Jewish World Review Nov. 12, 2003 / 17 Mar-Cheshvan, 5764

Michael Graham

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Consumer Reports

THE KIDS ARE ALL WRONG! | "I'll utilize whatever forces I deem necessary to keep this campus safe and clean... I'm sure it was an inconvenience to those individuals who were in the hallway, but there is a valuable experience there." — Principal George McCrackin of Stratford (S.C.) High School.

In a nation of self-declared victims jockeying for government perks and special privileges, there is one truly abused and oppressed class of Americans. Not blacks or Hispanics, not lesbian or gay. Believe it or not, it's our kids.

I know this flies in the face of our "for the children" rhetoric. But it's a revelation I had while watching videotaped images of armed police officers waving their loaded guns at the heads of cowering high schoolers at Stratford High School in Goose Creek, South Carolina. It suddenly dawned on me that there is no limit to the idiocy or abuse we will heap upon our children.

I happen to be familiar with Stratford High and its principal, George "Jackboot" McCrackin from my days as a radio talk host in Charleston. McCrackin was in the papers for his policy of kicking honor students out of school because they didn't have their shirts tucked in.

No, that's not a joke…not an intentional one, anyway. George McCrackin is typical public school bureaucrat: Stupidity in the pursuit of order is no vice. In his universe, an exposed shirttail is a flag of rebellion, an ominous sign of impending anarchy, mob violence and the reading of unauthorized literature.

Rumor has it that McCrackin once tried to impose school uniforms, but he ran out of brown shirts and red armbands…

Then, as now, it is amazing to see how popular these ham-fisted policies are among parents and taxpayers. No adult would accept being flung to the floor and threatened with a handgun at work by a warrant-less cop looking for nonexistent drugs. But when the Goose Creek (S.C.) police pushed, punched and handcuffed random students that way, plenty of parents and taxpayers — many of them political conservatives, I'm sorry to say — rushed to defend the incompetent cops.

"I'm sure students were frightened, but the harm they're in with drug dealers is far greater than the police coming in," said one Goose Creek mother, seemingly unaware that no druggies were arrested. "I trust them to do what's right," she said. Even when it's obviously wrong.

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Another local woman called a local radio show to say the raid would have been justified even if one of the students had been shot.

What sort of citizens would accept the shooting of an innocent, unarmed kid in a high school hallway as justified or necessary? The kind who fear our children rather than love them.

There are many Americans who never met a kid who couldn't use a swift kick in the britches. So what if they got a gun in the face — Do 'em some good! What did George McCrackin call it — a "valuable experience?" Damn straight!

These are the adults who support childish and idiotic "zero tolerance" policies, who don't mind a bit when some straight-A student is expelled because Mom packed a butter knife in his lunchbox. The punk probably had it comin'!

In fact, the principal and police officers responsible for the Stratford High fiasco claim the police were acting as part of the "zero tolerance" policy. How rich is that? The same people who would kick out a school kid for brandishing a plastic "spork" in the cafeteria are now waving loaded weapons in the classroom halls.

Sadly, the only thing unusual about the Stratford police raid is that it was caught on tape. In the past two weeks alone I've covered other stories just as ridiculous: a fourth grade girl who made an angry comment to a playmate about "growing up one day and working for a paid killer" was accused of threatening to murder a classmate and instantly suspended from a public school in Richmond, VA.

Now the prospect of a little girl committing herself to a life of crime in the 4th grade and then, twenty years later, returning to the playground to settle an old score at the monkeybars seems rather remote. But when I spoke to the school board, I was told it is their policy to treat all threats as real threats, "even when we know they're not." Brilliant.

Meanwhile, in the suburbs of Cleveland, a nine-year-old boy was sitting on a public bench waiting for his mom to get her hair done in a nearby business. He was playing with a toy gun and keeping to himself when a police officer rushed him, stuck a (very real) loaded revolver in his face, flung him to the ground and handcuffed him. When the mother heard what was going on, she confronted the officer as to why the little boy was handcuffed, and he arrested her, too.

The bizarre part is that, while everyone agreed that the boy never bothered or threatened anyone with his toy, the police department charged him with "juvenile delinquency" anyway. And they defended the officer for "handling the situation properly" — even AFTER he knew the gun was a toy.

Why not ask the kid, "Hey, could you set that down and come over here a minute?" Why not go to his mother? Why not do a million things other than bringing an unarmed, innocent nine-year-old within a trigger-finger twitch of death?

Because he's a kid, darnit, and these kids today is dangerous — all of 'em a bunch of trouble-makin' hoodlums hopped up on goofballs and Lord knows what all! That's why!

Nobody cares that schools are actually one of the safest places in America. It doesn't matter that student-on-student violence is relatively rare, or that school crime rates are flat.

No, all we good American grown-ups know is that these kids need to put down the Gameboys, tuck in their shirts and show us some respect — whether we deserve it or not!

As sensible citizens turn up the heat, the authorities down in South Carolina have started defending their "crazed cops" act by saying it "sent a message" to the students. It sure did. They know now beyond a reasonable doubt that government employees are both dangerous and stupid.

If that's not the beginning of a conservative revolution, I don't know what is.

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JWR contributor Michael Graham is a talk show host and author of the highly acclaimed "Redneck Nation: How the South Really Won the War." To comment, please click here.


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© 2003, Michael Graham