On the heels of Genius or Toxic? and the note a working mother placed on the refrigerator comes a sign taped to the front door of a school.

Sign on the front door at a Catholic high school for boys in Little Rock, Arkansas.

Sign on the front door at a Catholic high school for boys in Little Rock, Arkansas.

Genius or Toxic: Part II

“If you are a parent,” the Washington Post article begins, “racing to deliver your son’s forgotten Algebra assignment to Catholic High School for Boys in Little Rock, Arkansas, principal Steve Straessle has a little advice: stop and turn around.

The article goes on to describe how the school prohibits parents from delivering forgotten lunches or assignments for their sons, an expectation the school needs to remind parents off at the beginning of each new school year.

The school’s Facebook page posted a picture of the sign and within days the post had been shared nearly 120,000 times, as well as received 3,700 comments from parents “debating whether it was ethical, fair, or wise to punish teens when their memories fail.”

For its part, the school just wants to teach students to be independent and self-reliant. Straessle explained that they want the boys to think “beyond the default switch of relying on their parents when they need help. We just want a boy to figure out what comes next when mom or dad are not there to guide them. We’ve been amazed that a school teaching self-reliance and personal responsibility seems like a novel idea.”

The school’s strategy has proven controversial and polarizing online. One comment stated that “children don’t learn well on an empty stomach . . . so this is stupid.” Another comment called the strategy “child abuse.” The principal explained that if a lunch is forgotten the student can get an IOU from the cafeteria or borrow money from a friend. He admitted, though, that late assignments can earn less points. Many commenters felt the strategy was very appropriate and that students would learn responsibility as they faced natural consequences.

So what do we think of this school’s “stop and turn around” policy? Genius or toxic? This one seems a bit easier to call than the refrigerator note. This strategy can be genius as long as the school maintains a compassionate spirit in the policy’s implementation. The school seems to really want to help the boys to learn to be responsible, not necessarily to simply focus on catching the boys’ mistakes and teaching them a lesson. They provided for solutions in case the boys forgot something at home, although the solution was never quite as good as if they remembered the stuff in the first place.

What do you think?


A mother taped this note to the refrigerator for her children.

A mother taped this note to the refrigerator for her children.

The refrigerator note featured in the last blog really generated interest. The responses were very insightful and contributed to a great online discussion involving choice theorists around the world. I could say more about the refrigerator note, but several people with a lot of experience and expertise in choice theory shared their insights in their responses to the blog post. I encourage you to read their letters.


The view from the mens' bathroom, if you can believe that.

The view from the mens’ bathroom, if you can believe that.

My stay in Japan has been so positive and such a learning experience! As I write I am looking out across Lake Biwako in the Shiga Prefecture. Beautiful white clouds are slowly floating across the sky; sailboats dot the water; and beautiful buildings meet the shore for as far as the eye can see. The Choice Theory Conference, sponsored by the William Glasser Institute – Japan, is over, yet the memories of new friends are strong and clear in my mind. More on my Japan experience soon.