Free Liberal

Coordinating towards higher values

Unhappiness Is a Drawn Gun

by Paul Jacob

There's the real world, and there are representations of it.

I draw a picture of, say, a gun. That picture is of a gun; it is not itself an actual gun. It's just, well, a doodle.


This being the case -- that doodles differ from real threats -- then why was a 13-year-old boy near Mesa, Arizona, suspended from school?

He drew a gun . . . on a piece of paper. He didn't point it at anybody. He made no hit list. He didn't say "Bang." No one even got a paper cut.

But school officials treated it as a threat, lectured his poor father on the shooting at Colorado's Columbine High School, and suspended the lad.

The district spokesman insisted that the doodle was "absolutely considered a threat."

But somehow, knowing that this student was suspended, I'm not feeling any safer.

If our teachers and administrators can't distinguish real threats from doodles -- doodles most boys do, doodles I drew when I was a boy -- then what are they teaching the kids? To overreact to everything? To not be able to distinguish small problems from big ones? To treat every symbol or representation as the real thing?

It's elementary: The map is not the actual territory; the representation is not the thing represented.

You'd think, then, that teachers would be trying to impart (not erase) that notion from the minds of students.

Paul Jacob's "Common Sense" is published by the Citizens in Charge Foundation. Their website can be visited at www.citizensincharge.org.