Monday, 29 August 2011

Schools Are Scaring the Shit Out of Our Kids

 It's back to school time and while most moms I know are celebrating the new-found freedom from their kids, I am facing a new year of homeschooling.  And I guess I'm thinking more about the reasons why I'm looking forward to a new year of not going to public school.

Remember when we were kids and our schools used to scare the shit out of us?  The 80's were a hell of a decade and we got caught in the crossfire of Reagan's anti-drug hysteria.  They drilled "Just say no!" and "This is your brain/this is your brain on drugs" rhetoric into our heads like Chinese-water torture.  I remember being 6 and my teacher telling us about acid and how evil drug dealers made acid to look like cartoons so that kids will think they are temporary tattoos or something and take them.  I had hideous images in my head of little kids running around screaming with Disney's Pluto burning a hole into their skin.

A police man came into our classroom with a suitcase full of drugs and showed us what a joint was.  He told us it was very bad and ILLEGAL (that's the way the word looked inside my 8-year old mind) and that if we ever saw anyone with it ever we had to call the police and tell.  Even if it was our Mom and Dad.

Turn in your parents?  For weed real?

The fear was chillingly reinforced by the people we trusted the most.  Like Pee Wee Herman:


Nobody knows anything about it but DON"T EVEN TRY IT because you could DIE!  That thrill can KILL!  DON'T EVEN LOOK AT IT!  I don't know if any of that is true, but judging from the number of crack heads I've seen around town I have a feeling that the die-when-you-try rate isn't as high as what Pee Wee would have you think.  What little I do know about crack is perfectly sufficient to prevent me from wanting to try it.   Why not just tell the (less psychologically scarring) truth?

This is you.  This is you on crack.  Any questions?

When I sent Frick to school I thought we were done with this brand of crazy from the eighties, just like we got rid of the Lord's Prayer and "the strap".  I was so, so wrong.

The first of Frick's school-induced panics was over coffee.  Fucking coffee.  He was genuinely afraid that Daddy and I were going to drop dead of a caffeine-induced stroke because of our morning Joe.  He cited all kinds of facts about how caffeine causes heart disease and diabetes or some shit and he wouldn't let up.  I asked him where he got this sudden phobia and he told me his teacher taught him this.

"Really?  Did she also happen to mention that it has anti-oxidants which helps prevent cancer, or that it might help prevent Alzheimer's?"  (Or the fact that if all teachers everywhere didn't drink buckets of the stuff the entire educational system would collapse?)

No.  Of course she didn't.  Why balance that shit out with something sensible?  That wouldn't properly drive the message home in his squishy, impressionable young mind.  We went through the same bullshit over our wine drinking.  Did I know that alcohol is an addictive drug that causes strokes, heart disease, liver disease and ultimately death?  Did he know that a glass of red wine each day helps reduce cholesterol and also is rich in cancer-preventing anti-oxidants?

One night Frick had a fever and I offered him Children's Tylenol.  He got all freaked out because he thought I was offering him some of that crack-cocaine Mr. Herman there was talking about.

"I don't wanna be a drug addict!" he cried.  Are you kidding me?  I'm your mom.  Do you really think I went and bought candy-flavoured crack just so I could get you hopelessly addicted in your moment of weakness?  Dude, I bought it at the grocery store!

But that's not enough for the schools.  Apparently they won't be satisfied until our kids are anxiety-ridden messes, too terrified to even leave the house.  Enter the Lockdown Drills.

One sunny afternoon my very nervous boy handed me a newsletter explaining that there would be Lockdown drills twice a year.  They worded it very carefully so as not to actually say "armed gunman".  It talked about gas leaks, chemical leaks, toxic fumes from a fire or "an incident in close proximity to the school" (aka. police shoot-out) which was scary enough, but they clearly did not account for the buzz on the playground.  He wanted to know if a bad man was going to come into his school and shoot everybody.

I'm sorry but is it really necessary to tell our kids that at any moment, even in the places they should feel safe, some lunatic is going to run in and murder people right before their eyes?  So much so that they have to practice for that possibility?  They seem to want to avoid saying that the Lockdowns are a hysterical response to sensational news stories about school shootings, but that is exactly what they are.

According to Wikipedia there have been about ten school shootings in all of Canada, since 1902.  And all of those took place in high schools or universities. I get the need to practice fire safety drills.  Stay calm, stay together, get to the safe meeting place outside.  But what is being accomplished by these Lockdown drills that couldn't be done with a simple announcement to stay inside?  Other than terrifying our kids twice a year for a perceived danger they are statistically unlikely to ever experience.

Be afraid, children.  Your parents are drug addicts and pushers who send you every day to a place where you are in constant danger of simultaneously being shot and bursting into flames.

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