Friday, October 30, 2009

Life in the American Fourth Grade: Don't be too Scary

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By Barry Rubin

In the United States, mainly, there is a holiday called Halloween which involves dressing up in costumes. The holiday has a bit of a morbid side to it, often focussing on things related to monsters and death. Today, the school had the kids wear the costumes to class, which is not necessarily the best use of time in academic terms.

However, and I never heard of this happening before--my 10-year-old son Daniel reports from the front--that certain costumes are forbidden, that is those deemed too scary for the younger children to see. For example, a student wearing a skeleton costume was asked to take it off, while others were forbidden from wearing masks thought to be too frightening.

I can think of a lot of political figures whose visage is far more scary than any imaginery goblins and ghouls. But I digress.

Is this don't-be-scary decree too petty to notice? Perhaps or probably so. But isn't it in line with the tendency toward zero-risk, excessive caution, passion for ensuring that young people be protected from competition or any sense of failure (which is unpleasant but can be used to teach people to do better).

Of course, despite all the efforts of the school program, bullying, low-level violence, and even non-Politically Correct rhetoric goes on among the students. Dare I say that there is such a thing as human nature and it is not so easily altered?

Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal. His latest books are The Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition), The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley), and The Truth About Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan). To read and subscribe to MERIA, GLORIA articles, or to order books. To see or subscribe to his blog, Rubin Reports.

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