I weep for our society, I really do. We get dumber and dumber. In the wake of the Virginia Tech shootings has come the all too predictable overreaction of officials all over the USA and, pretty soon, Canada. The latest bit of news comes from Cary, Illinois, where an 18 year old high school student has been arrested for submitting a writing assignment in a creative writing class in which he made reference to a potential shooting in his own school.
Was it in poor taste? Maybe. Was it foolish? Perhaps. Was it criminal? Hell no! Schools –and society– need to match their rhetoric to reality. A “free writing” assignment isn’t really free at all, then, is it? And a society that makes police arrests based upon words does not really embrace basic human rights, does it?
Of course, all of this is inextricably linked to the growing litigiousness of American society. If the fellow had eventually gone on to kill people, then the school would be liable for not having taken earlier steps. Schools and other supposed havens of free thought need to be indemnified against such actions where policing clearly conflicts with fundamental civic rights, prime among them the freedom to think.
For you predictable people who will respond with the predictable trope of, “Well, what did you expect? Since when have we lived in a truly free society?” really don’t get the point, do you? We will never live in a truly free society until we start demanding that societal institutions live up to the rhetoric of our oft-stated civic values and to the specifics of both the US and Canadian constitutions. And where the letter of the law allows this bull crap, I say the letter of the law needs to be modified. There is no greater threat to the advancement of the civilized human mind and spirit than reactionary restrictions on so-called “improper” thought. (And, lest ye misunderstand, there is a seriously important distinction between thought and action. Society is well within its rights to acknowledge and police improper action.)
So what should have been done with this young man writing troubling things in his “free writing” assignment? Well, schools have counselors, don’t they? Why must this necessarily be a police matter? The teacher in this case is a reactionary git who does not understand his job or responsibilities.
Twenty-five years ago, I submitted the following haiku to my grade 10 English teacher, Mrs. Ida Plaskett, when she gave us a “free writing” poetry assignment:
O give me a good mark, please.
Now, or I’ll kill you.
Foolish? Maybe. Provocative? Definitely. Assholish? You know it. Criminal? Not then. In fact, Mrs. Plaskett had a good laugh, gave me a good mark, and I ended up being awarded the school’s Gold and Silver medals for English, and eventually the Ida Plaskett Award for English upon her retirement. Instead of lauding me with honours and encouraging me towards a professional writing career, Mrs. Plaskett could have easily called the cops and killed my writing bug right there and then.
Instead, we now have a teenager arrested for writing an essay. What do you think the US founding fathers would think of a citizen being arrested for writing an essay? Keep saying that to yourself: arrested for writing an essay. Shades of revolution, I should think.
Classic Daily Perv Link
The following is an excerpt from Plain Tales From the Raj, an excellent non-fiction account of the life of Brits stationed in India before Independence:
“Spike Millgan records the case of a young soldier ‘desperately in need of sex who ravished the sacred cow at the temple. The Hindus took great offence at this and he was prosecuted –and the officer who was representing the Crown opened the case by saying, “On the day of the alleged offence my client was grazing contentedly in the field.”‘ The case was apparently dismissed when it was pointed out that ‘the cow had been cited in a previous case.'”