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Play Gun Theater

Friday, November 21st, 2014

Stop me if I repeat myself . . . but maybe we don’t need elaborate explanations for poor performance in America’s public schools.

Maybe it comes down to this: they are run by people as unhinged as the administrators of the Stacy Middle School in Middleford, Massachusetts.

Yes, it’s time again for American Play Gun Theater, in which children (usually boys) pretend to have toy guns in their empty hands, emit fake gun sounds from their mouths, and scare the living Horace Mann’s out of government employees.

The current case? That of Master Nickolas Taylor,. He formed his hand to vaguely resemble a revolver (index finger as barrel, thumb as hammer — don’t try this at home, kids!) and mimicked some ray gun sounds towards two girls in lunch line, and then blew his finger tip, as if smoke drifted up from firing.

I am not aware of ray guns needing this, but it does have panache.

His punishment? Suspension. The 10-year-old malefactor needed to be taught a lesson, by gum.

Had he done something truly dishonorable, like cut in line, some punishment was probably in order. But if all he did was pretend to have a toy gun (two layers of pretense here at least!), then the worst probably should have been to put him in Pretend Jail, with no bars and no irons and some irony.

The lad’s father and grandmother came to his defense; the local newspaper put him on the front page.

The lesson? For supporters of today’s abysmal public schools: Don’t reload. Rethink.

And if I’ve said this before, point a finger at me and make ray gun noises.

But hey: I may raise my special Deflect-o-shield.

This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.

A Pointed Reminder

Wednesday, February 20th, 2013

“In schools,” the Washington Post headline warned, “a pointed finger or a toy gun can spell trouble.” The front-page feature detailed a far too extensive and growing list of zero tolerance, zero commonsense punishments meted out to children as young as five at various “educational” institutions.

A ten-year old boy in Alexandria, Virginia, showed kids on the bus his new toy gun, which sported a bright orange tip to let even the most dense person know its essential toyness. Police arrested him the next day.

His mother points out that her son did not threaten anyone. Or pretend to. Nevertheless, he has been “fingerprinted and photographed,” writes the Post. “He now has a probation officer, lawyers and another court date.”

In my Virginia county, Prince William, an eight-year-old boy contorted his hand and fingers into an apparently loaded pistol and through insidious manipulation of his mouth and lips may have imitated the sound of firing hot lead at a classmate, while said classmate was, in an evil orgy of violence, simultaneously pretending to be shooting arrows from an invisible bow.

The finger-slinger was suspended for “threatening to harm self or others.” He did neither, of course, but his offense is equivalent to having waved a loaded gun. (No word on the whereabouts of the silent-but-deadly pantomime archer.)

A five-year-old girl was interrogated by three school staff members, summarily found guilty of issuing a “terroristic threat,” and suspended for ten days for allegedly attempting to murder her friend and then commit suicide. She offered to unload her weapon all over her friend and herself. The weapon? A Hello Kitty gun, which fires bubbles.

The Post suggests the schools are jumpy after the shooting in Newtown, Connecticut. But this zero tolerance insanity didn’t begin last December.

My grandson was suspended from his public school more than a year ago. He was six and playfully shot his finger at several fellow students.

Educators, who long ago abandoned the distinction between play and reality, must have been shocked at the lack of fatalities.

Does the crusade against crime really require public institutions to reject, utterly, common sense?

Shouting “No!” . . . I’m Paul Jacob.