May 02, 2002
How Clueless Are Educators?

The Wall Street Journal's on-line Opinion Journal has been doing good work in exposing the idiocy of 'zero tolerance' policies in American schools. This item in yesterday's Best of the Web caught my eye:

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that 17-year-old Frank James Gelman Jr., a junior at Fayette County High School, has been arrested for bringing a machete to school. "His father, Frank Gelman Sr., said that his son just started a landscaping business with friends to earn extra money. The younger Gelman worked late Monday and forgot the machete and a chain saw were in his truck when he drove to school Tuesday morning."

A machete is more obviously a possible weapon than many of the things that have caused suspensions and expulsions, such as bread knives, keychains, and chicken fingers. Still, what's wrong with this picture? Here's a clue, from the linked story:

Melinda Berry-Dreisbach, spokeswoman for the school system, said the officer had no choice but to arrest Gelman Jr. under the policy, which bans anything that reasonably can be considered a weapon on school property.

Not to give Ms. Berry-Dreisbach any ideas, but they punished the kid for having a machete in his truck, and let his chain saw pass? Haven't these bozos ever seen a teen slasher movie? Or even heard of them? I've always avoided them myself, and had to ask my students today whether the maniac with the chain saw and hockey mask was (a) 'Jason', (b) 'Freddie Krueger', or (c) 'Michael Myers', and whether he appeared in (a) the Halloween series, (b) the Friday the 13th series, or (c) the Nightmare on Elm Street series. Assuming they told me the truth -- not always a safe assumption with high school students -- the answers are (a) and (b), respectively. But even I know that a chain saw is the weapon of choice for some (fictional) teenicidal maniacs. How can professional educators not know that? I believe these movies were particularly popular in the 1980's, when many of these educators were in their prime bad-movie-watching years. (Of course, the word 'educator' is often as inaccurate and misleading as a 'men at work' sign. The fact that one is being paid to educate, or to work, does not necessarily mean that one is actually earning the pay.)

Not to give young Mr. Gelman any ideas, but if he were to turn out to be some kind of psycho killer, wouldn't he find the chain saw even more useful than the machete? I'm not, but I would.

Posted by Dr. Weevil at May 02, 2002 08:23 PM