Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Zero Tolerance with Children = Cowardice

When I was about 20 years old, serving a Mormon mission in Costa Rica, it dawned on me one day that my view of the world was too narrow.  I recognized that there were indeed mitigating factors in personal decisions, even moral ones, that had to be accounted for when determining the value or lack thereof of a decision.  I stopped seeing the world in black and white, or even shades of gray.  It became a technicolor dreamcoat, an endless variety of plausible possibilities in need of time and intelligence and contrition to become wisdom.

Juxtapose that with the story out of Colorado of a 7-year-old boy suspended from school for throwing a pretend grenade against some "evil forces" so that he could "save the world."

http://blog.sfgate.com/sfmoms/2013/02/06/boy-7-suspended-from-school-for-throwing-imaginary-hand-grenade/

The young lad was merely playing at projecting his authority and control over the world.  He was acting out something that most kids do.  We play at war, at cops-and-robbers, probably nowadays at irhabists-and-soldiers.  The school has a zero-tolerance policy (the first sign that wisdom is lacking in school governance) toward acts of violence, even pretend or make-believe ones.  Zero tolerance is a foolish way of administering discipline.  You tie your own hands so that you don't have to use discernment, and worse, to insulate yourself from litigation.

A principal could have easily reminded the lad that such play wasn't appropriate at school.  But, even then, is pretend fighting against 'evil forces' really that big a deal?  Are we stifling imagination in the name of zero tolerance?  I believe we are.  Play is a fundamental aspect of mental growth.  Any time we thwart that, we're taking away learning and developmental opportunities from a child.

Here's a link to but one of the 41 million results of a Google search for "importance of play for children."  http://www.pediatricsdigest.mobi/content/119/1/182.full

Administrators should be allowed to use wisdom in the administration of the discipline of their charges.  Perhaps we need to insulate them a little from litigation, but zero tolerance is cowardice.  This situation reminds me of the wisest book I know, Ecclesiastes, over 2300 years old.  Chapter 4, verse 13 seems apropos here:  "Better is a poor and a wise child than an old and foolish king, who will no more be admonished."






No comments: