Back in the days of great literature, a self-help book hit the shelves called “Stop The Insanity!” A woman named Susan Powter wrote it as a way to implore people to take better care of their bodies. But the title could be applied today to the unrealistic, fever-dream, manner in which many Americans approach firearms.
Another example of the insanity has popped up, like fungus on a rotting log.
Surprisingly, it comes by way of the Washington Post, where David Bernstein, the father of an eighth-grader, was afforded the opportunity to write an opinion piece describing his son’s upside-down experience at the hands of the Maryland private school he attends.
At issue? Bernstein’s son, a 14-year-old boy whose name has been kept secret, appeared in the background of a friend's video while his friend held a disabled airsoft gun. And the son also posed for a photo with his pal, who held him in a headlock with the fake gun pointing at him. Then, thanks to Snapchat, Bernstein’s son shared the picture with thirteen friends.
Sorry, kiddo. Either one of those friends ratted ya out to the school “authorities”, or one of their parent’s saw it and did just that.
So the mucky-mucks at the school, a private school the name of which Bernstein also kept secret, flew into action, as all overly sensitive administrators must. And… they suspended the boy for three weeks.
Of course, this is a private school, so the administration is free to have policies regarding behavior outside the school, even regarding simple photos of two pals posing and joking around like they’re actors. But Bernstein points out this is a sign of the over-sensitive times in the US.
‘This is very, very serious,’ the principal said. She informed me that my son would be suspended for the remainder of the year — three weeks.
And that meant his son would not graduate with the rest of the grade as they prepared to head to high school.
(D)id the school really need to suspend a kid who they know has never been violent and did nothing intentionally threatening for three weeks? The principal said my son needed time to reflect on what he had done… What, I wondered, could he possibly learn in a three-week suspension that he couldn’t learn in, say, three days? Indeed, multiple studies show that long-term suspensions make for worse, not better behavior. Why would a school that prides itself on its progressive values resort to a punitive and counterproductive intervention?
There’s the first sign of trouble, right at the end of the quote. This is a “progressive” private school, so of course the administration will be anti-gun and go off half-cocked, pun intended, when it comes to a kid not towing the progressive, anti-gun, line, even when he’s off campus.
It’s the kind of mentality that has to “protect kids” from images and thought, even when said protection is based on faulty information and instills kids with more fear than rationality.
When I went to the principal’s office one last time to plead for leniency, she talked about how my son’s photo might have impacted students with anxiety. “We have to protect them,” she asserted.
And, as Bernstein notes, it’s the principal’s attitude that makes kids anxious. It’s that mentality which keeps kids in a pseudo-world of false impressions about real things, and, of course, helps contribute to more and more people supporting anti-gun-rights statutes that make people less safe, not safer.
Bernstein explains how pervasive and dangerous, how silly and destructive, this mentality is:
Societies tend to adopt draconian punishment during times of heightened fear. When hysteria sets in, many lose the ability to distinguish what is actually risky from what vaguely resembles the risk but is perfectly safe… The kid suspended for biting a Pop-Tart into the shape of a gun comes to mind. So does the second-grader suspended for pretending his pencil was a gun. So do the kids who brought paring knives to school for their apples, etc., etc. In each case, the only connection between their actions and real violence was in the administrators’ imaginations, unable to distinguish between an Uzi and a pastry.
He offers more, and it’s very valuable, especially the final portion of his syllogism:
It was the exaggerated fear in the early 1990s that prompted Congress and state legislatures to pass severe crime legislation such as the “three strikes” laws, which resulted in the monstrosity of mass incarceration… It was the exaggerated fear of kidnapping that led to “helicopter parenting” and a generation of risk-averse kids forced to stay indoors… It was the exaggerated idea of creeps in white vans that led to sex offender registries filled with people once arrested for public urination or taking nude selfies… Bad risk assessment causes social institutions to overreach and scapegoat those they falsely deem to pose a risk.
And that is a powerfully important statement. For decades in the US, people who believe in individualism and Natural Rights have been demonized by postmodernist academics, politicians, protesters, and social justice warriors, who would take hold of the definitions of words and twist them to demonize people.
This is precisely what has been happening with firearms, and it’s being done at schools, even this private “progressive” school.
Bernstein adds that 43 students have been killed in school shootings since the start of 2017, but:
In that same period, however, 15,000 school-aged kids died in car accidents. A child is 350 times more likely to be killed in a car accident than in a school shooting. Even with the disturbing rise in shootings, schools are relatively safe places to be.
This upside-down collectivist world that would demonize firearms and punish kids simply for engaging in innocent activity is dangerous and illusory. In fact, Bernstein notes this is not the first time the school administration has shown itself to be upside-down.
As Lenore Skenazy writes for Reason, Bernstein’s son got attacked by the school earlier, because he reported a teacher for texting while driving.
I first realized something was amiss at the school when I received a call earlier in the year about another 'very serious' incident… My son had told a friend that he observed a teacher texting while driving. He was then hauled into the principal's office and asked to apologize to the teacher, which he only did reluctantly. ‘The teacher was very hurt,’ the principal stated. 'And [your son] didn't seem to care.' Confused about the 'crime,' I asked the principal what if my son was telling the truth. 'That's beside the point,' she said. 'He violated our community values by hurting the teacher's feelings.'
But at least this is a private school. People can pull their kids and their cash out of it and others like it, and each school will either suffer or benefit based on its actions. Public schools, where problems like this “airsoft pistol photo” incident have occurred, don’t have to worry about competition, and will keep getting more and more money, regardless of performance.
So, even as one laments the anti-gun creep finding its way into private schools, at least there’s a silver lining: we can see how private schools allow for change and greater freedom.
And what’s wrong with freedom? Perhaps the public school teachers could explain that to us sometime.