The Insanity of “Zero Tolerance”

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Portrait of Aristoteles. Pentelic marble, copy...

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I sometimes wonder if public school administrators have any of what Aristotle called “practical wisdom.” The proliferation of “zero-tolerance” policies that punish children for doing the kinds of things children normally do is insane.  Legitimate concerns about school violence have degenerated to suspending a student for weeks for bringing a squirt gun to school. A child who left her unloaded hunting rifle in the trunk of her car and was responsible enough to tell school officials about it was suspended. In North Carolina, a seven year old boy who kissed a girl in class was suspended for “sexual harassment.” A student had better be careful not to write a short story involving violence; he may be removed from class and suspended or expelled from school. Schools have become the haven of a “New Puritanism.” In the past, children enjoyed playing with toy guns or play weapons, and they still do. If a child leaves a toy gun in his pocket by accident and goes to school, he had better hope a teacher does not find it–some fool of a principle or superintendent may suspend him for the remainder of the school year. If a child has a headache and brings baby aspirin to take, he could be suspended in some school districts. Yep, aspirin use leads to marijuana use which leads to the use of LSD and cocaine. Riiigggghhhtttt….  I wonder how long it will be before students who espouse unpopular political opinions, especially from a conservative point of view, will be suspended or expelled.

Now if a student brings a loaded pistol to school, that student should be suspended or expelled. If a student brings a knife to school, depending on the type of knife and the circumstances, that student may be suspended. Considering individual circumstances is a major part of the virtue of phronesis, practical wisdom or what many people call “common sense.” It seems that an education degree, which in most colleges and universities is nearly worthless anyway (there are a few exceptions) is a ticket to losing one’s practical wisdom. The farther one goes up in administration in the public school system, the less practical wisdom there is. The Peter Principle is alive and well in public school districts across the country.

Common sense would take individual circumstances into account in each case. If a child brings a squirt gun to school by accident, simply talking to the child about being more responsible about bringing such items to school would be sufficient. As far as medications for real illnesses or conditions, if they are prescribed to the child or are legitimate non-prescription medicines for that child’s condition, then it makes no sense to deny the child the right to take those medications to school. And anyone with any common sense realizes that a seven year old’s puppy love for a girl is not “sexual harassment.” Most people in the real world realize this. They do not have M.Ed.s and Ed.Ds that suck the brain power clean out of a person’s skull. Actually these degrees should be called “M.Pc.s and Ep.Cs–“Master of Political Correctness” and “Doctor of Political Correctness.”

Parents need to pressure school districts to have common-sense policies instead of “zero-tolerance” policies. If school board members refuse to discipline overly zealous administrators, the public should vote such school board members out. The taxpayers who support the school system should have some say about who works in the district; if an administrator shows he has no practical wisdom when it comes to discipline, he should be fired without any penalty to those firing him. Only if public school administrators are held accountable will they be forced, even if they lack practical wisdom themselves, to at least practice it in their policies.


How to Better Train School Teachers

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Red House School

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Abolishing college and university education departments should be the first step in training better teachers for our K-12 public and private schools. Education is a soft field; other academics privately mock it. It is overly bound to theory, more interested in political indoctrination of children rather than teaching basic skills, and tends to focus on the new “trendy term” of the day (such as “facilitative teacher”) rather than on substantive ways to help actual teaching. Education school graduates may know a great deal about educational theory and new methodologies of teaching but very little about the basic grammar, mathematics, and history they will be teaching. Such graduates have been indoctrinated in left-wing political ideology, and emphasize diversity (which to many liberals only refers to race rather than true diversity of cultures). The goal of education becomes indoctrination in politically correct radical points of view. “Sex education” is taught as early as elementary school in some districts, sometimes with a unit on homosexuality. Students who espouse conservative political views have, at times, been castigated by the teacher, such as the student in Fayetteville, North Carolina who supported Mr. McCain in the last presidential election. Her teacher humiliated her in front of the class. That is a great way to teach diversity, isn’t it?

A better system of training teachers would be for them to get a solid liberal arts degree. Then they could learn their practical teaching skills in a one or two year internship. Political indoctrination should not be considered part of their mission, but the ability to teach basic skills such as reading, grammar, mathematics, history, and science. Pseudo degrees such as M.Ed.s would disappear and would no longer be helpful in promotion or salary decisions. However, if a teacher works toward and achieves an M.A. in English or History, this would be considered as a factor in raising a teacher’s salary or in promotion. Teachers would be intellectually curious and desire to learn more about the areas they teach. Surely such a system would be an improvement over a failed educational system that places American children behind many others in the world.