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Taller Fences Will Not Put An End To School Violence

1763 words - 8 pages

Do high schools manufacture students or prisoners? The Columbine High School

shootings in Littleton, Colorado pressed into the minds of Americans that the

presence of violence in our high schools is real, and if not dealt with

effectively, will continue to plague the secondary school system. As a

result, school administrators increased measures of safety at their

respective schools, mainly in urban areas. These measures include, but are

not limited to, metal detectors, surveillance cameras and security


School officials feel that safety measures such as these will reduce the

potential and fear of violence among high school students. ...view middle of the document...

Critical Analysis

Garfield High School in East Los Angeles is either the second or third

largest high school in the country; at any given time, the school population

is between 4,400 to 4,600 students. I visited Garfield High School to better

understand how safety measures are being implemented on high school campuses..

An analysis of this observation and theoretical perspectives from Pedro

Noguera, Michel Foucault and George Herbert Mead are used to interpret safety

measures, and make alternative suggestions for preventing violence.

It has always been a priority for educators to control students.

Historically, Noguera (1995) believes that educators, since the late

nineteenth century, have been agents of social control. However, when social

and cultural change in the 1960's transpired, the educator's role of control

agent began to change. Amidst this change was the acceptance that less

control would be in the best interest of educators and students alike. Over

the past 35 years, school officials have dealt with the problem of violence

in schools, but the criminal acts committed of late have stunned both school

officials and society, which has prompted school officials to take extreme

violence prevention measures. Is this a resurgence in the role of educators

from the late nineteenth century, "when public schools were profoundly

influenced by the prevailing conception of the asylum" (Noguera 1995)?

Foucault's theory of panopticism will shed some light on this resurgence of

control, and the effect it could have on students.

In Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison, Michel Foucault describes

the workings of Jeremy Bentham's panopticon, an architectural design that

permits a centralized guard to monitor all of an institution's inmates.

Foucault explains that the ultimate goal is for an inmate to internalize the

mechanism of surveillance established by the building. As a laboratory,

"this machine can be used to carry out experiments, to alter behavior and to

train individuals" (Foucault, 1975). From an educational perspective, the

concept of panopticism defines power relations through prison-like mechanisms

used to prevent violence.

Post Columbine, high school administrations are exercising their power by

adjusting existing safety policies or developing new ones. Safety measures

like metal detectors, surveillance cameras and security personnel are

measures that, if school officials are not careful with their implementation,

might be misinterpreted by high school students. George Herbert Mead is a

social psychologist whose work describes language as communication through

"significant symbols." Significant symbols are a set of responses between

individuals about an idea or object, which initiate an action. That is, if a

metal detector or...

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