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What a World

January 19th, 2010 by Bill Brown · 8 Comments · Culture, Uncategorized

In my darker moments, when my view of the future dims at the latest “hell in a hand basket” news story, I worry about the sort of a world my children will grow up into. We strive to foster in them an abiding sense of curiosity and wonder about the world. We raise them as independent, ambitious little girls and boy. But all around us we see parents who coddle their children, turning them into wilting violets or, alternatively, domineering masters of their households. By all accounts, my kids should have an incredible advantage in whatever they choose to do with their lives. Knowing themselves and letting reality be their guide, the world should be open to whatever they dare to dream.

Then I read something like this story out of San Diego and I feel like I am setting them up for a life of strife, struggle, and obstacles. There will always be some petty bureaucrat or administrator who will try to stub out their spirit when they show some spark or initiative. This little boy, who committed a “crime” but without “criminal intent,” had to surrender his innocent science project to a bomb squad while he and his fellow students were first put in lockdown and then evacuated. I’m sure he won’t make that “mistake” again.

Leaving aside the massive ignorance on the part of the administrators (and the “Arson Strike Team” for that matter) to fail to discern that the device had no bomb-worthiness, the real story here to me is that the perpetrators here were “very cooperative” when faced with a significant police and fire response and that they must now undergo counseling to deal with their errant ways.

Look around you. We live in a sanitized, filtered world where every level of government protects us from ourselves. We are made to surrender our fluids in order to board an airplane; we cannot just strike out and camp wherever we want; and if we wanted to start a research lab, a business, or even raise chickens on our own property, we cannot. All in the name of safety and order.

What’s going to happen in 20, 50, or 100 years when successive generations have matured in this sterile environment? I can foresee a world where technological innovation slows to a crawl and where the mental reins are taut. In a time when Atlas Shrugged seems prophetic, I fear that my children (or their grandchildren) might live to see a time when Anthem is.

8 Comments so far ↓

  • Linda Morgan

    the real story here to me is that the perpetrators here were “very cooperative” when faced with a significant police and fire response and that they must now undergo counseling to deal with their errant ways.

    Reading between the lines, I suspect the Fire-Rescue department spokesman was emphsizing their cooperative attitude in a lame effort to sooth and mollify their justifiable outrage; he was praising and thereby encouraging their (likely very strained) composure.

    He says in the article that the student and his parents were “extremely upset.” I bet they were, along with all the parents who were scared half to death for no reason and had to leave work to go pick up their kids.

    As for counseling — which “authorities were recommending,” not reportedly attempting to require — I suspect that would consist of effort on the part of said authorities to spin away potential lawsuits or (further) bad publicity.

    I don’t mean these observations to counter your larger point that we’re vulnerable as individuals in this society to ever more comprehensive and intrusive governmental management. And there’s no reason to think the tide will turn itself. But absurd instances of ignorant over reaction and overreach like the one reported do at least serve the good purpose of inviting scoffing and ridicule of clueless “authority.”

    As to whether the kid will ever make the same sort of “mistake,” he’s probably taking offers from classmates for another assemblage of empty bottles and wires that will get them an early release and some national press.

  • Bill Brown

    Everything Luque said was clearly spin, trying to mollify what he correctly guessed was a potential powder keg.

    I probably could have phrased it better, but the point I was driving at was that there was a heavy-handed response that included going to the boy’s home. Presumably, the bomb squad figured out that it wasn’t a bomb before the fire department paid a visit to the boy’s home. It’s now not enough to call home to the parents to let them know that their son is bringing something disallowed to school; authorities must physically go and make sure that the non-bomb wasn’t just the tip of some terrorist iceberg.

    As far as the counseling goes, the point I never made was that the authorities at every point overreacted, freaked out, and treated this situation as a elementary school Columbine. Instead of owning up to their disproportionate reaction, they had the gall to recommend counseling for the boy and his family. It is just like what happened in Boston a few years ago. What should have happened is that the vice principal should have personally inspected the “device,” told the boy that he can’t bring such things to school, and that he could have it back at the end of the day to take home. End of story. Instead, he told the student body that everyone there is a suspect and that those in charge will panic at the slightest provocation.

    I apologize for my brevity. I should have elaborated my point better.

  • Michael Bahr

    “What should have happened is that the vice principal should have personally inspected the “device,” told the boy that he can’t bring such things to school, and that he could have it back at the end of the day to take home.”

    Agreed, but I’ll go you one further — it is supposed to be a “technology” school, so the vice principal should have been competent to tell it was harmless and let the boy go on his way. (From the article, it was supposed to be some kind of rudimentary motion detector.)

    Notice that “it was decided” to evacuate the school in the article? I love how responsibility for the overreactive decision is nicely avoided by everyone. Viva la passive voice.

  • Richard

    I think this type of nonsense is partly the result of those types of personalities who don’t want any serious responsibility putting their position at risk. And so they posture to appear tough on any would be criminals. The so called “zero-tolerance” rules are one common and desperate manifestation. “Zero-tolerance” really just means zero desire to have to actually rationally evaluate the situation as it is. But then the administration might actually have to accept some responsibility! And so you get the ridiculousness of a student being punished for bringing a knife to school for the purpose of cutting brownies. But that’s just the rules, and everyone must follow the rules just because.

  • Larry

    I wouldn’t despair, Bill. Your kids and dozens I’ve met among friends who are raising theirs in a way that is inculcating a sense of grandeur and adventure about the world keeps me optimistic.

    It’s more than I had when I was a kid. I came to some bad conclusions as a young kid and they limited me for a long time from acheiving more than I have. But despite the mixed premises, I turned out pretty well and have been good at promoting my life and defending my values and have mostly been happy. I can’t imagine how much better your kids and alot of the others I’ve met being raised by other good parents will be.

    I have been accused occasionally of pollyanaism, and a “We the Living” circumstance is possible: great people stifled by the overwhelming darkeness of the culture around them–but I just don’t see it yet. I keep getting surprised at how quickly one can go from despair to joy, and how easy it is for people to maintain their happiness if they have the right perspective and skills. Give them the right metaphysical value judgments, if you can, and events like this one are likely to slide off their shoulders as unimportant–or at least not stick as any kind of general conclusion–as they enter adulthood.

  • Bill Brown

    Larry: It’s hard to worry for them when I’m actually with them because they are just so bright, vibrant, and dynamic that I can’t believe anything or anyone would ever hold them back. Ultimately, I know that they have the great advantage that we never had—parents who have traveled this road and are aware of a better psycho-epistemology. But I also know that these stifling types can really make value achievement difficult at times. Thank you for leaving your comment: it’s always nice to hear from you and get an objective evaluation from someone I trust who knows my family.

    Richard: I agree. Zero tolerance is the new “I was just following orders.”

    Michael: I’ve met enough principals to say that their competence, such as it is, lies in managing teachers and parents. Any acquaintance with the curriculum is superficial and incidental. That being said, it doesn’t take much knowledge to be able to assess the bomb-worthiness of something.

  • Linda Morgan

    Bill: the point I was driving at was that there was a heavy-handed response that included going to the boy’s home.

    I get that, along with your well-founded concerns about the parents being “very cooperative” in the face of overwhelming over-reaction. My suspicion that they were plenty angry, let that be known and were at least perceived as a potential source of grief for the school and rescue personnel doesn’t change the fact that they did indeed cooperate, up to the point of (presumably) consenting for their garage to be “checked.”

    Maybe that would have been a good place to draw the line and challenge them to get a warrant. Surely after the MAST robot inspection of the bottle and wires there could have been no reasonable grounds for suspecting a bomb lab.

    Still, I won’t fault the parents for going along and making the decisions they did. Maybe they just wanted to stand aside and let the authorities make as big a fools of themselves as they wished. Or maybe they just wanted to be done with the whole moronic matter as quickly as possible, or simply demonstrate clearly that they had nothing to hide.

    As for the central question of how all this affects the kid’s initiative, creativity and drive, I’d say that seeing petty bureaubots for what they are can arm him as easily as discourage him. Even this –

    [The vice principal] told the student body that everyone there is a suspect and that those in charge will panic at the slightest provocation.

    — is information worth having, heeding and, when expedient, exploiting.

  • Embedded I

    Bill B, chin up good man. it has been WORSE for all of prior history.

    For example, Ben Franklin, sometimes once a year, and in spite of his much greater age, would ride his horse to Virginia to visit Thom Jefferson, for a month or so.

    The ride took a couple of weeks.!!!

    For whom would you ride a horse for, about, two weeks (each way), to see a friend, for your own happiness and sense of life?

    Chew on that. Rise above the crap of today, and stand for the good. Today is intellectually much better than then, even as the politics and education have become worse. Your children are advantaged… if you can help them see it.

    The point: in the grand, multi century view, do what you can and make sure your children gradually grasp that same view. They are utterly wonderful, but the millennium into which they were born is another A, and A is A.

    As they say, “Deal”. Your parenting situation, despite your pain and frustration with modern nonsense, is actually MUCH better than Franklin or Jefferson had to face.

    The greatest distinction between today’s culture and Jefferson’s is information availability. Guide your children to better information, and YOUR children are better off than children of any century.