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TinotopiaLog → Respect, Culture, Violence, and the Schools ( 3 Mar 2004)
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Wednesday 03 March 2004

Respect, Culture, Violence, and the Schools

From The Washington Times:

D.C. Mayor Anthony A. Williams has approved a security plan for Ballou High School that would include armed police officers patrolling inside the building, X-ray machines to inspect all bags and packages, and secure doors that would remain locked except in an emergency.

The plan, prepared by Metropolitan Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey and released yesterday at the mayor’s weekly news briefing, comes in response to the Feb. 2 fatal shooting of James Richardson in the cafeteria at Ballou High School. Another student has been charged in the slaying.

“Our concept as we move forward will be to individually assess the security needs of our schools on a case-by-case basis and design and implement security plans that will work and will fit with each school,” Mr. Williams said. “Now we’re starting with Ballou, but we’re not stopping after Ballou.”

The plan, which Mr. Williams described as “custom-designed” for the Southeast high school of 1,097 students, will include up to 30 police officers and security guards patrolling the building in a combination of fixed and roving patrols during school days. The 24 security guards, six police officers and one school investigator called for in the plan will be under the command of a police sergeant.

Chief Ramsey said police will complete initial security assessments at the District’s 14 other high schools within 30 days to get a better idea of how many officers will be needed. He said he would like to see legislation allowing police officers to work part time in the schools, in addition to their regular shifts, a proposal the mayor said he would support.

Other changes at Ballou will include the purchase of four metal detectors, three X-ray machines, a computer system with a photo-ID database that will include student schedules and disciplinary infractions. Images from the school’s 53 surveillance cameras also will be fed to the police department’s Joint Operations Command Center.

So to protect a population of 1200 or so people, the city is going to spend — how much? The article doesn’t say; Chief Ramsey said “a cost analysis has not been completed because the plan first had to be approved by the mayor,” which directly contradicts the first sentence of the article.

We’ll just take it as read that the D.C. public schools — and ‘urban’ (i.e. poor) school systems in general — spend a lot more money per pupil than your average suburban school system, and achieve a lot less. There are a lot of reasons for this, including an entrenched and bloated bureaucracy. Another cause is the values and culture of the students (and their parents), which culture involves things like shooting your classmates.

Only a tiny minority of D.C. students do things like this, of course, but this tiny minority is still far larger than it is in most school districts. And while education is inherently inexpensive — all you really need is a teacher, a student, and a log — security is inherently expensive, and effective security particularly so.

And so I find it strange that nobody is trying, or even suggesting, the simple expedient of saying publicly that these people carrying guns etc. into the schools are jackasses. The school authorities, the police, the news media all talk about the need to spend lots of money — money the city won’t spend on things like education, sewer repair, pothole filling, etc. — to combat these kids. And that’s got to be quite a boost to the ego: these teenagers are, the city acknowledges by its actions, more important than the streets, the sewers, the parks, and the libraries — and certainly more important than the education of their non-violent classmates.

Low-class people seem to be quite enormously concerned with the issue of respect. This is most often discussed as it applies to poor, uneducated inner-city blacks (because of the common slang use of ‘dis’, from ‘disrespect’, to mean any kind of slight from a dirty look to an attempted murder), but you see the same thing among white hillbillies, too. Any of these people are liable to start hollering at you for some insult they perceive in the way you’re dressed, in how you speak, in your hairdo, car, shoes, etc., etc., etc. — what you might call the ‘cut of your jib’.

I have nothing against people going around armed for purposes of self-defense, but it’s a problem when you have armed people who see a knife or a gun as ‘defense’ against someone calling them a name, or not showing them enough ‘respect’.

Having an itchy trigger finger doesn’t exactly inspire respect, though, of course; it inspires fear. If you’re not picky, though, you might not mind being feared instead of respected, because the superficial results are similar. You defer to the man you respect because he’s likely to be right; this tendency to be right is why you respect him. You defer to the man you fear because he’ll plug you if you don’t. Whether you’re respected or feared, people are more likely to agree with you.

So what do we do when these people with a chip on their collective shoulder use violence or threats of violence to make things difficult for everyone else? In this case, we make it clear how difficult it is for the city to overcome their will. The city shifts the schools’ focus from education and more toward opposing these would-be violent miscreants.

Better to more sharply distinguish between respect and fear by making it abundantly clear that the low-lifes are, in fact, low-lifes; that they are clowns. The military achieves discipline in boot camp not by working through the problems of recruits who step out of line, but by ridiculing them and by belittling them in front of their peers. The recruits, or most of them anyway, don’t conform to the rules because they understand that rigid discipline is necessary for an effective fighting force; they conform because they don’t want to be made fun of as the weak link.

If there’s a genuine risk, I’m not against taking measures to secure the school (or whatever) and its occupants against harm — just as the military removes from its ranks the truly dangerous recruits who don’t respect themselves enough to fall into line.

But along with this should come a healthy dose of scorn, and not the staged and false disdain that you see a lot of social issues these days: Smokers are jokers! Users are losers! Drinking is wack if you’re a teen! I cruise without booze!

Something like that will achieve precisely the opposite of the intended result, because the only people who take to heart such bland slogans are themselves Tools. You need to be truly rude for this to work.

I recommend use of the words ‘jackass’, ‘idiot’, ‘moron’, and so forth. Suggest that these people — they’re almost but not quite exclusively male — are violent because they have underdeveloped genitalia. Imply that they’re gay and trying to hide it through macho posturing. I’m sure that the gay lobby wouldn’t like this (probably with reason), but there’s no better weapon against a teen boy who thinks he’s tough than to suggest that he’s a homosexual. (And most hair-trigger idiots are teen boys at heart, whatever their age.)

Neither small dicks nor closeted homosexuality actually lead to violence, but the junior-gangster set would be horrified if anyone thought either that they had a small dingus or that they were fruity. Stop glorifying these people, and start belittling them, and the problem will abate.

Posted by tino at 10:10 3.03.04
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