Tag: chicago

Obama’s Fall Offensive

In today’s Politico Arena, the editors ask:

White House Strategy: Will Obama’s effort to undermine critics undermine Obama instead? Is it overdue or overdone?

My response:

Obama is losing it. His increasing moves to marginalize his critics, richly detailed this morning at Politico, mark him as an amateur. America is not Chicago. Nor are those who oppose his agenda synonymous with the Republican Party. They’re far more numerous than that, and their numbers are growing.

Politics is one thing: “It ain’t beanbag,” Mr. Dooley noted. But scorched-earth politics is something else. It’s over the edge, like Nixon’s enemies list. It has no place in America, except in political backwaters like Chicago. (Personal note: In 1972 my wife and I served as Republican election judges in the first Mayor Daley’s Chicago. On election day, when we walked into the Hyde Park polling station at 5:30 a.m., the three Democratic judges looked at us in astonishment: “Are you real Republicans?” How else are you going to control the election?! Hamid Karzai has nothing on Chicago.)

As a practical matter, in our two-party system the Republican Party is the organizational antidote to this kind of abuse. But as the Wall Street Journal editorializes this morning, the party’s going to have to get its act together before that happens. It’s claim to be a party of principle has been seriously undermined in recent years by Republican officials at all levels of government. That leaves it to private individuals and organizations to call Congress and the administration on what they’re up to. And that’s why we too are in Obama’s cross-hairs. It won’t work – unless we let it happen. Thank you, Politico, for drawing these sad facts together in one place.

Zero Tolerance for Difference

Zachary ChristieWhen both the New York Times and Fox News poke fun at a school district it’s a good guess that district has done something pretty silly. That seems to be the case in Newark, Delaware, where the Christina School District just suspended a 6-year-old boy for 45 days because he brought a dreaded knife-fork-spoon combo tool to school. District officials, in their defense, say they had no choice – the state’s “zero tolerance” law demanded the punishment.

Now, the first thing I’ll say is that I was very fortunate there were no zero-tolerance laws  – at least that I knew of – when I was a kid. Like most boys, I took a pocket knife to school from time to time, and like most boys I never hurt a soul with it. (I’m pretty sure, though, that I was stabbed by a pencil at least once.) I also played a lot of games involving tackling, delivered and received countless “dead arm” punches in the shoulder, and brought in Star Wars figures armed with…brace yourself!…laser guns! I can only imagine how many suspension days I’d have received had current disciplinary regimes been in place back then.

Before completely trashing little ol’ Delaware and all the other places without tolerance, however, there is a flip side to this story: Some kids really are immediate threats to their teachers and fellow students. And as the recent stomach-wrenching violence in Chicago has vividly illustrated, there are some schools where no one is safe. In other words, there are cases and situations where zero tolerance is warranted.

So how do you balance these things? How do you have zero-tolerance for those who need it, while letting discretion and reason reign for everyone else?  And how do you do that when there is no clear line dividing what is too dangerous to tolerate and what is not?

The answer is educational freedom, as it is with all of the things that diverse people are forced to fight over because they all have to support a single system of government schools! Let parents who are not especially concerned about danger, or who value freedom even if it engenders a little more risk, choose schools with discipline policies that give them what they want.  Likewise, let parents who want their kids in a zero-tolerance institution do the same.

Ultimately, let parents and schools make their own decisions, and no child will be subjected to disciplinary codes with which his parents disagree; strictness will be much better correlated with the needs of individual children; and perhaps most importantly, discipline policies will make a lot more sense for everyone involved.