Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Zero Tolerance for "Zero Tolerance"

The stories aren't new.  They're repeated all across our great nation almost every day.  "Zero Tolerance."  It's become the screeching battle-cry of the mentally-impaired and intellectually lazy.

Need an excuse for making a REALLY BAD CALL as a manager or leader?  Zero Tolerance.  There ya go.  Need a convenient cover for your complete and total inability to make a thoughtful, wise decision based on the facts of an individual case?  Zero Tolerance.  Case closed.  No more annoying requirements to actually use the gray matter that sparsely inhabits your brain case.  Just claim "Zero Tolerance" and no one is the wiser.  It even sounds noble, doesn't it?  Zero Tolerance.  Kind of makes you look like a little bit of a hard-ass, too.  Score!

While reporting the story of yet another brain-dead school administrator hiding behind "Zero Tolerance," the AP reporter who was reporting on yet ANOTHER ridiculous 3-day suspension of a 10 year old simply because he PRETENDED to shoot another student... with his finger... stated:
"Since zero-tolerance policies were adopted following school shootings around the country, Columbus schools have disciplined students for violations including firing a Nerf foam-dart gun at school. A similar policy was cited last year when a Maryland school suspended a 7-year-old boy who had chewed a Pop-Tart into a gun shape."
Now.  I realize that I'm older than dirt, but at what point in this country's history did we abrogate our wisdom, intelligence, dignity and self-respect in favor of catchy bumper-sticker slogans?  "Zero Tolerance."  But what does that REALLY mean? 

Perhaps we should look to the Source Of All Wisdom, Google:
"Zero Tolerance: refusal to accept antisocial behavior, typically by strict and uncompromising application of the law."
Let's break this down and see if we can get our collective arms around this philosophy, shall we?  Let's start with the first phrase:
"Refusal to accept anti-social behavior..."
The last time I checked, elementary students playing has traditionally been seen as extremely SOCIAL behavior for as long as I can remember.  Cops and robbers.  Cowboys and indians.  Both of these have been a staple of playground fun for literally centuries.  It's not "anti-social behavior."  It's SOCIAL behavior that involves imagination and role-play.  And it's perfectly healthy.

Anti-Social?  Seriously?  Let's review THAT definition, again from our venerable Google:
"Anti-Social: contrary to the laws and customs of society; devoid of or antagonistic to sociable instincts or practices; not sociable; not wanting the company of others."
How can role-playing games such as cops and robbers be construed by any thinking person as being "contrary to the laws and customs of society"?  Policemen are role models for young children.  We constantly teach them principles of morality and ethics, and drill into their impressionable little heads that there are consequences to bad behavior... and being the good little parrots they are, these children underscore the fact that they get the message by... waaaaaait for it... mimicking that behavior on the playground in role-playing games.  It's the epitome of socialization for elementary-school children.

"Cowboys and Indians"?  Such stories used to constitute the foundation of early reading programs.. and was a staple on commercial radio, then television, as well as the big-screen for decades.  It is true-blue American custom.  Again, students participating in role-playing games that challenge and inspire the imagination are... "anti-social"?

No.  A more correct statement is that they are "not politically correct."  In other words, this behavior is being quashed by those who wish to force a "progressive" agenda in education, at the expense of childhood socialization, role-playing, and imagination.  And they do so by insisting that any variation from the leftist "party line" be met with severe punishments.  The Left, it seems, has "Zero Tolerance" for.... tolerance.

And how do those that embrace this philosophy seek to impose their will?  "by strict and uncompromising application of the law."   In other words, we're going to force you to bend to our will, "or else."  Regardless of circumstances.  Regardless of the severity of the "crime."

What is interesting here is this very philosophy stands in stark contrast to the "laws and customs of society" that this ridiculous philosophy seeks to "protect." 

The reality is that the "application of the law" in our society is neither universally "strict" nor "uncompromising" in real life.  That's why we have trials.  That's why we have judges.  And witnesses.  And evidence.  That's why we have a VARIETY of possible outcomes in punishing someone for a crime, based on the details of that crime.  Nothing in our legal system is "strict and uncompromising."

If our society functioned under a "Zero Tolerance" policy, any jaywalker would be sent to prison, even if they were crossing the street to save their sick or injured child.  Zero Tolerance, remember.

This pathetic, morally bankrupt, ethically diseased excuse for a policy is one of the foundational problems in our education system today.  It eliminates the requirement (or even opportunity) for administrators to actually think, employ wisdom, exercise patience and compassion, and the most important part, actually teach and mentor, letting the punishment fit the crime, instead of simply relying on blunt force trauma... for everyone.

The bottom line is simply this... we certainly wouldn't tolerate this in our justice system.  Why do we tolerate it in our schools?


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