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."

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."

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."

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