Punishment His Way

The other day, I sent DevraDoWrite a note about one of her postings. She used my message–that’s how things work in the blogosphere–and wrote:

In response to my mention of the Army’s PsyOps division having used music as a weapon, Mr.Rifftides sent this message:

I remember that a few years ago there was quite a ruckus about the high school principal who punished his misbehaving inner-city students by making them listen to Frank Sinatra recordings. It may have been Chicago. If I turn up details, I’ll let you know.

I hope he does turn up the details; thats a story I’d like to hear.

I tracked down the story, surprised at how long ago it was. Here’s a hint at the end of an item by Arthur Higbee in the International Herald Tribune of February 20, 1993.

With corporal punishment now illegal in about half the 50 states, schoolteachers are keeping pupils in line in more imaginative ways, The Washington Post reports. Mark Twain’s Aunt Sally had it right, teachers agreed at a recent conference in Washington on “creative detention.” Just as she sent a misbehaving Tom Sawyer to whitewash the fence, so teachers are using troublemakers to scrub or scrape or sod. When Joyce Perkins of Sour Lake, Texas, hears her 12-year-olds use bad language, she marches them to the telephone and makes them call their mothers and repeat the words syllable by syllable. Bruce Janu of Chicago says that when his high schoolers get out of line, he makes them listen to old Frank Sinatra records.

That was hard enough to find. After another hour of trolling, I came up with all of the story. This is from the Columbus, Ohio, Dispatch by way of the 1993 edition of the World Almanac and Book of Facts.

Bruce Janu has a different kind of detention. The social science teacher punishes troublemaking students by making them stay after school and listen to Frank Sinatra for a half-hour. Janu created the Frank Sinatra Detention Club last year at Riverside-Brookfield High School in Riverside, Illinois. “You’ve got a Frank,” he tells unruly students. The 24-year-old teacher said he loves Sinatra’s music but realizes that teen-agers these days would rather listen to rap or Madonna. “The kids hate it,” he said. “This is the worst thing that has ever happened to them.” Senior Mike Niesluchowski received two Franks in one day, meaning he had to listen to Ol’ Blue Eyes for an hour. “It just got to where he couldn’t stand it,” he said.

My god, Madonna has been around that long?
I tried to learn whether Sinatra knew about the detention and had anything to say about it, but there is no evidence that he did. It might not have been printable in a family blog, anyway. Or would he have laughed?

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