(Friday’s Populist Capitalist Blog Post)
A six year old, excited about joining the Cub Scouts, “takes a camping utensil that can serve as a knife, fork and spoon to school.” Result? Expulsion under a zero tolerance policy. “(A) third-grade girl was expelled for a year because her grandmother had sent a birthday cake to school, along with a knife to cut it. The teacher called the principal — but not before using the knife to cut and serve the cake.” (The New York Times, October 12, 2009, “It’s a Fork, It’s a Spoon, It’s a … Weapon?”)
I can think of few ways that would encourage greater disrespect for rules among our young than applying regulations with a dim-witted heavy hand.
It is about time we all learned to chill out and use common sense. There is a growing rebellion against stupid rules and even more intolerance for out of control application of stupid rules. A zero tolerance policy is a favorite of “command and control” types, those who lack faith in people. Zero tolerance essentially is a top-down statement that says “you cannot be trusted to think, you cannot be intelligent enough to understand the purpose and spirit of this policy.” Zero tolerance is the ultimate repudiation of any belief in human potential or inherent ability. Zero tolerance is the 180-degree opposite of enlightened workplace policies such as empowerment. It is no wonder that zero tolerance is most often found in government!
Zero tolerance totally removes discretion and judgment and results in vital resources being wasted on trivial issues, resources that are desperately needed elsewhere to address real problems.
Rules are for the guidance of the wise and the blind obedience of fools.
“Learn the rules so you know how to break them properly.” — Dalai Lama
“Creativity is inventing, experimenting, growing, taking risks, breaking rules, making mistakes, and having fun.” — Mary Lou Cook (American community activist, calligrapher, and author)
“You are remembered for the rules you break.” — Douglas MacArthur (American commander, Pacific Theater, World War II)