Saturday, April 28, 2007

Great Idea: Jail the Overly Imaginative

I don't know if you have teenagers, but I do. And, look, part of what they're going through at this age is learning to be well-behaved little robots, doing what they're told, thinking what they're supposed to think, standing in line, wearing socks that match and not chewing gum. And guess what -- some of them rebel at that. Exhibit Number One: rock-n-roll.

Exhibit Number Two: Grand Theft Auto.

OK, you see what I'm saying.

In Illinois, this English teacher gave the class an assignment to "write whatever comes to your mind. Do not judge or censor what you are writing." So this 18-year-old named Allen wrote:
Blood, sex and booze. Drugs, drugs, drugs are fun. Stab, stab, stab, stab, stab, s...t...a...b...puke. So I had this dream last night where I went into a building, pulled out two P90s and started shooting everyone, then had sex with the dead bodies. Well, not really, but it would be funny if I did.

and more stuff like that.

Just about guaranteed to upset grownups.


So here's how CNN puts it:
CARY, Illinois (AP) -- A high school senior was arrested after writing that "it would be funny" to dream about opening fire in a building and having sex with the dead victims, authorities said.

Another passage in the essay advised his teacher at Cary-Grove High School: "don't be surprised on inspiring the first CG shooting," according to a criminal complaint filed this week.

Allen Lee, 18, faces two disorderly conduct charges over the creative-writing assignment, which he was given on Monday in English class at the northern Illinois school. Student arrested for essay's imaginary violence


When I was about eighteen I guess, I was taking German in college. I didn't do too well with memorizing all the grammatical rules and everything, but I had somehow learned to speak the language. So one time we had a test. I couldn't remember, y'know, the genitive form of some pronouns and stuff, so after I messed up the front of the test I turned it over and wrote a story in German. Just to show I could, really. But ... it wasn't as bizarre as this kid's, but let's say I had a morbid an active imagination at that age.

A few days later the professor asked me to come to his office, and we had a talk. He didn't have me arrested, I mean, c'mon, this was the Nixon years, people still had some shred of sanity. But he did want to make sure I had accepted Jesus Christ into my heart as my Saviour.

I hadn't, but he seemed satisfied that I wasn't a mother-stabber or a father-raper, and that was that. Just a few uncomfortable minutes with a boring professor.

Another thing, my kid was given an assignment something like this at an MCPS high school. I should mention, blushing, that he is a very talented writer, and enjoys writing poetry and other things. But, uh, let's say, the apple doesn't fall far from the tree. Some of the stuff he writes is a little over the edge. Well, whatever, that seems normal to me, all you're doing is writing some words, right? So he lets his imagination wander out into the hinterlands, it's OK, he's a great kid with lots of friends. A little lazy, kind of stubborn, but everybody sees he's a cool kid.

He turned in this poem, and that was that. Well, he wasn't exactly on his English teacher's good side, but ... another family tradition.

A couple of weeks later, he got called out of class by security. They walked him down the hall to a special room and locked him in it while a uniformed guard waited outside. They called his mom, who had to come to the school and get him. Sign some papers. Talk with a counselor.

This incident more or less ruined writing for him for a long time.

And the point was?

If they were concerned about his mental health or the chance he would commit an act of violence, they wouldn't have waited two weeks.

The point was, of course, that some administrators had had some meeting where they presented "warning signs" of something-or-other and a checklist for teachers to complete whenever they observed one of those warning signs. And some steps for administration to follow when a teacher submitted a checklist.

I'm sure they were very proud of themselves, when they sat down afterwards and saw that all the checkboxes had been checked, and they saw how safe everybody was.

Unfortunately, they took one half-disenchanted, somewhat rebellious kid and drove him even farther away. Instead of showing him in a positive way how an adult behaves, instead of talking to him about what he'd written and how it could be interpreted by others, instead of encouraging him to channel his creativity into something everyone could appreciate, they taught him that he's frightening and bizarre.

This kid in Illinois:
The teenager's father, Albert Lee, has defended his son as a straight-A student who was just following instructions and contends the school overreacted. But he has also said he understands that the situation arose in the week after a Virginia Tech student gunned down 32 people before committing suicide.

Defense attorney Dane Loizzo said Allen Lee has never been disciplined in school and signed Marine enlistment papers last week.

A conviction could bring up to 30 days in jail and a maximum $1,500 fine.

Hey, but who cares? We live in a terrifying world. You can't be scared enough these days. And anyway, at least all the checkboxes got checked.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

"of course you'll want to know what I'm listening to on the radio on Sunday morning, right?"

You know, Jim, most humanists go out and exercise on Sunday mornings. Maybe you should load up an I-pod and hit the jogging path.

Couldn't hurt and you wouldn't believe the sights you'll see.

April 29, 2007 7:30 AM  

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