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Welcome Back to the Slammer…er…School

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By:John Seiler | September 08, 2014


American public schools are prisons. They even look like prisons. See the nearby picture of Century High School in Santa Ana. Even hoity-toity schools in Newport Beach look like that, although the facades are ritzier.

And consider this Sept. 3 report from my old newspaper, the Orange County Register:

“SANTA ANA – Santa Ana Unified School District police officers patrolled city streets Tuesday morning – the first day of school – with support from the California Highway Patrol and the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad Police.”

That’s four separate police units incarcerating the kids: school cops, local cops, state cops and train cops.

Back when I was an inmate of the Wayne-Westland School District from 1960-73, the only time we ever saw a cop was when one came in for vocation day and said, “Your Policeman is Your Friend.” There were truant officers, but they were former teachers promoted to administration.

More from the Register:

“Santa Ana Unified police Sgt. Brian Harris said officers mostly look for those who are violating the rules of the road around school zones.

“ ‘Some of the most common things we see are jaywalking, kids riding bikes or skateboards without helmets, kids walking on railroad tracks and motorists failing to yield the right-of-way to pedestrians,’ he said.”

Fifty years ago, nobody even heard of someone wearing a helmet while riding a bike.Seiler_piece And I can’t remember anyone dying of that or anything else during the school year, even though Wayne Memorial High School contained more than 2,000 students. Same thing with skateboards, which in those days sported treacherous metal wheels, instead of the smooth plastic kind nowadays. One of our heroes was Red Wings goalie Terry Sawchuk, whose mask-less kisser had been smacked a couple hundred times by pucks.

As to railroad tracks, it was a common practice to put a penny on the track, then pick it up after the train ran over it. Nobody seemed to care. I even remember how, while we were waiting for our yellow school bus, back when we were about 13 years old a friend of mine used to run out into the middle of Michigan Ave. (U.S. Route 12 to Chicago) after a stream of cars had passed, lie down pretending he was asleep, then rise up to avoid getting run down by the next series of cars. Nowadays, he’d be dumped in a foster home and his parents arrested and imprisoned.

“America is too safe,” is a saying I have. Normal kids grow up learning what things are dangerous and what are safe. There always will be daredevils who get closer to danger than most of us. Those are the guys who become stock car drivers, fighter pilots, Alaska fishermen and Chronicles writers. By shutting down all risk, American kids are being turned into millions of zeks who shuffle along and do what they’re told. 



Tom Piatak
9/8/2014 08:15 PM

  An excellent piece.

9/8/2014 11:22 PM

  Ya, check this out CC cameras, panic buttons, secured doors and crowd suppression systems all pre-installed.

Andrew G Van Sant
9/9/2014 08:36 PM

  I was fortunate to make it out of childhood in one piece. I once rode my tricycle down an open sewer in a road being paved near my house. I was rescued by the owner of a Rin-Tin-Tin wannabe German Shepard who stood at the top of the pit barking until his master came with a ladder to pull me out. My mother answered his ring to see him standing on the porch with my trike in one hand and my hand in the other. I and the trike were dripping muddy water that was about 2-3 feet deep in the bottom of the sewer. Later, older but not any wiser, I was run over by a car while chasing a telephone truck in order to see the lineman climb a telephone pole. I was unconscious for about three hours and could not walk for three days afterwards. The orange cowboy scarf I was wearing had tire marks on it. I still think it is a good idea to wear a helmet when biking though. One saved me from a serious head injury when I caught a pedal while making a sharp turn at high speed.

Nicholas MOSES
Paris (FR)
9/9/2014 09:53 PM

  "By shutting down all risk, American kids are being turned into millions of zeks who shuffle along and do what they’re told." The problem is that the virile tough-life culture of 1950s and 1960s youth no longer exists. It would be one thing if I thought my kid might get a black eye or a bloody nose a couple times a year and perhaps a broken nose or even arm just one time over the course of twelve years, but the risk since the 1970s has been that the kid gets knived, or shot, or raped - or (worse for the parent), knives, shoots or rapes a teacher or fellow student. That is an unacceptable risk. Simply put, there is no healthy social tissue, no just middle between gangsta and gay culture, in modern America.

Jim B
9/10/2014 04:08 PM

  "There are no free-range children in the suburbs". (Not sure of the source but I recall this possibly from a blog by Kate Dalton)


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