What kind of a
“climate” has taken hold of society?
Kopel, Paul Gallant,
& Joanne D. Eisen of the Independence
Originally published 9/22/2000
Back-to-school used to come
with the warning: "Look both ways before crossing the street." That
should be updated to: "Be careful how you point your fingers."
Today, as it turns out, if a
child does the wrong kind of pointing, he or she can be tossed right out of
Things have gotten so bad that
children at a New Zealand school must now have a "licence" to play
with toy guns (the policy was adopted after the school found that a ban on toy
guns resulted in the children inventing guns from sticks). So, the Tahunanui
Kindergarten in Nelson now requires children playing with pretend guns, which
must be built at school and not imported from home, to carry permission cards
fashioned after real-life weapon permits. The children have to handle the guns
safely (not point them at other people) and appropriately (no imaginary hunting
of endangered species).
So no playing cops and robbers,
or "Europeans and Maoris." But possum-hunting is alright.
The New Zealand school got a
flurry of press attention for its policy, which is actually reasonable and
moderate by American standards. Bring a toy gun to an American school, and you
In March, the school
administration in Tecumsah, Michigan recommended
expulsion for up to half a year for a fifth-grade honor student who brought
a toy gun to school in order to play James Bond during recess.
A Columbus, Ohio high school
suspended for the rest of the semester when a security guard searched his
car (which belonged to the student's mother) and found a toy gun that had been
left behind by a neighbor's child.
Should children attempt to
substitute finger-guns for toy guns, the consequences can be severe. Last April,
four kindergarteners in Sayreville, New Jersey, were
suspended for playing cops and robbers on the school playground. Their
classmates had overheard the dangerous game, and turned them in.
superintendent William Bauer, "This is a no tolerance policy. We're very
firm on weapons and threats...Given the climate of our society, we cannot take
any of these [childens'] statements in a light manner." In other words,
playing cops and robbers with one's finger involves an implicit threat to
perpetrate an actual gun-point robbery.
In contrast, a soft-on-crime
Boston principal simply
lectured second graders against toting "finger guns," but didn't
What kind of a
"climate" has taken hold of society today when innocent pre-schoolers
are now being treated like armed criminals?
The Origins of Responsibility
Most four-year-olds can
distinguish play-time from real-time. If they play Simba the lion on the
playground, they don't try to kill an antelope single-handedly a few hours
later. The problem is that many "educators" no longer can tell the
difference between fantasy and reality.
Fifty years before
Charles Darwin authored the "Origin of the Species," French naturalist
Baptiste de Lamarck developed a theory of the inheritance of acquired
characteristics ( Zoological
Philosophy, 1809). Lamarck proposed that animals acquire different
characteristics in response to their environment.
For example, a giraffe, by
stretching its neck to reach foliage on high, would pass on the characteristic
of an elongated neck to the next generation. Cut off the tails of mice, and
surely, in several generations, one would end up with a race of tail-less mice.
While Lamarck's notions of
evolution were ultimately discredited, they were revived in the Soviet Union
during the Stalinist era. There, the botanical genetics of Lysenkoism became
official doctrine, as a means of finding biological evidence that the government
could build "the new Soviet man." Of course, Lysenko's plant genetics
didn't work, and the new Soviet man was better proof of devolution than of
Yet, we can see the modern-day
equivalent of Lamarckism all around us. Stop a generation or two of children
from playing with toy guns or finger guns, and there will no longer be any gun
Today, many Americans have been
brainwashed into believing that neither they nor their children are capable of
safely and responsibly handling firearms. However, nothing could be further from
the truth. The cycle of gun ownership from parent to child has, in the past,
always produced children capable of handling potentially deadly objects without
harm to themselves — or to others. All available evidence shows that hasn't
An ongoing Office of Juvenile
Justice and Delinquency Prevention study
tracked youths in Rochester, New York, from 7th grade to 12th grade. Of the
youths who owned guns lawfully in the 7th and 8th grade — that is, who
obtained a gun from a parent — not
one committed a firearm-related crime over the five-year study period.
Children given guns, and
provided the education to handle them responsibly and with respect, were the
most non-violent of all groups studied. These gun-owning youths were
significantly less violent than teenagers who do not own guns, according to the
Raising children who are
productive and respectful members of society takes time, requires good
parenting, and necessitates educators who are willing to teach our children how
to make the best real-life decisions based on fact — not on wishful thinking.
One reason the sport-shooting Rochester youths grew up so well is that they had
parents who were involved in their lives in many ways; sharing participation in
the shooting sports was just one way in which the parents chose to make a
In 1907, Dr.
Maria Montessori began a revolution in early childhood education when she
opened her Casa Dei Bambini school in the slums of Rome. She, too, hoped that
the right school environment would guide children into growing into non-violent
adults. Montessori education is founded on respect for the child, and on valuing
the child for his own sake, rather than for his utility to the adult world.
This is just the opposite of
today's mean-spirited "zero tolerance" expulsions and suspensions, in
which children are sacrificed to the neuroses and foolish obsessions of adults.