For this week's journal, I decided to stray from the heavy topics I usually cover. Going through my files recently, I found this column I had written several years ago and submitted (unsuccessfully) to an online magazine.
Thinking about the title of today's column, I can only say that in today’s world, that’s a murky puddle, at best. But I’ll tell you what schools had the power to do 40 years ago, when I was in high school.
I had turned 18 in December of my senior year, so I was of legal age to drink 3.2 beer (at that time — laws have since changed in Colorado). I was also a member of a school club, similar to the singers on Glee. We performed all over our small town during the evenings. One night after a performance, a bunch of us went to Pizza Hut and two of us ordered beer. I figured it was okay because I was ‘legal’.
The next day, we two wer called to the principal’s office, receiving a one-day suspension for our illicit activity. In addition, we had to do janitorial work around the school after school hours on our suspension day. (At the time, I was grateful not to have been brought in during the school day to empty trash cans and sweep floors.)
The friend who was suspended with me was totally up in arms about this. Her dad was a bigwig in our small-ish town and she figured she would get absolved of her ‘crime’. Not so; her dad said she should have had better sense. He was right. We should have had better sense, but we were teenagers. He wisely let his daughter have this experience to gain some maturity about the real world.
Our crime was not the beer drinking — the school didn’t have anything to say about that. It was that we were wearing our Glee club outfits, which marked us as representing the high school. That is why we were suspended.
Now, I will get a little heavy and note that perhaps more parents should forego trying to fight the consequences that are issued at school. If children are not allowed to suffer the effects of the (relatively) harmless choices they make at a young age, how are they supposed to gain respect for the very serious rules that will be in place once they are "of age"?
I learned a good life lesson through my one-and-only suspension experience, and have never again discounted the effect of public perception and how one comports oneself while appearing to be on official business.
The experience the principal afforded me led me to develop an understanding of what a professional demeanor looks like and also to value my own credibility. If my parents had intervened and succeeded in scaring the principal away from a logical and valuable consequence for a foolish action, my development as a human being could have been very different. One never knows for sure, of course, how paths might differ based on things that never happened, but if I had been reared with the knowledge that my parents would always run interference for me, I feel safe in saying I would not have developed a healthy and mature perspective on the realities of life.
I am grateful their attitude was to allow me to sink or swim, as my own actions dictated.