The Illogic of Being TOO Understanding

September 17, 2009

There is “political correctness” and then there is “political correctness.” Sometimes it’s hard to imagine the extent to which the effort to be understanding and compassionate can stand in the way of logic, evidence and doing what’s right.

A local organization called the Community Rights Campaign has issued a call for the repeal of Los Angeles’ truancy and tardiness law. In language and reasoning that flies in the face of reams off studies and common sense, the campaign argues that the LA   Municipal Code section that imposes the truancy requirement and a potential $250 fine for repeat offenders is “regressive, ineffective, racially discriminatory and morally wrong.”

In an astounding display of muddled thinking the paper informs us that “that there are dozens of reasons why students are late or truant, ranging from emotional and mental health problems, school environment, academic challenges, special education needs, socioeconomic pressures, substance abuse, physical or emotional abuse in the home, lack of adequate transportation, etc., etc.” These truisms are offered as if they are telling insights; as if the reasons for tardiness have changed since schools first began.

The Campaign’s logic than impels them to conclude truancy tickets “deter students from going to school when they are running late” and “has significant mental health impacts on students and their families” including “humiliation and stigmatization.” The policy they say creates a “hostile school environment.”

There are too many studies to cite, and the logic seems too obvious to ignore the obvious, having a minimal requirement—-that requires students to arrive at school on time and be sanctioned if they are late or they completely ignore the attendance requirement—-is good for students and important for schools. The chaos that would reign if students sauntered in whenever they felt like it and came to school only on those days when the spirit moved them is too obvious to need explication. “Humiliation and stigmatization” or not, we all need rules, our schools most especially.

The illogic that underlies the Campaign’s effort is insidious. Its subtext is that even minimal expectations are too much to expect of students and that even the rudimentary rules that govern how society operates shouldn’t apply.

Eventually, kids grow up and need to enter the workplace—-there won’t be special rules or employers who worry that their usual business practices (e.g. arriving on time, letting employers know of absences, etc.) make their employees feel “humiliated or stigmatized.”

It makes obvious sense to start to teach discipline and the importance of generally applicable rules as early as possible—-study after

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