I saw the article last week about a little boy who committed the most heinous crime known to the modern school system– he brought a toy gun to school– and the continued persecution he suffers at the hands of those we pay to provide his intellectual and social formation. I read this after just having run two posts critiquing the public and private schools, so I almost let this one pass. But after reading a blog post on Fred Reed’s curmudgeonly site, putting the incident into the larger context of America’s passive-aggressive culture, I changed my mind.
I’ll use excerpts from that post below, but a warning to readers that the full post contains some material unsuitable for minors. So, to some of the salient paragraphs:
“Child Still Expelled for Toy Gun – a Year Later
Parents want their child back in school. School board says no way” […]
“School board officials said the rules are quite clear and that the toy gun constituted a weapon.”
Me, I figure the school-board officials constitute a pack of priggish low-Board simians who ought to be swinging in trees instead of trying to run a school. But then, I’m a curmudgeon.
Think about it. Kid—he’s eight—shows up with toy gun after watching 12,000 hours of shoot’em-ups on the lobotomy box, Luke Skywalker blasting funny-looking milkmen like a pretty little mollycoddle turned psychopath. Kid sees war coverage with heroic GIs in Afghanistan killing anybody they can see. He watches recruiting ads for the Marines, who carry guns and want A Few Good Persons. Why would he possibly be interested in a toy gun?
And why would nominal adults, even the barely educated variety characteristically found on school boards, want to wreck the kid’s life? Actually of course it is passive aggression, an attack on the tyke, said attack masquerading, or perhaps marauding is the better word, as high moral endeavor. See, they’re protecting Western Civilization.
The US these days rolls in passive aggression. The country grows daily more mean-spirited, more wrapped in a miasma of diffuse anger, but you still can’t just go up to a child and hit him with a ball bat, or throw acid in his face. No. Instead you find a smugly righteous way to set him back two years in school, thus making him into a guaranteed social misfit. How very…I don’t think “intelligent” is an adequate word. Perhaps “sublime” is better. Or “supernal.”
As tensions grow in America, as divisions flourish, and the nation leads up to something unseen but ugly, prissy vindictiveness and moral sadism become normal. We have become a gotcha culture, watchful for transgressions meaningless but forbidden, so that we can make the malfeasor squirm. How we enjoy the squirming, the writhing on camera, the heavy punishments inflected for nothing.
I agree that the country, and Western civilization, roils in passive aggression. This incident is not unknown in the context of public school news. Remember the little boy who was called to the principal’s office for bringing a toy Lego guy with an itty-bitty Lego gun? If a student draws a picture of a stick-figure firing a gun it becomes a cataclysmic event. Last week, a local school district went into lock-down because some hunter left a gun he legally owned and possessed in his car parked on the school lot. The students were saved and the hunter was charged with unlawful use of a weapon.
Forget weapons. We live in a sexually-oversaturated society. Not only is hardcore pornography available in two clicks of a mouse, but the great inculturators of television, movies and music push nearly hardcore porn on the young. Our children are sold dolls that look like prostitutes; housewives are sold pole-dancing aerobics classes. Impurity is a cloud that surrounds us. Contraception, abortion, adultery and worse are presented as lifestyle choices. But just don’t ever be politically incorrect, because you will be punished severely.
An adoloscent raised on pornography produces a deviant character; if this person expresses his deviancy one way, that is a celebrated freedom; but stray in a different direction, and society wags its collective beard, clucks its collective tongue and brands you for life. You can cheat on your wife, unless you get caught. There is no more sin, there is only the inappropriate.
Society urges every libertine excess, and selectively punishes the politically incorrect. This is not a healthy way of organizing a people, or of enforcing a system of laws, or of building a culture.
Back to the eight-year-old. “He made a mistake, but why the severe punishment? I don’t understand that,” said Magdiel Burgos, Sam’s dad.”
What? The child did not make a mistake. He’s freaking eight. He brought a toy to school. Since eight is too young (at this writing) to be made to snivel on camera in delicious autohumiliating, his parents per force do it for him.
The correct solution to the problem, if there were a problem, would be to tell the kid, “Hey, you aren’t supposed to bring stuff like this. Don’t, OK?” When he is a little older, he might be told that the entire scholarly (which it barely is) establishment constitutes a dry run by Darwin, which he judged a failure and meant to discard, but forgot.
There is something wrong, something fetid and cruel, about anyone who will so treat little boy. It gets stranger:
“The school board said they would admit Samuel into a correctional school for problem children who have been expelled located in Hallandale Beach.”
Oh joy! Reform school! What better way to turn him into a happy and stable boy? (Which he is anyway.) Why not Leavenworth? We could try him as an adult. I recommend solitary, to protect the other inmates. And don’t let him bring his teddy bear. He has to learn that actions have consequences.
I thrash about in search of understanding. It cometh not. Perhaps the explanation lies in physics: The stupidity of a closed system tends to remain the same or to increase. Usually, increase.
This sort of neurotic theater has gone on for years. I remember the boy expelled for pointing (so help me) a chicken finger and saying “Bang!” another for bringing plastic soldiers to school, another for drawing a picture of a soldier with a gun, another for swatting a girl on the butt on the playground. This last resulted in the calling of cops, a handcuffed kid, and compulsory psychiatric treatment instead of an admonitory, “Don’t do that again, Bobby. Do you understand me?” How does a society come to this?
I can make guesses that sound vaguely plausible. The United States is not a happy country. People waste their lives in meaningless jobs, trapped by the credit card, the mortgage, the student loan. They know they are wasting their lives. Racial anger runs high. Women resent men. Divorce screws up kids. There is the two-hour commute to the cubicle and back to the sterile box in the anonymous subdivision, the lack of influence over their lives, life from paycheck to paycheck. And anger at affirmative action, either because they suffer from it or because they need it. Life is just flat stressful.
People get spiteful, mean, like mistreated dogs. They want to make others as miserable as they secretly are themselves. So they torment a little boy. I’m going to change my phylum.