What are we teaching our kids?

Aug. 1, 2000
Later this month, children across America will return to their schools. For some, it will be like they never left

Later this month, children across America will return to their schools. For some, it will be like they never left. Others are in for a surprise.

First there will be a few new faces around.

Depending on the school, as many as a half-dozen uniformed security guards – armed and authorized to use force – will be on hand when classes resume. Since there won't be time for formal introductions, the initial "getting to know each other" will take place right there at the doorway on the first morning. By design, frequent encounters throughout the day, in the halls and lavatories, will serve as a constant reminder of the new presence on campus – there to keep the peace.

An even greater number of students, whether they like it or not, are losing privileges. When they get back, they'll have to comply with new rules and regulations drawn up to improve safety. For seniors, who normally look forward to greater freedom in their comings and goings, the restrictions will be particularly painful.

Besides having their independence taken away, thousands of students will also relinquish their right to privacy. Upon entering school property, they'll be subject to searches at any time on any given day. If there's reason for suspicion, the student may even be taken to a security office and patted down or strip searched. That's the way it is. In fact, it's already happening in some schools.

School officials really don't have much of a choice. If there's a rumor floating around that so-and-so is carrying a weapon, to ignore it makes the school liable – and potentially an accomplice – if there's a crime. To investigate, on the other hand, opens the school to criticism, at the very least, on what would appear to be a violation of rights.

Students fortunate enough to be attending schools that have money can look forward to less invasive forms of monitoring. Instead of being poked and pawed as they enter the premises, they'll be herded through metal detectors or past closed-circuit surveillance cameras – hopefully with their dignity still in tact.

Another surprise awaiting youngsters headed back to school – that is, if state and local governments see fit – will be the addition of plaques bearing the Ten Commandments. In a recent House vote passed by a margin of 248 to 180, Congress has given state and local governments the authority to determine whether the commandments and other symbols of faith can be displayed on state property, including public schools.

The legislation, known as the Ten Commandments Defense Act, was several years in the making. It was initially drafted in response to a lawsuit filed against an Alabama judge for hanging a replica of the commandments in his courtroom. Opponents of the bill fought hard to delay the vote probably because they knew that passage was all but guaranteed in light of coming elections and current public sentiment. Not only that, a vote meant that some legislators would have to choose between their party and their faith.

States in the Bible Belt – from which the bill originated and where it received its greatest support – would seem to be the ones most likely to act on the new legislation. And when they do, students may be in for the biggest surprise of all.

Suddenly – after having their freedoms and rights systematically taken away – school kids may have to fight through picket lines of "supporters" who've come to rescue them from the oppression of the "religious right." People who stood silent as schools were being transformed into prisons – with armed guards, metal detectors, and random searches – will fly across the country to protest the posting of about a hundred words that essentially tell us to love others and show reverence to God. Then, as suddenly as they came, they'll disappear.

I may be wrong, but I'm afraid our kids better get used to being manipulated like this. From what I see, the world they will inherit won't be too different from the schools they attend today. You never know, though, we may all be surprised.

Larry Berardinis
[email protected]

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