The state as our therapist

Schools are doing their part against guns by punishing children for playing.  George Will recounts some of the latest absurdities, while also making a larger point:  The government, through our schools, but also in other venues, is becoming our therapist.

Joshua Welch — a boy, wouldn’t you know; no good can come of these turbulent creatures — who is 7, was suspended from second grade in Maryland’s Anne Arundel County last week because of his “Pop-Tart pistol.” While eating a rectangular fruit-filled sugary something — nutritionist Michelle Obama probably disapproves of it, and don’t let Michael Bloomberg get started — Joshua tried biting it into the shape of a mountain but decided it looked more like a gun. So with gender-specific perversity, he did the natural thing. He said, “Bang, bang.”

But is this really natural? Or is nature taking a back seat to nurture, yet again? Is Joshua’s “bang, bang” a manifestation of some prompting in our defective social atmosphere, and therefore something society could and should stamp out?

While some might enjoy dog-paddling around in this deep philosophic water, Joshua’s school, taking its cue from Hamlet, did not allow its resolve to be “sicklied o’er with the pale cast of thought.” More eager to act than to think, the school suspended Joshua and sent a letter to all the pupils’ parents, urging them to discuss the “incident” — which the school includes in the category “classroom disruptions” — with their children “in a manner you deem most appropriate.”

Ah, yes. The all-purpose adjective “appropriate.” The letter said “one of our students used food to make inappropriate gestures” and, although “no physical threats were made and no one was harmed,” the code of student conduct stipulates “appropriate consequences.” The letter, suffused with the therapeutic ethic, suggested that parents help their children “share their feelings” about all this. It also said the school counselor is available, presumably to cope with Post-Pastry Trauma Syndrome.

By now, Americans may be numb to such imbecilities committed by the government institutions to which they entrust their children for instruction. Nothing surprises after that 5-year-old Pennsylvania girl was labeled a “terroristic threat,” suspended from school and ordered to undergo a psychological evaluation because she talked about shooting herself and others with her Hello Kitty gun that shoots bubbles. But looking on the bright side, perhaps we should welcome these multiplying episodes as tutorials about the nature of the regulatory state that swaddles us ever more snuggly with its caring.

via George Will: Schools protecting us from the Pop-Tart terrorist – The Washington Post.

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • DonS

    Hopefully, everyone reading this blog agrees that this is yet another of a series of absurdities perpetrated by an education establishment that is completely ungrounded, accepting no absolute standards or moral code upon which to base their decisions, and thus substituting what Scripture describes as the foolishness of man.

    A state senator in Maryland is fighting back by introducing the “toaster pastry gun bill” of 2013: http://www.theglobaldispatch.com/maryland-state-senator-proposes-finger-gun-bill-to-protest-students-freedom-to-go-pow-61315/

    The bill provides that educators may not suspend or otherwise discipline children merely for what we all routinely always understood to be mere child’s play — playing with toy guns in a harmless and nonthreatening way. Best of all, it provides that the educator violating this law must undergo mandatory counseling! :-)

    Educators who suspend children for routine play should certainly be counseled. Of course, the bill will be buried by the all-powerful education establishment, no doubt.

  • James Sarver

    The voters of that county should “share their feelings” with the school board that allows such nonsense by making the equivalent of an “inappropriate gesture” with their ballots.

  • Steve Billingsley

    Glenn Reynolds of the Instapundit blog puts it very well.
    “Does putting your children in government schools amount to parental malpractice?”
    I know, I know there are many wonderful teachers and administrators in public schools – I get that. But these kinds of absurdities make one shake your head and wonder what is next.

  • Pete

    This account, in the context of a society that tolerates all manner of violent imagery in movies, music and video games, reeks of straining at gnats and swallowing camels.

  • RobC

    We live in such a paternalistic society and it’s only growing more so. Bloomberg the Soda Pop Nazi is a prime example of the shift from soft paternalism to hard paternalism.

  • Orianna Laun

    Parents who try to shelter their children from playing with guns must also remove all sticks from their yard and coat hangers from their closets. It is absurd to punish a seven-year-old so drastically when he can just go home and turn on his TV and watch people shoot other people. Aside from which, what is he learning? “I must never do this again”? More likely it is, “Hey, this created quite a stir. What can I do next?” Today pastry guns, tomorrow waffle cannons? Meanwhile, elsewhere in the school there are likely more traumatized children not because of a food weapon, but because of other more real-life problems caused by stuff the school has taught for years that they and their parents have believed. “Safe sex” has harmed more children than a few noises uttered and accompanied by a half-eaten sweet, likely containing high fructose corn syrup (but no trans fats–those have been banned).

  • fjsteve

    Orianna, don’t forget straws and spit wads. These insidious tools of the devil are virtual gateway toys leading children to the use of harder and harder projectile devices. In fact, I’m surprised Bloomberg went after the soft drinks when the real danger is virtually given away with every soft drink sold at a restaurant or movie theater. The evils of this world are manifest!

  • Momof3inTenn

    Just one of a myriad of reasons I am thankful for homeschooling…

  • Jon

    @1, that’s just what’s needed, more absurd laws to combat the absurd actions of the government.

    It gives new life to Reagan’s sarcastic quip: “I’m from the Government; I’m, here to help you.”

  • http://www.bikebubba.blogspot.com bike bubba

    Jon, you’ll do well to warn us before writingthe nine most terrifying words in the English language. :^)

    I think next up for the young man ought to be to use a Barbie doll as a gun, as one of my nephews did after his well-meaning mother denied him his right to pretend to keep and bear arms. Hopefully that would make some heads explode among the politically correct.

    My 17 month old was using a pair of toenail clippers as a gun last night. :^)

  • http://pekoponian.blogspot.com pekoponian

    bike bubba- If your nephew’s mom really wanted to protect her children, she should never have let them play with Barbie! She gives young girls negative body image messages, or something. :-)

  • Klasie Kraalogies

    I’m a bit reticent to comment on the specific story in this case – as happened previously, there is often a back story not revealed to the media. That being said, a lot depends on the school, and the local school board. Here in Canada, we are constantly making fun of the idiocies perpetrated by some school boards in southern Ontario – where the whole bubble mentality seems to have gotten out of hand. Here in SK, it is a lot less so – but there is still a difference between city schools, and rural/small town schools, such as the one my kids attend. While violence isn’t tolerated, there is a lot more common sense in dealing with issues. Plus, they have a lot more free speech in class – they are often debating politics, religion etc etc – and the teachers (except maybe one, or two) let them speak their minds.

    What I’m trying to say is that it is easy for a journalist to make a lot out of a few incidents, but it is much more difficult to prove a universal trend.

    Of course, here in Canada a Facebook meme did the rounds recently – two pictures – Kindersurprise (a German product – a chocolate egg with a small toy inside), and a semi-automatic. The Kindersurprise is highly illegal down south, the gun not so much…..

  • dust
  • http://theoldadam.com/ theoldadam

    That’s what happens when the left takes over something.

    It ruins it.

  • Tom Hering

    Might schools fearing a lawsuit – from a parent claiming their child was traumatized because the school allowed another child to finger shoot him or her – have anything to do with this?

  • John C

    Will’s ability to divine the national mood from some obscure incident is truly remarkable.
    He is just another rightwing hack who doth practise the alchemist’s art of turning dross into a weakly column.

  • sg

    Might schools fearing a lawsuit – from a parent claiming their child was traumatized because the school allowed another child to finger shoot him or her – have anything to do with this?

    Okay, but we a have a sane judiciary to deal with frivolous lawsuits, don’t we? In Germany, the judge would just dismiss such a case and charge the plaintiff court costs.

  • sg

    @14

    Those folks are not on the left! They are just paranoid authoritarian nuts. Eliminating childhood is not an objective of the left. I wish we had a left. We just have way too many crazies who have hijacked the left.

  • Dr Luther in the 21st Century

    I wonder if this isn’t the product of over protective thinking that seems to permeate that region concerning guns. I am completely hypothesizing here so if I am wrong, I am wrong; just throwing out a what if. I remember years ago, family from that area freaking out because I let younger cousins play with my toy guns. I was completely caught off guard, by the reaction. It was as if they thought that by playing with a toy gun the kids were going to be gun wielding maniacs. And I wonder if that mindset has not become the self-reinforced group think of the region. Play with toy guns, become gun wielding crazy person. Add in educators, who seemed to have become an overly panicked lot fueled by news reports of wild eyed assault rifle nuts and I am not surprised they freaked over a pastry.

  • DonS

    Jon @ 9: It’s absurd that such a law would ever be needed, I’ll grant you that.

    You pick a funny place to draw the line on absurd laws/regulations. I take it that you don’t have any problem with school policies requiring “zero tolerance” suspensions for “toaster pastry” or finger guns, or for having a Tylenol in your pocket?

    A truly useful law for state legislatures to consider is one dismantling the public school system, which has become a huge, monstrous, unaffordable absurdity in itself, in favor of simply issuing vouchers to school-aged children for use in private or home schools. The vouchers could be for 1/3 to 1/2 the amount we spend on each public school child and still afford a much superior education. Private schools would spring up to meet the need.

  • http://www.bikebubba.blogspot.com bike bubba

    #11; that’s why I tell all my relatives that they need to keep their Barbies locked up in a safe, apart from the clothes and accessories. Who knows what damage can be done to a child by a doll who, if real, would be 6′ tall and 110 lbs with a DD cup size?

    It’s probably more dangerous than the Communist International, Al Qaida, and the Elks Club combined!

  • Grace

    Bloomberg, should concern himself with the students of NYC, they need to learn to read.

    Bloomberg lauds education, but 80% of NYC graduates can’t read

    The Washington Times

    Friday, March 8, 201

    By Cheryl K. Chumley

    “New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg touted about his huge investment in education during his most recent State of the City address — but his bragging may be all talk.

    Recent City University of New York statistics reveal nearly 80 percent of the city’s high school graduates can’t read, according to CBS Local’s New York affiliate.”

    http://www.foxbusiness.com/on-air/willis-report/blog/2013/03/08/education-bombshell-80-nyc-high-school-grads-cant-read-grade-level

  • Jon

    Dear Don @21
    I take it that you don’t have any problem with school policies requiring “zero tolerance” suspensions for “toaster pastry” or finger guns, or for having a Tylenol in your pocket?

    Forgive me, but why would you take that of my comment? It is all absurd, of course. That was my point.

    However, of the two, I find it more absurd when lawmakers try to emphasize the absurdity of their government bureaucracy employees’ inane actions by then seeking to enact an even wackier law to combat their employees’ absurdity, just to draw attention to it. Who seriously thinks such a law is necessary and proper? Which consituents are clammoring their support for such pointed legislative measures? Surely that kind of grand-standing is not a good use of government legislative resources to pursue the matter in such a ridiculous fashion. It simply makes more mockery of the legislature. It is no wonder that legislatures are not well respected.

    The government employment supervisors, even the legislators themselves if necessary, should counsel their errant employees or even censure them if required. But, to waste time and resources with pointless legislation in response? Really.

  • Jon

    DonS, in other words, I did not draw the line of which you describe. Rather, the legislator cited above drew the line.

    As to dismantling the public school system, while I might agree with the ends, I find that legislating such outright is practically just as absurd. States simply won’t do it because they rely too much on federal subsidies to run their schools, and that well would obviously dry up if such a measure were taken. The power of the purse is strong. Not only are the states beholden to it, but so might the private schools be if they took public monies. Now, if the parents could earn a dollar for dollar tax credit on tuition and vote with their feet on which school to send their children, then I might be more inclined to push for it as a barrier to state controls over private school activities.

  • http://www.bikebubba.blogspot.com bike bubba

    Grace, the headline probably should have added “can’t read at grade level,” but yes, that’s appalling, and it’s exactly what you’ll see in Chicago and Washington DC, where the average high school graduate reads at about a sixth grade reading level, and 40% of students there don’t graduate at all. Even in Minnesota’s schools, where our children are of course all above average, a full 35% of incoming freshmen at our state funded colleges need remedial instruction.

    But once Bloomberg cracks down on large cups of pop, pop-tarts (shaped like guns or otherwise), and Barbies (loaded or not), things will be A-OK. Right?

  • Grace

    Bike,

    It’s those over-sized cups of pop, pop-tarts, and anything else Bloomberg finds offensive – but don’t bother with reading, that’s a sore subject he doesn’t mention.

    When shopping, even in the best stores, it’s amazing to hear the grammar (sales people) that is used, such as, “those ones” or “anyways” – in restaurants, often times the server will stop and ask,
    “are you done yet” – they wonder why they cannot land a better job. I don’t know, it beats me!

  • DonS

    Jon @ 23, 24: Fair point. You did say that the whole scenario was absurd — I didn’t read your comment carefully enough.

    The government employment supervisors, even the legislators themselves if necessary, should counsel their errant employees or even censure them if required. But, to waste time and resources with pointless legislation in response? Really.

    The fact is, the government employment supervisors aren’t doing their jobs. They, in fact, are imposing these silly zero tolerance policies. And the unions prevent any effective or timely discipline of teachers. Legislators legislate. That is what this guy is doing, knowing that the primary effect of his proposed legislation is to shed a little light on, and hopefully restore some sanity to, an education establishment that has lost touch with reality.

    Regarding the dissolution of public schools, yes, I know. Not going to happen. For a host of reasons, most notably powerful teachers unions. But, to your point about money, it would be far cheaper for states and localities to forego the relative pittance they get from the federal government in view of the fact that the voucher proposal would only cost about half what current public schooling costs per pupil.

  • DonS

    More madness in the Wisconsin public school educracy: http://www.620wtmj.com/blogs/charliesykes/197597831.html

    What’s next? Yellow stars for Jews?

    Do we need another “absurd” law in Wisconsin prohibiting this blatant racism, or do we wait for the educrats to come to their senses, as Jon suggests? Or, do we begin to recognize the cesspool our public schools have become and begin to undertake a wholesale overhaul of our entire education approach — restoring the power to parents, where it should have been all along?

  • kerner

    See what we are up against?

  • http://www.bikebubba.blogspot.com bike bubba

    Well, Don, I did have the “privilege” of getting passed over for “minorities-only” scholarships, the “privilege” of having no assistance getting into the college of my choice, the “privilege” of getting no “boost” getting into engineering school……I’m thinking that with “privileges” like this, I’d quite frankly like to check out what discrimination looks like.

    In my family, “white privilege” is being the grandchild or great-grandchild of people who grew up as poor farmers, but who managed to get into the middle class (barely in most cases) by a combination of hard work, marriage, and thrift. I’d suggest the teachers’ union ought to give that kind of “white privilege” a try, a it would do them a world of good.

  • helen

    In my family, “white privilege” is being the grandchild or great-grandchild of people who grew up as poor farmers, but who managed to get into the middle class (barely in most cases) by a combination of hard work, marriage, and thrift.

    The object of all this is to push you back down where you came from.
    The people doing it are not particularly interested in middle class blacks either; people of color are just the club to beat you with.
    All the “wrong” people took advantage of the GI Bill for education after WW II; it was only intended for the uppah classes who had the misfortune of being drafted. The elite found their “Gentlemen’s C” wasn’t worth much and they resented the “hicks from the sticks” who dared push for “A’s”. “Nobody who was anybody” had thought that there was intelligence down on the farm, hampered only by lack of money. What a shock!
    They’ve been working to hold down the middle class ever since.

  • helen

    Even in Minnesota’s schools, where our children are of course all above average, a full 35% of incoming freshmen at our state funded colleges need remedial instruction.

    And that is probably the % who learned no work ethic at home and are not expected by their parents to work at school. [I'd say they probably weren't the grandchildren/great grandchildren of legal immigrants either but I suppose that wouldn't be PC. Might be true, though.]
    The teacher can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear, or teach a child who is determined that he isn’t going to learn the classroom material. (They may be smart enough about other things!) Been there, tried to do that!


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