Teaching The Children Well

My three kids have three Spring Breaks, one after the other. At any given time, the one on Spring Break is indolent and the other two are insolent and resentful. I may be working late a lot this month, and my wife is going all Lifetime Movie of the Week with the wine fridge.

But elsewhere, across America, kids are still learning. Their impressionable little minds are absorbing the important lessons offered to them — lessons about math, lessons about English, lessons about science, and always lessons about civics — the relationship between the state and its citizens.

Take seven-year-old Josh Welch of Maryland. Josh was suspended because a teacher says he bit a pastry into the shape of a gun and waved it around. Josh learned a valuable lesson about the amount of trust and respect he should have for government actors.

In Pennsylvania, five-year-old Madison Guarna was suspended for "terroristic threats" when she told friends she was going to shoot them with a Hello Kitty toy that makes soap bubbles. Madison learned an important lesson about how government actors will use citizens' fear and uncertainty to convince them to surrender rights and to increase the government actors' power.

In South Carolina, six-year-old Naomi McKinney was expelled from school — and threatened with criminal trespass charges if she returned — when she brought a clear plastic toy gun to school. Naomi learned an important lesson that government actors like broad rules that give them substantial power over citizens, and dislike requests that they exercise judgment, proportion, or what non-governmental actors might call reason.

In Philadelphia, fifth grader Melody Valentin arrived at school and realized that in her pocket she had a paper gun her grandfather had made for her. She tried to throw it away, but another student saw her and informed on her to the principal. School officials scolded her publicly and threatened her with arrest and searched her. Melody learned a valuable lesson about how state actors will maintain power by turning citizens against each other and making citizens extensions of their own control.

Finally, in Lodi, California, school officials propose to teach children many messages at once through an "anti-bullying" initiative forbidding students from "posting crude or disparaging remarks via electronic media."

First, arguing that after-school activities are a privilege and not a right, Lodi school authorities argue that they have the power to impose such a broad policy on outside speech upon students who want to participate in such activities:

Extracurricular activities are privileges, not rights, district officials said. With athletes and club members, they have a vehicle to take away an activity that students enjoy. They don't have that leverage for students who simply attend their classes and go home, officials said.

This teaches children the important lesson that everything the government gives you or does for you comes with a price — and that the price is often a piece of your liberty.

Second, Lodi officials are arguing students and parents can't be trusted to handle this issue themselves:

However, a sampling of Lodi High students say it's an issue that students can address on their own without adult interference.

Administrators and trustees in the Lodi Unified School District don't agree, saying that some students cross the line when it comes to posting comments about others.

This teaches children that government actors do not view them as capable of thinking or acting for themselves, and crave ever-increasing authority over them.

Third, Lodi officials are crafting a broad, vague, subjective policy:

Beginning in the 2013-14 school year, student athletes and club members will have to sign a contract promising that they won't post remarks that can emotionally harm others online. This includes social media like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Tumblr.

The policy applies to students both in school or out. This teaches children the lesson that government officials seek control over every aspect and every moment of their lives. The policy makes students responsible for the subjective emotional reactions of others. This teaches students that government actors like rules that are subjective (giving them more power) and rules that expand their power into the realm of feelings rather than actions (giving them more power). The rule is exceptionally vague. What types of emotional harm is covered? If a student complains that a particular person is bullying her, and the bully is embarrassed, has the bullied child broken the policy? As a tweet "our team crushed your team," causing despair, a violation? It's hard to tell. This teaches children that the government favors vague and ambiguous policies that maximize their power over citizens, and that often induce citizens to remain silent rather than speaking at all and risking violation of the policy.

Some look at these educational policies and despair. I, on the other hand, look at my kids and see how sharply they observe the world around them. Surely the children in Maryland and Pennsylvania and South Carolina and California are watching their teachers and taking away the right lesson — the lesson about how much they should trust, respect, or defer to the government.

Hat tip to Nathaniel.

Last 5 posts by Ken White


  1. SPQR says

    And what they've all learned is that we've allowed our children to be educated by an education system run by people who are largely too stupid and too incompetent to find real jobs.

    This is going to cause us a lot of problems in the future.

  2. says

    "when she clear plastic toy gun to school"

    You accidentally a word.

    Seriously, though, when I have kids I plan to home-school them and I will occasionally enroll them in government schools just to make sure they will learn to hate and despise the State.

  3. Ollie says

    I'm glad I'm going through school learning the right lessons, rather than the "right" lessons.

  4. Matthew Cline says

    Hey, man, pastries can be deadly. Especially in the hands of a seven year old.

  5. OngChotwI says

    Ken: Let me guess.. you studied English at the same prestigious school that taught logic to our esteemed friends at Prenda and even Charles Carreon. Please re-read that first paragraph (backwards) and correct the various typos and change the phrases to a single thread. Reading through 4 branches (oh, oh, oh.. I finally get to use "bifurcations"!!) is confusing.

  6. LTMG says

    None of the several private elementary and high schools in four countries, including *repressive* China and the US, have tried to foist these kinds of crap on my son and stepson. My total formal education was about half private and half public. For a variety of reasons, I firmly prefer private education and really can't see any particular advantages to public education. True, there are many *programs* available at public schools, but their efficacy is much in doubt.

  7. John David Galt says

    The bright side is that these self-important administrators have just given a HUGE shot in the arm to the home-schooling and voucher movements. Wanting out of the government school system, FAST, is no longer something only right-wing paranoids do. Soon, government schools will be like inner cities — abandoned by everyone who can afford to escape them.

    This is how the nanny state will discredit itself and die.

  8. Bill Stade says

    Unspoken in all this is the troubling thought that the government is a reflection of us. I say that not out of reverence for “government by the people”, but simply because government officials come from our ranks. There are bullies in the school yard and on the Board of Education. There are control freaks in the church congregation and in the principal’s office. There are hysterical over-reactors in congress and among bloggers.

    As Al Capp’s Pogo said, “ Yep son, we have met the enemy and he is us.”

  9. Lucy says

    I deeply regret not homeschooling my children. The repression outlined in this post is only a fraction of the slow moving iceberg that is the public system.

    As a parent in one of the best public school systems in the country, I can report that the education facilities have killed my children's love of learning. I have one each in elementary, middle, and high school. One of my kids are what is called superiorly gifted. Never make the mistake of allowing a public school system access to educating a child like this.

    The reach extended into the homes and lives of the children and their families is down right violating.

    I could write volumes on this shit. It's appropriate that I just keep it vague and say "Yeah! What Popehat said!"

  10. Lucy says

    I want to clarify that even with the best, most competent teachers, policy is the issue. Discipline policy, curriculum policy, district policy…

    It's a stifling web of wtf.

  11. Zemalkop says

    @LTMG: I think there is a case to be made for learning social skills through public education, and homeschooling isn't a available to everyone. The solution is sadly not so simple as just taking your child out of public school, although it may work for some.

    @John Fast: Aren't there any more productive things to learn your children to despise the state? Learn them to question the state, for sure.But I can't imagine what good learning them to despise it can do.

  12. says

    I can't afford private school yet, but until I can, I correct everything my children learn the second they come home.

  13. Rob says

    And what they've all learned is that we've allowed our children to be educated by an education system run by people who are largely too stupid and too incompetent to find real jobs.

    Comments like this make me laugh. As anyone who's ever worked in a major corporation can attest, corporate management is full of people just like this.

  14. Terry Towels says

    Well, I was raised by a teacher, and got all of my upstart ideas from him.

    Teachers have a huge load of caca on their plates these days (ianat). Most of them are walking a fine line between parents and administrators. They often have 30-40 kids in a classroom. When was the last time you spent 6 hours a day, every day, in a meeting with 30-40 adults?

    I really hate teacher bashing, they're mostly smart, dedicated folk. But, it's really a hellish environment and SPQR, why don't you go teach?

    Anyway, if you notice, it's not the teachers, it's the admin that's making the rules. The admin who are appointed by the elected officials.

    And, it's nothing new. I remember when:

    girls couldn't wear pants to school,
    the height of their skirts was measured with a yardstick,
    the length of boy's hair was measured by their collar,
    and when student speeches and newspapers were censored.

    And, especially, when kids brought up in this environment brought down a president and brought a war to an end.

    Relax, in our country, it seems as though the more repressive it gets, the more radical the reaction.

    But most of all, it's important to remind the kids of their rights.

    I've been enjoying the videos of young folk refusing to answer questions from the border patrol when they're not at the border.

  15. Nate says

    First full disclosure: I do not have children. I am 28 years old. I attended public schools in the largest city in a sparsely populated state. I worked for 7 years for public pools systems in the capacities of lifeguard, swimming lessons teacher, and assistant manager. I have a number of roommates and friends who were teachers.

    Now I think we can all agree that the punishments these children suffered come from a lack of common sense of the adults. A child with a pastry gun is unlikely to go on a jelly filled shooting spree. I think we can also agree that this lack of common sense stems from the ill advised "zero tolerance" policies that have been put into place.

    Now having had to enforce some other ill advised policies I can give you an idea of where these policies come from. Everyone will claim these policies stem from trying to keep people safe. They actually come from trying to keep the government from getting sued. When it comes to children many parents often lose all common sense. I have had parents threaten to call the police or my boss for but not limited to 1) disciplining a child for running on the pool deck, 2) a child getting bumped while playing basketball with other children, 3) asking a parent not to toss a child in the air in a crowded shallow pool, etc. If you extrapolate these kind of instances to a school you get 1) Johnny S. threatened my Susie with a water gun, he's dangerous, if it happens again I'm calling my lawyer, 2) Sally is making paper guns in school, she could be the next school shooter, you better make sure she doesn't or I'm calling my lawyer, and 3) the school needs to teach the kids that guns aren't ok, they're failing our kids otherwise. While I got new rules to not allow kids to play rough at the basketball hoop, schools get the zero tolerance policy.

    What I'm getting at is parents can be irrational and these ridiculous policies are almost always in response to parental pressure and fear of litigation. As parents you both part of the problem and part of the solution. You need to be involved in your child's educational lives. Work with teachers, not against them. Advocate for your child but keep realistic expectations. Listen to both sides of any story, your child does not always tell the truth. Thus, instead of putting your child in a private school or homeschooling I would advocate talking to other parents about the ridiculousness of these policies and contacting your superintendent to change them.

  16. says

    @Terry Towels :

    > I really hate teacher bashing, they're mostly smart

    Welcome to our planet Earth. You will find that it differs in many ways from wherever it is that you come from.

  17. says

    These overreactions w/r/t kids and guns has escalated steeply since the Newtown shooting. In that shooting, the victims were elementary school kids. Now, they're the potential "killers"???

    I'd say the situation is ironic, but that term would be completely wrong. "Insane" could be a match, but this seems more calculated, even if the "calculation" involves nothing more than subtracting common sense and dividing the result by zero tolerance.

  18. James Pollock says

    I think you mischaracterize "zero tolerance" polices. (They ARE stupid and they DO lead to ridiculous outcomes because school officials are unable to apply judgment, but they are actually intentionally designed to take judgment away from officials.)

    The problem with placing judgment in the hands of school officials is favoritism and unequal application. The unpopular kids get harsh treatment, while the popular kids get wrist slaps if anything at all, with the definition of "popular" being a very slippery one, sometimes referring to popularity with other students (particularly athletes) and other times referring to popularity with the staff ("little Johnny is on track to go to a good college, with admission and scholarship offers that would be revoked if the truth were known about them. Why ruin their future over a simple, childish mistake?")
    "Zero tolerance" forces every student to be treated the same way, removing favoritism and common sense with one broad brush. I don't think you'll find any school administrators who truly favor zero tolerance policy… it is imposed on them as well as the students.

    And yes, I've seen this at work first-hand… my six-year-old daughter was suspended from school for threatening another child… less than a week after a student at the middle school had a gun confiscated from his locker.

  19. gramps says

    Bill Stade:

    Pogo was the creation of Walt Kelly; Al Capp did L'il Abner.
    The quote is correctly attributed to Pogo, however.
    (Finished government school in 1962, if you don't count Army.)

    FWIW- my high school had ROTC and a rifle team. times have changed.

  20. Anony Mouse says

    That's a really broad brush you're using there, Clark. I would say a good number of young teachers are smart, idealistic, and truly want to educate children. The problem is the teachers who are burned out and counting the days to retirement. And insane members of union leadership who have stopped teaching and just demagogue full time.

    Also, since teachers have A) strong unions and B) socially praised jobs, they tend to be very insulated from the harsh realities faced by the rest of us. Especially those of us in jobs with A) weak unions that care more for political campaigning (ie: SEIU) and B) socially mocked careers.

    I still remember an argument with a teacher friend where she was telling me about how hard it was to make ends meet with only a 15% raise. She shut up when I pointed out that my last raise was 0.03%.

    Screw you, SEIU.

  21. That Anonymous Coward says

    Sigh, people whine and fill out internet petitions and expect to change the world. Sometimes you have to do things…

    They parents in Lodi should totally agree with the policy provided it be amended that the board, teachers, and other staff do not use any alcohol or take any drugs not prescribed by a doctor. They should be barred from watching the news or reading anything that could be considered upsetting to any children. (Here is the part where you heap on at least 2 more things).
    If they want to set the tone, they get to be the example… and suddenly the power grab doesn't seem like its worth it any longer.

    Could you imagine a reporter stopping a congresscritter, who supports the right of the government to snoop in your communications, and asking for a copy of all of the emails from the office since they were elected? Imagine the bonus points of the reporter dropping why are you worried or do you have something to hide.

    Giving people power creates brain damage, the longer they have it the worse the damage. We've all seen enough evidence of this to consider it is a fairly accurate statement.

  22. Agitater says

    For what it's worth, we homeschool our two children and there is very little impact on their social lives as far as we are concerned (my partner and I both attended public schools). Our children still go to playgrounds, church, parks, play sports, and go to home school co-ops (for science, art, etc.).

    We have noticed that homeschooled kids interact with adults very well. I would say (though I am biased) that our kids generally treat other children with more respect than their publicly-schooled peers.

    I was nervous about homeschooling our kids at first, but meeting another couple that homeschooled their son convinced me to give it a try. It is working out great.

  23. earthclanbootstrap says

    What Nate said.

    I came here lurking for the popcorn fun of Prenda, but now feel compelled to comment on this. I am shocked and saddened that the response of far too many people who are confronted with the choices of society at large is to completely disassociate themselves with that society instead of engaging with it. There are all sorts of laws and policies that I don't agree with; too bad, so sad. That's the price of actually having a society; sometimes people have different ideas than you and they prevail. I am not saying that you have to bow down to every whim of an authoritarian nanny state, but hey, the 'body politic' should be polite, and whining (or screaming) every time one thinks their 'libertarian ideals' have been infringed when it is really just a case of making the compromises that make a free society work is just pathetic. Does bureaucratic Asshattery occur? Sure. There are, also, despite my loathing of them, potholes. Nothing is perfect. Shutting one's children away from the rest of humanity in a snit is, quite frankly, a pathetic response at best. Engage your children in an attempt to change the system if you don't like it, don't exclude them from it.

  24. CC says

    I'm torn on this one. Because while I don't have kids myself, I'm right at the age where a lot of my friends do and several of said friends' kids went BANANAS after Newton. Afraid to go to school, afraid someone would hurt them, crying, nightmares, etc.

    It has mostly calmed down at this point, but I can totally see why a kid who wanted to play guns, particularly the Hello Kitty gun girl who actually said "I'll shoot you, you shoot me, and we'll all play together," without mentioning that the gun she was talking about was a "Hello Kitty" one, might legitimately freak some of the other kids out and cause pointless fuss.

    If you can get suspended for talking back or otherwise being disruptive, I'm not sure why this specific brand of disruptiveness is so different, just because it connects to a larger political issue. We all want kids to grow up skeptical of authority, but on some level they have to function in society as well and I don't think "When your boss makes a rule you think is dumb, sometimes you have to follow it anyway" is that bad a lesson.

  25. C. S. P. Schofield says

    I grew up in and around academia (my Father was a Professor), and I learned early that it was common knowledge that the dumbest students, most incompetent teachers, and most idiotic courses on any University campus would be found in the college of education. Good teachers go throughout this cr*p to get their certificates. Administrators of public schools lap it up and rise in the system. The United States does not owe inner city Blacks reparations for slavery; no one alive today was a slave in the antebellum South, and no one alive today was a slaveowner there. We do, however, owe them reparations for allowing white progressivist twits to take over the public school system and turn it into a slowly dissolving mass of slime.

    I would love to hear about any charities anyone knows of that provide scholarships to private schools to inner city kids. We owe these people.

  26. the other rob says

    Didn't PJ O'Rourke say something about teaching not being a profession that "attracts the clever"?

  27. AlphaCentauri says

    I second what The Anonymous Coward said.

    Does anyone find it ironic that a legal blog is complaining about a problem that has come about to a large extent because teachers and administrators need well-delineated policies to protect them from crazy helicopter-parents and their lawyers? (or from families of victims of school tragedies and their lawyers, unfortunately)

    A non-lawyer served with a lawsuit and dragged through depositions remembers it. Forever. We don't live in your world. It's the closest a lot of us will get to being arrested and interrogated by the police. Those police you despise? — That's what lawyers are like to the rest of us.

    Most of those same bureaucrats don't hear a peep from parents who want to more freedom and responsibility in their schools, or who want to volunteer to make it student autonomy more practical in large public school classrooms. So guess which way the bureaucracy is being nudged?

    That "Nanny State" works for you. All the corporate money in the world won't buy votes if people take their responsibility as citizens seriously. So using this blog to educate them so they can take an active role, A+ . Discouraging them from voting, encouraging them to pull their kids out of public school rather than writing letters, attending meetings and volunteering, lumping all teachers together as stupid — not so good.

    Did you all educate yourselves? None of you ever had a teacher who changed your life? I feel sorry for you.

  28. Nate says

    Firstly, James Pollock makes an excellent point that I hadn't considered regarding fairness. Is there a middle ground, where fairness and common sense can prevail?

    Second, private schools are subject to the same pressures as public schools just on a slightly different and slightly smaller scale. (Less people, but they are paying for the education.) Also, not all private schools are created equally. You are giving many of them waaaaaay too much credit.

    What private schools have over inner city public schools is smaller size. Less kids means more teacher interaction and less disruptions. If our public schools had more money (and spent it more appropriately) and less bureaucracy, they could achieve the same results. Public schools have a much greater burden than private schools as they take care of ALL students. (Public schools also have more idiots in charge. I have yet to figure out how many of them got their positions.) Most private schools are not equipped to take care of those with special needs.

    FYI my highschool was ~900 students grades 10-12. I graduated with 11 national merit finalists. We went to some of the best universities in the country, Harvard, Stanford, Georgetown, etc. I went to ASU but I had a full ride scholarship (and I got accepted to University of Chicago). Who knows ehat would have happened in a school of 3000 students. Many schools are that large. Fix the public schools, advocate for them, don't abandoned them.

  29. says

    I think you are committing the same sin you are decrying by lumping all critics together, AlphaCentauri. Some people here see homeschooling as the right approach, some people (like my family) get very involved in schools instead. Some people have views denigrating the broad category of teachers and administrators, some don't. I had many teachers who changed my life, among them my mother, both a teacher and a school administrator.

    But schools and administrators and teachers have always been excellent examples of how power corrupts. Your comment presumes that schools act this way because they are terrified of litigation. Perhaps that is one factor — probably it is for the idiotic no-dodge-ball and no-tag-or-running policies my kids face now — but I don't think that explains everything. As long as there have been public schools, those schools have been a locus of state power over the individual. That's true whether we look at persecution of religious minorities or attempts to use the schools to promote social and religious agendas (see, for instance, science teaching controversies in Texas, or attempts to prohibit gays from teaching in California.)

    I don't think that teachers or administrators get up to these shenanigans because teaching or administrators are disproportionately bad, or because those professions attract bad people. I think that government power over citizens corrupts people and institutions. I don't advocate disengagement, I advocate careful observation to draw lessons from that corruption and to oppose it.

  30. C. S. P. Schofield says


    You make excellent points. School jobs will attract people who take pleasure in bullying children for the same reasons that they attract people who want to sexually abuse children …. but there are no policies in place to weed out the bullies. And this is hardly new; Kipling writes about it in STALKY AND COMPANY. The character of King is made up of two different Masters at Kipling's school; the Latin Master, who was sarcastic and a genuinely good teacher, and the original School Chaplin who, by all accounts, was an unmitigated sonofabitch.

    Mencken also writes about the commonness of Teacher-bullies among what he called the "dirt pedagogy" of his youth.

    AlphaCentauri has a point, too, though. Parents used to trust schools a good deal more than they do. And ultimately, it doesn't matter which side broke that trust; it ain't coming back under present conditions. When school administrators have the right to tell parents "If you don't like how we run things, go elsewhere." and make it stick, then that equation will be more in balance once again.

    The more I think about the is, the more I want to take those who say that Vouchers would be unconstitutional because they would let people spend "tax money" on religious schools (I thought that had been settled buy the Supreme Court, but some folks always have to fight over battles they have already lost) and shake them until their teeth rattle. We should be condemning the most in-danger children to schools that are little better than holding pens for the prison system, because their precious Atheistical feelings might be hurt if somebody else's child goes to a Catholic school?


  31. Bob Brown says

    All is not lost, at least in Clayton County, Georgia, where Steve Teske is judge of the juvenile court. Judge Teske likes to say, "Zero tolerance is zero intelligence" and to apply actual judgement to being a judge. The trouble is, I fear that by the time kids get to see the judge, it's too late. Perhaps he could run for superintendent of schools.

  32. Jose Fish Taco says

    Schools these days are pretty local by nature. It's easy for any parent to get involved in the process and potentially make significant changes. If you don't like the rules at your school system, work to change them.

    Homeschooling may solve a small problem for one student (and I emphasize "may") but it does nothing for every other student in the system.

  33. princessartemis says

    I don't see it as "abandoning" the public school system when one chooses to take their child elsewhere. Why is there talk like that? Are children all identical? If someone has serious issues with how public schools are run, why should they inflict them on their children?

    My mother is a middle school teacher in California. She tells me about a lot of the administrative and legal bullshit she has to put up with just to get through a day. Makes me glad I ended up being unable to get into teaching; I would never have survived.

  34. says

    The problem, of course, is that we have farmed out our education system to the government. History has shown that the free market system is the best possible provider of goods and services. However, instead of a free market for education services we have a soviet style, top-down, command economy system that–again–history has shown doesn't work.

    I am willing to stipulate that there are many intelligent and decent individuals working in the American education system. The problem is that it is the system itself which is flawed.

  35. James Pollock says

    "When school administrators have the right to tell parents "If you don't like how we run things, go elsewhere." and make it stick"
    That's what private schools have that public schools don't.

    "History has shown that the free market system is the best possible provider of goods and services."
    Not so fast. I challenge the unspoken assumption embedded here, which is "in all situations". There are economic side-currents where free-market economics is not the best possible provider of goods and services. (Whether educating the youth is one of them is, of course, still open to debate.) Plus there are societal costs to commoditization.

  36. Dan Weber says

    I don't think teachers are any more or less special than soldiers, lawyers, engineers, garbagemen, ditch diggers, cashiers, policemen, nurses, priests, fast-food managers, photographers. They are all fine jobs, each with their own pros and cons. Some people care about their jobs and feel they are a calling; some are just punching the clock until they are done.

    I applaud those parents who work to make their public schools better. I applaud those parents who say "screw this" and pull their kids out to private school or home school. It's a pretty monstrous proposition, though, to tell someone that they should stay in the public school system where their kid is getting beat up on the bus every day and the administrators just don't care. Sure, they could sue, if they have the time to dedicate to that, while their kid is getting beat up every day. Don't worry, Johnny, your bloody lip is for a good cause.

  37. C. S. P. Schofield says


    While I agree with you in general, I think there are specific exceptions. Certain instances in American history seem to show that government does well at spreading networks that have broad economic benefits for society but which, absent some kind of government subsidy, the market won't pay for. My understanding of the spread of the railroads fits this. So does the spread of many canal systems over the world. There simply seem to be some transportation and distribution networks that people won't use if they charge what they would have to to make money, but which are worth it.

    I don't think schools fit into this model. But on the other hand, government run schools worked OK for, oh, half a century or so. I'm not sure that what is wrong with the public schools is inherent to the idea of public schools. I think it may be simply that any human system silts up over time, or perhaps calcifies, and at some point any system simply needs to be changed in order to shake it up.

  38. AlphaCentauri says

    You're right. Sorry. Clark's comment to Terry just got me angry.

    The problem with vouchers is that he who pays the piper calls the tune. Once schools and parents accept the vouchers as the status quo, there's a lot of inertia to keep things that way. It starts by requiring reading and math skills, but then starts encompassing religious and social tolerance. Little by little, things move away from the original reason the schools were separate in the first place. No one wants to stand up and say, "We're not taking your money any more under those conditions." In New Zealand, where Catholic schools receive state funding, I have been told that they now have to provide counselors to help their pregnant teens obtain abortions without their parents' knowledge. And the schools go along with it.

    If we want everyone educated — which benefits everyone who will have to hire or live next door to those kids when they grow up — it just makes sense to fix the public schools system rather than to abandon it without having learned any lessons, then starting wrecking something else.

  39. C. S. P. Schofield says


    Any new system will, of course, calcify in turn. That doesn't mean we shouldn't shake up the current system.

  40. says


    Aren't there any more productive things to learn your children to despise the State?

    Well, yes, being self-disciplined and compassionate are more important, and so are reading, writing, mathematics, history, economics, and the canon of literature from Homer and Socrates to Heinlein and Anderson.
    It's not a matter of either/or. They should learn all of that, including why and how the State is evil.
    They can learn everything better at home than in a government school, except for just how bad the State is.

    Learn them to question the state, for sure. But I can't imagine what good learning them to despise it can do.

    I'm really not sure how to respond to that. Let me ask: How should I respond if someone said "Learn to question slavery, for sure. But I can't imagine what good learning to despise it it can do"?

  41. says

    I can see good, reasonable arguments in favor of zero-tolerance policies and also against them. To me, that means there's no clear scientific/reasonable consensus either way . . . which means that forcing one set of policies on every single school is obviously *wrong* and immoral as well as unproductive. Clearly, parents should be able to send their children to schools that are run the way they want, whether they ban Nerf[TM] guns as too violent, or whether they require all students to learn how to shoot.

  42. AlphaCentauri says

    Shake up the current system, definitely. And offer alternatives as a way to shake it up. But never stop the pressure for the public schools to serve the public instead of just warehousing the children of the undiscriminating.

  43. Nate says

    Ok, I admit my last sentence was a bit overly dramatic and demanding; not quite what I was aiming for (I was going for impassioned). However, I don't think I was saying or even insinuating that if your kid is getting beat up on the bus, you should let him/her get a bloody lip for the cause. I meant to say that I had an excellent experience in the public school system, I think that they are worth fixing and saving, and I hope other people who care also get involved. I was also saying that I do not believe that home schooling and private schooling are infallible and a solution to all the ills that befall public schools. They are alternative schooling and definitely serve a purpose, but they don’t fix everything. I do understand that different types of schooling are more or less appropriate for different children and a parent must choose which one they feel is best. Each type of school comes with advantages and disadvantages. I think public schools have been villainized, in some ways fairly and in some ways unfairly. I just want people to consider all solutions to the issues in our schools.

  44. Joe Pullen says

    More proof that common sense is not so common. It's not just in the public school system either, and as Tim has pointed out, many times it's the parents that contribute to the problem.

  45. Narad says

    I went to ASU but I had a full ride scholarship (and I got accepted to University of Chicago).

    @Nate: Speaking as a mid-'80s U. of C. alum (I understand it's gotten softer "more fun" since), you probably made the right choice, assuming you wanted something like a normal trajectory after post-secondary education. I can't say I would trade the experience, but pedagogically, it was something of a mess.

  46. Nate says

    @Narad: Thanks. :) I definitely don't regret my choice. It was the right choice for me and my family. For all the grief I give my alma mater, ASU is a decent school and I received a good education. I still try to remember two bits of advice I received, one from my dad and one from my professor/mentor.

    Dad: It really doesn't matter where you go; if you put in the time and energy you will receive a good education. (Dad is a professor at a university.)

    Mentor: When given multiple good choices make a decision and don't look back. Second guessing yourself and wondering what might have been won't make you happier or help you move forward.

  47. Dictatortot says

    "Zero-tolerance" policies are idiotic, but I also remember one of the reasons they became so widespread–the vast number of teachers & administrators who proved themselves unworthy of being trusted with ANY discretion in disciplinary matters. I hate that nobody in the schools can seemingly exercise simple judgment, but every time I deplore this, it occurs to me that most of them have no powers of judgment worthy of the name … and that's how we got here. If they weren't expelling six-year-olds for wielding pastry guns, they'd probably be lightly knuckle-rapping eighteen-year-olds with shivs.

    And, of course, it's largely these same idiots were entrusted with DRAFTING the zero-tolerance rules. Maybe what we need is more intelligent zero-tolerance rules that a) avoid most of the mockeries that Ken cites, but that B) still oblige educational-system employees–against their native instincts–to keep some semblance of discipline.

  48. Andy (not Andy) says

    My wife's a teacher, but she's not unionized, and hasn't had a raise in five years. So I don't want to hear that bullshit about overpaid teachers. I make more than she does *with a 2 year degree*.

    So, generalizing teachers as overpaid and incompetent doesn't work. I'm sure some are, and in fact I know some, but let's not paint with such a broad brush, eh?

    Now, having worked in, and out of, the public school systems as non-educational staff (IT) where I could observe, and had access to much privileged (verbal) information because I worked closely with administration and more importantly, their secretaries, I can tell you problem number one with public schools in the last twenty years:

    The parents. Any of us who graduated before 1990 remember that the school could actually exercise judgement in discipline. Sure, there were always issues with it, but it worked better than it does now, I think.

    Parents in the last twenty years have taken away the school's ability to do almost anything outside of suspension or calling law enforcement, for anything at all worthy of an administrator's attention. The very same parents also second-guess every teacher and/or administrator's move, to where it becomes easier to do nothing, unless it *is* bad enough to call law enforcement and/or suspend the child.

    Now, I'm not defending obvious incompetents or power-hungry people. Bad is bad.

    Now, I did send my own kids to public school. However, I knew the places where the school's teachings are simply wrong, and made sure they had the right info available. That was my responsibility as a parent.

    Anyway, the whole blaming teachers and administrators in general for the public school issues is a pet peeve, when over 50% of the problem, again in the broad cross-section, is the parents, and consequences of what they've forced over the last twenty years. Yes, there are bad administrators, and bad teachers, but, those are specific issues, not a general across-the-board one.

  49. neight says

    The "lessons" are presented somewhat tongue and cheek, but I internalized much the same from more banal, but similar circumstances that I witnessed first hand, graduating from public schools (good ones by most measures) in 1995.

    To the extent that administrations decide that they must choose between dealing with irrational parents and adopting irrational policies, I'd say the failure has occurred prior to any disciplinary consequences being imposed.

    I have heard opponents of vouchers state that "market competition has no place in a child's education" or somesuch nonsense, yet they are perfectly comfortable inane politics and low standards.

  50. Mannie says

    I'm starting to take seriously, what I thought was a whackjob tinfoil hat theory. There is a program to condition, to terrorize, to brainwash our children into fearing and hating guns and patriotism. If the Liberal scum can ruin our children, they have won.

    Counterattack. Buy your child a gun, as young as he or she can operate one, and take them to the range. Let them talk it up with their friends. The children will spread the Good News.

    Μολὼν λαβέ

  51. says

    That would have to be vastly oversimplified, Mannie. There's no program to terrorize our children into hating all guns or all patriotism.

    Liberals and conservatives alike — at least the sort who get elected — want us to like and respect guns when they are held by the armed forces and the DEA and the police. Liberals and conservatives alike — at least the sort who have gotten elected — have become fairly indistinguishable when it comes to supporting the sort of patriotism that says "you can trust the military" or "you can trust law enforcement."

    But patriotism, in terms of a consistent adherence to core founding principles of the nation, whether or not your cohort is currently supporting them? That's out of favor from both sides, liberal and conservative.

  52. James Pollock says

    It is a mistake to assume that "liberals hate guns". It is more accurate to say that "liberals favor more restrictions on gun possession".
    The divide amongst the most rational of the two sides boils down to a few things they agree on, and one that they do not. Both sides tend to agree that there are some people who should not have easy and unregulated access to firearms (to take obvious examples that both sides tend to agree on, infants and inmates). Both sides agree that expecting the government to be able to regulate possession at anything close to total effectiveness is foolish; neither sees any viable alternative. So, in its simplest form, the question becomes one of selecting from two mutually exclusive options: Is it better to restrict guns in such a way that no person who should be allowed to possess them is prevented from doing so, even if that means that some people who should not be allowed to possess them are able to do so, as well, or is it better to make sure that no person who should have access to firearms has access, even if it means that a couple of people who should not have been restricted get caught in the restrictions, as well? Note that realists recognize that errors both ways are going to happen in the real world.
    To loop back to Mannie's point, I don't think schools are trying to indoctrinate children to hate guns. (I also don't think that if they tried, they'd succeed.) I'm pretty sure that the vast majority of schoolteachers and administrators would be happy to just have the kids not bring them to school.
    Wasn't it the NRA that ran the "stop. don't touch. Tell an adult." ads so kids would know what to do if they found a gun?

  53. BSpiros says

    So, given the growing state effort to control both bullying and hacking issues I think there may be an opportunity for fun. Let's say a student makes disparaging remarks on a locked down (i.e. strict privacy settings) social media profile which requires permission to view. Does it violate computer abuse laws or the 4th or 5th ammendment if an administrator forcing either the poster of the remarks, or another student with access, to log in to the website?