Friday, November 13, 2015

I am beginning to hate the zero-tolerance approach

There aren't enough minutes left in my life to list all the mistakes that I have committed.  Small and huge that affected other people.  I vividly recall many of them, and I bet there are more that I don't remember but which the affected parties recall all too well.  Some in elementary school, a few more in high school, and more in college.  These do not even include the works of the devilish idle mind when in the home environment--at my parents' or at grandmother's or ...

There is a fair chance that in most of those situations, the teachers and the elders knew that I was in the wrong, even more than I knew that I was in the wrong.  I bet they gave me a pass because, well, kids screw up all the time.  Some kids screw up more than other kids do.  I would have presented them with a problem if I were not learning from my screw-ups and, instead, were getting on the road to hell.  As long as I was not a repeat-offender, so to say, and as long as the errors were not way off the chart, what I did mattered not much to them.  It was not zero tolerance.

School kids are way more restricted now, it seems.  It is awful.  Even universities seem to be even more protective and less tolerant here in the US than how colleges were back then in India.

I thought I had seen and heard it all, until this flashed in my newsfeed:
9-Year-old Boy Who Passed Love Notes to Girls Threatened with Sexual Harassment Charges
Are you f*ing kidding me?  If a nine-year old boy cannot pass love notes to a fellow classmate .. That's the preciousness of a little romance!

Let's check in with his mother; what exactly did the love notes contain?  Can we have an example?
"How she wears the same uniform and how her eyes sparkled like diamonds," his mother said
Seriously?  If only I had known as a fourteen-year old to compare her eyes to sparkling diamonds!  He is nine years old!
But soon, she says other students started teasing her son about wanting to see the little girl naked.
"That's when the principal proceeded to tell me that it wasn't appropriate that he was writing the note and that if he writes another note, they are going to file sexual harassment charges on my 9-year-old," the mom said.
Hillsborough school district said the boy wrote more than one note and that the notes were unwanted, so that borders on harassment.
Of course the other students would say such things--kids act out in many ways.  Adults then correct them ... but threaten with sexual harassment charges?  They are a bunch of nine year olds, dammit!

The boy--and his classmates--need to be educated on not bothering other kids of any gender.  I wish I had been taught that when I was nine years old--heck, even when I was twenty years old.  That kind of important behavior-correcting education is different from the threat of sexual harassment.
Mild-mannered love notes sent by nine-year-olds do not constitute sexual harassment, and the principal who thought otherwise needs his safety-paranoia meter recalibrated.

We adults do not seem to be discussing important matters like these and are, instead, happily entertaining ourselves to death when not working ourselves to death!  Or, at best, we are scaring ourselves :(
Parents are told almost daily that their children’s health, welfare and safety are at risk, not just from strangers lurking in the park but from adults they know and thought they could trust, including family members, teachers, doctors and volunteers – and the apparently ever-growing menace of online grooming and abuse. Given this state of affairs, how could parents not end up being fearful and paranoid?
How should we, as adults collectively, think about how best to protect and care for children while at the same time challenging and testing them in creative ways? Why do we find it so hard to agree on a ‘commonsense’ approach to child-rearing? ... How might we find ways to develop character, determination and independence of thought and action in future generations?
Now, all I can think is this: thankfully, I am way past the years of youthful follies and, even more thankfully, I am way past the years of raising a child! Phew!!! ;)


Ramesh said...

I hate this zero tolerance too. The case you have featured is just plain absurd. Sexual harassment charge on a 9 year old ???? What has the world come to.

And then what about the nanny states in Europe where the Social Services are constantly peering through your curtain waiting to pounce on "inappropriate rearing of children". Norway takes the cake - remember the two cases of Indian children being taken away by the authorities on fairly flimsy grounds.

I shall now petition "Mallika" to file a case against you for your shenanigans as a fourteen year old :):):)

Anne in Salem said...

If the world were entirely black and white, and if humans were automatons, zero tolerance would work. But when a nine year old's note to a schoolmate is lumped into the same category as a grown man groping a woman on a train, zero tolerance becomes ludicrous.

I'm not sure common sense is an achievable standard. My idea of common sense may not match someone else's. For example, for some parents it is common sense to wash out a swearing child's mouth with soap. For others, that is child abuse. Who decides?

Sriram Khé said...

Wait, wait, wait.
You people are talking about an entirely different issue, different from my rant against zero-tolerance for mistakes that *children* make. I want to grant kids a much wider latitude to make mistakes and to learn from them. It is about the kids and their mistakes.

You folks are talking about zero-tolerance for parenting styles. But, parents are not kids. You are raising questions about society questioning the rules that parents set for their own kids. That is way off the focus of my post.

It is not merely "Mallika" ... there is a sea of population to which I owe plenty of apologies ... we all have our crosses to bear :(

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