I’ve been thinking about the thirteen year old kid who got himself suspended from school for drawing a picture of a ray gun. There’s been a lot of commentary on this from people who are smarter than me, and all I’ve got is the choice between stomping around the house sputtering like an old lawnmower engine and frightening T.W. or trying to get some thoughts down on paper.
First, the teacher: seems to me “Johnny, you should be paying attention to what is going on here and not doodling, so please put that back in your notebook and focus on the blackboard” seems to be the appropriate response to the situation. Did this teacher develop a dislike for the kid (don’t tell me it doesn’t happen), and see a chance to stick it to him? Was little Johnny a discipline problem who needed straightening out - content of his doodles notwithstanding? Or does the teacher suffer from what can be described as primitive screwhead-ism – you know, the belief that the picture of a thing somehow invokes the power of the thing itself? Doesn’t seem like this is a desirable quality for someone whose job it is to guide young minds on their intellectual journey.
The principal of the school, at least, should show a little more restraint. A lecture about paying attention, maybe a note home, even a stint of after school time (and a little chat with the boy’s teacher to maybe display a little more fortitude when confronted with icky pictures) seem appropriate here. We all know what actually happened – claiming that the rules are the rules, and she had no choice but to obey, the principal ordered a five day suspension, later magnanimously lowered to three days, and the school's not discussing the matter citing, wait for it… the student’s right to privacy.
How did we get to this place? How is it that cascading idiocy cannot be stopped, that people with authority are so desperate to bow to the altar of expediency that they become incapable of exercising the judgment without which their authority becomes a farce?
Does the school administration really believe they have prevented a tragedy, that they have made their school safer? Do they think they have taught the kid a lesson? They have, but not the one they were intending: their ounce-of-image equals pounds-of-performance posturing has simply exposed them as hysterical frauds, and learning that about them is an education of sorts.