by Eileen | 7:35 pm, January 30, 2013 | Comments Off
Nearly every day. I am thankful that I am no longer in school. My joy used to be that I had got past the point in life where other people told me what to read (which led to me retching through Willa Cather and informing an irritated literature teacher that the major theme of My Antonia is that some people should never write) and instead chose my own material (collected essays of Czeslaw Milosz). Of late, though, I have a lot of pity and a lot of fears for current students, especially those in the public school system, that have nothing to do with being forced to read terrible books and spout received wisdom.
As a case in point, a Kansas City high school will begin mandatory drug testing of all students using hair samples and retaining the test results until graduation, if not longer. Little minded people before them pioneered the cause of warrantless searches of minors and the suspension of the Fourth Amendment on school grounds. However, not everything courts rule is wise or good. Just consider Marbury v. Madison.
Just because there’s precedent doesn’t make it right. If it takes probable cause to compel a sample from an adult, we should be just as careful with children. For one thing, when someone has a substance abuse problem severe enough to warrant interventions and treatment, there are usually some damn obvious signs. Still, even if a school district were to compel drug tests only from students who ‘seemed’ out of it, that would be it’s own set of problems.
In announcing that all students must submit, no exceptions and no logic, the school is signaling that it’s not about rooting out drug use or making students think twice before using a substance. It’s not about intervention or protection or even punishment for drug use. It’s about treating everyone by the same disrespectful, low standard, about teaching students to expect to prove themselves to authority figures, about putting into practice the idea that students cease to have any rights on school grounds.
Traditionally, forcibly cutting peoples’ hair has been a shaming device. However, despots of yore lacked the ability to sequence genetic material or to stick taxpayers with the bill for thousands of pointless tests, so they stuck to sheering dissidents like sheep while everyone else laughed. Isn’t it always the worst people who find ways to pervert technology to their will?
Forgot the inflated fears of teenage junkies and the pathetic adults who came up with in part to live out some sad hero fantasy, what about the nannyism, the surveillance, the dehumanization of children under the guise of protecting them? What about skewing perceptions so badly that the refusal to behave as if you’ve done something wrong and submit to all that monitoring itself becomes a wrong? Innocent children upholding their innocence are going to be rebranded as uncooperative and singled out.
Perhaps the most frightening thing about this is that these students will graduate thinking that giving your DNA to the state for suspicionless tests in simply the way things are done.
Well, there’s an equally terrifying thing: we have allowed people who would do this to children to have positions of power over our kids.
As adults, our only moral justification in restricting the freedom, movement, and privacy of children is that we do so in the child’s interest. The idea is to raise a child who can be a responsible, happy, free adult.
Instead, this school wants to commit an unforgivable trespass onto students’ privacy and autonomy for the sake of control and power, not to set an examples of the right to way to conduct oneself and treat others but to inculcate toadying, obsequious fear.
Those fond of using mandatory education to train children for a lifetime of other mandates justify themselves with fine-worded appeals to protecting precious, innocent children. But I look at the minds coming up with this stuff and one thing I am sure of is that they do not have worthy intentions when it comes to children.
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