Zero Tolerance and the Never-Ending Lockdown in America’s Public Schools

Why are we using police power to terrorize children who don’t realize they are violating school rules when they bring objects to school rational people don’t consider weapons ? A folding comb? A camping eating utensil? Their fingers? Where has common sense gone when we use police to arrest children for these offenses instead of using them on the streets where real criminals are using real guns to kill innocent people. Mass murders aren’t committed with folding combs or fingers or even the unmoving guns in the hands of miniature toy soldiers in play sets.

Zero Tolerance and the Never-Ending Lockdown in America’s Public Schools.

Jason Pinning Me at Court of Honor
Jason Pinning Me at Court of Honor. Yes, he owed the camping eating tool that included a knife.

This is the kind of thing that will make actual criminals out of innocent students. Take the case of Zachary Christie mentioned in this article. He is six years old and a Cub Scout, learning to be a good citizen. He innocently brought a camping utensil to school that’s an all-in-one knife, fork and spoon to be used for eating. For this offense he was sentenced to serve 45 days in reform school. I’d wager that will be a much worse influence on him than a Boy Scout camping trip. He’ll probably learn how to commit real crimes, disrespect authority, etc.

We’ve known for a long time that legislators on the state and federal level have been short on common sense, but it appears this lack of common sense also exists in public school administrators. I’ll bet a lot of them played cops and robbers (or violent video games) when they were young. In fact, if we want to prevent  gun violence, maybe those violent video games are a great thing to make unavailable for children. If the first amendment keeps those legal, maybe the second amendment can at least keep fingers and harmless guns on play figures that can’t even move legal.

A common sense approach would be that students who probably didn’t realize the items administrators find offensive  were considered weapons be informed and warned . Parents should then be called to the office and have it explained to them, and then have the parents come get the item with instructions never to let it come to school again. Things that are normally not thought of as weapons that are forbidden on campus should be listed on the school website that parents use for school policy information. The list should also be on a note sent home at the beginning of the year. Students should also be informed in their classrooms the first day of school and again about once a month.

Meanwhile, while the police are being called to drag these young and probably unintentional offenders from their classrooms, they are not available to track down the real criminals on the streets who are killing each other with real guns. Where have our priorities gone? Where has our common sense gone?  No wonder children aren’t learning critical thinking skills in some schools. Teachers can’t teach what they don’t have.

Maybe the idea is to label these children as terrorists now so they will never be allowed to own a gun when they grow up.  Then they won’t be able to protect their family someday from a real terrorist or common criminal breaking into their home.

What’s Happening to Communication?

What’s happening to personal communication? Will Facebook, Twitter, and texting limit the exchange of complex ideas?

I read in this morning’s paper that Facebook is aiming to make email obsolete in personal communication. Supposedly we are too busy to exchange long personal email and phone calls. Instead, we will tweet, email, and text short bits, and send all these communications to our Facebook page at the same time in a sort of one-click publishing  communication.

I’m wondering what has happened to thinking and real heart-to-heart or mind-to-mind communication. Must all our thoughts be reduced to 140 characters more or less? Perhaps the ugliness on the political scene is related to posting propaganda and talking points in 30 second sound bites and tweets thrown out at the world to whomever will listen instead of engaging each other in thoughtful face-to-face conversations.

Perhaps we do the same thing in personal conversations with family and friends. We laugh at the Zits comic strip as family members text each other, or text someone else while someone in the same room is attempting to have a conversation. But it really isn’t funny. People are tuning out those who are present in favor of those who are absent.

Supposedly the schools are trying to teach critical  thinking skills, but where do you use them in a Tweet or a Facebook post? Complex thoughts need complex sentences. Have our attention spans become so short we haven’t time for complex thoughts? For more than surface communication? No wonder people  cannot solve problems or reach consensus. It takes more than a few Tweets.

Enjoying my Community of North San Luis Obispo County

Scene from the Walk on Oakview Lane in Templeton
A scene along Oakview Lane in Templeton, where I often walk

I haven’t added much to this blog lately because I’ve been exploring my community and writing about it at both Squidoo and HubPages, where I won a contest last month with this article: Great Short Hikes in North San Luis Obispo County: Paso Robles, Templeton, and Atascadero.

"Where the Heck is 93446?" a photograph by Nancy Vest
"Where the Heck is 93446?" by Nancy Vest, used by permission.

With my Flip camcorder and camera in a fanny pack,  I find the most interesting walks, explore the vineyards and wineries who are my neighbors, and try to keep up with local festivals and traditions. Just this year I discovered Studios on the Park, where many of the local artists interact with the public, and I try to introduce them to others.  The picture above was from the “Speed” exhibit I have referred to below. I love Nancy’s sense of humor that I see in a lot of her imaginative photographs.

What does all this have to do with bookselling and education? It makes me a more balanced person. One can’t sit at a computer all day and still remain part of one’s community. The most important education is that we seek out after we are through with schooling.  My community has an abundance of learning experiences — so many that it’s hard to choose between them.  So far I’ve not paid a penny for any of them, unless I make purchases while attending events, which I often do.

Laure Carlisle's Self-Portrait at Studios on the Park, Paso Robles
Laure Carlisle's Self-Portrait at Studios on the Park, Paso Robles

I can choose between music, history art, and nature. On  October 7,  I stumbled into the opening of “Speed” — a juried exhibit of the Paso Robles Art Association and had some delightful and educational conversations with some of the artists. What I had come for was the opportunity to finish trying to match artists with their self-portraits in a contest related to an ongoing exhibit. The next night I was able to attend a concert and a historical walking tour as part of the Central Coast Railroad Festival. And the very next day, our community of Paso Robles celebrated its history with a morning parade followed by a free bean feed at the City Park. I was too tired to move to the Pioneer Museum after lunch for some demonstrations of threshing and baling. Instead I went home and edited all the pictures and video I had taken so I could write them up and share them with the community. It’s my way of giving back.

It’s true that while I’m out doing these things I’m not listing books and blogging, but I’m continuing to learn. The desire to keep learning is, in my opinion, the test of one’s education, which should create a thirst for more learning.

The National Day of Prayer Observance

Today the people of the North County came together in the Paso Robles city park to observe the National Day of Prayer. It was hot out — even when I arrived early at 5:30. I didn’t have a chair, so I sat on the grass. But I’m glad I went.

Today the people of the North County came together in the Paso Robles city park to observe the National Day of Prayer. It was hot out — even when I arrived early at 5:30. I didn’t have a chair, so I sat on the grass. But I’m glad I went. At first I thought I didn’t know another soul there.

That didn’t make a difference, though, since you don’t have to know each other to pray together. The Master Chorale sang for a few minutes before the meeting started, and that in itself made sitting on the ground worthwhile.

When the Chorale finished, three people and their instruments led the entire group in singing songs I didn’t know. Then the first of many pastors — none of which I knew — got up and explained the format. Each pastor would lead one segment by reading a passage from the Bible and directing us to pray alone or with a small group on the topic he read about. Then the pastor would close that topic with a group prayer. He would be followed by another pastor, and so on, until we were through. The segments were praying for our government and its leaders; for our military families; for education; for businesses; and for families. Then we all joined in singing a rousing praise song. That was the official end of the meeting.

It was far from the end for me. The Chorale started singing again right afterwards. Their music was like a taste of Heaven. Their faces were radiant. And only a few scattered people of all those milling around were paying any attention to them. People continued their conversations through this live performance without even moving farther away from the bandstand to allow those around them  to hear. I wondered what had happened to common courtesy. Perhaps  people are so used to constant sound from their various media, that they hardly are aware of what they hear. Perhaps it hadn’t registered that they were ignoring real people who were singing their hearts out for a group that largely seemed unaware of them. Their smiles and the light in their eyes didn’t fade. It occurred to me that they were singing for a higher audience who was listening from the heavens. They were making an offering of their music whether it was appreciated by other humans or not.

After they had stopped singing, I went up to thank them and tell them the truth — I haven’t heard such music in years. Their singing had transformed my rather gray mood into a new feeling that maybe God was forcing me to the end of my rope to take me into a new place I’d really rather be. There is nothing like music to lift one’s spirit!

One member of the Chorale came up to me and said he had focused on me for the entire concert because he knew I was really listening. I told him what a blessing the music had been. That led to talk about music and history. I finally found somone else who knew the last verse to the national anthem and the third verse of “America the Beautiful.” I think a new friendship has been born.

Footnote:  When I turned around after the official end of the meeting, I discovered my own pastor and our youth pastor were both sitting behind me. A little later on, two people I knew from the home schooling group in our city whom I hadn’t seen in years came up to say hi. So I did know other people; I just didn’t know they were there.