The Zero-Tolerance-and-Adrenaline Rant.

As a society, we’ve apparently decided that conflict is a Bad Thing, to be eradicated rather than managed. God forbid, conflict could go physical, whch means violence, which is bad. Enter the Zero Tolerance schools, where children are not only punished for fighting, which is consensual but also for self-defence, which most definitely isn’t.

(Please note that my level of bias on this particular subject is pretty extreme. So yes, this is a rant. It doesn’t necessarily mean that I’m wrong, though.)

The idea is that if nobody engaged in violence of any kind, for any reason, then there would be no violence. That’s a beautiful theory, but that’s a damn big IF.

In practice, what this sort of attitude results in all-too-often is putting an extra burden on victims. Not only they have to concern themselves with what may happen if someone attacks them, but they also have the added worry of social repercussions afterwards. If a situation goes physical, regardless of who started and who prevailed, they will be punished. If they are incapable of defending themselves, they may be badly hurt. If they are capable, they may be severely punished. They are damned if they do and damned if they don’t.

This extra concern is an extra source of stress. Excessive stress can deplete our mental and physical resources, through adrenalisation. Depleted resources don’t make you better able to deal with anything.

The cherry on the cake is that this tends to apply only to the Good Kids, cos, surprise surprise, Bad Kids don’t generally care about that kind of social approval. Hell, people’s investment in that kind of approval is near enough what distinguishes Good and Bad People.

Zero Tolerance policies aim to create a better world. In the world as it is right here and now, however, they take away resources from those who are often already short of them. They make conflict infinitely more stressful for those who actually care about avoiding or reducing it. They punish the good and the weak. Not only they can paralise children into complete inaction, making them into punchbags, but they can also turn them into silent victims. To tell somebody that you have been assaulted, to ask for help, can result in you being expelled.

Before someone tells me that I need to think of the children, guard their tender feelings, and so on, can we please remember that we expect those children to grow up. We expect them to become functional adults in our society, not in some sort of yet-to-be-created utopia.

And here is the source of my bias and rage:

Some of these children will grow up into women. Some of these women will meet monsters. Some of these monsters will try to victimise them. We’re sending girl-children into the world indoctrinated into inaction and silent suffering. Can someone tell me how this makes sense? And can someone prove to me that there is no link between this and the current alleged “rape epidemic”?


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