Walking Through the Flogging Door*
Uh oh. I agree with the GOP again. Sort of.
A Republican-sponsored bill seeks to combat overreaching zero-tolerance policies related to gun play by defunding schools that employ such rules. From TheHill.com:
“The legislation seeks to stop these practices by blocking federal funds to any school that punishes students for a select list of activities. Those activities include carrying miniature toy guns, and “brandishing a pastry or other food which is partially consumed in such a way that the remnant resembles a gun.”
The pastry language is a response to a Maryland student who partially ate a Pop Tart to make it look like a gun and was suspended.
Schools would also have funding blocked if they get students in trouble for possessing a Lego gun, using fingers and thumbs or writing instruments to simulate a gun, wearing clothing supporting the Second Amendment, and drawing or possessing pictures of guns.”
I agree wholeheartedly with the effort here. I think zero-tolerance policies have gone entirely too far. There is zero evidence that gun play leads to later violence. And as Penny Holland points out in her book We Don’t Play with Guns Here, such rules stifle creativity and risk otherizing children who grown up in homes with guns, including the children of military personnel and police officers. I let children in my class create guns out of our various building materials, with one primary rule: you may only “shoot” people who’ve voluntarily agreed to being shot. Which is an easy rule for most kids to follow. As Holland points out, weapon and gun play tends to fall into one of two categories: hero play (i.e., “We must stop the bad guys from doing bad things”) and fantasy play (i.e., “This is a chocolate gun that turns all food into chocolate because I like chocolate”). Furthermore, as a teacher, it allows me to explore the underlying themes, even the more troubling ones, rather than simply pushing them underground… “Who are the bad guys? What did they do that was bad? Are there other ways to stop them besides hurting them?”
However, where I disagree with the GOP is that the consequence for such schools should be defunding. Somehow, it has become the norm to punish schools that don’t meet expectations, be they academic or otherwise, by denying them funds. And while I understand that we don’t want to reward schools for failing, we also should recognize that defunding them often just exacerbates problems. It is not enough that we eliminate overly aggressive zero-tolerance policies. We must help educators understand why they are wrongheaded and help them make better decisions. This usually requires more money, not less. Not necessarily a lot more, but at least some. If you want all your teachers and administrators to read Holland’s book, that is going to be much harder to do if you suddenly lose your federal funding.
So, bad liberal Kazzy applauds the GOPs goal but criticizes their methods. And given that this is unfortunately going to become another battle in the culture wars, rather than a thoughtful dialogue about what is best for children, I’m going to retreat under my desk with a Pop-Tart eaten into the shape of my weapon of choice… a book on child development.
[More at Memeorandum]
* To anyone who doesn’t understand the title, it is a reference to a joke I made with esteemed commenter and unabashed libertarian J@m3z Aitch, wherein I mentioned that anytime Aitch agrees with something I say, all the “good” liberals make me walk through the “flogging door” at Whole Foods as punishment.