A seven-year-old boy was suspended because he chewed his Pop Tart into the shape of a gun. Now, really, why would you suspend a kid for that? A gun-shaped Pop Tart isn’t a threat to anyone. Nor does chewing a Pop Tart into the shape of a gun suggest violent tendencies. Meanwhile, a 5-year-old girl was charged with “terroristic threats” for talking about her pink toy gun that shoots… bubbles. The school suspended her for 10 days and required a psychological evaluation. And in Maryland, boys were suspended for playing cops and robbers and using their fingers as imaginary guns. Who is frightened by this sort of thing? People who can’t distinguish between fantasy and reality. […]
A Pop Tart gun, a finger gun, or a toy gun -- even a pink one that shoots, gasp!, soap bubbles! -- isn’t any danger to anyone. Nor is playing with toy guns a sign that a kid is mentally ill or dangerous. It’s a sign that a kid is a kid. When schools and teachers react hysterically to such non-threats, they’re telling us one of two things: Either that they lack the ability to respond realistically to events or that they recognise that there’s not any sort of threat, but deliberately overreact in order to stigmatise even the idea of guns. The first is educational malpractice; the second is educational malpractice mixed with abuse of power. Neither inspires confidence in the educational system in which they appear.
When I was maybe five or six years old, I took to school a Marvel comic, which, naturally, led to a playground battle of ray guns, fireballs and atomic annihilators. Oddly enough, all of my friends survived this exchange of imaginary firepower, and even the toppling of entire imaginary buildings. So far as I can recall, no-one actually bombarded themselves with gamma rays in the hope of turning green. Still, I can’t help wondering how that kind of thing would go down among teachers who hyperventilate at the thought of a single pink bubble gun. Presumably our juvenile imaginations would, for some, now be a cause for concern, possibly correction.
Government is failing spectacularly at its core functions, such as budgeting and educating. Yet it continues to multiply its peripheral and esoteric responsibilities, tasks that require it to do things for which it has no aptitude, such as thinking and making common-sense judgments.
The Guardian has this week been a newspaper in mourning. The death of Hugo Chavez has hit morale hard, with the newspaper all but running a black band around its website in deference to the passing of the man it clearly regarded as the leader of all progressive forces south of the Equator, if not the Watford Gap. […] Tariq Ali’s piece… was a masterpiece of its kind, a full-throated encomium of praise that made Chavez sound like a world-historical colossus, a one-in-a-million fusion of two parts Gandhi, one part Bolivar and a dash of Han Solo, instead of the vaudevillian punchline that he was by the end. No mention was made of the gigantic failures, the petty thuggery and intimidation of opponents, the contempt for the constitution or the rule of law. Why should there have been? To these people, everything is about speaking so-called truth to power, even if it means singing the praises of dickheads like Chavez one week and then with a straight face labelling Rupert Murdoch a horrifying threat to democracy the next.
Less predictable was the charge… that the [teen pregnancy] posters “perpetuate gender stereotypes.” Even the most seasoned observers of the academic-advocacy-victimology axis might not have seen this one coming. Presumably, the ads “perpetuate gender stereotypes” by pointing out to “Dad” the costs of child support and to “Mom” that when the father takes off, as he likely will, she’ll be left holding the diaper bag. It appears that we have a new politically correct fantasy: unwed teen fathers are as likely to be the sole provider for their child as teen moms.
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As usual, posting will be intermittent over the holidays and readers are advised to subscribe to the blog feed, which will alert you to anything new. Thanks for another five thousand or so comments this year, some of which have been much more interesting than the actual posts. And particular thanks to all those who’ve made PayPal donations to help keep this rickety barge afloat. Much appreciated. Newcomers are invited to rummage through the archives and greatest hits, where you’ll find, among other things, the thrill of public nudity, the warm glow of socialist compassion and humility, and coverage of the loftiest, most high-minded arts.
Text messaging is on the decline, according to a new study by mobile industry analyst Chetan Sharma… During the third quarter of 2012, the average American sent 678 texts per month. That’s a big number, but it’s actually the first time America’s texting habit has declined, down from a peak of 696 texts per month over the summer. Experts say the decrease is likely a sign of a permanent shift away from SMS messaging carried over the same network we use to make phone calls. “With social networking and other platforms, they really take the messaging feature away from that usual channel,” says Wayne Lam, a wireless communication analyst at IHS Technology. “Consumers are messaging, but text messaging as a whole is competing with other forms of messaging.”
And remember, phone years are like dog years. If you haven’t upgraded yours in the last 18 months, there’s a good chance you’ll be looked on as some kind of contrarian throwback to the Dark Ages. A couple of months ago I ventured into a popular high street phone shop to get a new SIM. A greasy young man in bad trousers looked at my old BlackBerry as if it had been unearthed in the ruins of Xunantunich. “Wow,” said he with just a hint of amused contempt. “Old school. I haven’t seen one of these in years.” Greasy Teen then struggled in vain to open the casing, as if eager to behold its clockwork innards. The device was indeed four years old, before human history began, so obviously the locking mechanism was inscrutable to him, involving as it did the pushing of one button. Then came the inevitable, shame-inducing question. “Have you thought about upgrading?”