The Age of Stupidity

October 13th, 2009

zero_toleranceZachary Christie, a six-year-old “A” student at John R. Downes Elementary School in Delaware, brought his favorite Cub Scout camping utensil (a combination knife, fork, and spoon) to school to eat lunch with it — he eats all his meals at home with it and saw no problem with taking it to school.

That afternoon, Zachary was suspended from school and, according to the rules of the Christina School District’s zero-tolerance policy toward weapons in school, he faces a mandatory 45-day sentence in the school district’s alternative school — that’s where all the “bad” kids go.

Ever since Columbine, this is a scenario that has been repeated throughout the country because school districts across the country have adopted a “one-strike and you’re out” zero-tolerance policy. “The idea was to avoid discriminating against any student and to treat all students the same,” George Evans, the president of the Christina school board, told NBC News.

“Treat all students the same!” That’s the mantra of educators who have given up being educators because they are stuck in a system that refuses to even consider the implications of dealing with each student as an individual.

Throwing Down The Race Card

Here’s a quote from the MSNBC article that explains the school district’s rationale for their zero-tolerance (one-strike and you’re out) policy:

Christina, which, according to its Web site, is the largest school district in Delaware with some 17,000 students, made its policy zero-tolerance because of concerns over racial discrimination. Studies have shown in other districts that when school officials are given discretion over such cases, African-American students are disciplined at a disproportionately high rate.

In plain English what they’re saying is that all teachers are racists who can’t be trusted to control their hatred of blacks long enough to judge disciplinary situations fairly. Is there anyone out there who really believes that? Isn’t it much more likely that black students really do break the rules more often but the system has once again folded when CORE or the NAACP threw down the race card?

I’m not a sociologist or a community activist and I’m certainly not a racist, but I have lived long, have gone through Chicago’s mixed-race public school system (way back when people were still treated as individuals), and have seen the best and worst of behaviors from every racial group. Back then they realized that there were good kids, kids who tried to be good but easily got suckered into behaving badly by the bad kids, and then there were troublemakers who actively sought out rules to break or, usually, actively sought out smaller, weaker kids to bully or otherwise misuse. The good kids usually got a “pass” when they broke some small rule and the troublemakers got treated appropriately. What happened there and everywhere else was the same thing that happened in Christina — the school districts got tired of fighting the charges of racism and adopted the stupid philosophy that every kid is the same and every kid should be treated as an amorphous “child,” subject to rules and discipline that, logically, should be reserved for the hard-case students.

Welcome to the Age of Stupidity! It began in the federal government and has filtered down through the states, counties, and cities to infect even the youngest of us. Six-year-old Zachary Christie is just one of the most recent victims.

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8 Responses to “The Age of Stupidity”

  1. PIYAK |

    Crazy,remind me to not watch the news,.

  2. doris |

    It seems odd to me to have such a hard discipline for this, but when two 1st graders grabbed a little girl, pulled her under the bleachers at recess, and threatened to rape her, they were not put in alternative school. They deserve to be there, and the girl luckily got away. She is required to go to school with these boys every day. Incidentally, all three were black. What does this say to you, are you just now figuring out this is the age of stupidity? Been going on since before Obama, this is a Bush inspired, as you would expect, stupidity.

  3. Tom |

    Maybe I’m just slow-witted, but I can’t manage to make the connection between this kind of behavior and the Bush Administration — or any other presidency. These are problems among certain people, regardless of race, and presidents can’t fix it.

  4. Kevin |

    With all due respect it strikes me as highly presumptive to judge the merits of the mentioned studies based solely on your own experience and the single sentence in the MSNBC article.

    I agree with your sentiment about judging individual students as individuals. And the implication that this young boy’s case is a good example of why. But it seems to me that you’re bringing a heavy dose of a priori opinion into how you’ve parsed the meaning of the brief quote in your post.

    In very general terms, black culture is different from white culture. Likewise, urban white culture is different from rural white culture. In general terms. None of which automatically means that I’m a racist for aknowledging reality.

    What did the studies mentioned in the article find? What were the parameters? What geographical areas were studied? There are a whole host of very important questions that need answers before it’s even close to being rational to conclude racism from your quote!

  5. Kevin |

    For example: If (and I have no knowledge one way or the other) participation in Scouting programs is significantly lower among black kids than white kids, then there simply is no direct comparison between this Zachery’s context and the likely context of the examples used in those studies. Perhaps there are corollary contexts in which a young black student might unwittingly violate said zero-tolerance bans but which might be a context unfamiliar or less sympathetic to predominantly white educators who are on the front lines of enforcing said bans.

    The bottom line is that you have no idea what those studies found or what the context for their subjects was. Yet we’re supposed to leap to the conclussion of racism? Based on your experiences in school? Really?

  6. doris |

    All that zero tolerance seems to have started during the Bush era, to me, after 9/11. Before that, it seems we looked at individual acts and childred instead of just going ballistic over every silly or foolish thing small children do unknowingly. You must realize that a 7 year old bringing a swiss army knife to school is most likely innocent and not a threat to anyone. Maybe a stern talking to would suffice. I don’t think racism played a part at all in this. This has more to do with Columbine-type things and terrorism, not racism.

  7. Harvey |


    Either I’m very bad at sentence structure or you are reading a whole heck of a lot into my post.

    I am not charging anyone with racism — what I’m saying is that unfounded charges of racism and reactions to those unfounded charges have caused preposterous situations like this. I certainly don’t need a study to determine the obvious and I certainly have no reason to doubt the validity of the referenced study.

    Then I made a leap into politics because I see the similarity between treating school kids as “amorphous blobs” (ok so I’m given to overstatement) and the current push by the Federal government for Universal healthcare proposals where an individual’s wants, needs and desires are supposed to take a back seat to government mandated uniformity.

  8. Brian |

    Doris, Columbine was a few years before 9-11. Zero-tolerance has been in place in school districts since Clinton was president.

    Interestingly enough, there’s an article at La Griffe du Lion that runs through some pretty serious calculus to analyze the meting out of school discipline. He doesn’t say so in this article, but one can fairly easily infer that the data makes fairly clear that white and asian kids are disporportionately punished under zero tolerance.

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