Schools and parents who teach children to become chum for bullies

School-bully-001
One of my pet peeves is bullying.  I’m not talking about bullying amongst students, although I certainly don’t like that.  I’m talking about the bullying from school districts and Progressive parents who work overtime to ensure that children are brainwashed into fearing self-defense so much that they would rather be led as lambs to the slaughter than stand up for themselves.  The schools are dividing students into two classes:  the bullies and their institutionally created helpless victims.

I’m fulminating about this because of a story I found in the San Jose Mercury News.  There really was bullying going on — students attacked a 15-year-old classmate — but what makes me crazy is the fact that the mother ordered her child to take a beating, while the child celebrated the fact that it was better to get beaten up than to have problems with the school administrators (emphasis mine):

Ann Benediktsson, a 15-year-old Dougherty Valley High School student, was walking home on Thursday when a classmate approached her to say she would soon face a peer in a fight.

Ann’s mother, on the phone with her at the time, told her two things: Run home, and if a fight happens, do not fight back.

“It was the hardest thing I have ever had to say in my life,” Kate Benediktsson recalled. “I felt useless.”

[snip]

Minutes after speaking to her mother, Ann ran into her peer in a park along with over two dozen other students, waiting to witness the event. While Ann attempted to keep her attacker from pulling her hair and socking her jaw, the bystanders pulled out their phones and filmed. In a video Benediktsson obtained of the fight that she later posted to YouTube, students can be heard egging on the fight, sometimes cheering when Ann’s attacker made contact.

Ann never threw a punch.

“I am proud of how I handled it,” Ann said. “I’m glad I didn’t hit back because the principal and teachers would have just said it was a spat between teenagers.”

I cannot believe that a mother told her child to be a punching bag for bullies.  Moreover, I cannot believe that a mother told this to her girl child. One of the primary lessons women learn in every self-defense class is this:  if you fight back against someone who is assaulting you, you are likely to suffer physical injuries, but you are also much less likely than the passive victim to be raped or killed.

In the African savannah, when lions stalk wildebeests or gazelles, the lions do not like to have to work hard for their meal.  They want the lame and the weak stragglers, not the vigorous animals that put up a fight.  Human predators are the same.  A women who walks with an upright, energetic step, and who is aware of her surroundings, simply isn’t as appealing as the gal shuffling along with her head down.  And if that shuffling gal, when attacked, suddenly finds some gumption and fights back, the predator will often back off in any event and look for an easier victim.  (For more on the psychology of self-defense, I highly recommend Gavin de Becker’s The Gift of Fear and Other Survival Signals that Protect Us From Violence.)

The mother in the above news story essentially taught her daughter to be shark chum.  Moreover, while the mother ordered the “principled” stand, it was her daughter who ended up taking a beating.  The daughter was certainly an obedient child, but I do rather wonder if the mother would have stood there that passively if it was she, rather than her child, being attacked.

I wasn’t the only one thinking it’s a bad article that celebrates the next generation of victims.  Although the article garnered only eight comments, one of them was right on the mark as far as I was concerned:

ghosthunter007

sorry but I rather take a suspension and stand my ground than to be hit upon, that is the problem with parents these days oh don’t fight back, I taught my son how to defend himself and in doing so he is respected because those who tried to fight him lost. I hate bullies. Everyone should know how to defend themselves.

Ever since my kids hit school, I’ve given them a single message:  Never be the one to start a fight but, if someone else starts the fight, you make sure to end it.  And don’t worry about the school’s subsequent response.  If you had to use physical force to defend yourself, and if the school attempts to punish you, I will take the school on if I have to go all the way to the Supreme Court.  I’ve never had to make good on this promise, since no one has ever physically attacked my kids.  I suspect that, with my instruction ringing in their ears, they don’t walk around like shark bait.

By the way, I always back up this instruction to my kids by telling them that, had Jews not been conditioned by centuries of oppression to avoid arms, put their heads down, and try to appease authorities, its likely that the Holocaust wouldn’t have happened.  Please understand that I’m not blaming those victims.  First, no one could ever have imagined what the Germans intended to do.  Second, the Jews’ behavior wasn’t a conscious decision.  It was the result of a thousand years of conditioning.  Israel, thankfully, while not blaming the victims, nevertheless learned the lesson.  Like my children, Israel won’t start a fight, but she will finish it.

Incidentally, reading this news report about a school district’s institutional hostility to self-defense effectively bullying a child into victimhood, a behavior the child’s mother reinforced, reminded me of a post that America’s Sgt. Major wrote a couple of years ago at Castra Praetoria, explaining how to deal with bullies.  I highly recommend it, because it’s both enjoyable and instructive.

The Left — criminalizing childhood

The news is filled with stories lately about the way in which Progressive-managed public schools are behaving insanely when it comes to kids and faux-guns.  My friend Mike McDaniel, whose regular home is Stately McDaniel Manor, has an article up at PJ Media today which combines surreal (yet sadly real) stories about teeny-tiny kids caught in their school’s anti-gun cross hairs.  To the extent the world is going to hell in a hand basket, I can only say that the Progressives are making the trip there a whole lot faster and uglier.

Is the rise of bullying at schools tied to Progressive education policies?

There are a couple of things about modern life that are hard to understand.  The first is why so many more children have potentially fatal peanut allergies than did in my youth.  I have no idea why this is so, and probably never will.

The second thing that’s been mysterious to me is why bullying in school has suddenly become so epidemic.  When I was young, there was certainly bullying (and I, being small, near-sighted, and socially awkward, came in for more than my fair share), but bullying really wasn’t a big deal the way it is now.  For one thing, I don’t recall a single instance of someone committing suicide in San Francisco due to bullying during my school years, and I was one of those wonkish kids who read the paper daily (explaining, no doubt, why I was targeted for harassment). Lately, though, I’ve come up with a couple of theories about the rise of bullying.

There’s no doubt that social media is responsible in part for bullying.  The fact that children can use Facebook and texting to bully from a distance makes the whole process so much easier.  It’s one thing to insult a person to her (or his) face.  That requires a certain amount of chutzpah.  It’s another thing entirely, though, to add your “like” to a derogatory comment on someone’s Facebook page.  That’s practically anonymous and gives one an emotionally safe distance from the emotional damage one is causing.

Even social media, though, doesn’t account for the atmosphere in schools that makes relentless bullying socially acceptable.  And really, when one considers the omnipresent anti-bullying campaigns that are an integral part of every schools curriculum, it seems odd that bullying is equally omnipresent.  Or does it?  Could those anti-bullying campaigns be part of the reason bullying is on the rise?  I think so.

The schools in my community perfectly exemplify the modern educational approach to bullying.  They certainly don’t ignore bullying.  To the contrary, they talk about it constantly.  They hire touchy-feely gurus to come in and have the kids “open up” about their feelings, apparently in the belief that doing so will increase the average 14-year old’s empathy.  They also have peer groups of “specially trained” students who walk around ordering other students not to engage in bullying and who are supposed to mediate school-yard quarrels.  I have it on the best authority — the kids’ themselves — that these peer advisers have all the warm, cuddly qualities of a member of Mao’s youth brigade.  Just as anti-bully campaigner Dan Savage turns out to be something of a bully himself, those teenagers vested with the power to stop bullying tend to let that power go to their heads.  (Not all of them, of course, but enough of them to make other kids sour about the peer advisers.)

Kids who are caught engaging in bullying are counseled, made to do “reparative” work, overseen by faculty members and peer advisers, and otherwise made the objects of a great deal of attention.  Unsurprisingly, when these bullies do get caught, they do not have warm and cuddly feelings towards those students who presumably ratted them out.

Oh, and here’s the really important thing to know about how schools deal with bullies:  self-defense is not an option.  The only recourse for a bullied child is to tell the school authorities.

In theory, this sounds lovely.  It does away with vigilante justice and minimizes the fights that used to be fairly common on school playgrounds.  That’s the theory.

In fact, making self-defense a crime is a bonanza for the bullies.  The alpha child with a mean streak quickly figures out that, if he acts first to create a reign of terror, the other children are powerless to stop him.  He’s figured out that it takes two to tangle sufficiently to get the authorities’ attention.  As long as he’s dishing out the bullying, but no one is fighting back, the bullying is virtually invisible at the adult level.

Schools will tell you that they also counsel children how about how to avoid becoming victims.  This is a semantic gimmick.  To the extent the schools “teach” children how to avoid bullying, it doesn’t involve basic physical self-defense (which includes things as simple as walking in a confident way) or verbal self-defense (ways to take control of and deflect a potentially hostile interaction).  Instead, it’s all about “feelings.”  Well, the only “feeling” the bullied child knows well is fear.  Being told to “express” that feeling doesn’t prevent the bullying. Nor does all this “feeling” talk defer the alpha child who’s intent on doing a bit of no good.

The enterprising bully is also unfazed by the fact that the schools have rules against punishing whistle-blowers.  After all, the schools also have rules against bullying in the first place, but that’s clearly not stopping anyone.

In the old days, school yards meted out a form of rough justice: fist fights.  They weren’t common in my day, but they happened.  Two boys would hit the ground in a tangle of fists and feet, all the other children would gather around hollering “Fight!”, and, after a few minutes, a teacher would come along and break it up.  That was usually the end of it.  Fighting wasn’t encouraged, but it was tolerated up to a certain point, because it constituted community policing.  The kids took care of things themselves and, along the way, they learned how to be responsible for their own safety, rather than dependent on others.  (Please note that I’m not advocating kids beating each other up, nor am I confusing the rather innocent fist fights in my middle class schools with the brutal knife, gun, etc., gang fights that take place in America’s more dangerous schools.)

There is a perfect analogy for what’s going on in the schools:  gun control laws.  Those communities that have banned guns, and that have made even home defense a criminal act, blithely expected crime to go down.  Instead, of course, it went up.  Knowing that potential victims were helpless didn’t make criminals feel a sudden gush of compassion.  Instead, it heightened their hunting instincts.  Even the most thick-headed amongst them was able to figure out that the home robbery situation, rather than representing a risk, suddenly had all the fun and profit of hunting fish in a barrel.

On the street, the saying is that, when seconds count, the police are only minutes away.  The same is true in the schoolyard, only it’s worse.  When seconds count, the school authorities aren’t there at all and, if a brave child tattles on the bully, either by telling his parents or by telling a school official, the bully suddenly becomes the center of the kind of attention that can only make the victim quite nervous about subsequent repercussions.

The best way to prevent violence is to have a population that can defend itself.  While Progressives think that everyone who knows how to fight is a potential bully, I believe that everyone who knows how to fight and who is taught about justice, morals, and decency, is a bulwark against bullying, because he can protect not only himself but also those smaller and weaker than he is.

Life does NOT imitate the Simpsons when it comes to handling bullies

From Season 1 of The Simpsons (waaaay back in 1990), comes “Bart the General“:

After defending Lisa from school bully Nelson Muntz, Bart becomes Nelson’s latest target. Sick of the harassment and torment, Bart, Grampa Simpson, and Herman (a slightly deranged military antique store dealer with a missing arm) rally the town’s children into fighting back against Nelson and his cronies.

In real life, ten-year-old boys who try to defend themselves bullies (and, admittedly, this ten-year-old made a less than mature tactical decision), face quite a different situation– not from the bullies but from the administration:

Police say they have charged a 10-year-old Ohio boy after he told them he brought a BB gun to school to intimidate students who bullied him because he wears ankle braces and is small for his age.

Elmwood Place police Sgt. Kevin Vanover said Wednesday that the boy was charged with inducing panic after he took the BB gun to his elementary school in the suburban Cincinnati village on Monday. He remains in his mother’s custody awaiting a juvenile court hearing. No hearing date is set.

Vanover says the principal reported that some children said they saw the boy with the gun and thought it was a firearm. Police say the gun’s orange plastic tip was missing.

Did you catch that the school charged a frail, bullied 10-year-old with “inducing panic”?  Even in Marin County they’re not that crazy.  The other day, when some teenage boys were playing in the hillside wearing camo clothes and using air rifles without orange plastic tips, residents reasonably believed that there were snipers in the hills.  After a police manhunt, the boys were let off with a warning:

Twin Cities police, with help from Mill Valley police, Marin sheriff’s deputies and the California Highway Patrol, blocked traffic on Casa Buena and Meadowsweet drives as they searched for the suspect. After about 30 minutes, police contacted two 14-year-old boys with Airsoft rifles, Gorwood said.

“They were not properly marked with the orange tips,” she said. “They were playing on the hillside, shooting at each other.”

Police seized the guns and released the boys to their parents. There were no plans to seek criminal charges, Gorwood said.

Back to the original report, about the terrorized ten-year-old charged with terrorizing, bullying seems to be a lot worse today than it was when I was young.  Incidentally, I don’t have a blinkered, halcyon view of a childhood free of bullying.  As the smallest, geekiest in any school I ever attended, the kid who had thick glasses and always carried a book with her, I came in for my fair share of bullying.  And I’m very embarrassed to say this, but if a child ever appeared on the horizon who was even more of a target than I was, I gleefully sided with my former persecutors, delighted that their attention was on someone else for a change.  So yes, bullying existed back then.

But back then, it wasn’t in the papers, it wasn’t a cause celebre for every TV show or pop star and — and this is a critical difference I think — kids themselves were expected to deal with the bullies.  That’s what makes Bart the General so fascinating.  It’s the last gasp of an era that sees kids turning to grown-ups for advice, but handling the bullies themselves.  Nowadays, kids who try to deal with bullies, unless they’re lucky enough to have a YouTube video go viral, quickly find themselves in police custody, while the bully gets counseling.

I’m not advocating schools that look like Lord of the Flies, with invisible adults who make no effort to protect the children under their care.  I do believe, however, that children must be able to defend themselves.  They also have to be tough enough to take some bullying without crumbling under the pressure.

What we have here is a situation akin to those poor, disarmed Londoners.  In London, criminals know that, if they get caught, they’ll face some kind of punishment from the legal system, although it will be minimal.  They also know that their victims are completely defenseless.  For the bad guys, it’s party time, because there are no disincentives, either from the authorities or from the folks staring into the barrel of their guns.

Here in American schoolyards, the situation is the same.  Because American kids have been psychologically disarmed by Leftist school administrations, the bullies, the ones who have resisted this mental disarmament, know that there is no real downside to their behavior.  They’re like the delinquents in West Side Story who bait poor Office Krupke by telling him there’s nothing he can do to stop them, because they are society’s victims, and therefore deserving of pity, not punishment.  The American schoolyard bully knows that his victims have been trained to passivity, while the administration is trained in amateur, Leftist, 50s style psychology.  It’s a win-win for the mini bad guy.

The schizophrenia of modern public (i.e., Progressive) schools

We spend a lot of time talking here about the way our Progressive culture infantilizes young people.  Just think about the way the whole liberal world had a collective head explosion when Newt suggested that young people get jobs to learn the value of discipline and achieve the satisfaction of wages.  But all is not perpetual babying of our youth when it comes to the Progressive education establishment.  Woe betide the child, even a 7-year-old, who dares to transgress political correctness.  Under those circumstances, no consequences is too severe, both to punish the malfeasor and to stand as a warning to all other children tempted to violate Progressive norms.

I speak, of course, of the child who punched a bully in the crotch (something, by the way, that we are all taught in self-defense classes is the best way to disable a predator) and was charged with sexual harassment.  The story would be a non-story had the incident been treated the old-fashioned way, with both bully and victim hauled off to the principal’s office, to get proportionate punishments (with, I hope, more serious punishment going to the bully).  In my day, those punishments included staying after school, missing recess, perhaps a one- or two-day suspension and the dreaded “I’m going to have to tell your parents about this.”

Mark Steyn summarizes perfectly the horror unfolding here, and I do mean horror.  This is not just a silly joke about an over-reactive school administration.  This is a life-long sentence for the 7-year-old:

There may be “another side” to this story, but it’s hard to foresee any version of events in which a First Grader can plausibly be guilty of “sexual assault”. Nevertheless, if found guilty, Mark Curran when he turns 18 will be placed on a “sex offender registry”, and his life will be ruined. If officials of the Boston public schools system genuinely believe that when a seven-year old kicks another seven-year old in the crotch that that is an act of “sexual harassment”, then they are too stupid to be entrusted with the care of the city’s children. If, on the other hand, they retain enough residual humanity to understand that a seven-year-old groin-kick is not a sexual assault but have concluded that regulatory compliance obliges them to investigate it as such, then they are colluding in an act of great evil.

Sometimes societies become too stupid to survive. If you’re wondering how a candidate’s presidential campaign can be derailed by allegations of “gestures” of “a non-sexual nature” that made women “uncomfortable” two decades ago rather than by his total ignorance of foreign policy and national security, well, this stuff starts in kindergarten. The loss of proportion and of basic human judgment in the American education system ought to be an unnerving indicator.

Yeah, you got that right.

“In God We Trust” banned in California classrooms

Do you have any spare change lying around?  Yes?  I thought you might.

My dollar coins say “In God We Trust.”

My dollar bills say “In God We Trust.”

My quarters say “In God We Trust.”

My dimes say “In God We Trust.”

My nickels say “In God We Trust.”

My pennies say “In God We Trust.”

Every time I touch American legal tender, I touch the words “In God We Trust.”

Nevertheless, it turns out that those words are illegal — if they appear, not on a student’s coins, but on his classroom wall:

Saying a high school teacher has no right to “use his public position as a pulpit,” a federal appeals court ruled Tuesday that a San Diego County school district was on solid legal ground when it ordered a math instructor to remove large banners declaring “IN GOD WE TRUST” and “GOD SHED HIS GRACE ON THEE.”

Those inscriptions and others that longtime teacher Bradley Johnson displayed on his classroom wall amounted to a statement of religious views that the Poway Unified School District was entitled to disavow, said the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco.

Under U.S. Supreme Court rulings, the appellate panel said, government employees, including public schoolteachers, have no constitutional right to express views in the workplace that contradict their employer’s rules or policies.

“Johnson took advantage of his position to press his particular views upon the impressionable and captive minds before him,” said Judge Richard Tallman in the 3-0 ruling, which reversed a lower-court decision in the teacher’s favor.  (Emphasis mine.)

"Hey, you can't say that in here!"

I especially like Judge Tallman’s reference to “impressionable and captive minds.”  Apparently those young minds can withstand the constant propaganda emanating from legal tender, but put it on a classroom wall and their mushy psyches are completely overcome.  Under that kind of pernicious “God We Trust” influence, the next thing you know, those poor, weak-brained students are going to rush out and commit some heinous acts of morality and decency. You can see pictures of the hypnotic, over-powering banners here.

(By the way, if you’re getting old, as I am, and are trying to fix “God Shed His Grace On Thee” in your mind, it’s from “America The Beautiful,” a song that liberal media stalwart Lynn Sherr identified in her book about its creation as our “nation’s favorite song.”)

We need to stop worrying about al Qaeda and start getting seriously worried about our judiciary.  For three federal appellate court judges to say that the motto imprinted on every coin in America constitutes a private statement of religious views that can be banned from the classroom crosses a line from Progressive to deranged.

San Francisco School Board cuts academic programs to fund gay rights at school

Two days ago, I brought to your attention the fact that the San Francisco School Board — despite facing a $113 million dollar budget shortfall over the next two years, despite its admission that it will be cutting summer school and academic programs, and despite the fact that there has not been a sudden outbreak of extreme prejudice against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered (GLBT) students in San Francisco’s public schools — was seriously contemplating putting into place a whole new program aimed at tracking discrimination against the GLBT crowd and at educating the San Francisco student population to drop words such as “dyke,” “fag” and “queer” from its insult lexicon (although I’ll just note here that all those words are very “in” with the Queer activist crowd).

I was careful to point out that this program was simply the subject of debate at the Board meeting.  To be honest, I thought it would die on the vine, because even San Francisco politicians can’t be so crazy that they’ll openly undermine academic programs during a budget shortfall while simultaneously creating a whole new layer of costly victim class bureaucracy.  But as Mencken should have said, “No one ever went broke underestimating Progressives’ pathological need to tax the public to obtain reparations for self-defined PC victim groups.”  And so, in a turn of events that appears to have surprised even the SF Chronicle‘s reporter, the San Francisco School Board turned its back on the academic needs of the majority of the students trapped in San Francisco’s mediocre public schools, and pandered:

The San Francisco school board added to the district’s massive $113 million shortfall over the next two years by voting Tuesday night to fund a substantial increase in instruction and services related to gay and lesbian issues.

Though the district is facing layoffs and significant program cuts, board members unanimously agreed that the estimated $120,000 annual price tag was worth it to support gay and lesbian students – children who are more likely to experience bullying and skip school because they are afraid.

The resolution calls for adding a district position to manage “lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning” youth issues. It also requires the district to keep tabs on harassment and discrimination based on sexual orientation and distribute educational packets every year to parents encouraging them to discuss sexuality, gender identity and safety with their children.

The measure, sponsored by the city’s Youth Commission and Human Rights Commission and the district’s Student Advisory Council, requires district staff to seek outside funding to cover the costs, but guarantees at least a half-time position and other services regardless.

About 13 percent of San Francisco’s middle school students and 11 percent of high school students self-identified as gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender, according to a district survey.

Read the rest here.

(As an aside, the last paragraph I quoted has a very high level of self-identification compared to national numbers.  One reason there might be such a high level of self-identification is that GLBT kids in SF do feel fairly safe, despite the fact that they are bullied more than their peers — or, at least, safe enough to explore and recognize their sexuality.  It could also be that gay parents raise gay children, something that does not answer the nature/nature debate about gayness, but that seems to happen fairly often to the extent I’ve observed gay parents.  San Francisco, of course, has a lot of gay — and, I might add, loving and wonderful — parents.  It could also be because the constant focus on gay sex in San Francisco’s schools and streets affects youngsters’ sexuality, pushing them in experimental directions they might sublimate, happily or not, in a slightly more repressive environment. )

But even with a high 13% GLBT self-identification, and even accepting that these kids are less happy than your average teenager (who is often plenty unhappy), and even accepting that GLBT youth are the subject of greater bullying, it strikes me as unconscionable to for a School Board, which is tasked with the well-being of all students in the district, to engage in this type of touchy-feelie programing when the district as a whole is going broke. The fact is that bullying should be unacceptable regardless of the nature of victim.  Heck, I got bullied unmercifully at some rough schools because I was short and wore glasses.  The solution is to de-rough the schools, many of which are worn out and gang-ridden, rather than to focus on a specifically identified victim group.  This is a weird version of the Left’s obsession with equality of outcome, rather than equality of opportunity.  Rather than making a better, safer environment for all, the Progressives are trying to ensure that GLBT students are picked on at precisely the same statistical rate as their non-GLBT peers.

As I pointed out the other day, San Francisco isn’t alone in this desire to appease minority sensibilities at the expense of the majority.  Berkeley, right across the Bay, garnered significant headlines when its school district proposed cutting science programs (that is, solidly academic programs) because not enough minorities were signing up for them.  After an uproar from parents who care more about their children’s education than parading them as sacrificial lambs to Progressive politics, the school district has backed off the plan, at least for now.

Fundamentally, this isn’t about GLBT safety, no matter how the School Board dresses it up.  This is simply the Progressive mindset at work:  minorities are victims; victims need reparations; within the context of public education, reparations come in the form of denying academic opp0rtunities to all students (including, of course, the victims themselves).

This is what happens when taxes go up

I suspect that, once Obama starts raising taxes, buyer’s remorse is going to set in with incredible speed.  This article focuses on the local economy, but is a harbinger of what will happen when taxes go up on a larger, national scale:

A temporary 1.5 percentage point sales tax increase proposed Thursday by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to deal with the state’s worsening fiscal crisis comes just two days after Marin voters approved a quarter-cent sales tax increase for passenger rail service.In San Rafael, it would push the sales tax to 10 percent.

“The timing is terrible,” said Lise Sonnen, owner of Sonnen BMW in San Rafael. “Chevrolet across the street is in Chapter 11. All their new cars are gone. The Ford store died. … It’s hard enough for us as it is.”

San Rafael City Manager Ken Nordhoff said San Rafael’s sales tax, up a quarter of a percent after Tuesday’s passage of the Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit tax, is about half a point higher than the sales tax in other Marin cities.

Schwarzenegger, who proposed the tax hike along with another $4.5 billion in spending cuts during a news briefing, said he has little choice: Just six weeks after signing an overdue state budget intended to close a $15.2 billion deficit, the state faces an $11.2 billion deficit.

[snip]

In addition to raising the sales tax, Schwarzenegger is proposing expanding its scope to include some services such as vehicle, appliance and furniture repair.

“That would be another $50 or so on our average ticket, which would definitely hurt,” said Gary Nugent, service manager at Heynneman European, a San Rafael auto repair shop. Nugent said the shop’s business is already down 50 percent due to the economic crisis.

The sales tax hike, which would continue for three years, is part of $4.4 billion in tax increases proposed by Schwarzenegger. Other revenue could come from raising the registration fee for vehicles by $12 and taxing companies that extract oil from California, which he said would generate $528 million this year.

[snip]

State Sen. George Runner, the Senate’s GOP caucus chairman, flatly said Republicans will not support a general tax increase.

“The fact is that during this time of economic challenges is not the time to go back to California taxpayers and ask for more money from them,” said Runner, of Lancaster.

Read the rest here.

I can assure you that, as Marin resident, I will do my best to leave the county for any big purchases I need to make. If I can get into a county that charges 8.5% in taxes, that’s where I’ll make my bigger purchases.  For example, if I need a new car (which I don’t right now, but will soon), I will save $450 on a $30,000 car just by driving a few extra miles.  Small drive; big savings; no-brainer.

It never seems to occur to anyone in government to stop a deficit by cutting spending.  Wouldn’t it be nice if, when I go on a spending spree and outrun my budget, I could simply go to my boss and extort more money from him?  I can’t, though, and the government shouldn’t be able to either.

To be entirely honest, the article does discuss the fact that the government is making spending cuts, most notably for schools.  With those cuts in mind, I’d like to suggest that, if the schools refined their focus to on reading, writing and arithmetic, and stopped all the environmental and community service stuff (which should emanate from the home and not the school), they’d find that they could manage with a shorter day and fewer resources.  I like my schools to educate, not attempt to take over as parents, imposing their values, not mine, on the students.

Me being tactless, very, very tactless *UPDATED*

A few weeks ago, both my kids got in the mail an invitation from their school to attend an “Albatross Award” ceremony to honor their good qualities. Mr. Bookworm, who brought the mail in, was very excited: “You’re getting awards. This is great.” (I mention Mr. Bookworm specifically here so that you know it wasn’t my cynicism about our school system that affected the kids’ response.)

Both kids were entirely unimpressed. “Everyone gets those,” said my daughter. “They don’t mean anything,” said my son. They echoed perfectly, and inadvertently, Dash, in the movie The Incredibles, right after his parents finished explaining why he had to keep hidden his super powers:

Helen: Everyone’s special, Dash.
Dash: [muttering] Which is another way of saying no one is.

The above is not the part where I tactlessly insulted my neighbor. That came this morning, when she mentioned she hadn’t seen us at the awards ceremony yesterday. Now, if I hadn’t still been sleep befuddled and without breakfast, I would have figured out that she was at the awards ceremony with her child, so that it obviously had meaning to one, or even both, of them. Not having made that connection, I blurted out the truth, which is that my kids refused to go because they thought that an award ceremony that honors everyone is pretty meaningless.

My neighbor’s not shy. She was offended and put me in my place immediately: “That offends me. My daughter has won this two years in a row. She knows that they recognize her special contribution. This is a special award. You and your kids are wrong.”

I wasn’t about to get in a fight on the street, so I said that the difference, perhaps, was my kids. While her daughter may be striving (how would I know), my kids are not (and I know that for a fact). They quickly figured out how to game the system, and now do the bare minimum to get by. Also, and I didn’t tell her this, my kids have figured out that there is no special virtue in doing the things that ought to be done anyway, such as throwing their trash in the garbage or not getting into fights.

As long-time readers now, I’m a huge believer in praising my kids when they do well, rather than only punishing them when they fail. “Thank you for clearing your plates. I appreciate that.” “That’s very responsible that you did your homework right away.” That kind of thing. But I don’t do a song and a dance and pretend that these things are special. I acknowledge them, but I don’t elevate them to some superstatus: “Oh, my God! You cleaned up your place at the table. Quick, let me give you a medal.” “You did your homework! You are better than any other kid in the world.”

The school would do better to give blunt, meaningful praise at the moment, rather than to concoct some ridiculous awards ceremony that elevates recycling a garbage bag to the level of heroism in battle. Savvy kids understand that there is nothing award-worthy about the fact that they’ve competently carried out the tasks of ordinary life.

UPDATE:  Coincidentally, at today’s Weekly Standard, Joseph Epstein takes on what he calls the Kindergarchy — our society’s obsessive focus on children and their psycho-social-physical-emotional needs.