I’m Twelve. And I Believe Exile is Worse than Death.

My wife responds to my news, with barefaced contempt, “Because he’s black?”

“No. I didn’t say he brought the gun to school because ‘he’s black’. He did it because he’s stupid,” I clarified. “The reason I said he is black is because your son thinks all things black are right and cool, which itself is stupid, but the main point is I want to know what your son, A-, has told you about it. Because it is important that he agrees with me that this kid did something truly stupid.”

“He told me it was stupid.”

“Really?” I wondered, in blunt disbelief.

****

“Hey. How come you didn’t tell me about W- bringing the gun to school?” I asked A- nonchalantly as we drove home from school ball.

“I don’t know.”

“Well, what do you think?”

“I don’t understand why he would be expelled for bringing it.”

“Did you mention it to your mom?”

“On Monday I told her about it, but I thought it was a toy gun then.”

“Did you ever use the word ‘stupid’?”

“I may have said that I thought it was stupid that he was in so much trouble.”

“Okay,” I said. (I knew the boy would not react, ‘W- did something stupid.’ Check.) Then I took a father’s breath. “Here’s the thing. The most famous school shooting happened when I was a senior in high school. That’s over twenty years ago. And they have been happening regularly since then. For someone to bring any kind of gun to school at this point is absolutely, totally, and irredeemably stupid. Understand? Guns destroy. School, in theory, is about creation. The two will never mix. He was stupid. Or his decision was stupid. I don’t really know him.”

“Okay.”

****

“Well,” I answered my own 12 year old, H-, that night on FaceTime, “one of A-’s teammates brought, like, a bb gun to school. He’s probably gonna be expelled. So that’s causing some drama amongst the kids.”

“Expelled!!”

“Why is this shocking?”

“I can see suspended, but expelled? From the entire district?”

Drawing enough air to fill a sermon, “Guns kill people. Kids have been killing people in schools for twenty years now. What are we even debating, my daughter? So what if the kid has to go to another school. His parents maybe should be forced to move and try to live another way somewhere else. What they’re doing so far has failed. No person alive can suggest that ‘they didn’t know’ to NOT bring a weapon to school. How are we even talking about this, H-?”

“Okay, geez.”

“Tell me that your father thinks it is absolutely stupid to bring a gun to school and that it is absolutely fair to expel a kid who does.”

“You think-”

“-No, say, ‘my father’,”

Oh, the glare.

“My father thinks it is stupid to bring a gun to school and fair to expel anyone who does.”

“Good.”

****

Please, dear reader, lament with me. You already know how much I loathe public school. To hear that both my not-so-bright step-son and my I’d-like-to-believe-has-paid-attention-at-least-once-in-while daughter believe that expulsion or exile from the community is worse than being killed by a school shooter only feeds the fire.

Education is supposed to liberate, not indoctrinate. It’s supposed to turn the brain on, not off. Create, not conform.

Choose life, kids. Especially if it means alone.

People are stupid.

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