Photo by Edward F. Palm)

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Forest, Virginia, United States
A long time ago, my sophomore English teacher, Father William Campbell, saw something in my writing and predicted that I would someday become a newspaper columnist. He suggested the perfect title for my column--"Leaves of the Palm." Now that I have a little extra time on my hands I've decided to put Father Campbell's prediction to the test. I'm going to start using this blog site not just to reprint opinion pieces I've published elsewhere but to try to get more of my ideas and opinions out there. Feedback is welcome. To find out more about me, please check out my Web site: www.EdwardFPalm.com (Click on any of the photos below for an enlarged view.)

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Larry on Zero Tolerance in Lieu of Common Sense

My old friend and fellow Marine Larry Scroggs shared an interesting reflection on the tenor of our times:
Watching local news. Sixth grade boy was caught carrying a knife at school. Not threatening anyone just had it in his possession. Police were called. Boy was carried off then released to his parents. School says he will be suspended at least ten days and it could be as much as one year. Criminal charges are pending.
     Flashback to 1958-1959. I'm in sixth grade. Attending a combined elementary-junior high school on an Air Force base in northern Maine. Just about every boy in sixth grade carried a pocket knife. In fact, most boys from fifth grade on up carried knives daily. Usually a Boy Scout knife if you bought your own or maybe a Barlow or Schrade if your dad was an officer and bought one for you. On the far end of the playground at recess and lunch many of the boys would be playing Stretch or Mumblety Peg. We also had a "chicken" knife-throwing game, but we usually didn't play it at school because sometimes someone would get stuck and that could create problems. Isn't it great that those days are gone? I don't know how all us boys kept from stabbing each other or cutting ourselves. Maybe sometime I'll tell you all about the high school boys from the local small farming town who came to school with shotguns or deer rifles in their trucks during hunting season. I know it's hard to believe but no one called the SWAT team. In fact, the coach may even have walked out to your truck to check out your new .30-30 lever action.
     You wouldn't see that today. Things are so much better now that the government has written all their "zero tolerance" rules and laws to replace common sense. We don't have to get all confused with trying to think of the "right thing to do" or the "best course of action" or "what's in the best interest
of the child". The politicians have written all the rules for us and no thinking is required. Just enforce the rules. 

Larry reminded me of a comparable situation.  Not too long ago, a first-grader (I think it was) was charged with sexual harassment for kissing a little girl in his class.  His elementary school too had a zero-tolerance policy in lieu of common sense.  An old joke, a play on a Wordsworth title comes to mind:  that school was determined to stamp our imitations of immorality.  --EFP

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