Monday, November 19, 2007

Zero Tolerance for Kids

The latest victim of the march to neuter our children is a first grader in Oregon. This is the boy that drew a picture with one stick figure shooting another in the head. He apparently was copying it from something he saw on an episode of the Simpsons. For this, he gets suspended. This isn't the first time, and I know it won't be the last.

Let's go back to 1990, way before that incident in Columbine. I was in high school. By that time, I had drawn plenty of stick figures murdering the shit out of people. And my drawings, if I had red to work with, had copious amounts of blood exploding out. I nuked them, cut them up, shot them, dropped them in pits with spikes. It was quite an extensive body count. Also, although I can't seem to locate it in my archives, I did write a little story where my character goes on a happy shooting spree in school, ending with a shotgun to his own head. I think the counselors talked to me once because they thought I might snuff myself. Since I'm typing this, I obviously didn't. However, I was never suspended, no one was ever called for fear I might start up the killing, and it was assumed that my actions were, more or less, normal.

I'll be the first to admit that schools need to be a little more careful in the post-Columbine era, especially when the kids are older and there are threats against people. But we've forgotten that kids, especially boys, are fascinated by violence, love drawing guns and explosions, and thrill to fake battles with plastic guns and knives and swords and sticks where they shoot and stab and punch and disembowel the hell out of each other until they're hungry. Trust me, as a kid, I racked up a significant body count, as did my father before me.

This is why the zero-tolerance policies don't work right. They require boys to be nonviolent, which will never happen unless they start the castrating. This involves a more sensible approach. First, if there's no specific threat against people or property, let it go. Maybe if it's gratuitously violent, call in a counselor. If there's a real threat, call the parents in as well. If they're teenagers, then suspension is probably necessary. But it still goes back to the parents.

As a parent, I limit my children's exposure to graphic violence. They see some fights, but none where theres thrill killing. As for the cartoon violence, I haven't seen any evidence that it causes harm. There is a study that children watching cartoon violence tend to act a little more aggressively. No shit. I playacted some of that after watching Wile E Coyote take his last plunge off the cliff in futile pursuit of the Road Runner, or Bugs Bunny besting poor old Elmer Fudd, or Tom and Jerry trying to massacre each other countless times. Come to think of it, didn't the Simpsons make fun of that?

It comes down to simple parenting skills. I'm not saying that the occasional imbalanced puke won't spring up and spray blood all over the walls of his school. However, with involved parents who give a shit and pay attention to what their kids are doing, there's a good chance they won't go all homicidal.

I plan to do that in three ways. First, if there's violence on the TV, I am there while my kids are watching it. Violence is a part of our world, and the idea that shielding them from it will immunize them is pointless. The best thing to do is to discuss it in age-appropriate ways so they can process it and learn. Second, as for the gun thing, my children will grow up knowing about guns, how to use them, and what they can do. And yes, just like my six-year-old nephew, who had the opportunity to hunt deer this weekend, my children will be allowed to use them when appropriate. I have my .22 rifle ready for my boy to try, although it will be awhile, as he is only three. And lastly, children should not have an absolute expectation of privacy. If parents have any suspicions, snooping is good. I'm not in favor of rifling through every single thing a child owns just to snoop. But looking for drugs, or guns, or threat letters, or condom wrappers is A-OK.

And the least private part of their lives should be the internet. The best thing you can do is keep the computer public. Add filtering and/or monitoring software. And learn enough on the computer that you can keep control of it. Half the problems can be solved by adding a few passwords. The point is that you need to be in control. So spend some time online, do some searching. I'd suggest searching on Just so you know, there's free software out there for the downloading that isn't loaded with crap. But you have to learn a few things, or pay someone to teach you.

Lastly, here's my other nephew, proving kids and guns DO mix sometimes. He's 13, and took this 5-point buck on Saturday. He had the benefit of using Ohio's youth hunt. Next Monday is the opening of gun season here in Ohio, and I will detail my views on hunting then. Until then, I'm just going to think about the taste of venison. Mmmmm.

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