Readin, Ritin, and Rithmatic

By Mark David Blum, Esq.

Class, today I want you to write me an essay on a new federal holiday you would like to see Congress pass. Don’t worry, this is just a writing exercise. You are young and impressionable and are here to learn. Show me your feelings and attitude. Prove you can write and think critically. This is, after all, a place of learning.

But, be careful. A 14 year old female student in a high school here in the United States wrote just such an essay in her English class. She is presently under arrest.

This morning while locked in the very early morning cold with a hot butt smoldering between my lips, I could not help but give too much thought to the essay. Aside from the vulgar horror of her arrest and prosecution, I pondered what her holiday would really mean.

Imagine … one day a year, you get a free pass to kill one person. How many of us would be alive next year? Perhaps we could have this day on the day after Xmas … so we can give out t-shirts with a bulls-eye printed on it to our favorite target. From Hallmark: “Roses are Red, and so is your blood. Violets are blue, and you are dead, motherfucker.”

Seriously … such a day could, nay dare I say WOULD, change our relationships to each other. I bet we would all find ways to be very nice to each other, not screw each other in business, not harm or annoy our neighbors. Life would be very edgy at times. I would rather face Santa’s naughty list than be in someone’s Killer Day shopping cart.

There would obviously not be a requirement that you killed someone on Killer Day. Not many of us celebrate our Veterans on Veterans Day or the trees on Arbor Day. So you do not have to kill. Would we all be on vacation that day and hiding deep in a bunker somewhere? Could you even trust your own spouse or children or parents? Would there be exemptions? How about a two-for-one sale?

OK, enough of that.

What irks me so about this whole event is how this young girl, in a place of learning and socialization, following the instructions of her teacher, wrote what is obviously a tongue in cheek essay and is now under federal indictment. While her essay may have been age appropriate misbehavior, it was not criminal. Neither is mine posted above. Even if her humor was over the top, it was not criminal.

She is a student in school. If her topic or attitude is warped, then that is the place for learning. If she needs better social skills, a school is the place for that training. These are not children but rather adults-in-training. They are supposed to make mistakes, errors in judgment, wrong calls, associate with the wrong people, and do stupid things. That is how the learn. ‘Tis better they learn now in school than later when the penalties and risks are far more severe.

When you ask a child in school to follow instructions and the child performs, you do not prosecute that child. Engaging in content based scrutiny on an open subject writing assignment reeks of censorship of the worst order.

What lessons does this girl take from this experience? What about her peers? Whom among them would ever put a pen to paper in that teacher’s class again? Those who do remain in that school and under the supervision of this teacher and principal will be broken. Their minds will remain locked and their focus will be on generic benign mediocre performance. Whom among them would be willing to take a creative risk?

Shame on that teacher. Shame on that school. Shame on the government for prosecuting this child.

By the strength of their objection, is it possible that the child may be onto something and those engaged in gagging her and punishing her fear they may be the first targets of such a holiday?

Let this girl go.

Back to the MarkBlum Report

It is always a far better thing
to have peace than to be right.
But, when it is not,
or when all else fails

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