

I knew then it was Fascism, politically speaking, but there was no way for students to organize. "Student Council" was, we all knew, a joke; students sucking up to Authority. Nobody repected them, including the authorities. There is no dignity in being used. The student suck-ups were likely the "future leaders", but what is the value of mediocre leadership?

But enuf.

Today is a different game. The scam is unveiled, and it is clear to all that the School is an arm of the Goverment. In 1956 we looked up and saw the Soviet’s Sputnik orbiting above us. Soon after a tiny U.S. Admiral drafted all schoolchildren to compete with the "Godless Communists" for the glory of America. The so-called "plant" must prepare "products" for the corporate/government machine. "Back to Basics" has been the mantra ever since.

The "No Child Left Behind" scam of the Bush administration had it’s run of failure, and the public school system is now a shambles, so true reform may now be possible. But not unless the rights of the incarcerated population – I mean the kids – are taken seriously.

Enter Dr. Boyer P. August, Director of the Center for the Protection of Human Rights in Education. If you are in elementary, middle, or high school in the U.S., or a parent of such a child, you need to know what their rights are, and your own as well. You will not find out by asking the school administrators. During my years of teaching in public school, colleges and universities, I witnessed administrators, again and again, lie thru their teeth with impunity. Because they are not educators, they are politicians.

Parents and children need to ask:


  • been embarrassed in front of the class by a teacher?
  • been denied permission to go to the bathroom?
  • been prohibited from having a cellphone while at school?
  • served detention during lunch or on Saturday?
  • been given laps or pushups as a punishment?
  • been stopped from passing out petitions?
  • been prohibited from publishing a contraversial article, or an alternative newspaper, or soliciting money for same?

ALL OF THE ABOVE are violations of State Law, at least in California. If not in your state, you can easily find out by an Internet search.

There is no need to feel alone and defenseless. Boyer P. August, Director of the Center for the Protection of Human Right in Education, has been working for, and defending the rights of school children for many years. You can ask him for a copy of his widely read "A Handbook on Student Rights and Responsibilities – With an emphasis on California Law". This is a 170-page book that is so heavily researched in State Law that Dr. August is regarded as the foremost authority on the civil rights of school children.

The great psychotherapist Erik Erikson said, "The function of schooling is to police, to babysit, and to break spirit." And it does this so successfully that all efforts of reform have failed. The children need to know they have civil rights, and know they can insist upon their being respected. – Norm

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