Sunday, April 21, 2002

The ever-readable Dave Shiflett informs us that zero-tolerance has now been extended to potato guns (I've never heard them called potato cannon or potato launchers, though I'm aware that a potato gun can also designate something like a vegan BB gun). Sigh. Time to rant.

I'm absolutely sick and tired of zero-tolerance. If it's not likely to be seriously harmful, don't screw with it. My elders are scared and paranoid of us young folk (especially the revolutionaries in middle and high school). It's as though the Springfield Retirement Castle was running the world. The slightest misstep is grounds for having your plans of a career revoked. If you're a normal kid with less than a 3.5, forget most top-tier colleges. Did you leave your knife on the passenger seat from going camping? The Barney Fife/Officer Barbady wannabe at your school (not the actual cop, the guy with the patch on his polo shirt, carrying lethal force in the form of a radio) will have you suspended, and possibly expelled or incarcerated.

Dodgeball is banned from many schools. Exsqueeze me? Baking powder? (See Wayne's World if you thought I just went braindead.) My Powerline Airstrike 240 plastic pellet pistol is enough to get me arrested, should the cops ever search my room. My friend Mike almost got himself arrested for picking up a vent grate a few days ago. Sexual harassment can be defined as anything that makes a person uncomfortable, and that includes whistling and bawdy catcalls.

My conclusion is that the generations of people ages 30-60 have dropped the ball. Yes, there are idiots in every generation. There are people at my school that need to just be slapped around with wet noodles for a while until they stop spray-painting "smash patriarchy" on our library windows. However, I think we generally have them under control. It seems to me that the problem is that the people who we expect to take orders from have begun asking us, not telling us. If you want our input, put up a suggestion box, look through the ideas, and see if what's reasonable and workable. Do not start up a semester-long committee featuring administrators, professors, and students. If it seems fairly reasonable, do it, and you can always stop it if people are upset about it. Everyone is so intent on covering their donkeys that no one ever takes risks.

Knowing that not having a top GPA will prevent you from getting into a lot of colleges meant that cheating was rampant in my high school (there's a little here at Tech, but not much). Original thought was also out. Interpreting the doublespeak isn't easy when you actually want to think. When you're told "now tell me what you think," the correct answer isn't "well, let me see..." The correct answer is to regurgitate exactly what you were told, in different words. If you're really adventurous, you can add "also, there's some Nietzschean/Randian/Einsteinian aspects to this, which made me think hard about it." Creativity is penalized.

Multiple-choice was/is a stupid idea. Instead of studying, a student only needs to skim and then guess. In my European History class in high school, I got the highest grade out of 60 students without studying, and simply using logic rather than knowledge to answer many of the questions. Having learned to think this way, we get obliterated by fill-in-the-blank ("Will there be a word bank?") and essay tests. Foreign language teachers blather on about gerunds and participles, and get upset when we haven't a clue what they're talking about. We didn't learn about them in English, why should we be expected to know them for French? Now that I'm in college, I've been exposed to the horror that is PowerPoint. I hate that program. Teachers should either lecture or just give us copies of the slides. By doing both and just reading what is on the board, you insult us, bore us, and make yourself look stupid. Now, we're getting the first generation of teachers raised on PowerPoint and multiple choice and they're no smarter than we are.

In short, I want more. I want the people who are supposed to hold authority over me to exercise it wisely. Stop sniveling and cowering. I'm not going to hurt you.

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