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.