My recent blog post analyzing a Zero Tolerance case (Patrick Timoney’s “Gun”) showed just how crazy people can get trying to control others, and their desire to punish non-transgressions just the same as if the person was actually doing something wrong. Most people fully got the point. Others, to my shock, didn’t.
The “zero tolerance” stories just don’t stop, despite court decisions and legislators demanding “common sense.” A 2″ hunk of plastic isn’t a gun, unless you’re a hysterical grade school principal who demands that 9-year-olds in your care sign confessions when they bring a toy to school.
The New York Times had an article today on a ridiculous zero tolerance situation: a kid in Delaware who was so excited to get his Cub Scouts camping utensil — a fork, knife and spoon combo — that he took it to school to eat his lunch with. Yeah, a Cub Scout: Zachary Christie is just 6 years old.
Anytime I run a “gun story” I get a lot of comment from both hugely polarized Americans, who want to rant for or against guns, and foreign readers, who don’t understand the American “obsession” with arms. I’m going to take a stab at helping foreign readers understand it a bit better. So first, the “gun story” that prompted this essay, from True’s 15 February 2009 issue:
Episode #30: “Put a Lid On It” from True’s 28 December 2008 issue.
Episode #18: “Testing — Testing 1-2-3”. From True’s 5 October 2008 issue.
A tremendous number of zero tolerance stories pass in front of me as I search for stories for True, and (contrary to what some readers think) I pass by most of them. I’ve previously encouraged those who are truly wronged by ZT to consider suing their schools.
Episode #3: Visionary. From True’s 22 June 2008 issue.
I do a lot of research when looking for stories, and I see quite a bit of amazing stuff. Most of it I use for stories, but sometimes even truly wonderful items just don’t quite make it into the final product. This is one such case.
There’s a group of friends I hang out with online, all of us online entrepreneurs. One sent a URL around urging us all to “take 8 minutes to watch the video,” adding “if you care about such things, please consider blogging about it and/or passing it on.” What things? Our kids. Or, more accurately, the education of our kids. The world is a very, very different place than it was when we were kids.
Remember the story from last week about the high schoolers that created an anti-drunk-driving t-shirt after their classmates were killed in an accident? Well, I got a lot of comments on it. Let’s start first with the story:
Just when I think there can’t be even more outrageous examples of Zero Tolerance — in schools or in real life — I come across more that I just can’t resist telling you about. But there is hope, which I’ll get to in a minute. First, one of the ZT stories from this week’s (25 February 2007) issue to illustrate:
This week’s issue had several “Zero Tolerance” stories. The stories themselves don’t matter to the following point: Whenever I run stories like these, readers write to suggest I put the principal’s/administrator’s/school board’s email address in the issue to make it easy for you to write and berate them. Please don’t; it’s not useful for people to write nasty letters to these people.
Read the story, then decide: why did I include it in a weird news column?
aka, Ya’ll Grow Up Now, Hear?
I Became Aware of the Beaver Problem when researching the 18 June 2000 issue. People really enjoyed the resulting story. Pay particular attention to the second half:
When a fourth-grade girl got nabbed by her school on “Zero Tolerance” grounds, her parents didn’t lie back and take it. Here’s the story, from my 26 May 2005 issue:
This is True often deals with education. That’s due to several factors, including: 1) We all spend so many of our formative years in school, 2) Kids have a knack for doing really dumb things sometimes, and 3) School administrators and teachers always want to outdo the kids, and thus pull even dumber stunts.
I periodically remind people: the stories in This is True are not always meant to be funny. Even the funny ones are often chosen to drive home a point, but sometimes being funny isn’t the way to do that. A good example is this two-story line-up from True’s 3 October 2004 issue:
Sometimes I write taglines with the intention of provoking readers a bit, but usually they don’t rise to the bait. Other times, I’m astounded at what does trigger complaints. A good example of the latter is this story from the 15 February 2004 issue:
or… Welcome to the 21st Century
Editorial comments from This is True for the week of 16 February 2003:
It’s pretty rare that I get truly angry over a story.