“Lord of the Rings” Frightens Texas School Officials

Still image from the Lord of the Rings franchise of man holding ring

It was the most rational of times … and the most insane of times.

This is how historians may someday refer to the early part of twenty-first century America. Consider the insanity found in this small town Texas school, published at nydailynews.com 1/31/15:

 Tolkien lore led a Texas boy to suspension after he brought his “one ring” to school.

Kermit Elementary School officials called it a threat when the 9-year-old boy, Aiden Steward, in a playful act of make-believe, told a classmate he could make him disappear with a ring forged in fictional Middle Earth’s Mount Doom.

“It sounded unbelievable,” the boy’s father, Jason Steward, told the Daily News. He insists his son “didn’t mean anything by it.”

The Stewards had just watched “The Hobbit: The Battle of Five Armies” days earlier, inspiring Aiden’s imagination and leading him to proclaim that he had in his possession the one ring to rule them all.

“Kids act out movies that they see. When I watched Superman as a kid, I went outside and tried to fly,” Steward said.

You might laugh it off and claim, “Not in my school district,” or “Not in my town.” But you have to admit that there’s something insanely significant about such an event, because it pervades nearly all of society today, particularly the parts of society (e.g. public schools) most influenced and touched by government.

A lot of people, myself included, have said such things involve a death of common sense. But I no longer believe that’s quite true. I believe the school officials and everyone else involved know perfectly well that this child was simply engaging in imaginative play. Anybody can plainly see what the father wrote to the school principal:

 Aiden claimed Thursday he could put a ring on his friend’s head and make him invisible like Bilbo Baggins, who stole Gollum’s “precious” in J.R.R. Tolkien’s fantasy series “The Lord of the Rings.”

“I assure you my son lacks the magical powers necessary to threaten his friend’s existence,” the boy’s father later wrote in an email. “If he did, I’m sure he’d bring him right back.”

Exactly what threat did little Aiden pose? Common sense would tell us no threat at all. But we live in an era of school violence. We also live in an era where perpetrators of violence are never thought to be the cause of that violence. Whenever there’s a school shooting, we look at guns. And we look at the “lack of funding” for school districts. And we look at the “lack of funding” for mental health services, even though people who wish to engage in school violence or similarly atrocious acts are virtually never interested in mental health services, however much they might or might not benefit from them.

Yet somebody has to be held accountable. The school principal cannot take a chance. So she did what she herself undoubtedly knows was ridiculous and absurd: Suspend the boy for engaging in imaginative talk with his schoolmates, something virtually every child has done with his peers, at some time or another. No matter. She has covered herself. She has protected herself from having been seen as responsible for any future unpleasant event (violence, or something less extreme) at her school. Because in today’s culture — especially in politically charged environments like public schools — it’s all about what you’re seen as doing, more than what’s actually true.

Principal Roxanne Greer declined to comment on the fourth-grader’s suspension, citing confidentiality policies, according to the Odessa American, who first reported Aiden’s troubles Friday.

Of course she declined to comment. If she did, she might be seen as violating someone’s confidentiality. She might look even more ridiculous than she does, and it might make her school look bad.

The deeper issue here? The suffocation of creativity and imagination in children. Plus, the removal of any sense of perspective, objective reality or simple justice in the vulnerable minds of young children.

This child will now go through life thinking he has to walk on eggshells. He can’t offend anyone, and this includes the lowest common denominator of rational person. What level of rationality is in a person who would actually think a child poses a threat to anyone — or even emotional discomfort — merely by play acting a fantasy game based on a widely known movie and series of imaginative books? I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone that lacking in perspective or imagination. I don’t assume anyone at that school, including the principal, is at that low a level. But that’s not the point. The point is: We have to make sure we’re not seen as offending anyone, or making anyone the slightest bit uncomfortable, not even the tiniest bit — even if the logical coherence of anyone who would even give a second thought to such a child’s playful thinking is nonexistent. No matter, because labeling standards as coherent or incoherent would be seen as judgmental. And we must be seen as not being judgmental.

I blame a lot of this on politics and government, which are very much operative in our one-size-fits-all, nationalized public school system. But it’s a deeper issue that seems to be at work in nearly every part of culture today. Most of us, in our minds, know that it’s crazy to get upset about such things, and to suspend children when they haven’t said or done anything wrong at all. Yet we assume that’s just how it is, there’s nothing that can be done about it, as if the psychological and ideological equivalent of some Ebola-like virus has mentally infected all of society, and we’ll just have to laugh it off and put up with it.

One wonders: When will people simply say enough is enough, and stop buckling under to such self-evident and self-destructive idiocy?

It’s fashionable to be seen as caring about children. But what does it really do to children to place them in environments where they watch their fellow pupils get suspended for play-acting a scene out of an imaginative novel? What kind of adults will these children grow into, do you think? What will be their psychological and emotional conditions, and how creative and self-assertive do you think they’ll become?

We’re told that the central purpose of school is the development of self-esteem and socialization of children. I don’t agree, but that’s the prevailing idea and it’s certainly one embodied and indoctrinated into the public school system. What kind of self-esteem and socialization is this supposed to induce, other than a sense that adults are idiots, the universe is an irrational and unintelligible place, and that critical thinking is out the window?



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