Glenn Reynolds, writing in his USA Today column this week looks at the recent examples of American teachers who have, as the Washington Post recently noted, disciplined children in the first and second grade “for pointing their fingers like guns and for chewing a Pop-Tart-like pastry into the shape of a gun,” for “talking about shooting a Hello Kitty bubble gun that blows soap bubbles,” and for carrying Lego guns:
What’s up with this? It’s not based on any concern with safety. Lego guns, cap guns, bubble guns, nibbled Pop Tarts, and fingers are no threat to safety. And the wild overreaction in these cases says there’s more going on here than simple school discipline. As I said, who treats a 5-year-old this way? It smacks of fanaticism.
In fact, it seems like a kind of quasi-religious fanaticism. I think it’s about the administrative class — which runs the schools with as little input from parents as possible — doing its best to exterminate the very idea of guns. It’s some sort of wacky moral-purity crusade. If a few toddlers have to suffer along the way, that’s tough. You can’t make an omelet without breaking a few eggs.
But that raises two questions. First, what business do public schools have in trying to extirpate “impure” thoughts? Aren’t we supposed to celebrate diversity? And, second, why should public schools decide that a longtime staple of American childhood, the toy gun, is suddenly evil?
When Horace Mann first campaigned to introduce compulsory public schooling, the model he chose was based on the schools in Prussia. Some of his critics objected: The Prussian system, they said, was based on the presumption that the government was smarter than the people. In America, presumption was precisely the reverse. Mann won out, but the result raises some questions about who’s smarter.
The people running these schools are providing considerable evidence that they are not especially bright. Or, at any rate, that they have little respect for American culture. And the way they back down when these cases comes to light indicates that they know they’re out of step with the public.
Based on when I first remember seeing the initials “PC” appearing in newspaper articles that meant something other than products from Dell and Apple, the phrase “political correctness” entered the American vocabulary around the early 1990s. That was also when Roger Ebert — who would become the poster child for PC journalism in his last years — said this on PBS:
GENE SISKEL: You have to summon up the courage to say what you honestly feel. And it’s not easy. There’s a whole new world called political correctness that’s going on, and that is death to a critic to participate in that.
ROGER EBERT: Political correctness is the fascism of the ‘90s. It’s kind of this rigid feeling that you have to keep your ideas and your ways of looking at things within very narrow boundaries, or you’ll offend someone. Certainly one of the purposes of journalism is to challenge just that kind of thinking. And certainly one of the purposes of criticism is to break boundaries; it’s also one of the purposes of art. So that if a young journalist, 18, 19, 20, 21, an undergraduate tries to write politically correctly, what they’re really doing is ventriloquism.
Yesterday, Steve Green linked to an MSN story on a 3-year old deaf boy in Nebraska, who was told by his teachers that he needed to change the way he signs his name because — brace yourself — his hand gesture “involves extended index fingers that the district says resembles a gun.”
Steve’s post reminded me that the infantilizing effect of political correctness seemed to hit England particularly hard beginning in the late 1990s; I remember reading loads of PC-themed articles back then that foreshadowed this year’s insanity from American schools. If I’m remembering the source correctly, they were a staple of the Drudge Report in its post-Lewinsky to pre-9/11 era. I had started to collate some of them, but then Google offered me a handy auto-type suggestion, “England ‘political correctness gone mad,’” a phrase that was quoted by many English people in sources such as the BBC and the London Telegraph back then, with such headlines as:
- “Winterval gets frosty reception” — a PC replacement for Christmas.
- “Musical chairs ‘too violent’”
- “UK Puppet show faces knockout punch?” — Punch & Judy being banned.
- The word “‘Naughty’ is banned from the nursery”
- “Boy faces jail for slapping girl’s bottom.”
And so on.
If PC gone mad arrived in England first, one reason why, as conservative UK journalist James Delingpole wrote at Ricochet back in 2011, “in Britain, Gramsci won the culture war decades ago:”
In academe, in journalism, in literature, in the theatre, in the visual arts, in the BBC-dominated broadcast media the default position is so unquestioningly, entrenchedly, knee-jerk left-wing that unless you are prepared to stick your neck out and make a career of being hated the only sensible path for those of a right-wing persuasion is to do as John did and spend your whole life keeping schtum.
Britain, in other words, is a country where red-blooded Conservatism — apart from a brief glorious period under Margaret Thatcher — just doesn’t get you very far.
That certainly was the goal of American academia beginning in the late-1980s, when leftists such as Jesse Jackson were marching around Stanford chanting “Hey, Hey, Ho, Ho, Western Civ Has Got to Go,” and PC first came into vogue as a way to accelerate its demise. Though the roots of PC in this country go back several decades prior to the Reagan and Bush-41 era, as Bill Whittle noted in an awesome piece he shot during the early days of PJTV:
The British phrase “PC gone mad” implies that there’s some sort of benign version of this disease, which Glenn Reynolds dubs “quasi-religious fanaticism.” Which makes sense — as Dennis Prager noted last year, “Leftism is a religion.”
And like many religions, it’s a holistic one, offering a complete way of life for its practitioners. I’m all for people practicing whatever religion they like, however, as the Founding Fathers intended, its precepts should not be codified into law.
PC has decimated once-proud England; left untreated, I shudder to think what it will do to America in the next few decades.
Related: “7th grader saves classmate from bully with knife, is punished for ‘playing hero:’”
The vice principal called MacLean’s mother, Leah O’Donnell, saying that her son was involved in an incident where “he decided to ‘play hero’ and jump in.” The vice principal added that the school did not “condone heroics,” and that the proper course of action would have been to get a school administrator to handle it.
O’Donnell said, “I asked: ‘In the time it would have taken him to go get a teacher, could that kid’s throat have been slit?’ She said yes, but that’s beside the point.”
“What are they teaching them?” O’Donnell said. ”That when you go out into the workforce and someone is not being very nice to you, you have to tattle to your boss? You’re not going to get promoted that way.”
O’Donnell expressed dismay at the vice principal’s comments.
“What are we going to do if there are no heroes in the world? There would be no police, no fire, no armed forces. If a guy gets mugged on the street, everyone is going to run away and be scared or cower in the corner. It’s not right,” she said.
No, it’s the PC left.