Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Bad Idea in Tennessee: An Update

"Fajita," who has thirteen blogs but still magically managed to find time to not only read but also comment (much appreciated) on mine, said I should follow up on the fake-gunman story out of Tennessee I posted about last week. The prank brought up two separate issues: The laughable one, how can you be a grown-up in America and believe you could pull this politically incorrect shit — with kids — and the entire community would just be cool with it. There are school districts that won't teach evolution because it's too controversial, but turning a retreat into a real-life Camp Crystal Lake is going to go over smoothly? (Also, Camp Crystal Lake is maybe one of those names, like Hitler Industries, Inc., that you might not want to give your business, negative associations and all. I bet this "outdoor education center" down in Florida was disappointed when they found out "campcrystallake.com" was taken.)

There was also the serious issue that rubbed me the wrong way: the teachers pulling off this prank by abusing their students' trust. As an educator, it's your job, for example, to remind the kids that tragedies like the Virginia Tech shooting are extraordinarily rare (at least in America). If there were a crazy gunman, the adults around would take responsibility instead of just telling the kids to duck and cover and gleefully watching them cry.

That being said, I found a follow-up article, and Fajita is right. The laughable point still stands, and the Thinking part of me has responded, "Good, the teacher and assistant principal are suspended without pay for the rest of the year and world makes sense." But there are mitigating factors, the main one being that they told the kids that there'd be some sort of prank during the retreat, so the whole trust-abusing thing pretty much goes out the window. Just don't make a career out of playing Ashton Kutcher, guys.

The ABC News follow-up article contradicts the Associated Press article I originally found. ABC News implies that the students weren't told there was a gunman on the loose; instead, they were told "there were people inside the state park shooting guns." Big difference. I'd be surprised if there weren't people shooting guns in a Tennessee state park. Yeah, it's an easy joke, but I guarantee you that as you're reading this, there's someone in that park hunting ducks or deer or something. Also, the ABC News article says that the group discussion the students had — the topic was "what to do if there's a gunman on the loose" — happened before the prank. (Editor's note: that's not explicit in the ABC News article, so I might have culled that from one of the less informative articles I found on the subject, or I could just be totally making that up.) Assuming it's true, though, if none of the students found the timing a little suspicious, well, joke's on them.

As our president once told the people of Tennessee, "Fool me once, shame on... shame on you. Fool me, you can't get fooled again." See, lesson learned.