Cookies and Capacitors

A letter to Chad Ellefson

Thu, Jan 27, 2011 at 9:07PM

The lunch detention I am scheduled to serve on January 28, 2011, is absurd and unjust. My Disciplinary Referral e-mail message sent earlier today stated the following:

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines the word “profane” as “treating (something sacred) with abuse, irreverence, or contempt.” My language was neither abusive nor disrespectful because I intentionally omitted the names of the teacher, classmates, and specific indecencies which has attributed towards my anger. Instead, I directly referred to the class (a noun, a thing) and its curriculum. My words did not reference any individuals; therefore direct disrespect (except to the course’s curriculum) did not occur.

I used the word “f*ck” because a more shocking word did not come to my mind; at least not one that could effectively portray my anger while still drawing the attention to the poor class structure, and teaching methods, of AP Computer Science. I am certainly glad that this predicament forth came to a staff member holding a position of elevated authority. AP Computer Science must be investigated as it provides a poor learning environment for students wishing to receive an effective education. It is for this reason that I have discontinued the course to pursue more independent educational studies.

In addition, a detention would be ill-fitting for my, as you perceive it, infraction. The section titled “Serving Detentions” on page thirty-four of the Hartford Union High School Parent & Student Handbook: Policies & Procedures 2010-2011, states,

When some students choose to disregard the right of others to learn by disrupting [the classroom] environment, we believe it is the responsibility of the school to provide appropriate consequences designed to eliminate this disruptive behavior. […] Consequences for inappropriate behavior should be prompt, appropriate, equitable, and progressive.

Firstly, my words have not been disruptive to the learning environment as they were written and never verbally stated. I wasted zero seconds of my classmates' time by expressing my feelings, privately, through paper rather than air. Secondly, my assigned consequence is not prompt; I was referred eight days ago without any contact from the school’s administrative staff in accordance to my statement. Thirdly, a detention during lunch is not appropriate: I see no reason to waste my time when I have not disrupted a class. If one were to argue the purpose of detention is to let a student reflect upon his or her actions, then I have already done that through the writing of this letter. Another view could be that the detention (as stated in the handbook) is “designed to eliminate this disruptive behavior.” The behavior has been eliminated, already, without official disciplinary action. Finally, a detention would not be appropriate or equitable since time cannot be converted to other units as any conversion would be subjective to the issuer’s discretion. A detention would not appropriately pertain to any of the aforementioned properties of issuance.

An alternative aspect that should be questioned is whether or not a detention will alter my behavior. It will not. My feelings toward AP Computer Science (which extend to all aspects of the current educational model) have only grown proportionately as time increases. A detention will have no other effect than to aggravate my attitude which may increase the possibility of future “inappropriate behavior.”

It would appear that you, Mr. Ellefson, are faced with quite the conundrum. I believe this type of outburst rarely occurs, so you feel as though you can easily, but unlawfully, sentence students to detentions, rather than understand what could cause me to write such harsh words. Additionally, do you really believe that you know me well enough to determine a suitable punishment? Please correct me if I am wrong, but you had no idea whom you were meeting today, and why, until you read my referral sheet. As many of my teachers would contest, I am a difficult individual to accurately comprehend. I disbelieve in your ability to accurately sentence me without knowing my typical behavior (you should note that this is my first infraction in all my years attending HUHS).

My proposal for correcting my “wrongful” attitude is simple: do nothing. Punishment will not alter my attitude or feelings towards this educational institution. It will only serve to provoke me. I assure you that the next time I speak out about the fallacies of classrooms, it will be much more tastefully written and in a much less-direct manner than through a semester exam.