Childrearing

The Dumb Things Schools Do In The Name Of Safety

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Over at Cracked, where they’re constantly taking the listicle to new heights, they’ve put together an oh-so-depressing compendium of “The 6 Dumbest Things Schools Are Doing in the Name of Safety.” Everything in the list is genuinely bad (RFID tracking devices on students? Seriously?) but this move just has to take the cake. It seems that a few years ago a Virginia middle school banned all touching — in any circumstances — among students:

This ban isn’t just enforced in the classroom. Students are forbidden to touch each other while at lunch, in the hallway or at any other time during school hours.

The principal defended the ban, saying she’s seen too many incidents of students playing bloody knuckles — a game that involves two idiots slamming their knuckles together as hard as they can. This seems to imply that all touching is a slippery slope that always ends in slapstick fist-smashing.

The worst part is that FMS isn’t the only school taking such extreme measures; these kinds of over-the-top precautions are showing up more often now that more school administrators have taken a ride on the crazy train (where they were apparently also groped and beaten). East Shore Middle School in Connecticut adopted the same policy in 2009. This one came about after a kick to the groin sent a student to the hospital.

This is just the logical extension of what a lot of schools do — you see one negative trend among students, and rather than correct that behavior and teach real responsibility, schools simply ban the offending behavior. This is hardly as bad as the no touching rule, but my eight-year-old nephew just told me the other day that Silly Bandz had been banned at his entire school. So no rubber bands!

Anyway, the point is that these blanket bans may get rid of the problem (temporarily) for administrators, but it doesn’t actually teach your kid how to behave. If it’s not rubber bands they’re playing with, kids are destined to find something else disruptive. Just wait until my Silly Bandz-deprived nephew discovers paper clip chains and starts zig-zagging across the thin No. 2 pencil line between civilization and chaos.

Then again, our public education system, modeled after Prussian notions of producing unimaginative workers subservient to the state, is too often  about breaking kids’ will. I don’t know a single person that doesn’t harbor a memory of a draconian school official well into adulthood, and yet as a country we seem uninterested in how our approach to discipline in schools could possibly be more productive. Too bad we can’t just ban unimaginative education administrators.