Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Random Discussion Starter

So, I know that this is one of those timely topics that seems to pop up out of nowhere and now with the internet providing us with enough social networking to basically have a story broadcast within seconds, gets everyone involved quickly, only to fizzle out later, but there's still an important aspect worth discussing in it.  But if you haven't heard of James Tate yet, first, read the story HERE.
I'll fully admit that this early in the game, and it is still relatively early since it only happened Friday (although 4 days, including the weekend, is the equivalent of 6 weeks in human Internet years) it's possible that not all of the facts have been disseminated.  It's possible that there's something that the masses are unaware of, but the truth is, that doesn't really matter anymore.  What matters is the story being told through  the near-rabid online community and that story boils down to this:  The kid got creative about asking his date to prom and now he can't go.
Here's how the school administrator is spinning it: Trespassing and posing a safety threat.
Now, it seems to me, in my rational mind, that there would have to be some severe details missing to make the jump to posing a safety risk for something that involved cardboard lettering and tape.
My bigger question, to the U.S. education system at large is this: WHERE ARE YOUR PRIORITIES?  Within the last year, bullying has been one of the biggest subjects out there and yet, I'm almost positive that bullying would gain a lesser punishment than this harmless action.  I'm also positive that if this kid was nearly flunking all of his classes, he'd still have the opportunity to attend prom.  If you want to know why it's so difficult to be a teenager these days, there are several reasons, but lack of priorities and a fundamental drought of common sense at the higher levels seem to be two pretty important issues that are worthy of discussion.  Lack of common sense in all aspects of life today is a pretty big issue in and of itself, but when situations like this arise, I lose all sense of normalcy and tend to lean towards exaggeration because the punishment seems a bit over the line, and by a bit over the line I mean completely nonsensical.
I know that these are tricky situations.  I know that a lot of times teachers and principles are hamstrung by being put in difficult positions by difficult parents, difficult colleagues or difficult students, and there is a certain amount of understanding that needs to be granted.  When it comes to the education system, I personally think that there are far too many cooks in the kitchen, including the Chef Boyardee of education, standardized testing.  That being said, asking a student to prom is most decidedly not the same as say threatening a teacher, threatening a student or being the reason that metal detectors need to be put in schools.
We are in the middle of an evolving generation, changing even more quickly than previous generations due to the sheer overwhelming power of technology.  A person's thoughts, life, interests, relationship status, new job, new baby, new puppy, and current punishment are all up for mass consumption, on the tangled web we've woven, within moments of reception.  It's nearly impossible that Mr. Tate did something else before he tweeted about his punishment.  Moreover, by remaining quiet on the subject, the headmaster has merely sped up the process of becoming the voiceless villain in this underdog scenario.  There are a few social relationships that have always been counted on in this world.  Parents V. Children/Teachers V. Students/ Socks V. Greasers and He-Man V. Skeletor.  The thing is, rarely are movies made about the teachers or the parents or the Socks or Skeletor getting to tell their side of the story.  As headmaster of a school, someone who presumably has years of experience with children, someone who, I'm hoping, has common sense, would it not be clear how this story would sort itself out? Why not simply save yourself the hassle of going through what will be a national story by the morning?  This wasn't a dangerous prank, no one stole anyone's car or raised someone up the flagpole by their underwear.
I realize I'm opening myself up to the whole "where do you draw the line" argument, but seriously people, just stop and think like a normal human being for a moment.  What these kids are living with now is a world where standing out and getting noticed gets Youtube hits and Today show appearances.  The underdog story has always been what we've lived for.  The difference is that now, instead of making sure that John Hughes writes the script and Cameron Crowe directs, Jon Bender tweets about making out with Claire and Lloyd Dobbler's stereo serenade gets put up on Vimeo so that Bobby McGee down the street now feels badly about having only asked out his prom date between lunch and math class.  Way to go Bobby, now you'll never be as famous as Rebecca Black.
I'm sure there are a lot of factors that I might be missing and a lot of ways in which the situation could be different.  Maybe if this guy didn't look like the all-American boy, it wouldn't be such a big deal.  Maybe if this kid had a habit of trespassing and say, smoking pot, instead of putting up a cardboard prom invitation it would change public perception.  Maybe it really is the policy that if there's an in-school suspension this close to the end of the year then there's no prom.  Perhaps if the girl had said no, this wouldn't have such a romantic high-school drama notion attached to it and James Tate wouldn't care at all if he was suspended from prom.  All I know is that in a world that's filled with recessions, war, famine, bullying, suicides, political extremism, religious extremism and near-constant bombardment about everyone else's status in the world, punishing a kid for a prom proposal seems a bit silly.  Proms, seem a bit silly for that matter, but hey, we need to take enjoyment from the small joys we can right?  For future reference though, maybe kids should just stick with passing a "check yes or no" note in class.  Just be sure you're not going to get caught, because I'm pretty sure in about 20 years the punishment for that will be the removal of one small limb.

1 comment:

Mizzy said...

I miss the "check yes or no" type notes. I had low self-esteem so i also included a "maybe" box.