Tuesday, November 7, 2017

"Mrs. Green Syndrome" and Maintaining Order in School

In, 1999, Charles Colson and Nancy Pearcey published their now famous book entitled How Now Shall We Live? In this book, Colson argues for a Biblical worldview application in all walks of life. In the chapter entitled, “There Goes the Neighborhood,” Colson argued that order in society is rooted in an understanding of the creation account found in Genesis. The values that the school deems important are lived out when everyone assumes responsibility for maintaining those values. If the participants of our mini-society are held accountable by others (primarily by teachers and secondarily by students) then studies have clearly demonstrated that the violation of the policies and established practices is reduced. Colson, quoting one of his Prison Fellowship colleagues, called this the “Mrs. Green Syndrome.”

The Mrs. Green Syndrome occurred when she considered it her business to watch out for everyone's kids in the neighborhood. If she saw someone else doing something that was not right, she made it her business to correct it and even to inform parents of the misbehavior. If the children knew that they could not get away with anything, then they eventually stopped misbehaving in her neighborhood. Similarly in Charleston, South Carolina police chief Reuben Greenberg employed this concept when faced with open-air drug dealing that had taken over parts of the city. To combat this problem, Greenberg simply placed uniformed officers on the corners where the drugs were being sold to watch and maintain order. The drug-dealing had to stop and all that was necessary to make it stop was simply to place people who could enforce policy next to people who were breaking policy.

In our school, we see a watered-down version of the same proven theories and observations. In the school, we have enacted an Honor Code that must be signed by all of our students. One of the elements of the honor code is to turn in students that they witness cheating. Supposedly, we have nearly 300 students that are asked to monitor a Biblical value. If these young Mrs. Greenberg's enforce Biblical values, then our classrooms will see a sharp decrease in the amount of cheating that may be occurring. This establishes an orderly society in the classroom and similarly in our school. Likewise in Chapel, we have noticed some students were misbehaving during service. It stands to reason that if those that are called to maintain order in the school simply stood on the street corner of misbehavior where misconduct was occurring then the misbehavior would diminish.

It is everyone's responsibility to monitor and correct incorrect misbehavior when we see it and to enforce policies, but if we are not in proximity to the behavior, it will be close to impossible to maintain the order that is necessary for the decorum that is expected for Chapel Services here at Hickory Grove. In order to correct these misbehaviors, teachers will need to be near their students throughout the service.

In the fourth century St. Augustine taught that peace or shalom is the “tranquillitas ordinis” produced by order. I urge students and teachers to insist on having tranquillitas ordinis in our classrooms and in our school. It will be our example to the world of our having met the commands of the Lord that have been ordered in the creation and will bring the peace that you seek in your classroom. Thank you in advance for what you are doing to maintain the order for our school.

Colson, C. W., & Pearcey, N. (2004). How now shall we live? Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House.