cover image Sit Down and Shut Up: How Discipline Can Set Students Free

Sit Down and Shut Up: How Discipline Can Set Students Free

Cinque Henderson. St. Martin’s, $27.99 (256p) ISBN 978-1-250-10188-4

In this polemic, Henderson, who spent a year as a substitute teacher in L.A. public high schools, asserts that “in our toughest schools it’s not the teachers’ fault, it’s the students’ ” when kids aren’t learning. He jumps off from his year of experience as a sub into a broad analysis of the social systems that have led to problems for the current generation of young people, especially young men of color, and a departure from traditional and (in his view) preferable norms of intergenerational respect. He defends classroom teachers, sometimes accused of failing their students; asserts that black teen boys require the threat of physical dominance from male authority figures who can physically overpower them; rants against “new-age, largely white education reformers,” charter schools, and a notion of “kids’ rights” that prevents schools from meting out serious consequences; and endorses respectability politics for black uplift. He makes proclamations more frequently than arguments: typical statements include “I’m sure education theorists will say you shouldn’t ever get angry at kids. That’s nonsense” (with no support for the claim about education theorists’ views, and no explanation of why those views might be wrong). Henderson’s bold but underresearched call for a return to the highly gendered, conservative values of an earlier generation reads more like part of a dinner party debate than a serious educational proposal. (Aug.)