01/28/05 — Trends: Good ideas tend to be taken too far

View Archive

Trends: Good ideas tend to be taken too far

When a good policy gets fashionable, someone will always take it to ridiculous extremes.

For instance: People ought not to express racial prejudices, and nowadays doing so isn’t popular. But some people would go too far and prohibit certain language by law.

And people ought not to discriminate by gender. But when the president of Harvard University expressed his personal opinion that one gender, on average, excels the other in arithmetic, there were calls for his job, not to mention his head. (Of course, he said that men are better mathematicians than women. If he had said it the other way around, the outcry would have been less shrill.)

And children ought not to draw pictures of other children hanging by their necks. Few of them do. But when one does, by golly, he ought not to be carted off and charged with a felony.

That’s what brought all this excessive righteousness to mind.

In Ocala, Fla., two boys, aged 9 and 10, drew stick figures of a person being stabbed and hanged. Initials on their sketch seemed to identify the victim as a classmate.

That wasn’t being nice, but there was a time when the boys would have been punished by the school for something like that, and the kids would have gone on with their lives. Ocala school officials punished them by suspending them from school, but they also summoned the police.

Officers came in and collared the miscreants and took them to jail. They were charged with felony counts of making a written threat to kill or harm someone.

It is a fine thing to protect the safety of schoolchildren, but the differences between them should be sorted out in the schools, not in the legal system. And the specter of police leading away two boys, their hands cuffed behind their backs as these were, is downright disgusting.

Published in Editorials on January 28, 2005 11:37 AM