Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Let's Just Take Away Their Imaginations And Be Done With It!

Dear Lord - when did we do away with common sense in these Unites States of America?

It has happened again.  In Loveland, Colorado, on Friday afternoon, seven year old Alex Watkins, a second grader, was suspended from second grade for saving the world.  Playing on the playground during recess, Alex pretended that a box on the playground was the evil in the world and he threw an imaginary grenade into the box to destroy the evil and save the world.  Apparently it worked – at least in Alex’s imagination. 

Then he was called to the principal’s office where his mother was called and told he was being suspended “for violating one of the school’s absolutes”, whatever that is.  Apparently the school has a policy of no weapons even if they’re only inside the mind of a seven year old.  Alex’s heroism in saving the world apparently counted for naught.

Alex’s mother is having a difficult time with the suspension and says Alex is really confused.  “He got in trouble for trying to save the world from evil,” she told Denver reporters.

For the second time in less than two weeks I ask “What has happened to common sense and talking to children about something they do wrong (that they may not even realize?)  Unless school authorities or his parents sat him down specifically and said “If you play make believe during recess you can’t blow up anything with an imaginary grenade or use an imaginary gun because you’ll get in trouble” – how was the kid to know?  Do we really want to stifle our children’s imaginations over fear of school violence?  Do we tell our kids they can be heroes but only if they fight their battles without weapons of any kind.  Maybe they can pulverize the bad guy with green energy or something….

Seriously – this is the fourth kid under the age of 8 suspended this year (and it’s only February) for pretending to have finger guns, a picture of a gun or, in this case, an imaginary grenade.  I wonder – does that school also have an absolute no smoking policy?  If so, do you think if a first grader was leaning against the playground fence smoking an imaginary cigarette and trying to act cool he’d be suspended?  Of course he wouldn’t.  The principal would probably talk to him and call the parents but suspend?  Probably not.  And before anyone gets indignant and says “Well, guns kill people” – so do cigarettes.  Certainly there’s a difference but there’s a reason many schools have a zero tolerance for smoking.  But I can tell you without a doubt that imaginary finger guns and imaginary grenades don’t kill or threaten any more people than imaginary cigarettes.  Suspending a child for either is just plain silly.

It’s funny – schools, educators and counselors these days are always worried about a child’s self-esteem.  What do they think they’re doing to the self-esteem of a child when they suspend him for using his imagination?  This kid was fantasizing about saving the world.  Now he thinks he’s a bad kid who did something wrong.  How’s that working toward building his self-esteem?  And the school will wonder why the kid keeps getting in trouble as he gets older.

What ever happened to sitting down with a child and their parents and helping them understand what they did wrong?  This kid is seven years old!!  These days it seems suspension is automatic for everything – no questions or alternative solutions offered.  Let’s not help identify the problem and make the child understand what he did wrong.  Oh, no – that would be too difficult.  Let’s just get rid of the problem for a while.  It won’t solve the problem but it will get it out of our hair for a while. 

When I was a kid I was taught the way to tell the word principal from the word principle was that the guy at your school was your pal.  It seems in this day and age that’s no longer true.  My first principal knew my parents by name and he pulled my first tooth one day in the lunch room.  It seems there aren’t too many like that anymore.  

I fully respect teachers, educators and school principals.  I don't want anyone to get the wrong impression.  Unfortunately, these days many are so busy having to be politically correct they have to stick to rigid and sometimes overzealous rules and can’t be bothered with doing what's right for the child.  And that’s truly a shame.

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