I’m Not Surprised

The Gentle Reader has probably heard the story of the boy who was taken into custody by police and suspended from school because the school bureaucrats thought his homemade electronic clock looked like a bomb. Popehat has a few good thoughts on the incident here.

I’m not surprised at the way the young man was treated. When my son was in the 8th grade, one of Will’s teachers had overloaded an extension cord powering equipment she was using for some sort of presentation. The cord caught fire. When my son saw the smoke, he pulled the cord out of the wall outlet, and then he stomped out the flames. The teacher wanted him suspended for disrupting her class.

Later that year, he was in a class being held in a large room with no natural light. Electrical work was being done in that part of the building, and the breaker panels had been left open. Someone switched off the lights, leaving my son’s class milling around in a dark space. Will went over and flipped a breaker to turn on a light which allowed the class to evacuate the space. The Principal wanted to expel him for fiddling with electrical stuff again. When I was called to the school office, I rather forcefully pointed out that my son had probably prevented the incident from becoming more serious. The Principal was adamant; a middle school kid shouldn’t have his hands in the breaker panel. I agreed but pointed out two things to the Principal. First, Will had an amateur radio license, and one of the exam sections includes questions on electrical safety. Could the Principal document having passed an exam on that topic? Second, the way the panels were left open was an OSHA violation. Should we drop the matter or should I make a phone call? My son had no further trouble.

Pushback is necessary. If it fails, perhaps we need to bring back tar and feathers.


42 thoughts on “I’m Not Surprised

  1. Amen. A lot of this is about treating boyhood as a disease that must be eradicated. But Caitlyn Jenner is a “woman.”

  2. Sometimes pushback includes removing the opportunity for irrational or unreasonable reactions – for example, rejecting public education in favor or home or private instruction. This is a more practical alternative than it was even 20 years ago, and many students benefit from duel enrollment in community college.

  3. I teach. The stupidity of teaching is caused in part by the factory model. The danger was not to your son, but to the other potentially stupid kid who fiddles with the breaker box tomorrow. Thus, all learning, all teaching and all discipline has to be designed for the entire factory in mind — including the kids with no common sense or initiative.
    No, this can’t continue.

  4. From back in the 80s:
    1) It is impossible for a child to do 9-12 in less than 4 years.
    2) If a child chooses not to eat lunch, he needs to be suspended.
    3) A teacher admits she was trying to make a student mad for some supposed social benefit for the student, and when he does finally get mad after multiple failed attempts, the teacher and vice principal suspend the student.

    Then in the 00s:
    A child who loves history is struggling in history. The 23 year old teacher declares she has many such students struggling and if this keeps up, she may have to resort to using the textbook. When she is confronted on that issue, the vice principal declares her an expert due to her education and gives her his full support.

    • We were early home schoolers, taking our daughters out of factory school in the late 80s. They were in middle school. Early one afternoon after lunch, my wife took them (aged about 14 and 16) to the downtown art museum, where they were refused admittance because they were supposed to be “in school.” The ticket seller threatened to call the cops on my wife and children because obviously the kids were truant.

      • It was through efforts of people such as yourselves that my 3 year/4 grade trip through gradeschool homeschooling was much easier. People didn’t threaten to call the cops on me when my daughter and I were out and about during school hours.

      • WB:

        That’s when you pull out the copy of the letter you received from the Superintendent acknowledging receipt of your notification of intent to homeschool….

  5. It doesn’t really end there. In my lab we overloaded a circuit once and tripped a breaker. (Breaker layout for the building was more set up to office work than biochemisty. Just like the rest of the building since it was designed by idiots who had never done lab work.)
    Anyway, I noticed all the outlets were numbered and those numbered corresponded to a breaker box down the hall, that happened to be unlocked.
    I reset the breaker and we reorganized our equipment to prevent that from happening again (This centrifuge on this plug, that one on that plug!)
    I got a tongue lashing from facilities for “not calling in the problem.” even though it would have taken 2-3 hours for them to come fix it and I had gels to run.

    • Union.

      My brother was working at a construction site — for a nuclear power plant — in the 80s and they weren’t allowed to move paper from the closet to the copier. Had to get a Teamster to do it.

      • That’s not the union’s fault. It’s their job to maximize their own employment. That sort of thing is the fault of dumb management who won’t give on some other part of the negotiations, so the union looks for little tricks like that.

      • Michigan’s too moderate Governor has the perfect solution: R2W. The whole nation should be R2W. And yes, I was a Teamster twice, and a union steward for a local of the International Sheet Metal Worker’s union. My mother gets a pension from UFCW and my father was a journeyman carpenter who often found himself working union jobs. I have never found any value above negative in unions.

  6. Why is it that our “highly edumacated” school administrators and teachers, who you know got a college degree or something… can’t handle situations with a little bit of common sense??? For some reason, we’re doing EVERYTHING for the children, while insisting we treat them with a cookie cutter, one size fits all education model that inhibits honest curiosity and learning…

    More parents need to be pushing back on this idiocy from the schools…

    • You realize you answered your own question, right?

      A challenge for one student/teacher/administrator must be addressed and solved for ALL students/teachers/administrator so it may be disposed of and never considered again. Thus common sense is abandoned, all solutions become hammers, all problems become nails, and everyone winds up screwed.

  7. I’m a product of the public schools, and I think they were useless in the 1960’s, and only got worse.

    We moved a lot when I was in grade school, thanks to Dad’s job – I attended 13 different grade schools between 1st and 8th grades.

    After I learned to read, I simply read everything I could get my hands on – the textbooks, and all the books in every school library. I was reading at a college level by the sixth grade.

    I consider myself self-taught, and was that irritating kid that corrected the teacher’s every mistake.

    My kids went to a private school that was selected because they taught *thinking*, not by rote.

    My grandkids are now attending that same school, and have weekly “grandpa sessions” that Socrates would have recognized, where we discuss anything and everything they learned that week, or are curious about.

    Recently had to bone up on current physics, so I could keep up with one of the eleven year olds…

    Those weekly sessions are fun as hell, I’ll tell you!

    The public schools are a huge failure.

    • For a large number of families, Public school (and some associated programs, such as all day kindergarten and public pre-school) public schools are free daycare. Its the babysitting that’s wanted.

  8. Keep in mind that the primary qualification for management positions in education is being a good zampolit, not being a good educator.

  9. There used to be a time when schools understood that a large part of their purpose was teaching kids what do in situations such as when the lights go out. Heck, my teachers would have asked one of the male students to go throw the breaker and that would have been that.

    I think it is rather symbolic that now they expect everyone to sit in the dark, unenlightened. We have literally reached the point where people fear the mysterious technology of the light switch and cannot figure out how to operate it.

    • I had a couple labs in college where a full professor hovered near the room’s main power switch the whole day. He was waiting to hear the whine of a run-away motor and kill the power before it tore itself apart.

      • Vexatious litigation. It’s not just for tiny terrorists.

        The ones who are really good at it might even run for President. (cough John Edwards cough)

      • Now, Cube, “My Little Pony” wasn’t vexatious; he was dead set on winning and did it quite well.
        One should never confuse a grade ‘A’ ambulance chaser with a 4F vexatious, pedophilic, bomb planting, drug running, litigant.

  10. Didn’t the school administrators notice that there were no sticks of TNT attached to the kid’s electronic gizmo? How was it going to blow up? Public school administrators take an inflexible, robotic approach to problems. I remember reading about a little girl who brought a cake to share with her class, and a knife to cut it with. The teacher used the knife to cut the cake, which was then eaten by the students; and then the teacher reported the little girl for bringing a weapon to school. The little girl was then suspended. They call this “zero tolerance,” but what it is, is zero commonsense and full-blown idiocy.

    • Back to the lawyers, though.


      Teacher cuts cake. Children eat cake.
      Teacher does not report child with knife.
      Children go home.
      “Guess what, Mommy? We had cake at school today or Lucy’s birthday!”
      “Did you eat with your hands?”
      “No, Mommy, we used plastic forks and knives like the one Ms. Teacher cut the cake with.”
      Mommy picks up the phone.
      Chaos ensues, jobs are lost, careers ruined, lawyers enriched. MASS HYSTERIA!!

    • Stogie, they were trying, through arrest and intimidation and interrogation (which began with the English teacher) to elicit a confession that the pencil case clock was meant to look like something scary and maybe get used to scary effect: that is, a “hoax bomb”. They weren’t satisfied with his declaration that it was a clock. They knew it was made of clock parts with a clock display. They just didn’t get him putting it into a modified pencil case. They thought he should give them some “broader explanation” before letting go of their worst assumptions.

      • Teacher is scared? To her that’s trouble. Therefore he’s a trouble-maker and not a “maker.” All the rest followed.

  11. Bravo, Mr. Hoge! A strong offense is a most effective defense. Escalation is a game that can be played by two. What fun!

    In high school there was no money for a wood shop, but there was enough for an electronics shop. We were regularly handling 300 VAC on open breadboards. As seniors we had our hands in the guts of color TVs learning to fix them. What’s inside? 600 volts DC; 25,000 volts DC; 120 volts AC, very hot vacuum tubes, sharp edges. What’s outside? Very hot soldering irons, more sharp edges, heavy TVs. The teacher taught us well, we paid attention, everybody lived.

    Regarding Ahmed, what’s one lesson for teachers? Don’t get your technical education watching TV or thriller movies.

    • It’s always … um … interesting … yeah, that’s the word … interesting … to watch someone who has learned to work on things like computer motherboards have his first experience with a power supply or an CRT monitor.

      Or an old vacuum tube table radio.

      • I’ve got a Commodore 64 sitting on my bench ready for a tear-down; it has a failure somewhere, since it doesn’t completely boot up. I’m looking forward to it, since it’s a far cry from the modern computer approach of “if it’s broke, replace the entire board; don’t just replace a chip.”

      • We were taught to keep one hand behind our backs while working on such stuff, so the current didn’t flow through our hearts.

        I can’t imagine the safety lectures the chemistry and biology majors got…

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