Zero-tolerance --- zero-thought

Posted: Jun 04, 2004 12:00 AM

School is out for the summer.  I know it?s so, because the malls are full of slouching teenaged boys doing their best imitations of brook trout while stalking teenaged flat-bellies dressed like hookers with tail-bone tattoos and jewelry hanging off their ears, eyebrows, noses, navels and God knows what else. 

I guess that in a way we should be breathing a sigh of relief.  For 75 days or so our kids have escaped the clutches of that bureaucratic government-employee union operated system of quasi-instructional gulags we sometimes erroneously refer to as ?public schools.?  They?re not ?public schools,? you see;  they?re GOVERNMENT schools.

Can someone please explain to this clueless radio talk show host just why so many Americans are not only willing, but apparently anxious to turn over what is supposed to be the most precious things in their lives, their children, to the government to be educated?  Sorry.  I don?t get it!  You parents can spend an entire evening drinking cheap wine, and no matter how high the blood-alcohol level rises, you can?t come up with the name of one single task that government performs better or more efficiently than the private sector.  Plunder comes to mind, but when you consult the history books you find out that Genghis Kahn still holds most of the world records in plunder, and he was a private operation --- with quite a bit of outsourcing.

I know this is dreaming, and I know that government school administrators are going to be spending quite a lot of time during the summer conjuring up new ways to tax and spend, but is there any chance at all that some of them could give some thought to fixing this idiotic ?zero-tolerance? thing they?re all so proud of?

Let?s review a few of the more asinine (sorry, I would like to use a stronger word, but is a classy place) government school zero-tolerance outrages.

  • Wisconsin:  A sixth-grader gets suspended because of a science project.  The project involved cutting an onion.  He brought a kitchen knife to school.  Bad sixth-grader.

  • Georgia:  Ashley is in the sixth grade.  She loves Tweety Bird.  She has her wallet on a Tweety Bird keychain.  The government employees running her particular government school decide that her keychain is a weapon.  She could strangle someone with it.  (I guess ? if they had a neck the size of a pencil.) Ashley ? suspended.  Thankfully her father sees the light and sends her to a private school.

  • Texas:  This zero-tolerance idiocy comes from Ft. Worth.  Cory Henson plays baseball on the Diamond Hill-Jarvis baseball team.  In the trunk of his car is his baseball equipment, including aluminum bats.  In the front seat of his car we have a souvenir baseball bat.  It is made of wood and 8? long.  That?s not as long as a piece of copy paper is wide.  Ft. Worth government school officials decide that the 8? bat is a weapon!  The real aluminum baseball bats aren?t.  I wonder if these school officials know that virtually every car in the student parking lot has a weapon in the trunk.  It?s called a lug wrench.  Now If you want to clobber someone, which would you choose?  The 8? wooden bat or the two-pound steel lug wrench?

  • Missouri:  October of 2001.  It is just a month after the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center.  A fifth-grade student draws a picture of an airplane flying into a building.  Suspended. 

  • A third-grader has a brother serving in the Army in Afghanistan.  The proud third-grader draws a picture of his brother.  The drawing shows his brother with a gun.  Suspended.

I could take the easy way out here, use about three more examples from the endless number of stories of zero-tolerance idiocy, and end with ?Ain?t that typical.?  I could, but I won?t.

It might be more productive to end with a question.

Just what are we trying to accomplish in these government schools? Now the real answer here may be that we?re simply trying to create a system that guarantees long-term employment to government myrmidons who would have no realistic chance of obtaining gainful employment with comparable remuneration in the private sector.  Some, though, would argue that we?re actually trying to instill in our children some reasonable skills in the area of rational decision making.  If that?s so, give us an ?F.?

No child or young adult is going to learn anything remotely positive by watching a classmate get kicked out of school because school officials consider a small two-ounce wooden baseball bat to be a weapon, but a large 32 ounce metal bat to be benign.  All our youngsters learn watching official behavior such as this is that, by and large, adults are curious, and adults who work for government schools are curiouser than most.  

Right now the students are home with their video games right now, or chasing the girls who smoke (they?re easier).  Why not take advantage of the lull to reconsider these zero-tolerance policies.  There?s no time like now to teach our young adults that there are very few issues that appear in only black or white. 

Part of maturity is developing the idea to recognize shades of grey.  If these students see that their teachers and administrators aren?t up to the task, why should they even try?