A story showing everything that’s wrong with bureaucracies: rules have replaced morals and human decency

Freezing temperature thermometerIf you want to know everything that’s wrong about a Big Government world (which also means a multi-rules, heavily bureaucratic world), you need look no further than a recent news report out of Minnesota.  It took place at Como Park High School and involved teachers who, because of their bureaucratic training, completely abandoned human decency.

It all started out on a very cold day in Minnesota, with the temperature ranging between -8 and +12 degrees Fahrenheit.  The high school has an indoor pool, and that’s where 14-year-old Kayona Hagen-Tietz was swimming when a school alarm went off.  Before she could get to the locker to get her clothes, the teacher rushed her out into the cold.  Let me rephrase that:  A teacher in thrall to rules sent a soaking wet 14-year-old girl out into sub-freezing temperatures, clad only in a swimsuit.  She didn’t even have flip-flops on her feet.

Let’s accept for the moment that the teacher behaved correctly, since she or he had no way of knowing whether there was an imminent hazard in the school buildings.  Once outside, though, you’d think that the faculty would take steps to warm Kayona.  It turned out, though, that warming her was against the rules:

In the meantime, teachers feared to violate openly a school policy that prohibits students from sitting in a faculty member’s car.

Even the lowest intelligence can figure out that the rule’s purpose is to prevent teachers from engaging sexually with children.  The likelihood of a covert sexual contact happening between Kayona and a teacher under the actual circumstances is ludicrous.  The faculty cars were in full view of the entire school.  There was no chance of illicit sexual congress.

Fortunately for Kayona, her fellow students hadn’t had human decency ground out of them by rules:

Hagen-Tietz fellow students, however, demonstrated a grasp of civilized behavior. Students huddled around her and some frigid classmates [sic], giving her a sweatshirt to put around her feet. A teacher coughed up a jacket.

As the children were keeping Kayona alive, the teachers were working their way through the bureaucracy.  After a freezing ten minutes, an administrator finally gave permission for the soaking wet, freezing Kayla to set in a car in full view of everybody:

After Hagen-Tietz had suffered for ten minutes in sub-zero weather, a teacher finally received administrative permission to let her sit inside her car until students were allowed back inside.

Kayla suffered frostbite from her appalling experience at the hands of a government bureaucracy.

In what is an indictment of Western society, Kayla’s experience is not unique.  Back in 2009, a lot of people were very upset when they heard a story out of England:  a man with a broken back lay in 6 inches of water, but paramedics refused to rescue him because they weren’t trained for water rescues.  One didn’t have to go as far as England to see this kind of bureaucratic disregard for human life.  In 2011, Alameda police and firefighters literally stood and watched a man drown because they too weren’t certified for water rescues.  The unknown in Alameda is how deep or dangerous the water was, something that could indeed have meant that a suicidal man drowned other people.  In England, though, the rescuers took a rule clearly meant to apply to dangerous water situations, and refused to help someone lying in water that wasn’t even knee-deep.

Fortunately for me, since I have to tidy the house today, I don’t have to summarize precisely what went wrong in Minnesota, England, and Alameda.  Dennis Prager did it for me in his latest video:

  • There’s an old SF story (“Dumb Waiter,” by Walter Miller) about a future in which cities have become fully automated—municipal services are provided by robots linked to a central computer system.  But when war erupted–featuring radiological attacks–some of the population was killed, and the others evacuated the cities. In the city that is the focus of the story, there are no people left, but “Central” and its subunits are working fine, doing what they were programmed to do many years earlier.
    The radiation levels have died down now, and the city is now habitable, from a radiological standpoint–but the behavior of the automated systems, although designed with benign intent, now makes entry to the city very dangerous.
    I summarized the story in my post The Reductio ad Absurdum of Bureaucratic Liberalism and noted that: The behavior of Miller’s automated city-system…feeding people with trays that contain no food, arresting people for minor offenses and putting them an environment in which a child could see that they would starve, sending out utility bills to nonexistent customers, calling for assistance from personnel who haven’t been around for years or decades…closely models the state to which bureaucracies–ie, robots made of human components–tend naturally to evolve.

  • Matt_SE

    I agree with your post and Prager’s analysis.
    One of the most recent examples was the murder of Lee Rigby. He was killed by two Islamists while a crowd stood there dumbfounded, watching and filming with their iPhones. I guess they were waiting for the police to show up.
    Had I been there, they would’ve been immediately attacked using whatever method I could find.
    This is the sorry state of the modern UK, with citizens that are cattle.

  • The storm troopers and the Leftist cannonfodder will obey the deathsquads when asked for your address and your children’s current location. Have no doubt about it. After all, they are MERELY OBEYING ORDERS.

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  • Mike Devx

    In this case, the regulations could have resulted in the teacher being fired.  It’s hard to believe that the teacher would actually have been fired.  But when students are being harshly disciplined these days for using thumb and finger to form the shape of a gun – and being punished for “carrying a facsimile of a weapon” for doing so… well, in these Mad, Crazy, Insane Days, anything can happen.  We’re totally out of control, and you can be harmed for trying to do the right thing.
    I remember about a decade ago a story of a person choking in a restaurant.  A fellow patron tried to help with the Heimlich maneuver.  He didn’t do it right, and the victim sued him.  I don’t remember the outcome.  But in my circles there was a lot of talk about the case.  The consensus was, if I’m going to be sued for trying to help, for trying to do the right thing, it’s NO LONGER in my best interests to try to help out.
    More recently – last year? – a person was stuck in floodwaters in a small river, and struggling, and at high risk of a drowning death.  Two firemen/paramedics, on duty, had to stand there, at the riverside, and watch the person struggle and drown.  While they stood there and watched, other people waded in, swam over, and were able to pull the person to safety.  Why couldn’t the paramedics help?  They were on duty, and regulations for a rescue effort required that the proper equipment be used, and it hadn’t arrived.  So they had to simply stand there and watch an impending death.  If they’d intervened, they and their department could easily have been subject to… you guessed it… a LAWSUIT.
    In a sane world, even with regulations such as all of these, you’d think the two paramedics could have looked at each other, raised their right hand or something, and said loudly, “We affirm that for the next half hour we are OFF DUTY, taking a well-deserved break”, and then leaped in and helped the poor soul to safety.
    But this is no longer a sane world.  We are entering Robert Heinlein’s The Crazy Years, when nothing makes sense anymore, and the rules surrounding your everyday living are, frankly. insane.
    Protect yourself, during the Crazy Years, is all I can say.

    • A very pathetic excuse for human life, is what I would describe that as. But that’s intentional on the part of the Regime.

  • jj

    Which came first, the chicken or the egg?  If people could be relied upon to have morals, and more than a comparative few humans possessed a concept of decency, then we wouldn’t need so many rules.  The race earned the rules.  The point of rules is: “don’t try and think, just do this – because experience teaches us you can’t be depended upon to come up with anything reasonable or sensible when left to your own devices, so for our own protection our ambulance-chasers have made us codify everything thus, in the (probably vain) hope some other bunch of ambulance-chasers won’t ruin our lives.”  (Kind of like God: “don’t think!  When you think you only get in trouble.  Here are the rules, follow them and you’ll be okay.  I don’t know why I ever made you able to think at all – it’s been nothing but a problem!”  And He didn’t even have to deal with lawyers.)
    But it never would have come up – in either schools or with God – had everyone been routinely dependable with the morality and decency in the first place.  The human race, busy being human, wasn’t.  Thus the endless – and, to the sane, often stupid – rules.

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  • Charles Martel

    My son’s pre-school teacher once asked her group of 3 and 4 year olds why we have rules. One kid said, “So you don’t have to stop and think all the time about what you’re going to do.” Smart kid. You see the usefulness of rules everyday—red means stop your car at the intersection; a certain sequence of bells means a fire drill; first in line (usually) means first served; you don’t execute a stupid teenager for trespassing on your property despite having given him umpteen warnings.
    This is all pretty commonsensical stuff that saves a lot of time otherwise spent pondering and dithering. But where rules become oppressive, and lead to the cessation of thought that jj refers to, is when rules get too big for themselves and begin to dictate relationships and consequences that civil society used to handle quite well.
    These days many people would rather argue the rule than reason with a neighbor. Music next door is too loud? Call the cops instead of heading over and asking the neighbor to quiet down. Regretting getting laid by that soused frat boy last night? Instead of chalking it up to lust and bad judgment, head over to the student and taxpayer-subsidized campus Lesbian Wymyns’ Manhater Center and claim coercion, even rape.

    • Claim sexual harassment, then rape if the defense says she was inviting for sex.

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  • Interesting points all of you are making about rules.  Long ago, when I still identified as Democrat, I got into a debate with someone about the fact that I tend to abide by rules unless they’re manifestly foolish or dangerous.  I pointed to red lights as a very good rule to follow automatically, rather than following as I see fit at any given time.  My friend, who has become quite Left with the passing of time, insisted that my obedience to any rules showed that I was a stupid drone.  He was a superior being because he considered all rules advisory, subject to his sense of facts and morality at any given time.

    I hadn’t thought of this conversation in years (it took place in the early 1990s), but it popped into my head reading all of your comments.

    He was, incidentally, someone who thought it was perfectly fine to sneak into shows, because his sense of morality said that they were charging too much, so he deserved to get in free. 

    • He’ll eventually hit the Golden Brick Road of the Meta Golden Rule: death itself.
      When he comes up against a superior power and force, he won’t be able to say that it should follow the rule of keeping that Leftist alive, Book. After all, if your Leftist doesn’t follow rules unless forced, why should a superior Death God follow his rules and mercifully leave him alone? The Meta Golden Rule seals the fate of any villain.

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  • Charles Martel

    The self-centerdeness of the leftist mind would be hilarious if it weren’t so destructive of people and things around it. Your leftist friend, in his cloud of moral superiority, didn’t think things through: What if he encounters another superior mind whose set of facts and morality calls for robbing your friend at gunpoint and then killing him? How do we decide the superior morality (not that there can be such a thing in a world where every man is his own god)?

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