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Jewish World Review June 24, 1999 /10 Tamuz, 5759

Linda Chavez

Linda Chavez
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Econophone

Thou shall go postal

http://www.jewishworldreview.com -- THE CULTURAL ELITE could hardly contain its derision last week when Congress passed an amendment to permit the posting of the Ten Commandments in public schools. The amendment, attached to a juvenile justice bill in the House of Representatives, was sponsored by freshman Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-Colo.), whose district includes Littleton's Columbine High School.

The Washington Post snidely reported, "The House did not entertain measures to make parents pay more attention to their children, or to expand mental health coverage, or to encourage jocks to treat Goths with more respect, but it discussed just about every other Columbine explanation." New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd snickered at Congress' prescription for teen violence: "Take two tablets; slap them above every blackboard in American classrooms."

And virtually every commentator agreed that the law will be struck down by the courts.

They're probably right on the last point. The courts have been prime movers in the cultural revolution of the last 25 years, which has led to a breakdown in discipline and civility in the public schools. In addition to the courts' assault on religious expression, federal courts have diminished school officials' authority to remove disruptive students and to enforce codes of behavior and dress.

Just this month, a federal court in Richmond, Va., ordered a local school district to permit a 16-year-old boy to return to school despite his outlandish attire, which violated the school's dress code. The boy dyed his hair bright blue and frequently wore a skirt and ghoulish makeup to imitate the violent rock singer Marilyn Manson. In a strange twist, the court ruled that although the boy could come back to classes, school authorities could search him before he entered school each morning. It seems the young man had previously rigged a brick above a doorway, which nearly hit a teacher, and sports a tattoo that reads, "Kill 'em all."

Liberals would like to think there is no connection between antisocial dress or language and antisocial behavior. But of course there is. Students who pierce their eyebrows, wear rings through their noses, dye their hair purple and paint their faces to look like cadavers are doing more than exhibiting bad taste. They're screaming their contempt for social norms. They're rule breakers, and they want everyone to know it.

Schools are rife with students who curse, make out in the hallways, sleep in class, and threaten each other and their teachers. And teachers and school administrators are largely impotent to do much about it. It's going to take more than the posting of the Ten Commandments to change the atmosphere in U.S. classrooms. Congress should explore ways to return authority to school principals and allow teachers and administrators to enforce civil behavior and appropriate dress and manners in the nation's public schools. The trick will be crafting rules that will withstand the courts' twisted reading of the Constitution.

But perhaps there is room for hope. A few years ago, a spiraling violent crime rate that seemed destined to continue its 30-year upward climb suddenly began to plateau and even decline in most major cities. Most analysts agree that the turn-around came, in part, because the police got tougher in enforcing the laws against minor infractions, as well as levying harsher penalties for major crimes.

New York City's policy represents the best example. The police cracked down on subway fare cheaters, and the city began removing graffiti from buses and subway cars. The city cleaned up vacant lots, fixed broken windows in abandoned buildings and evicted squatters. Even many of New York's notorious legions of homeless men and women, many of them drug addicts or mentally ill, decamped from the city's doorways to shelters under stricter enforcement of city ordinances against panhandling.

Congress will have another opportunity to affect the school environment when it considers the massive re-authorization of the Elementary and Secondary School Act later this year. Congress could make a real difference by requiring school districts that receive federal funds to come up with student standards of conduct that enforce proper discipline and decorum. If a similar approach could work to bring down crime in New York City, it's worth a try to make U.S. schools safer and more civil.


Up

06/15/99: Unraveling of social order not limted to U.S.
06/09/99: Stand by your ma'am?
06/04/99: An answered prayer
05/25/99: When higher-education is taken prisoner
05/18/99: Are Jefferson's kin snobs and racists?
05/12/99: First-hand encounter with Chinese paranoia
05/06/99: Singer of Death
04/27/99: Beyond 'Why?'
04/23/99: Pick your ('protected-class' poison)
04/14/99: Why we’re a nation of procrastinators
04/06/99: How to spend Equal Pay Day
03/30/99: Are euthanasia advocates truly compassionate or do they merely fear being burdens themselves?
03/27/99: Time for the ‘Real Thing’?
03/16/99: How to keep anti-immigrant sentiments low
03/11/99: Why Bush is the GOP front-runner
03/03/99: If only these were normal times
02/24/99: Unsettling news about ‘feminism’ --- for the NOW gang
02/18/99: 50 years and trillions of dollars up in smoke --- literally?
02/11/99: Why Dems have the most to fear
02/02/99: Look who supports a people-of-color tax
01/26/99: When sports are truly a diversion
01/20/99: Ken Starr as Mark Fuhrman?
01/12/99: Leave Monica out of it
01/05/99: Forget Danny Williams, what about Bubba’s trade and campaign abuses!?
12/29/98: Ya never know
12/15/98: Whose reality?
12/08/98: Why the House must make sure Bubba gets his due punishment
12/02/98: Remember when libraries were for expanding the mind!?
11/26/98: When Thanksgiving means more than commercialism
11/17/98: To Ken S. --- if you'll only listen
11/10/98: What did you expect?
11/04/98: Shame on those who don't vote!
10/27/98: It's spreading!
10/20/98: It ain't over yet
10/15/98: Mourning motherhood
9/23/98: Sosa and the race card
9/23/98: Believable and truthful are two different things
9/16/98: Time for a new Amendment!
9/08/98: When silence is truly golden
8/25/98: Bears and blunders
8/25/98: Only consistency about Prez's anti-terrorism policy: its inconsistency
8/18/98: Is our 'broken-compass' beyond fixing?
8/11/98: Reno's risk
8/04/98: When Truth is of the highest odor
7/28/98: No way to protect ourselvesagainst a nut's wrath
7/22/98: These 'choice' advocates are being demonzied ... by the Left.
7/15/98: Will 'neonaticide' become the new buzzword?
7/07/98: Urge to mega-merge, stopped in time
6/30/98: Why take responsibility if
somebody else will pay?
6/23/98: Blinded by the red, or is it the green?
6/17/98: Flotsam in the wake of romance
6/10/98: We have a ways to go in the bilingual war
6/3/98: Tyson's triumph over tragedy
5/28/98: Why Univision's Perenchio is out to hurt his fellow Hispanics
5/20/98: Sometimes Buba actually tells the truth ... as he sees it
5/12/98: Chill-out on the chihuahua and ... Seinfeld
5/8/98: The revolution is just about over
4/28/98: Let's face it: both parties are full of hypocrites
4/21/98: Legislating equality
4/14/98: One down, many to go
4/7/98: Mexican mayhem?
3/31/98: Of death and details
3/25/98: Americans are unaware of NATO expansion
3/18/98: Intellectual-ghettoes in the name of diversity
3/11/98: Be careful what you wish for ...
3/4/98: The Press' Learning-disability
2/25/98: 50 States Are Enough!
2/18/98: Casey at the Mat
2/11/98: The legal profession's Final Solution
2/4/98: Faith and the movies
1/28/98: Clinton, Lewinsky, and Politics Vs. Principle
1/21/98: Movement on the Abortion Front
1/14/98: Clones, Courts, and Contradictions
1/7/98: Child custody or child endangerment?
12/31/97: Jerry Seinfeld, All-American
12/24/97: Affirmative alternatives: New initiatives for equal opportunity are out there
12/17/97: Opening a window of opportunity (a way out of bilingual education for California's Hispanic kids)


©1999, Creators Syndicate