Friday, November 09, 2007

The True Purpose of Zero Tolerance

Anti-hug bans continue to spread through the nation’s schools. Two days ago we learned that schools in Missouri and Alabama had banned hugging. Today we learn that another school in Illinois and two schools in Texas (Kyle and Keller) have also banned hugging. In Virginia, a school has banned not only hugging, but all forms of physical contact, including high-fives. And the bans are not confined to the US. In Great Britain another school has banned hugging.

Different schools give different reasons for the bans. Sometimes the reason is to prevent sexual harassment. Other times hugging and other public displays of affection (PDAs) are banned because they are considered to be in poor taste. Then there are times when school officials say it has nothing to do with sex or taste at all, but is only because hugging causes students to be late for class.

None of these explanations entirely makes sense. If being late for class is the problem, why not just punish students for being late? Why single out hugging from all the other reasons students are late? If sexual harassment is the issue, why punish a student for hugging a friend who lost a parent? And if taste is the issue, what is there about a high-five that is in poor taste? And why is this suddenly a problem now? It wasn’t considered a problem when I was in school. You couldn’t smooch on school grounds, of course, but there were no rules against non-sexual hugs, and the lack of such rules did not result in anarchy. Why is hugging a problem now?

Schools have banned tag, they’ve banned dodge ball, they’ve banned cupcakes, and now they’ve banned hugs. What are they going to ban next? What will be the end result of all this zero tolerance? What will schools look like ten years from now? Twenty? Fifty? What kind of society is zero tolerance creating?

Prisons practice zero tolerance. Prisons are no-hug zones. PDAs are prohibited in prison, as are many things we in the free world take for granted. Behavior is narrowly circumscribed in prison. There is very little free choice. You can choose not to eat the potatoes on the plate of food they give you, you can choose which magazine to read from those the authorities have allowed inside prison. But the important decisions are made for you. Individualism is discouraged. Free will is discouraged. Thought is discouraged. You follow the rules without question, and the rules don’t have to make sense or be fair. There are no exceptions, no distinctions, and very little recourse.

That is how our schools are becoming. Like prisons. An honor student with a perfect record gives an aspirin to another student and is immediately suspended for violating the rule against drugs. A boy doodles a gun on a piece of notepaper and is immediately suspended. A girl hugs a few friends at a football game and is immediately suspended. And what happens when lawsuits are filed over zero tolerance issues? Nothing, that's what.

Why are schools becoming like prisons? Because schools prepare kids for society and society is becoming a prison. That’s what a police state is, a society where citizens are treated like prisoners.

Every day we hear about a new rule, and rarely is the rule rescinded. Usually, the rule is expanded. One day smoking is banned in workplaces and nightclubs. The next day it is banned in cars and homes. One day all guns must be registered. The next day they are being confiscated.

Gun control, smoking bans. Both were instituted by the Nazis in Germany, and both are being instituted here. Day by day, we have less and less freedom of choice, just like prisoners.

At first, zero tolerance seems benign. No reasonable person thinks children should be allowed to bring marijuana to school. Therefore, a zero tolerance rule against drugs makes sense. Until a student is suspended for possessing aspirin. A zero tolerance rule against sexual harassment makes sense, too, until a four-year-old boy is suspended for hugging a teacher’s aide.

Zero tolerance has been proven time and again to have no effect on curbing harmful behaviors. All it does is criminalize harmless behaviors. Which makes no sense, until you realize it’s not supposed to make sense. In fact, the less sense it makes, the better. Zero tolerance replaces the will of the individual with the will of the state. Zero tolerance teaches the individual to obey without question or thought. A police state requires such obedience. Zero tolerance makes everyone guilty of something, gives everyone a reason to be afraid. Fear is what a police state needs most of all, because a police state controls through fear. Control, then, is the true purpose of zero tolerance. Therefore, kill zero tolerance.

Zero tolerance killed your parrot. Zero tolerance killed the Kennedys. Zero tolerance killed the radio star. Kill zero tolerance.

Zero tolerance stole the election. Zero tolerance stole your girl. Zero tolerance stole your newspaper. Kill zero tolerance.

Zero tolerance said the f-word. Zero tolerance said the n-word. Zero tolerance said the b-word. Kill zero tolerance.

Zero tolerance didn’t leave you a tip. Zero Tolerance didn’t repair the levees. Zero tolerance didn’t invite you to the party. Kill zero tolerance.

Zero tolerance amputated the wrong leg. Zero tolerance gave you the wrong directions and you got lost. Zero tolerance kicked in the wrong door and shot everyone. Kill zero tolerance.

Zero tolerance doesn’t flush the toilet. Zero tolerance doesn’t put the lid down. Zero tolerance doesn’t cover its mouth when it coughs. Zero tolerance picked its nose and put the boogers on the pizza. Zero tolerance defecated on the Constitution and said it was for your own good. Kill zero tolerance.

Zero tolerance changed the channel while you were trying to watch cartoons. Zero tolerance painted a swastika on its own door and told the cops you did it. Zero tolerance downloaded child porn onto your computer while you were away. Zero tolerance embezzled money from the Children’s Cancer Fund, then lost it all in Vegas. Kill zero tolerance.

Zero tolerance is such a b-word. Zero tolerance is also a c-word. Zero tolerance is full of s-word. Zero tolerance should go f-word itself. Zero tolerance makes us all n-words slaving on the plantation. Kill zero tolerance.