Walking Through the Flogging Door*



One man. Two boys. Twelve kids.

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134 Responses

  1. Avatar Michelle says:

    This bill is yet another example of Republican hypocrisy on big government overreach. They’re against it, except when it comes to their pet issues like guns. I have no real opinion on whether or not fake gun play should be allowed in schools. But do we really want the Feds interfering in local school policy at this kind of macro level? I don’t think so. The Republican who offered it is more interested in scoring brownie points with his constituents than else.Report

    • Avatar Stillwater says:

      I agree about the hypocrisy of the GOP as well as the ridiculousness of having federal policy effect individual schools decisions on an issue like this. It seems like exactly the type of Big-Gummint abuse GOPers constantly accuse liberals of engaging in. (I’m sure from their pov it’s type-distinct, tho.)

      I also disagree with the policy in general. If the policy is justified in terms of defending a “federal right” (???) of children to play with make-believe toy guns at public schools, then I think it’s sorta incoherent given that playing with actual toy guns remains impermissible.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy says:

        Commercially made toy guns are a different matter. In my classroom, I don’t allow toys from home outside of a “sleeping buddy” for rest time. Commercially made toy guns also run the risk of being mistaken for real guns and chaos ensuing. Such is not a risk when we are talking about finger guns or Pop Tarts.

        What is the harm of two children pointing fingers at each other and saying, “Bang, bang!” As the research linked to indicates, there is no connection with later violence or aggression. The issue of threatening the security of others can arise, but this can be done sans finger guns and, at that point, you should be responding to the threat, not the finger. If no one feels threatened in the play, than what is the real issue?

        I offer this as evidence for a principled difference in response to commercially made toy guns and constructed guns.Report

        • Avatar Michelle says:

          Yeah, but is this really an issue we want the Feds to weigh in on? It’s a local policy matter. While I think school that outlawing poptart guns is stepping into the ridiculous, the parents of kids who went to the Newton school might not feel the same way. Why shouldn’t they be able to set the policy they want.

          Mostly, I think the guy who proposed this assinine overreach of a law is appealing to the gun lobby and trying to score points with his constituency. He’s not being serious.Report

          • Avatar Kazzy says:


            I don’t want to defend the guy who proposed the bill or the GOP as a whole, but if it could be demonstrated that such zero tolerance laws were harmful to kids… not just annoying or silly, but harmful… do you think that would be a proper time for the federal government to involve itself?

            Honestly, I don’t know the answer, but I think it is a question worth asking: When should the federal government interject itself into local schooling decisions?Report

            • Avatar Michelle says:

              In the case of zero tolerance policies–not at all. If the policies are harmful or ridiculous, eventually the locals will get fed up with them and demand change.Report

        • Avatar BlaiseP says:

          Here’s the harm: they’re not playing the game right. Now in your toy kitchen, “food” is prepared and cooked, presumably eaten as well. Plates and cups and saucers, perhaps even little plastic steaks and eggs and other such things.

          But when you say “Bang bang, you’re dead” now we need to have a funeral. If the child is to play “Dead”, he should lie down on the ground, bleed out, you know, people don’t die right away from a gunshot, they’ll die of blood loss or shock — but they don’t just die of the gunshot — and most people who are shot survive their wounds — but let’s say the child has to play at being Dead.

          Now we need a funeral. People who are shot ought to get funerals. As surely as eating delicious things follows all that hard work on the kitchen counter and the stove and the oven, consider how pointless it would be to Play with Guns and not have Funerals.

          Aggression isn’t the only emotion concomitant to Bang Bang. There’s fear and grief and anger too. See, Kazzy, they’re just not playing the game right.Report

          • Avatar Kazzy says:

            I should probably scold them every time the pet dog talks when they play family, too.Report

            • Avatar BlaiseP says:

              And what does that have to do with the price of tea in China? Want to play Bang Bang? I can teach your kids how to play Bang Bang You’re Dead. Properly. With all the trimmings. Playing is learning, so we’re told.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy says:

                If the dog talks, they’re playing it wrong.

                Young kids don’t have a conceptual understanding of the permanence of death. In most cases, you can’t teach them to play the way you are advocating here.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                Oh, I can. And I have. With my own children, who brought that idiocy home from school with them. But then, my kids were firing size-appropriate handguns with ackshul fackshul human killin’ ammunition as soon as they were capable of walking the streets of Guatemala. I have mentioned kidnappers in that context before.

                You want your kids to play at Talking Dogs? That’s great. Most of the fairy tales start “Once upon a time, when mankind could still talk to the animals”.

                Most people are kinda stupid about their pets, anthropomorphising them. Shouldn’t surprise anyone to see children playing at Talking Dogs, it’s a reflection of that stupidity. In other cultures, children are in closer contact with animals and watch them being killed and eaten. Show an American child how his hamburger is made and the poor dear would need a platoon of psychologists to deal with the consequences.

                No, I wouldn’t condemn a child for playing at Bang Bang You’re Dead. I’d just teach him to play it right.Report

              • Avatar Jim Heffman says:

                Also, when they play chess, make sure they write fictional life stories for each of the pieces, and whenever one of the pieces is captured make sure they write a letter to that piece’s fictional family, complete with whatever twisted mealy-mouthed justification they can come up with for why that piece had to die horribly in a pointless conflict that solves nothing and only exists for the amusement of the principals.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                Heffalump: reading you is like being nibbled to death by a squirrel.Report

        • “Commercially made toy guns are a different matter. In my classroom, I don’t allow toys from home outside of a “sleeping buddy” for rest time. ”


          I’m not sure I understand the bolded part here.Report

    • Avatar Brandon Berg says:

      I basically agree with Michelle, minus the smug implication that her party is any better.Report

    • Avatar DavidTC says:

      Given how completely the GOP controls several state legislatures (You know, those entities actually in charge of schools), it’s also fairly absurd hypocrisy.

      This would be an entirely reasonable thing for state GOPs to do. Somehow, they aren’t.Report

  2. Avatar KatherineMW says:

    Given that this bill is penalizing schools that do things which are ridiculous and dumb, I like it.Report

  3. Avatar zic says:

    The goal of schools is to educate children. Throwing children out of school for what amounts to silly, non-harmful behavior is abominable. So yes, I agree with the GOP. Zero tolerance and child don’t belong in the same sentence together, unless it’s zero tolerance for some things we do to children; children need opportunity to try and try again; the need second chances.

    But — and this is the crucial thing here: I have zero tolerance for continued GOP gibber on schools. Zero. I think we’re stuck in a negative feedback loop on education. I think kids hear so much trash talk of their schools and what they’re supposed to be doing in those schools that it is contributing to poor outcomes every bit as much as defunding a school contributes to poor outcomes.

    It’s time to try a positive feedback loop.Report

  4. Avatar BlaiseP says:

    I’ve said this before: when I encounter little boys playing at guns and war, I introduce them to the concept of being seriously wounded and having to be carried off. “Okay, you’re dead? All you lot get busy and carry him back to the LZ! We don’t leave our dead behind. You’re wounded? You get busy and put a compress on his gunshot wound. Where is that gunshot wound anyway? And you, wounded dude, you’d better not scream very much or the sniper out there will start paying attention and shoot your buddies if they try to help you. Oh… the enemy has just run away. It was just an ambush and you got whacked. Isn’t this a fun game?”Report

  5. Avatar NewDealer says:

    I agree with you that zero-tolerance policies are kind of stupid.

    I agree with Michelle and Zic that this seems to be done for cheap political posturing more than any sincere opposition to zero-tolerance policies. This is basically being done to troll Democratic Party people. The Congressmen in question has a long history of trolling the Democratic party.


  6. Kazzy,

    Isn’t this law basically just a form of zero tolerance for schools with a zero tolerance toy gun policy?

    I imagine you teach your kids that two wrongs don’t make a right.Report

    • Avatar NewDealer says:

      I’m against zero-tolerance policies in general. For most things at least. Largely because I think they are meant to be liability shields for school administrators and to give adults the freedom not to think and exercise discretion. I find it cowardly when adults choose options that allow them not to think and exercise discretion.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy says:

        Whenever I hear discretion, I think of the potential for abuse and discrimination. Student A and Student B both engage in the same behavior but Student A gets a warning and Student B gets a suspension. And Student A is white or the son of an influential parent or from the right side of the tracks and Student B is black or the son of a non-influential parent or from the wrong side of the tracks. My eyebrows start to rise.

        Ideally, you construct rules and polices that are clear and explicit, making clear the behavior you are targeting and outlining a standardized process for response. This is possible if you have thoughtful professionals carrying out the work. Unfortunately…Report

        • Avatar NewDealer says:

          How about a sliding scale for all students instead of immediate suspension?

          1st offense: Warning and explanation about why said behavior was wrong

          2nd offense: 2 days of after school detention or something like that.

          3rd offense: Suspension.

          This is how it goes for everyone

          My big issue is the immediate suspension. No questions asked. You bring up good points thoughReport

        • Avatar Jim Heffman says:

          And this is how Zero Tolerance policies come to exist.Report

          • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

            One more comment like this and you’re banned.Report

            • Avatar Trumwill says:

              I think you may be confused about “Zero Tolerance”

              He already is banned.

              (No, he’s not. Thankfully, we don’t do Zero Tolerance towards… errr… whatever.)Report

            • Avatar Jim Heffman says:

              I’m agreeing with Kazzy that racial discrimination is the reason Zero Tolerance policies come to exist. The intent is to produce an objective set of standards, so that A: racists can’t come down hard on black people while “exercising reasonable judgement about actual hazard” for white kids, and also because B: if you have an objective set of standards then it’s harder for a kid’s parents to find legal standing to sue you for punishing their kid.Report

              • Avatar Will Truman says:

                (Unless I am misunderstanding Mike, he was making a crack about Zero Tolerance, not actually threatening to ban you.)Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

                What Will said.Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

                Not that I have the power to ban anybody, even n the unlikely even that I wanted to.Report

              • Avatar DavidTC says:

                Objective rules are great. The problem is that the zero tolerance punishments are really, really, really stupid.

                There is an objective standard of whether or not I stopped at a stop sign (Forward motion must cease), and an objective punishment. This objective punishment, somehow, is _not_ 2 years in jail, which is what it would be under zero tolerance logic. The ZT rule would be ‘driving offenses’ get you two years in jail, where ‘driving offenses’ are everything from driving through a mall to parallel parking with your bumper over the parking space divider line. (And you didn’t even do that…someone else’s car pushed yours over the line after you parked…but ZT doesn’t care about stuff like ‘Who did what?’)

                It’s certainly better than ‘The cop just punishes you however he wants’…in theory. I guess.

                People sorta miss the fact that ZT rules are often hilarious _under_punishment for serious behaviors, also. Draw a gun at school? Three days suspension. Bring a gun to school and shoot ten people? Three days suspension. (And it’s also illegal and results in jail time, but the point is, under ZT, those are _exactly the same offense_ and require exactly the same punishment.)Report

      • Avatar BlaiseP says:

        At some point, infractions of The Rules must lead to consequences. And yes, Zero Tolerance does provide a nice bright line for the administrators. If a child is suspended or expelled, if there’s any discretion available in this individual matter, take it to court, where the facts can be sorted out. Nothing cowardly about it, to my way of thinking. What can done can also be undone — by the relevant authorities.Report

        • Avatar NewDealer says:

          How about a sliding scale for all students instead of immediate suspension?

          1st offense: Warning and explanation about why said behavior was wrong

          2nd offense: 2 days of after school detention or something like that.

          3rd offense: Suspension.

          This is how it goes for everyoneReport

          • Avatar Kazzy says:

            I don’t object to this in general. But are you referring to toy guns? Or policies in general? Because with toy guns, this begs the question of whether, in fact, gun play is wrong.Report

            • Avatar Jaybird says:

              Sure, they have one finger gun today. Tomorrow they might play with two.

              What happens when they say “I NEED THREE FINGER GUNS”???Report

            • Avatar NewDealer says:

              I meant in general.

              The toy gun thing is different. If it is a bunch of kids doing it among themselves, it is not wrong. But I can see how it can be done in a bullying way. Like this:

              Kid one (points gun): I am shooting you. You are dead.

              Kid two: I don’t want to play this way.

              Kid one keeps doing it. This is differentReport

              • Avatar Kazzy says:

                Absolutely. If Kid One keeps doing it, intervention would be appropriate. But I don’t know that the intervention should be different if instead of shooting, Kid One is roaring at Kid Two and is unresponsive to the latter’s objections.

                As I say in the OP, my key rule with this type of play (and really, all types of play) is to get the consent of those you are playing with.Report

          • Avatar BlaiseP says:

            Sadly, no. This strategy only delays the inevitable. Warnings only work before the infraction.Report

    • Avatar Kazzy says:


      I can’t quite form a coherent response that captures what I want to say here, so excuse me for going to bullet points:
      1.) Not all zero tolerance policies are wrong. There are some things for which we should have zero tolerance.
      2.) I have zero tolerance for zero tolerance toy gun policies because there is no evidence that they do anything to secure safety and there is evidence that they do harm to kids.
      3.) I do teach my kids that two wrongs do not make a right. The question is, is the GOP’s action wrong here?
      4.) In response to that question, I’d say that their ideology* is right but their methodology is wrong. As such, I oppose this specific bill but support and encourage other efforts to get schools to rethink these policies.
      5.) *As many have pointed out, it is possible that the GOP is motivated by factors other than doing right by children. I can’t speak to what their motivation is. But as far as the goal of eliminating zero tolerance policies for toy guns, I support it.Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

        bullet points

        So to speak.Report

      • Kazzy,

        Point #4 is kind of what I was thinking of. There’s no nuance to the bill, from what I can tell. There’s no understanding of the particular context of the school (would it be possible for a school to see that toy guns or make-believe toy guns in the school’s particular situation are leading to other problems? Might such a situation excuse an otherwise ill-advised zero tolerance policy?).

        I see this bill as ignoring context… which is what I see with a lot of zero tolerance policies, which is what it seems the bill is trying to prevent. That’s what I meant by “two wrongs”.Report

        • Avatar Kazzy says:

          It certainly ignores context. Personally, I struggle to imagine a context that would make a zero-tolerance policy appropriate… perhaps if the school is populated predominantly with students from war torn countries or something… but I’m sure the possibility exists.

          Should we outlaw zero-tolerance policies or otherwise formally punish schools that enact them? No. But should we resist them absent a really, really well articulated argument in favor of them? Absolutely.Report

      • Avatar Pinky says:

        “In response to that question, I’d say that their ideology is right but their methodology is wrong. As such, I oppose this specific bill but support and encourage other efforts to get schools to rethink these policies.”

        The confounding thing is that their methodology is contrary to their ideology. Local problems, local solutions.Report

        • Avatar Stillwater says:

          Yeah, that’s just it. Sometimes ideology has to sit in the backseat I guess.Report

        • Avatar George Turner says:

          Slavery and subsequent racial segregation were local problems, too, but protecting citizens from abuses being committed by local and state governments is within federal purview. If the feds could implement an across-the-nation drinking age of 21 by threatening to withhold highway funds, they can certainly lower the age for finger guns and pop tart pistols by threatening to withhold school funds.

          In some cases the law would stop idiotic local officials, and in other cases it would give brighter school administrators some cover when arguing against idiotic PTA’s, teacher unions, or school boards.

          It’s pretty bad when someone has to write a book in defense of killing monsters.Report

        • Avatar Pinky says:

          Then again, how much hand-waving is this bill worth? It looks like it doesn’t even have any co-sponsors. So my reaction, and others’, that this bill says something about the GOP is overblown.Report

      • Avatar Michelle says:

        Is the GOP wrong here? YES! It’s an example of federal overreach at its finest.

        Do you really think that this is an issue that requires federal intervention? How many schools have zero tolerance for toy guns? If you think Congress needs to pass a law, as opposed to leaving the issue to local school boards, why?Report

        • Avatar George Turner says:

          Because local school boards don’t have the right to destroy the lives of the children placed under their care by accidents of geography and zoning. That’s one reason states set up textbook standards, along with standards for teacher certification. Left to their own devices, schools tend to hire relatives of those on the school board (in one fairly recent Kentucky court case, an administrator actually argued “If ya can’t hire your own family, who can ya hire?”) and teach whatever wacko ideology and learning theory that happen to hold sway in the area.

          This creates the national problem of pockets of ignorance “educating” future citizens who will then take over the school board and perpetuate the ignorance. Locally, we’ve had school boards expel students for wearing black fingernails and lipstick, under the theory that they were consorting with Satan (and as it turned out, they were! ^_^). Consorting with Satan is vastly more serious than playing with finger guns, BTW.

          We don’t generally allow public schools to completely toss out Darwin, or ignore math (even though half of school board members would probably argue that they’ve never personally had a reason to add up numbers, much less find the area of a right triangle), teach that “I ain’t got no” is proper grammar, refuse to teach black students, or lock special ed students in the basement. It’s bad enough that they allow star athletes to remain functionally illiterate without some kind of government intervention.

          Where things get Constitutionally dicey is religious schools. Almost no Amish go to high school, and we don’t intervene (Wisconsin v Yoder). Catholic schools are allowed to teach papish slanders about Copernicus and that Notre Dame’s and New Orleans’ football teams are instruments of God’s will on Earth. Baptist schools are ignoring science as they try to figure out how to properly conduct a high-school album burning when the evil devil music is on the same iPod as a bunch of gospel tunes. Lord knows what will happen as Islamic madrassas become more common here.Report

          • Avatar Michelle says:

            Ah George. The good/bad thing about most of your posts is that I rarely know when they’re serious.Report

          • Avatar George Turner says:

            Some of the most influential political arguments took hold because they were highly entertaining, like the works of Johnathan Swift and Mark Twain. If nothing else, it keeps political debate from feeling like a constant stream of drudgery. ^_^Report

      • Avatar DavidTC says:

        1.) Not all zero tolerance policies are wrong. There are some things for which we should have zero tolerance.

        Yes. The problem isn’t zero tolerance polices. The problem is zero tolerance policies against things that shouldn’t even be against the rules, and certainly shouldn’t result in suspensions.

        Another obvious obvious example, besides the one here, is students possessing medication it is entirely legal for them to purchase at drug stores. Not even prescription medication, but stuff they can literally walk into a drug store and purchase, without adults at all. (And most prescription medication would be fine, also, although that probably should have to be cleared first…students walking around with antibiotics is fine, but they probably shouldn’t be able to walk around with their amphetamine ADD medication.)

        Another obvious problem is _pretending_ they are unable to figure out who is starting fights. Because, apparently, none of those cameras actually work, and it’s impossible to question witnesses or just ask the teachers, who damn well know who is running around starting fights. And it would be impossible to say after a fight ‘Both of you claim the other started it, so we will not punish either of you. And you two have a restraining order against each other…if you interact _in any way_ and a fight results, we will assume the person who walked up to the other person started it.’

        Zero-tolerance is _supposed_ to stop bias in punishment. Instead, it turns the entire thing into a farce.

        If asshat administrators are biased when punishing, give students a damn _court_. Not a full-fledged court, but just a _single_ adult who is willing to stand there and argue _their_ point, and produce evidence, instead of not only having no one on their side, but often being not even _allowed_ to respond to accusations.

        Some assert that this would make enforcement of the rules too much work. I have to ask why there are so many damn rules. (And, uh, suspending students is a lot of work also.)Report

  7. Avatar bookdragon01 says:

    I agree zero tolerance is stupid here and that it’s gone too far wrt imaginative gun play.

    However, I do see one practical reason for banning anything that remotely looks gun-like: If your school has decided to make it’s “security” janitors and teachers with concealed carry. Most would (hopefully) think twice about reacting to what looks like a gun in a 2nd grader’s hand with deadly force, but I can see why not having toy guns in school might be a real safety issue…Report

    • Avatar Kazzy says:


      As I note above, I think there is a difference between commercially made toy guns and constructed guns.

      Toy guns can look real, plus bringing in toys from home introduces a host of other issues, be they guns or Barbies.

      But finger guns? Lego guns? Pop-tart guns? If someone thinks THOSE are real guns… yikes…Report

      • Avatar Jaybird says:

        “The child reached for his waistband. I was in fear for my life.”Report

        • Avatar BlaiseP says:

          I wonder if you’ve ever had a gun pulled on you? For people like me, who’ve been shot at, a certain amount of instinct goes into how we react to gestures of that sort.Report

          • Avatar Glyph says:

            BP, no doubt, and accidents/misunderstandings do sometimes legitimately happen (though my suspicious mind thinks stories of at least some of them are ass-covering after malice or negligence/insufficient training.)

            But a child? Or yet another family dog? If the learned instinct to reach for the gun is that powerful and automatic, another line of work must be chosen. Otherwise it’s like hiring a former Formula One driver to drive the school bus and wondering later how it all went so wrong.Report

            • Avatar BlaiseP says:

              Once you’ve been shot at, there’s no going back. It’s a Before ‘n After Moment. I once thought as you did, that a change in course might undo what happened, but in my case it wasn’t true.

              The most terrifying part of Fourth of July isn’t the BANG of the firework as it detonates. It’s the thump of the mortar as the munition launches. That’s scary. You’ll never hear the one that gets you. But a gunshot? That means Get Down to this old soldier and you’d be amazed to see how fast I can assume a prone position when I hear one. Because nobody has just one bullet.

              The problem isn’t instinctively reaching for the gun. The problem is the Learned Response to a Threatening Gesture. Legitimacy is trumped by Reflex.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy says:

                Perhaps we avoid employing people with such a Learned Response in schools, where kids are still learning social norms and what might constitute a Threatening Gesture.

                It strikes me as odd that we should expect 5-year-olds to control their behavior because the adults around them cannot.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                There’s the trick. Gosh, despite the fact that many of the world’s children carve little wooden AK-47s and the demotic word for gun has become ah-kah in many languages, let’s isolate our Precious Chilluns from these harsh realities. Let’s live in a Dream World, a Cloud-Cuckoo Land where children don’t have to fear gun violence or evolve responses to it. In many a sordid little neighbourhood across the length and breadth of this fair land, children have already evolved the Drop to Prone approach to the sound of gunfire, an entirely commendable response. I advise everyone to learn this response to the sound of gunfire.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy says:

                But we’re not talking about gunfire. Gunfire is indicative of a real threat. We’re talking about a kid reaching into his waist band or carrying a LEGO gun or pointing his fingers and saying, “BANG!” None of those are evidence of a threat.

                And, yes, call me whatever you want, but I’d rather we create a world where children don’t need to be conditioned to respond to gun violence. I recognize that might be the reality for many children the world over, but it isn’t the reality for all and there is no reason to subject those for whom it isn’t to such a nightmare. Because gun violence is just that: a nightmare. And we do right by our children by insulating them as best we can from it.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                Have it your way, Kazzy. I don’t trust anyone not to have a gun, not in the USA. You’re the one who said you wouldn’t hire a combat veteran in a classroom. I must confess to a certain narrow-eyed amusement at anyone who would say such a thing. I take that personally.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                “The union had a full investigation and we determined that the five year old probably did grab for his waistband. Reinstated with full pay!”Report

              • Avatar Kazzy says:

                I didn’t say I wouldn’t hire a combat veteran. I said that it might be best not to employ people who have a Learned Response that could easily be triggered by typical kid behavior and which might result in an inappropriate action.

                I also think it best not to employ people in schools who are prone to cuss-filled rants when frustrated, because the work of an educator is frustrating and that response would be inappropriate.

                If the janitor is going to bull rush any kid who reaches into his waist band, I don’t want that guy in my school.

                Security folks need to be able to perform threat assessment and determine if that kid is reaching for his piece or reaching for his piece, another thing young kids do with regularity.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                Perhaps we avoid employing people with such a Learned Response in schools. That can only be construed as combat veterans and other first responders who’ve been around gunfire. If now you wish to parse away part of that response, I must tell you I found your initial response glib and completely unacceptable.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                How’s this? Let’s only have the teachers who are inclined to shoot students work in the crappy part of town.

                Everybody’s happy.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                Sandy Hook School was a sweet, gentrified neighbourhood.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy says:

                Not all such people have that Learned Response.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy says:

                And I’m not parsing away anything. If someone can’t be trusted to respond appropriately to the typical behaviors of children, for whatever reason, they shouldn’t be working in schools.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                No. You don’t have that Learned Response because you haven’t been Thus Educated. No deficiency on your part. Nothing superior about my take on what that Education taught me. Just don’t pretend pointing a pretend weapon at anyone is anything but a Learned Response, too. Guns are powerful. They kill people.

                We see them on television, in films, in pictures — if a child was never exposed to a gun, I’ve known such kids, in Dungas Niger, do you know how they pretend to kill each other? With pretend spears, big cornstalks and swords made of tree branches, quite commonly injuring each other in real life. They pretend to be Tamashek raiders, they’re the bogeymen of the Hausa culture, though the Hausas were warriors, too.

                But I’ll tell you one part of the game the Hausa kids don’t play, the “You’re Dead” part of “Bang Bang You’re Dead.” See, everyone knows what death is. Kids die all the time. They horsed around and pretended to be riding horses and camels and taking slaves and all that — nobody got killed, though. Funny, that.

                Riddle me this: why do your kids, if you’re attempting to say this is all quite natural and you’re some authority on this Typical Behaviours of Children — I’ll stipulate to that — why don’t Hausa kids play the You’re Dead part and your kids do?Report

              • Avatar Kazzy says:

                I’m just going to cede the floor to you. It is obvious your 100 lifetimes of experience trump whatever I’ve gleamed in my time studying and working in the area that is both my passion and my profession.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                The response to real or pretend aggression, in pretty much any other set of circumstances, is treated as a problem by Responsible Adults. But some little boy wandering around with a death dealing weapon, that’s needful for his maturation. Perhaps his little testicles won’t descend if he doesn’t wander around and play act all that wanton murder out of his system.

                It’s bullshit. My kids were never allowed to play Bang Bang You’re Dead. You think it’s fine, a natural response. I don’t. I think it’s a learned response, an intrinsically American spastic tic we’ve bred into our children, like a fainting goat. When they do go off to war, those li’l boys find out how that fantasy translates into reality.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                where kids are still learning social norms and what might constitute a Threatening Gesture.

                I think that’s BP’s point tho, Kazzy. That pointing a gun at someone is a threatening gesture. And permitting children to engage in that action (pointing a gun at someone), even if it’s only a finger gun, is teaching them social norms.

                In the OP, you wrote that there’s no evidence that gun play leads to later violence. Here’s a refudiating link


                A decisive conclusion regarding all the subtleties and nuances about this issue seems to me far from established.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy says:


                From the link:
                “But, she said, ”when exposed to realistic toy guns and realistic violent TV shows, this aggressive drive is exacerbated, and the child may actually grow up to be violent.””

                I’ll concede that “realistic toy guns and realistic violent TV shows” are a different kettle of fish than constructed guns.

                Also: “While parents and researchers are vehement in their viewpoints, little evidence exists either to support a causal relationship between war toys and aggression or to discount one, said Dr. Helen Boehm.”

                Until we have clear evidence, we should avoid making such sweeping policy as zero-tolerance policies.

                To the meat of your comment, I agree that we need to teach kids about how to safely handle guns, should they ever come to handle real guns. But that need not necessarily happen at 5 or 7 or 9. It is considered rude to fart in public. Kids fart, audibly, in class all the time. I don’t address it because they are still developing the requisite bodily control to regulate it.

                I’m not saying we simply let violent play proceed unfettered in perpetuity. Only that we do little good by suspending or expelling kids who are doing what kids do. It doesn’t teach them what we want it to teach them, which your link’s final point addresses admirably:

                ”But ultimately children don’t learn values from toy guns and G.I. Joe. It’s parents and other role models who have the most important influence on a child’s behavior.”

                Allowing and responding to the play creates teachable moments that banning it does not.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                If you think the GOP is proposing the legislation to promote “teachable moments in school”, then I can see why you’re in partial agreement with them. You could, for example, teach young children how to safely handle their finger gun. To not point it anyone unless they intend to pull the trigger. To keep it locked when not in use. Those sorts of things.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy says:

                I don’t know why they are proposing the legislation. I don’t know the players nor what is in their heads and hearts. What I do know is that zero-tolerance policies in almost all instances do more harm than good and, as such, I support the idea of eliminating them.

                I do not support the GOP’s particular method of eliminating them as proposed.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                What I do know is that zero-tolerance policies in almost all instances do more harm than good and, as such, I support the idea of eliminating them.

                But they’re not eliminating them. They’re trying to impose one. At the federal level.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy says:


                And I disagree with their methodology.Report

              • Avatar Jim Heffman says:

                ” It is considered rude to fart in public. Kids fart, audibly, in class all the time. I don’t address it because they are still developing the requisite bodily control to regulate it.”

                And note that there is a difference between farting by accident because you aren’t able to control it, and farting on purpose because everyone laughs when you do it. And the appropriate response to one is not necessarily the appropriate response to the other; and the appropriate response to the latter still might not address the fart specifically.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                Furthermore, despite the fact that thousands of Americans have recently died in wars against amorphous enemies who don’t wear uniforms, or the tidal wave of PTSD in those who return from those wars, or the millions of people traumatised, turned to stone by beholding the Gorgon of War — let’s just pretend such things don’t happen in the wider world.

                The scariest show on TV for little kids is the local news. Car accidents, houses burning, kidnappings, murders, all sorts of terrible things can happen to little kids. Fear rules a small child’s life. It’s the dominant emotion, fear. It keeps us alive.

                Instead of teaching children to respect guns, yes, that means fearing the possibilities of being shot — in Kazzyworld, we won’t even hire people whose training helped them survive gunfire. They’re not safe around children. If they understand the nature of the threat — that’s not something a response we should imbue in children. Might scare them.

                When the Gorgon appears, they’re all turned to stone. They’re unable to process the reality of that Gorgon. PTSD is mostly people who’ve lived in the real world coming home to a completely clueless world of Happy People for whom the danger afflicting many of the world’s children isn’t real.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy says:

                So what is your solution? We scare the crap out of young kids? Young kids shouldn’t watch the news; damn near every psychologist is in agreement on that. They do not have the capacity to properly make sense of the information contained therein.

                There is no Kazzyland. There is the real world, which you and I share. My wife is a veteran. Many of my friends are currently serving. I’ve seen the effects of PTSD first hand with my stepbrother, who spends much of his time between deployments in the bottom of a bottle. When we do go out, he gets nervous any time he walks buy a heap of trash on the street… multiple tours in Iraq will do that. So please spare me the “No one understands the world the way BlaiseP does” shtick. I get it. I get what is at stake.

                In the appropriate time and place, I’m on board with teaching kids how to handle themselves safely around guns and how to properly respond to threats. But for the majority of our students, for whom gun violence is more of an abstract threat than a real threat, the proper time and place is not the early childhood classroom and the proper manner sure as hell ain’t suspension and expulsion. For students who do grow up in more violent areas, for whom gun violence is more of a concrete threat, I’d trust the experts in those environments to determine the best course of action.

                But expulsion isn’t teaching, at least not what we want kids to be learning. It teaches that might makes right… disobey those in power and feel their wrath. And what does this teach kids about power? Seek it, attain it by whatever means necessary, and use it accordingly. And a gun is powerful as hell. So, yea, expel kids who eat a Pop Tart incorrectly. Do not be surprise if they become abusers of power themselves, nor if the power they abuse comes through the barrel of a gun.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                What is this? Your solution is not to hire people with Learned Responses to Gun Violence. That’s what you said. I have already proposed a solution. Inure children to the reality of gun violence as surely as we would teach them not to play with fire or not stick their fingers in electrical sockets or to only cross the street when the crossing guard says so. And that means No Pretending to do so, either.

                As for what I turned into once I beheld the Gorgon or how anyone else coped, spare me, too. I have the right to my own opinions of what I saw and by God you didn’t see that Gorgon. You have no fucking idea of what’s at stake. For you this is all theory. You let kids play with pretend guns. My son was never allowed to play with a pretend gun. He got to shoot real weapons once he was big enough and he learned gun safety before he was allowed to handle them.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy says:

                My kids play “kitchen” at work. They use the pretend stove. I imagine that when they are cooking on it, they imagine pretend fire under their pots. So, yea, we do let kids explore things via play that we do not allow them to explore in real life. That is the goddamn purpose of play.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy says:

                And, again, please stop the sanctimonious bullshit about how no one understands the world but you. It’s getting tired.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                There’s precious little sanctimony in my preachments. As for bullshit, I’m not the one who says he would avoid employing people with such a Learned Response in schools. Education is learning, imparting hard-earned wisdom to little tykes about the real world. In other places on this planet, children are taught these things.Report

              • Avatar George Turner says:

                Do you realize how much kids with school lunch boxes look suspiciously like VC sappers with satchel charges? Many kids carry black backpacks for their books and thus look just like the Boston bombers. Every child is a potential terrorist or rebel insurgent, and I’d prefer teachers who recognized them as the vicious little threats they are! We need to merge the TSA union, the teachers unions, the police unions, and the prison guard unions and give the kids the full experience! [/sarc]

                Kids need pretend violence. It’s how they prepare themselves for adulthood while still wrestling with challenges like doorknobs and spoons. The kids who don’t figure out pretend violence when they’re six or seven end up trying to figure it out when they’re 17 or 18, and that’s an ugly way to learn.

                When I was a kid playing with pretend guns, I learned to duck, shoot back, evade, use stealth and flanking assaults, and how to interact with other children in both ordinary interactions and high-stress, rapidly evolving situations involving significant risk of injury or death.Report

              • Avatar zic says:

                Kids need pretend violence. It’s how they prepare themselves for adulthood while still wrestling with challenges like doorknobs and spoons. The kids who don’t figure out pretend violence when they’re six or seven end up trying to figure it out when they’re 17 or 18, and that’s an ugly way to learn.

                For maybe the second or third time ever, I agree.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                In this world, so full of wickedness, there must be a certain amount of comfort in being able to retreat into some world of illusion and fantasy, where actions don’t have consequences, where playing at Warfare is adequate preparation for the real thing.

                The trainers are constantly trying to up their game, trying to achieve some simulacrum of it, to the point where people say “Gosh, this looks just like a video game!”

                There’s one point in Basic Training where the drill instructors tell the recruits to low-crawl under live fire. There’s a machine gun at the far end of the range, firing real 50 cal ammunition. There’s a steel pipe there to keep the machine gun from depressing too far, thus shooting the hapless trainees crawling under the barbed wire. I made sure, before I low crawled under those bullets, to get a good look at that pipe.

                I watched three trainees refuse to crawl under that wire. No shame in it, they were given trainee discharges. Never saw them again. But nobody graduated who didn’t make it across that stretch of ground.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                For maybe the second or third time ever, I agree.

                Is it a broken watch thing, or…Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                Most of the world’s children don’t play Bang Bang You’re Dead. Never saw it in Africa or Europe. Never saw it in Central America or SE Asia. Didn’t see it in Middle East.

                American kids are inured to violence through play. We’re the world’s most violent nation, far and away.Report

              • Avatar George Turner says:

                Gee, then that means the worldwide success and popularity of airsoft guns and other toy weapons is a complete mystery, even to the companies that make them.Report

              • Avatar zic says:

                George, I used to live on the same street as Mike Dukakis. The summer he ran for president, my children were small. Super Soakers and Ninja Turtles were all the rage with the 4-year old set.

                The Secret Service guys were all over the neighborhood, all wearing black suits, white shirts, radios, and wires. The did not sweat. And they banned super soakers on our street.

                Next to a summer spent in Virginia, that may have been the worst summer of my life thus far.Report

    • Avatar Morat20 says:

      Heh. Apparently insurance companies are warning schools that do such things that their premiums will rise. (Armed people on campus who are not trained police officers).Report

  8. Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist says:

    Let’s assume the given that said GOP tool is trolling. Seeing as how he is trolling with a topic that many conservative & liberals agree with, the question I have is; When will a Democrat counter with a better idea that tackles the problem effectively?

    I won’t be giving up breathing or sex waiting for that to happen.Report

    • Avatar Kazzy says:

      I’m a bit frustrated by responses that hang their hat on the supposed insidiousness nature of this bill’s supporters. I’m no fan of the GOP, but if we, as their opponents, demand better of them and then, when they provide better, we start to impugn their motivations, we’re really not being any better.Report

      • Avatar NewDealer says:

        This is another example of Why Ideology is the Enemy.

        I think we have reached a stage where bad blood between the parties is institutionalized and are automatic reaction is to snark at the other side. Here it is kind of obvious. Stockman is not against zero-tolerance policies in general. He just wants to protect kids playing with guns because the GOP loves guns. He is even willing to against sacred GOP principals of state’s rights and local control to achieve this end. To me (and this could be confirmation bias), the GOP is simply showing that they will use the Federal Government if it can be done in a way to annoy liberals. He is basically saying that liberal areas and school districts should not have autonomy.Report

        • Avatar Kazzy says:

          Perhaps I am immune to this type of thinking because I don’t know Stockman from Adam. I have no idea what his record is and thus can’t speculate about what he is really trying to do other than what was provided in the article.

          Ignorance really is bliss.Report

          • Avatar NewDealer says:

            Did you click on my links for his history of trolling tweets?Report

            • Avatar Kazzy says:

              Oh, I don’t mean to doubt anything you or others say about him. Having read his Tweets, it is clear the guy is a rabble rouser and provocateur (though at least a few of them were genuinely funny). My point is that we can still acknowledge the merits of the proposal even if we are bothered by the intent and by the methodology.

              But, yea, all this shit is so tangled.

              As I mentioned on another thread regarding the shooting death of one young child at the hands of another, zero tolerance policies and children’s exposure to real guns shouldn’t be battles in the culture wars; they should be areas where we look to experts in the relevant fields to make determinations about what is best for children.Report

        • Avatar Kazzy says:

          I think it should also be said that in the schools I’ve been in, the preference for zero-tolerance policies seemed to cut across ideological grounds. I never saw it as an R vs D or Lib vs Con issue. And for every gun-loving conservative who wants their kids playing with guns there is a laissez-faire liberal who doesn’t want to impede on their kids’ freedom.Report

          • Avatar NewDealer says:

            I agree that love and hate of zero-tolerance policies is cross-ideological. However,
            my fear is what I explained to Mike below. We seem to be heading to an era when hyper-partisanship makes it easier to be Draconian towards everyone instead of compassionate towards everyone.Report

            • Avatar Kazzy says:

              And I think that point was a great one.

              I got into it with an administrator this past year because of his handling of a student behavioral issue. And not so much his handling of the issue, but how he communicated it to staff. The email he sent was dripping with disdain for the offending parties, who were a pair of 12-year-old boys (who I suspect have some undiagnosed special needs, further complicating the matter). I get that what the boys did was wrong, and that there was a real victim of their actions, and that consequences were in order. But their behavior wasn’t outside the realm of what we see middle-schoolers do to one another. Responding to such situations should be somewhat fairly expected for an administrator charged with student discipline. It should not elicit disdain. It should not lead to an email filled with venom about the students. It was really, really bothersome. And I think is emblematic of the trend you point to, which is troubling, to say the least.Report

      • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist says:


    • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

      Is zero tolerance specifically as applied to kids playing “Bang bang you’re dead” really a problem that needs addressing at the national level? Or, as it seems to me, is this a “solution” looking for a problem, that’s really a way of saying “Guns are good”.Report

      • Avatar trumwill mobile says:

        Considering it’s a response to a policy that is rooted in signaling a distaste of guns and not much else, there is a certain fitness to it all.Report

      • Avatar NewDealer says:

        I think it would require a very systematic study. But it might.

        On an anecdotal level, I see plenty of stories where a kid gets suspended under a zero-tolerance policy for something that is rather harmless. However without a systematic study, I don’t know how wide-spread the problem is.

        The same thing is true for Randy Balko’s work on the militarization of the police. I’ve never seen a full swat raid but there seem to be plenty of stories about the police using SWAT tactics when it is uncalled for and/or shooting dogs, terrorizing kids, etc. Yet no one seems to want to do anything about it.

        My other worry is that increased partisanship is just going to lead to a more draconian United States. We are deciding that it is easier to be harsh and draconian with everyone rather than teaching compassion towards all (to borrow from Lincoln), tolerance, civility, respect, acceptance, etc. I find it depressing that malice towards all, compassion towards none seems easier than compassion towards all, malice towards none.Report

        • Avatar Kim says:

          Mailing Mr. Rodgers death threats didn’t exactly help the situation.
          (crazy conservatives! bad Rush Limbaugh!)Report

        • Avatar Michelle says:

          My other worry is that increased partisanship is just going to lead to a more draconian United States. We are deciding that it is easier to be harsh and draconian with everyone rather than teaching compassion towards all (to borrow from Lincoln), tolerance, civility, respect, acceptance, etc. I find it depressing that malice towards all, compassion towards none seems easier than compassion towards all, malice towards none.

          This tendency worries me as well, although I don’t see it as being as much an issue on the left (such as it is in this country) as the right. But the growing split and the growing incivility it engenders makes compromise nearly impossible.Report

          • Avatar NewDealer says:

            I’ve worked as an independent contractor at places where there was institutionalized bad blood between factions. It is not fun. In private, you can get people to admit that the fights are silly and there are people on the other side they would really like to talk to but they will still maintain group cohesiveness.

            This was at a left-wing non-profit so the fight was left group A and left group B.Report

  9. Avatar Kazzy says:

    Perhaps I should share this story…

    I had a colleague a number of years ago who, for lack of a better word, used a “School of Hard Knocks” approach to working with children. She was an assistant teacher and lacked formal training in education, instead relying on the bevy of real world experience she had with children. She had children herself and grew up in Haiti, participating in a more community-based child-rearing approach. She wasn’t particularly thoughtful when it came to responding to kids, instead just doing what she always did.

    One day, some 5-year-olds were making finger guns and going bang bang. She responded by saying she would cut their fingers off if they continued. She said it half-jokingly, but the message was clear: stop or else.

    I struggle to see how this doesn’t encourage the very type of might-makes-right, threat of violence to achieve a desired outcome that such policies supposedly are meant to address.

    And while most educators would never say, joking or otherwise, that they’ll cut a kid’s fingers off, many do rely on a very similar “… or else!” mentality that achieves very much the same outcome.Report

  10. Avatar Rufus F. says:

    It’s hard to take any of this entirely seriously, since it seems like something out of South Park, but I’d probably fall into the ‘pox on both their houses’ camp. I’m not fond of the federal government micromanaging local schools; nor am I fond of school administrators treating students like they’re in reform school. Besides, at that age, I was pretending to be Jason Voorhees and hacking friends up with cardboard machetes, which is totally healthy I’d imagine.Report