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Filter-Down Irresponsibility
08/18/2003

Julia Steiny has been giving some thought to the broken chain of consequences-doling authorities that leads today's children — e.g., the teenager hazers who recently made headlines — with the impression that they can do no wrong... or at least that they can do no illegal:

Family and school rules govern a little universe that socializes the young to live comfortably with authority and structure by creating consequences for rule breaking. The structure of rules will naturally be unique to each family, and each school's rules will also reflect that school's character and circumstances, so the rules will naturally appear arbitrary to a disinterested observer. Still, certain lawyers and organizations are armed and ready to do pitched battle with any rule that can not be justified by The Law, which is to say, applied to everyone in the nation under identical circumstances.

As parents have been wrong-headedly protecting their little wretches, their legal victories have subverted efforts to teach kids that seriously negative consequences can result from ill-considered actions. Schools have been taken to court so often they can barely enforce discipline codes any more. Most are resentfully intimidated by their parents who, in this litigious society, often threaten to involve the Law.

The only thing with which I would quibble is that the better argument would be that school rules would be "applied to everyone in the nation under identical circumstances." Any American attending school A and committing act B will run into punishment C. Of course, even The Law provides room for application of such factors as prior behavior.

But Steiny's hit on an important point, here, and that is that schools are another realm of society in which the American legal system has overstepped its bounds. Mind-boggling, isn't it, how reform of that legal system would benefit so many areas of modern life — notably among those issues on which politicians expend quite a bit of rhetoric, such as education and healthcare.

Wonder why nothing's been done, then...

Posted by Justin Katz @ 12:10 AM EST