Could it be? Is it possible? Has school administrator incompetence, fearfulness, power abuse and cruelty finally reached its apotheosis?
In Loveland, Colorado, 7-year-old Mary Blair Elementary School student Alex Watkins was suspended by the Thompson School District for going through the motions of throwing an imaginary hand grenade at an equally imaginary box that contained “something evil,” with the admirable purpose of saving the world, doing so on what is anachronistically called a “school playground.” The imaginary grenade caused the imaginary box to be vaporized in an imaginary explosion.
The imaginary minds of one or more teachers who witnessed this carnage ignited in fear and anger. Of course, an overly-broad, incompetently drafted, utterly stupid no-tolerance rule was involved: Mary Blair Elementary School bans imaginary fighting and imaginary weaponry. The only bright side of this disgraceful abuse of an innocent child and blatant attempt at thought-control is that it might finally provide the absolute end point on the spectrum of school administration no-tolerance incompetence. Your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz question for today is..
Last month I asked the Ethics Alarms brain trust to help me develop a scale for measuring school anti-violence no-tolerance derangement, using previous examples highlighted here. We did not reach a consensus on the worst of the worst. “Curmies” authority Rick Jones felt that punishing a student for writing a poem about the Newtown shooting should head the list; there was also support for giving the top spot to my personal favorite, the pizza gun, or to the school that wouldn’t let a deaf toddler sign his own name, Hunter, because it required making the shape of a gun with his fingers. (Had he been my son, I would have been sorely tempted to re-name him “Upyours.”) These and one or two others fell into what reader Michael R. termed “Level 10: Complete overreaction, no action should have been taken at all.” Clearly, what Alex did was a Level 10 at least. I think there’s a good argument that it is a Level 11.
Unlike the pizza gun, the Kitty Bob-Boo bubble gun and the kid that made a finger gun at another child and said “bang!”, no individual was exposed to a “threat,” harmless and absurd or not. Unlike the recent incident where the high school student was suspended for using a photo of an assault weapon as computer wallpaper, the tiny LEGO gun, and the various incidents where students have been punished for drawing guns, no tangible representation image or a representation of a real weapon was involved. And in contrast to the high school author who was punished for writing about the Sandy Hook tragedy in her own journal, there was no link whatsoever to an actual school shooting.
No, Alex was on a playground, playing. He was playing the way that children have played since civilization began, imagining themselves as heroes, vanquishing dragons, Dracula, Jack the Ripper, the Boogie man, Jesse James, Nazis, Communist invaders, Osama Bin Laden, the Terminator or Voldemort. There was nothing wrong, dangerous, threatening or sinister about what he did, and much that was healthy. Between television and videogames, children have little opportunity to exercise their imaginations these days, and when a child does, he or she should be encouraged, his creativity nurtured and praised, not stifled because some gray, dim, fearful, bullying bureaucrats think they have the right to tell him what adventures he can think about, imagine, or conjure in his dreams.
I wish I could say that this is the bottom of the barrel, but I have been disappointed before. The foolish thought police who are scattered through our communities, legislatures and schools are capable of outrages no rational person can imagine, and we underestimate them at our children’s peril. They can do worse, which is why removing them from positions of responsibility is imperative. If it will help, someone should ask Alex to throw an imaginary hand grenade at them, for what they do, if not what they intend, is evil indeed.
Pointer: Tim Levier (Thanks, Tim, and sorry it was late!)
Facts: Denver Post
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