Teaching the wrong lessons with a week’s detention for candy swapping

The zero-tolerance policies in schools are apparently expanding in scope, and not surprisingly, living up to my preferred dysphemism for them: zero-intelligence policies. This example may be just what you need if you’re looking for a great excuse to home-school your kid(s). (I know it seems like I’m on a run of school board and school administration disciplinary blunders. I may have one more like this, and then I’ll switch to something else.)

As reported on ultimatefortbend.com and KHOU-TV, a third grader recently received a week of detention for the most innocuous of acts: accepting a piece of candy (specifically, a Jolly Rancher) from a fellow student. Leighann Adair, 10, thus becomes what I believe to be a victim of one of the more egregious dimbulb school administration blunders.

By the time I hit the “publish” button on this story, this ludicrously stiff penalty for what is in all honesty, a rather benign act, will be over and done. But there’s nothing to indicate this won’t happen again. Knowing the school systems in this area, it probably will happen again.

From the KHOU story:

The girl’s mother said the incident has taught her daughter a lesson, but not the one her teachers intended.

“I told her, ‘Leighann, unfortunately you’re learning very young that life’s not fair,’” [Leighann’s mother Amber] Brazda said.

And from elsewhere in the story:

Jack Ellis, the superintendent for Brazos Independent School District, declined an on-camera interview. But he said the school was abiding by a state guideline that banned “minimal nutrition” foods.

“Whether or not I agree with the guidelines, we have to follow the rules,” he said.

The state, however, gives each school discretion over how to enforce the policy. Ellis said school officials had decided a stricter punishment was necessary after lesser penalties failed to serve as a deterrent.

Ellis said failing to adhere to the state’s guidelines could put federal funding in jeopardy.

I seriously doubt that the Federal government would yank a school’s funding over students sharing candy with each other. And if they do, we have much more serious problems with the portion of our government that oversees education.

Either way, this is a policy that quite literally reaches way too far.

Let’s compare the lesson the school is trying to teach Leighann with what she will actually learn walking away from the experience. Having been out of third grade for nearly a quarter-century, it’s a bit difficult for me to take my mind all the way back to the ripe young age of 10. But I’ll do my best.

The school’s lesson to Leighann and the rest of the students is “don’t eat candy at all, it’s bad for you.” While an admirable lesson on its face, it’s not entirely true for as long as it is eaten in moderation, candy won’t have nearly the detrimental effects on a preteen body as the school would like their students to believe.

The actual learned lesson of Leighann and her fellow students? If only “life’s not fair” was the only possible learned lesson here. It instead might be “our schools (and our governments) make arbitrary rules and enforce them in dubious and unfair ways.” I bet the social studies teachers in middle school will love having to undo that one. How about “sharing candy is bad” which may even turn into “sharing is bad.” Why bother teaching sharing is good in kindergarten, then? Or even “this shows the teachers and principals lack common sense and are unfit to teach us.” Zero-intelligence policies, indeed. And we wonder why we have high dropout rates? Why our kids dread going to school? Why our school system has the questionable reputation it does?

It may seem strange, but Leighann and I have one thing in common right now: we’re both glad summer is right around the corner, because it means we all get a three-month reprieve from this kind of low-IQ nonsense.