Manassas Journal Messenger | Zero talerance allows schools to shirk responsibility

After reading the “Editor’s Note” column by Susan Svihlik this past Sunday it got me to thinking about certain school issues and how many are similarly twisted as that of zero-tolerance.

In her column, Ms. Svihlik refers to a report by The Advancement Project that states: “The educational system is starting to look more like the criminal justice system.”

Frankly, I couldn’t agree more. In my opinion they are both terminally broken. Neither one allows for the application of reason. For instance, the justice system paroles people who have violently attacked, raped or burglarized citizens sooner in many cases than an individual who is caught with marijuana a few times. Where is the logic in that?

This is the same application of zero-tolerance (in this case applied to drug laws) that is being used in the school system. In the courts it is referred to as mandatory sentencing. Of course we now have politicians and school administrators who grew up in the government school system and are doomed to its negative effects – the abandonment of common sense.

To answer Ms. Svihlik’s question of “what is accomplished by expelling kids who make big mistakes?” Specifically, I can think of at least two reasons. The first is the possibility that the school and its staff might be held legally responsible if these students continued to perform dangerous stunts and eventually end up hurting someone. The second, and more justifiable reason, is that children who have demonstrated they are disruptive to the continuing education of their classmates should not be allowed to detract from their classmates’ learning opportunity.

Zero tolerance in the school system is an interesting concept. To take away the flexibility of making decisions based on the consideration of circumstances surrounding the violation of school code, as well as determining the consequences of those actions, is ludicrous.

One would think that school administrators would want to set an example for students by using critical thinking skills and reasonable judgment when determining the outcome of school code violations. Of course, truth be known, they don’t want children to develop these skills as that would threaten the herd mentality that our political leaders are so interested in cultivating in our youth.

Of course, I personally don’t believe that the “bottle-bomb” incident was a case where the consequences of zero-tolerance would have been any different than if the policy wasn’t in effect. I find it incredulous that anyone believes a teacher should have to tell students not to use the knowledge gained in a science class to make explosive devices and plant them at elementary schools.

Have we become a society of morons who need disclaimers and legal notices on everything we see, use or do? Does a child’s biology teacher need to have kids sign a waiver in case they take the knowledge taught about animal dissection home and disembowel the neighbors dog?

The problems in the government school system go far beyond zero-tolerance. (By the way ? this is where I start to diverge from the original issue a bit)

To begin with, everyone who has a child in the government school system has essentially abdicated their fiduciary responsibility when they made the decision to have children by making citizens who chose not to have children responsible for paying to educate theirs. Politicians not only support this policy but encourage it by providing tax-breaks for people who have children.

If things worked the way they should, then individuals would pay for the education of their own children, or at the very least be taxed MORE for making the decision to have a child. After all, their government education will inevitably place a greater financial strain on society.

And folks who want to argue that education provides a return on the so-called “investment” will get no sympathy from me.

If no “government” school system existed, we would still have a well educated society – in fact I believe a better educated society. You see, the benefits of free market competition drive individuals to advance and excel. It is the school system that actually “dumbs-down” our children. It even takes away the motivation and benefits of competition by focusing on equality and self-esteem.

Another problem I have with government schools is how they are partially financed. We hear from Virginia representatives (many, if not most, who are Christians) who bemoan the ill effects of gambling – most recently when Maryland proposed loosening their laws to permit some forms of gambling. Yet where is the outcry over the fact that we fund our schools from the proceeds of the Virginia State lottery?

And where were the Christian representatives when the Pledge of Allegiance debate was going on in the General Assembly? I don’t pledge allegiance to the flag due to the fact, as I had mentioned in an earlier column, my allegiance is to my faith. I do, however, show respect for the flag and stand during the pledge, etc.

What I find disappointing is that pledge of allegiance legislation was fought for and passed by Republican Christians who I personally believe should have known better. But then again I am probably just unique in the fact that in my life I put my faith first, family next and my country (government) a distant third, fourth… or fifth.

James Simpson lives in Lake Ridge.

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