Every student at Mingus Union High School in Cottonwood, Ariz. is now required to wear color-coded ID badges. In the past, red badges denoted a student’s rank as an underclassman. Juniors and seniors wore gray badges. Beyond distinguishing between older and younger students, color coding provided a sense of progression, rank and seniority. However, last year the school decided to take a different direction in categorizing students. Mingus Union forced academically underperforming students to carry a red badge — a virtual scarlet letter — to set them apart from the rest of their peers.
The shaming of her daughter didn’t sit well with the mom of one such upperclassman, Jordan Pickett. She had missed a lot of school due to a medical ailment and her grades suffered as a result. “It didn’t seem right,” Pickett’s mother told the Today show.
It isn’t right. Mingus Union reinforces an aspect of American culture that has educators believing they can teach students by punishing and shaming them. Shaming is the worst method of teaching, because it manipulates kids’ fear of alienation and stigma. It involves giving up on teaching students, and leaves them with only those lessons that can be learned from adult-sanctioned ridicule and mockery. Shaming students is the bullying that schools regularly endorse.