I’m not very technologically advanced, so I was wondering ... is it possible for computers and humans to pass the same virus back and forth? Because I think that’s what’s been going on in my house. If I’m not down with some sort of malignant virus, the machine is. I had to blow Taps for my former partner in crime this past weekend after briefly admitting it to the tech hospital, where it was promptly ignored to death. The proprietor’s unctuous demeanor revived childhood memories of Eddie Haskell. We now have a spanking new computer. Hopefully it will stay healthy a tad longer than the last few. I am not optimistic.
Anyway, I apologize for my recent lack of productivity. Of course, for those for whom my absence is an answered prayer — you’re welcome!
Recently, a 7-year-old Maryland boy was handed down a two-day suspension from school for “terroristic” activity. The activity in question was eating a strawberry-flavored Pop Tart. Of course, it must be said that the lad used the offending pastry to brutalize his classmates. He callously and with malice aforethought gnawed the snack into some approximation of a gun. He then – and here’s the scary part – pointed this cannon at classmates and said “Bang!” I myself have been frightened by roving tartlets over the years, but reports of this foul deed bruised my sensibilities.
Descriptions of this horrific weapon varied, of course, and I wound up substituting brown-sugar, cinnamon for strawberry. But in trying to re-create the crime I kept biting off too much of the “barrel” of my Pop-gun. What I wound up with was a frosted lump in the vague shape of an “L.” I tried to frighten my neighbor’s dog with it. That dog sure loves Pop Tarts.
Welcome to the world of zero tolerance.
In the last march of time, kids from all over the nation have been suspended and — occasionally — permanently expelled from public schools over such offences as making an “L” shaped Lego-gun and playfully pointing bare fingers at classmates. In one instance, a young girl simply talked about a toy she had at home that blew bubbles. It was pistol-shaped — and pink.
We all know about the escalating incidences of school violence that have blossomed into an epidemic over the last several decades. If I’ve had a little sport at the expense of a ridiculous circumstance, I find no levity whatsoever in the violence. I vividly remember Sandy Hook. It sickens me still.
But that doesn’t negate common sense.
The executive director of the American Association of School Administrators says that “Talking about guns or using your fingers to point like a gun is no longer tolerant or prudent.” He goes on to say that “Everybody has to adjust. Children are being murdered in the classroom. It’s a new world.”
Horse radish. It’s the same old world. It is populated with evil as well as good people. The ratios vary — but not by much. That hasn’t changed since man crawled out of the primordial ooze. What’s changed is that we seem to have lost all perspective about what constitutes a threat to our children and our communities.
I hate to lapse into old geezer-speak, but it’s occasionally necessary. As elementary schoolchildren we were not allowed to bring toys of any description to school. Naturally, that included toy guns.
Those who did were promptly relieved of them by the teacher. One of the highlights of the last day of school, each year, was getting back all of your contraband.
Neither, incidentally, were we allowed to assault (mock or otherwise) our classmates.
The major difference between then and now is that the corrective measures utilized generally fit the transgression. A raised eyebrow or an outstretched hand often did the trick.
What did not happen, though, was the criminalization of the various natural impulses that children are subject to. Kids were occasionally sent home, but it was for the relatively rare grave offense, like fighting or other genuine acts of physical and/or verbal aggression.
Zero tolerance exists for one purpose only. And that is so that school administrators and local government officials (ie: school boards) can insure themselves against fault for any given negative situation that might arise. This leaves them free to ignore the critical thinking and analytical skills that they were hired (or elected) to employ. Another, less pleasant term for this is “covering one’s derriere.”
Look, I’m not defending inappropriate behavior. Kids probably shouldn’t be pointing cocked fingers at classmates and saying “Bang!”
All I’m saying is that a measured “Stop that” might be a sufficient response. Overuse (indeed, institutionalization) of suspension and expulsion is but one more example of trigger-happy behavior. And what lesson can our kids take from that?
Bud Wright is a published author and Pasquotank County resident