Let me admit right away that this is a totally half brained, ill conceived stab in the dark of an idea but I thought I’d jot it down just since it was on my mind. I’ve been thinking a lot about Derrion Albert and now Michael Brewer and listening to pundits asking why children are getting so much more violent. Endless speculation abounds so I’m throwing in my own as well. Contrary to the popular thought that there needs to be more restrictions and more oversight, I’m left wondering if that isn’t part of the problem. Take for instance this six year old sent to reform school for 45 days for having a weapon in school, thus violating the zero tolerance policy. Except that the “weapon” was a cub scout folding dining set which had a spoon, fork, and a knife. Doesn’t that seem a bit extreme? These “zero tolerance” policies basically make it clear that no matter what you do you are going to be treated as if you did the worst possible thing, so once a kid decides to take that step and break the rule, there is really no motivation to not go all out. I don’t know if I’m expressing that idea clearly or not, and I don’t think it’s a conscious decision, but when there are clear stages of punishments for varying degrees of rule breaking people tend to not push things as far as they can.
Take this for example – Speeding. Everyone knows if you go 10mph over the speedlimit, it’s illegal, but you probably won’t get pulled over. Go 15mph over the speedlimit and if an officer sees you there is no question you are getting a ticket. 25mph over the speedlimit and not only will you get a ticket, you’ll get a much larger ticket and probably some points on your license. 100mph over the speed limit and you’ll probably be arrested and charged with reckless driving and a whole host of other things and probably have your license suspended. Because of this, if someone decides they are going to speed they probably keep it in check to some extent, sticking in the 10-20mph range. If there was a zero tolerance policy on speeding and anyone caught even 5mph over the speed limit would end up behind bars it would probably stop some people from going over the limit, but for others they’d have no reason to stay under 25mph and would just go all out because fuck it, who cares it’s all just as bad.
That’s my thought with this – I think kids think, maybe subconsciously, that no matter what they do they are going to get the worst punishment available. Whereas previously something that might have resulted in a fist fight now is amplified to all kinds of horrific levels because kids don’t have that inner judgment voice telling them not to cross the next level.
I can’t help thinking this is a lot like our approach to terrorism – we react and make rules after the fact to try to prevent some specific thing that already happened from happening again, rather that looking at the cause of the problem and trying to solve it at it’s source.
Again, I know this rant is poorly focused and all over the place, but I just keep seeing these articles and really think people are looking at the situation from the wrong perspective.