Letter and Spirit

April 16, 2012

First, a link to the Yahoo news piece:

A 17-year-old varsity baseball player in suburban Cleveland is being banned from walking at his own graduation for racking up two too many unexcused absences. While those circumstances might be considered the fault of the athlete in most cases, Carrollton (Ohio) High senior Austin Fisher’s case is a rather extraordinary one: His absences were all brought on by time he spent caring for his mother, who has spent the past six years battling breast cancer.

Notice that actions have consequences.  Having been through the public school system myself, administrators are fairly good at annoying the student about every absence and also pointing out excessive absences.  At some point, I’d guess before the 12th or 13th absence, Fisher was told that 14 was the most he could have and be permitted to walk for graduation.  I am very confident that at some level he was aware that missing an X amount of days from school would have severe, negative consequences.  He made the choice instead to care for his mother.  He now lives with the consequences of his actions.  That how life works.

But there’s no reason to stop there.  Most people would agree that he made the right choice.  I certainly think so.  Even though he has no control over the fact that his mother is not married (be it some reason so frivolous as “I didn’t love him anymore” or something so serious as his father died tragically) and therefore does not have a partner for emotional, physical, and financial support, he stepped up to fulfill needed roles to the best of his ability.  I believe he made the right choice given his circumstances.  Family is more important than walking down the aisle with your graduating classmates.  While many people may say this, he actually had the courage to do this.

This brings us to the matter of the rules.  The rules state that missing more than 14 days of classes (unexcused) means a student will not walk on graduation night.  This rule seems very lenient (14 days–that’s 8% of the school year!) and is meant to keep bad, lazy students from being perceived as good, industrious students.  While this rule alone will not insure that this happens, it can at least weed out the fringes, one would hope.

But this breaks down, like many other rules which regulate intentions.  This is not some moral law or some variation of a moral law, rather, this rule is made to codify actions with intentions and penalize the presumed intentions.  However, if the intentions are different than what the actions normally would signal, the rules violate their very spirit and thus become illegitimate.  This is not to argue against rule of law, but to argue against law of rules.

Rules are made to provide a mechanism for good to occur in specific situations.  Unlike Laws (by this I mean Laws based on morality and ethics), rules are good or bad depending on the situation and the underlying morals.  While rules may function well in 99% of the situations, in the !5 of situations they do not they should be recognized for what they are: regulations which failed in guardianship of their intentions.

“A Sick Joke”

March 26, 2012

From Simon Grey:
Sometimes I wonder if American culture is nothing more than a sick joke.  It seems to me that everything Americans do, especially those in the middle class, is designed to signal status.  That seems to be the case with the modern school system and with homework in particular.  There is little value to assigning homework because it is so easy to cheat at it.  All that happens, as Scott Adams notes, is that everyone simply becomes stressed out over a triviality.
More to the point, the parents act like homework is THE MOST IMPORTANT THING EVER and thus push their kids to complete it, even though everyone knows it’s nonsense.  Yet, in spite of knowing how little and unimportant homework is, parents push their children to do it, often with the encouraging rundown of how terrible life will be if you don’t do your homework.  “If you don’t do your homework, you’ll fail the class;* if you fail the class, you’ll fail school;** if you fail school, you won’t go to college;*** if you don’t go to college, you won’t get a good job;**** etc.”
The results of this constant guilt trip have begun to yield a diseased, rotting fruit.  “Relationship” no longer refers to the emotional connection one has with his fellow human beings.  Instead, it refers to how much wealth/status/income one has relative to one’s fellow human beings.  We are a materialist society, driven by our shiny things and the pursuit thereof.  And so, parents continually pressure their children to accomplish meaningless tasks in the hopes that doing so will eventually ensure their children’s ability to acquire meaningless material goods.
The punchline is that this is called the American dream.
* Translation:  you won’t be properly brainwashed.
** Translation:  you won’t get a piece of paper celebrating you’re pitiful intellectual accomplishments.
*** Translation:  You won’t be able to go to an overpriced indoctrination camp to get a piece of paper that tells prospective employer what a compliant little drone you’ll be.
**** Translation:  You won’t be able to sit in a cubicle all day filing meaningless reports and crunching imaginary numbers in order to earn enough money to satisfy the hedonistic and materialistic desires of the ugly hag you married, in order to support ungrateful brats that you don’t ever get (or, truthfully, want) to see.
No further comment needed.