Jewish World Review April 14, 2000/9 Nissan, 5760
Boys should be boys, not viewed as criminals in training
BY TODAY'S ZERO-TOLERANCE standards of child's play, my
brother and I both should have been sent to the electric
chair decades ago. In fact, every child in our
neighborhood and at school would qualify today as a
juvenile delinquent at least, a potentially homicidal
maniac on average.
We played war; we dug trenches and foxholes; we
screamed and cried, raided and rioted, bombed each
other with rotten grapefruit, torpedoed with oranges,
fake-killed and fake-died, fell from trees, crashed bikes
and wiped out on gravelly roads.
We pillaged and plundered until the sun set and a dozen
fathers whistled time for supper.
We didn't die from these activities, nor did we kill
anyone else. It is more likely that these dastardly
playtime drills -- followed by parentally invoked rituals
-- kept our little riotous souls in check.
Instead of hurting people, we pretended to. Instead of
suppressing anger and frustration, we acted out
confusing emotions in innocent play. Instead of toying
with real guns, we cocked our fingers and shot imaginary
Just like the four kindergartners at Wilson Elementary
School in Sayreville, N.J., who were suspended from
school a few weeks ago for aggressive behavior. For
pointing fingers and shouting "bang" at their playmates in
a playground game of cops-and-robbers, four boys ages
5 and 6 were deemed dangerous and sent home for
The lunatics don't have to take over the asylum anymore
because apparently we've all lost our minds.
To the relief of the few thinking adults hiding in bunkers
here and there, the school's action prompted some
protest, though not nearly enough. The American Civil
Liberties Union -- often estranged from common sense
-- rallied to protect the boys' rights to free speech. A
few child development experts expressed outrage.
But a discomforting number of parents applauded the
school's response, saying the boys' behavior scared
some of the other children. In the telling words of one
mother: "You've got to teach your kids to watch what
they say, especially in school."
Back in my '50s 'hood, no child would have dared admit
being scared of other children playing what was then
normal. But today is different, we can't help noticing.
Children carry real guns to school; children kill and
wound other children in what used to be a safe
However, I would like to say as loudly as possible,
today is different in other ways too. I'm not talking about
the availability of guns. Most of us World War II babies
had guns and knew how to shoot without missing. I'm
not talking about violent media, either. We watched
many a cowboy or Indian cruelly dispatch an enemy.
What's different is that our parents and teachers worked
together without undue interference from bureaucrats,
social workers and lawyers. A kid who misbehaved in
school was dealt with promptly, first by the teacher and
then by the dads who whistled at dinner time.
Today we've emasculated teachers and evicted fathers.
Most of the boys who've recently carried guns to school
had histories that were ignored largely because we don't
allow teachers and administrators to "handle" the bad
apples. Instead we leave them rotting in the barrel until
someone gets hurt. Or, as in this case, we overreact to
Our confusion might be eased if we put real discipline
back in schools and fathers back in homes. Then might
we relax and let the good boys
JWR contributor Kathleen Parker can be reached by clicking here.
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