Thursday, September 04, 2014


From Daily Kos, courtesy of Eschaton:

Incarcerated For Writing Science Fiction

"A Dorchester County, Maryland, teacher was taken in for an 'emergency medical evaluation,' suspended from his job, and barred from setting foot on another public school. Authorities searched his school, Mace's Lane Middle School in Cambridge, for weapons. As classes resumed, parents worried that their children were in danger, so police decided to remain on the premises to watch over them.

What happened? The teacher, Patrick McLaw, published a fiction novel. Under a pen name. About a made-up school shooting. Set in the year 2902."

More here.

My first year teaching was when Columbine happened.  It was emotionally tough; there was no way for me to avoid thinking about my own students, about just how horrible such an event must have been.  I listened to a spot on NPR shortly after the shooting when they named all those who were killed.  I cried.

That was bad enough.  The shooting itself was bad enough.  What took me by complete surprise, however, was the reaction of the school in which I worked.  Columbine, being in Colorado, is hundreds of miles away from Baytown, Texas, and, needless to say, the shooters themselves were dead very quickly after their massacre.  But that didn't stop district authorities from trying to protect us all from them.  For a few weeks, police presence on campus beefed up.  New emergency procedures were established.  Loitering in the hallway became a SERIOUS offense.  Trench coats were now forbidden.

Or, rather, I should say that trench coats were "officially" forbidden for everybody.  But really that only meant black trench coats.  Black trench coats worn by kids who listened to Marilyn Manson.  Who wore black eyeliner.  Who wore black t-shirts.  It was pretty amazing, really.  Amazing and almost as horrifying as the shooting in Columbine itself.  A tragic event across the country meant cracking down on non-conformists in the school where I worked.  Just because.

While I was surprised at the time, in deep hindsight, it makes complete sense.  Public schools in the US have been pursuing the concept of "zero tolerance" for many years now, turning standard student sass into a significant administrative disciplinary issue, turning administrative disciplinary issues into actual crimes.  That is, kids are often arrested now for stuff that would have gotten you d-hall thirty years ago.  And police are now a common presence on campus.  All it takes is for a shooting somewhere in the country to put everyone on lockdown.  As each year goes by, our schools are incrementally, baby step by baby step, becoming more like prisons.

To me, this is simply the logical conclusion of the institutional mania toward orderliness and obedience deeply embedded in our society's conceptualization of schooling--it was only a matter of time before this shit started happening.  But whether you think that's the case or not, it's pretty damned clear that there's something wrong with how we're approaching security in our schools.  I mean, for god's sake, the school security apparatus has turned on a freaking TEACHER.  For writing a scary story.  That's totally f'd up.

No, I don't care if you think this means your baby is in danger.  You're wrong.  Teachers OUGHT to do things like write stories.  I don't care if you think kids dressing in black are a menace to society.  You're an idiot.  You know nothing.  And you definitely have no business, as an idiot, telling the schools what they should be doing.  You should go back to school, yourself, because you're stupid.

You know, when you combine this awful "zero tolerance" mindset with all this standardized testing mania, all this "accountability" crap about "bad teachers," what chance do you think the schools have for teaching some real critical thinking skills?  None at all.  Just none.  This is pathetic.