Note to ten-year-olds. If you’re in a school cafeteria queue and pretend your hand is a laser blaster - and worse, go pew, pew, pew - you will be suspended and labelled as a “threat.” No disintegrations were reported.
Steel yourselves, readers, for a shocking report of psychological brutality inflicted on wee ones during a terrifying rampage:
If your children express that they are troubled by today’s incident, please talk with them and help them share their feelings. Our school counsellor is available to meet with any students who have the need to do so next week.
So reads the letter sent to parents in the aftermath of the incident by Myrna Phillips, assistant principal of Park Elementary School, Baltimore. Clearly, the school’s second-grade 7-year-olds were at risk of being emotionally scarred by the incident, which was classified as a “level 3” violation of the school’s code of conduct.
Josh was munching on a strawberry Pop-Tart, when his creativity got the better of him, and he decided to reshape his breakfast by nibbling on its edges. “It was already a rectangle and I just kept on biting it and biting it and tore off the top and it kinda looked like a gun but it wasn’t,” he said. But his teacher thought it definitely looked like a gun, and, what’s more, she claims she saw Josh hold on to his food and utter the words “bang bang.”
Of course such evil must be punished and bleached from tiny minds.
His Pop-Tart was confiscated and he was immediately suspended for two days.
Regarding Ms Phillips’ letter to parents, Reason’s Jesse Walker adds this:
To be fair, the phrasing leaves open the possibility that the students would be “troubled” not by the imaginary gun but by the suspension, and by the ensuing realisation that they’re powerless pawns in a vast, incomprehensible game run by madmen.
Any readers distressed by these events and who find themselves in need of mental correction should report to our in-house nurse.
A reader, Wayne Fontes, has steered my belated attention to a Seattle after-school childcare programme, the Hilltop Children’s Centre, the staff of which are keen to ensure that children aged 5 through 9 have the correct kind of play and the correct kind of thoughts. In an article titled Why We Banned Legos, published in the Winter 2006/07 issue of Rethinking Schools magazine, two Hilltop staff recounted the pressing political issues raised by brightly coloured building blocks. The article’s authors, Ann Pelo and Kendra Pelojoaquin, ominously related the details of an investigation sparked by the children’s building of a village made of Lego,
“...and the questions embedded in their play about resource sharing, authority, ownership, and power.”
As someone who has, recklessly, bought Lego as a gift for children (and played with the stuff himself, both as a child and more recently), I was shamefully oblivious to the distressing potential of this plastic construction toy. Thankfully, the Hilltop teaching staff has paid much closer attention.
“The teachers’ observations of the inequity and unintended unfairness that this play created led them to launch an in-depth study with the children about the meaning of power and ways to organize communities which are equitable and just. This investigation was anchored in… our commitment to social justice, anti-bias teaching and learning.”
Pelo and Pelojoaquin tell us, shockingly, just how focussed and possessive small children can be.
“A group of about eight children conceived and launched Legotown. Other children were eager to join the project, but as the city grew — and space and raw materials became more precious — the builders began excluding other children.”
The horror continues.
“The Legotown builders turned their attention to complex negotiations among themselves about what sorts of structures to build, whether these ought to be primarily privately owned or collectively used, and how ‘cool pieces’ would be distributed and protected… Into their coffee shops and houses, the children were building their assumptions about ownership and the social power it conveys — assumptions that mirrored those of a class-based, capitalist society — a society that we teachers believe to be unjust and oppressive. As we watched the children build, we became increasingly concerned.”