In Public School, The Nurturing Of Fear Stirs Thankfulness For Surveillance

Friday, January 11, 2013

If you touch a Chattanoogan on the forearm, you will feel heat. Blood runs through his veins. But the blood is cool. Its vigor is less than his forebears’ in 1861. There’s a pallor on the man’s face. He doesn’t speak loudly any more. He is rarely excited. He’s overweight. 

Chattanoogans are members of a once-free people of Tennessee, the volunteer state. They retain in their memory wisps of their old independence. If it is actionable, they express it in the vigorous use of dollar bills to buy high-calorie snacks, of ink pens to sign mortgages for new cars and of plastic to propel the lunch tab into the next billing cycle. 

Their general assembly is meeting in Nashville to secure the bodily safety of people in school classrooms who daily face the post-modern menace of the hateless, methodical massacre such as that at Sandy Hook elementary school in Newtown, Conn. 

Best solution to moral crisis: Red tape

Apart from the political din against the rights of citizens to own firearms, there proceeds against this free people another phenomenon. It is a tide of security procedure that is a partial solution to the massacre threat, but soullessly administrative and deadening. A bill has been offered to extend grants of authority for teachers to be armed on the job. 

One evil effect: it inspires further alienation, in the breast of the angry, publicly narcotized youth — hostility. In the souls of the innocent, harmless classmate, another iffy effect: subservience. 

Police and surveillance already are routine. School Resource Officers, hired to stop a bloodbath, serve to teach children that police are part of daily life. An SRO’s investigatory remarks or questions to a pupil are not to be warded off by any claim under the constitution’s ban of unreasonable search and seizure. The citizen is too young to know of such rights and to be circumspect. Cooperation is the name of the game. Open-faced cheerfulness. Complicity. With such officers, search and seizure are unending operations, and the student is required to cooperate. One is friendly, never stands on one’s rights. Is an incriminating statement on the tip of the tongue? Out it goes. On the roadside under the flashed blue lights or in the cheerfully decorated school hallway, the dropped remark always gives “probable cause” for detention and a vehicle search. No oath-based written warrant from a judge because one’s own lips have testified against one’s self, creating the necessary pretext for search and seizure. 

“Starting Monday, parents at Griffith Elementary must display special passes on their windshields to drop off or pick up students in cars,” according to a newspaper report. “Without a placard, parents will have to go inside the building and show credentials to pick up their children. The school also no longer will allow parents beyond the front lobby without prior approval.” In Sequatchie County, school bosses want to add an armed guard and redesign entrances to impose barriers between the front office and lobby area and the rest of the school. All around the state school systems have entered an arms race with no end in sight to obtain security. 

What happens to the souls?

Parents who patronize the state school start by accepting the most trivial form of school security — the daily roll call. Beyond that, they subject sons and daughters to “the domestication of individuality,” as Burkhardt (in 1943) puts it. How deep does this caressing by the state go? 

Cindy Rollins, a homeschooling mother who runs a noted Chattanooga blog on education, tells me about the peril to the soul of the regimented world of school.  She says the educational factory damages its inmates’ spirits. We have become a heedless people, she says; we have come to need a hovering form of supervision. 

“You get kind of a police state, really, where you get more and more restrictions on behavior, and more and more outside oversight because you don’t have any kind of internal oversight going on.” American parents’ dilemma is spiritual, and no amount of security will solve the underlying problem, says Mrs. Rollins, who with her husband, Tim, has raised eight sons and a daughter. 

As a people, we are unable to “go back four or five steps to what the real problem is, which is, there is no moral absolute in our society — and there is no God.” 

Is surveillance injurious to students? “Definitely. You have to ask what it makes them think about personal responsibility. Does it say to them, ‘I don’t have to worry about myself because somebody else is always there to take care of me’? Or is it making them say, ‘I can’t do a bad thing because there is always somebody watching me’? Either one of those things would be damaging because neither of them include any self-government, where there is a reason to do good, and it’s not an outward reason, it’s an inward reason. It’s the moral code of God.” 

Mrs. Rollins says hedges of external control do nothing “to promote from the inside good behavior” that now is “extracted” by regulation. Of the children in the Times Free Press Page 1 photo in Tuesday's editions, there is no “flourishing of the human spirit, but the death of the human spirit.” 

I propose that in eternal lockdown there is nothing relational about the people’s lives in a given facility. All is administration; all is rule. You’re the teacher, you’re the SRO, you’re the student: Here are the rules. To get home you have to follow these protocols as outlined in the official safety plan. There is an exchange of custody. The mom has the proper certificate, and she presents it; she obtains her property according to legal chain of custody rules. Law is a wonderful thing. But law enforcement is also a deadening thing. Law enforcement is against poetry, it’s against literature, its against genius, it’s against the divine wit that some people have which means that they cannot be in a school without going insane. Administration is against deviation, humor, against practical jokes. It is intolerant of variation or hand-made solutions. It is against invention and fieldcraft.

We know the indominatable human spirit that survives the public school, even prospers in it. Many smart people emerge from it annoyed, but not fundamentally injured by it. But what about the common person, the average person — like me? How badly have I been damaged by the education-industrial complex? What about your daughter?  

Are there any alternatives?

David Tulis writes for Nooganomics.com, which covers local economy and free markets in Chattanooga and beyond.

“Schools beefing up security[;] Some adding armed officers; Sequatchie also redesigning entrances, modifying policies,” Chattanooga Times Free Press, Jan. 6, 2013

J. Burkhardt, Force and Freedom (New York: Pantheon Books, 1943), p. 149

Roy Exum: Jumoke’s Thuggery Ends

Jumoke Johnson, the most notorious criminal in Chattanooga’s recent history, was killed by a rain of bullets in the 2100 block of East 12 th Street at little after 8 o’clock Friday night and for the many of us who have kept up with the 23-year-old, you wonder how he ever lasted this long. He was aptly proclaimed as the “most dangerous man” to ever have been sentenced in Chattanooga’s ... (click for more)

A Light Rain Began To Fall - And Response (3)

Around noon Friday, Jan. 20, 2017, Donald J. Trump was sworn in as the 45th President of the most powerful nation on Earth after a long and sometimes bitter campaign where 17 GOP candidates of his own party and two of the opposing party competed for the honor.   Thousands rejoiced in the Washington D.C. streets while policemen who had come along with national guardsmen pushed ... (click for more)

Alabama Man Faces Murder Charge In Shooting Death At Bradley County Landfill

An investigation by  s pecial agents with the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation has resulted in the arrest of an Alabama man in a shooting death that occurred last fall at the Bradley County landfill.   At the request of 10 th  District Attorney General Steve Crump, last Sept. 8 TBI special agents began investigating a shooting death that occurred that ... (click for more)

Man Shot In East Lake Winds Up Facing Several Criminal Charges

Police said a man who was shot on Sunday morning in East Lake was assaulting the woman who shot him and others immediately before the gunfire.   Police said 29-year-old Latesha Hinton would not be charged in the shooting of Dieshunn Lindsey, 30. At approximately  10:50 a.m.,  officers with the Chattanooga Police Department responded to the 2700 block of ... (click for more)

Tullahoma Nips East Hamilton For Central Mat Title

The annual Central Invitational wrestling tournament was cancelled two weeks ago by the threat of inclement weather, but they were able to get it in on Saturday and it was a battle to the wire for the team championship. Luke Champion was the individual winner at 285 pounds and it was his victory that lifted the Tullahoma Wildcats to the team title as they finished the day-long ... (click for more)

Father Ryan Rallies To Beat Soddy Daisy

The Soddy Daisy Trojans may have been embarrassed over a lopsided whipping they took at the hands of the Bradley Bears Thursday night in Cleveland, but they came out with fire in their eyes Friday night in a dual meet with Father Ryan. The host Trojans had a seemingly-comfortable 32-22 lead with three matches remaining, but the Purple Irish won all three -- including two with ... (click for more)