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Tiptoe through the tulips and never fight back, no matter what

By Shelley McKinney
web posted October 29, 2001

I have returned from a self-imposed hiatus of five months as my family adjusts to our new homeschooling schedule to find the world completely changed. Well, almost. Some things never change no matter how much you wish they would. The goings-on at Lincoln Elementary School in Caldwell, Idaho are a case in point: political correctness, in spite of my fervent desire for it to just shut up and go away, continues to rear its ugly head, yapping about peace on earth, goodwill toward those whose self-esteem has been artificially boosted by the latest love-me-hug-me brain trip.

The scheme at Lincoln Elementary School has been evolving for a number of years, thanks to the ministrations of counselor Robert Teska and it involves tulips, lots of them. I haven't seen a picture of them in full bloom on the school grounds, but I'm sure they're beautiful.

In the October 5, 2001 issue of the Idaho Statesman, writer Charles Etlinger did a story on Mr. Teska, who has been chosen as a carrier of the Olympic Torch as it passes through the state on January 25 and 26. Mr. Teska was chosen for this honor because, for the past ten years, he has been teaching the students a type of conflict resolution called "Seeds of Peace" that involves the kids reciting a vow in which they promise to never "hit, punch, scratch, bite, kick or use bad language," no matter what someone else says or does to them. Then they each plant a tulip as a visible reminder of their vow.

Tulips are pretty flowers -- my favorite, in fact -- and I really deplore their use in this blatant system of social engineering.This little vow, quite frankly, makes my jaw drop and my eyes widen. I presume that Mr. Teska has considered all the ramifications of encouraging children to be passive little lumps of starch, but if he hasn't...wow.

"We plant a seed of peace with that promise," said Mr. Teska.

In a spirit of enquiry, I contacted the Idaho Statesman's Charles Etlinger and asked him if parents had ever been known to complain about their children taking this vow which they, as parents, might completely disagree with, especially in light of the attacks on the United States on September 11. What might the children think when they see their president on television, vowing that we will neither fail nor falter as we exact retribution from the terrorists? After all, that goes against everything Mr. Teska has been teaching in those conflict resolution lessons.

Mr. Etlinger replied that he hadn't heard of any objections from parents, although the question was not raised during the interview.

Attempts to reach Mr. Teska himself were unsuccessful.

If I were the parent of a child at Lincoln Elementary School, I would be raising one huge objection: what is being taught here is not "conflict resolution" because the way to resolve every conflict is not to just roll over. A wise and witty man once stated that Jesus taught that if a person slaps you on one cheek, turn the other one and let him slap that one too, but Jesus didn't give any instructions on what to do after the second smack was delivered. I'm not sure if I can honestly say that Our Lord would totally be in favor of kicking the stuffing out of someone, but then again, common sense would seem to dictate that it is just silly to allow someone free reign to knock your teeth down your throat.

As it happens, I have an experience in my past that conforms to this thought. When I was a short, spindly seventh-grader, I had my first experience of riding on a school bus. It was not much fun for the first two weeks, due to a girl whose name I never knew. This girl was one of the ones who took great pleasure in knocking books out of a person's arms and then kicking them all over the floor of the bus, making it necessary for the books' owner to crawl around on the bus floor to retrieve them. Sometimes, she'd step on your fingers while you were down there, just to liven things up.

Because I was shy and smallish and quiet, she did this to me two times, laughing raucously and jeering as I groped around trying to collect my things. If you've ever been up against a bully -- and many of you have -- you know how it feels. Something like what the French aristocrats must have felt as they looked upon Robespierre. It was easy to see that we were all just going to have to miserably take all the hell she felt like dishing out until someone stood up to her, so the third time she knocked my books out of my arms as I wearily trudged to a seat on the bus, I did.

I picked up my math book and suddenly it seemed like a very good idea to slam her in the head with it, so I did. Hard. And you know what? She never knocked anybody's books out of their arms again. Of course, she went on to new levels of evil, like putting gum in people's hair, but she left me alone permanently.

So what happens if you're a student who has been through counselor Robert Teska's "conflict resolution" training and have recited your vow of peace like a good little sheep and planted your tulip bulb -- and then you're confronted with someone whose chief delight in life is that you have been indoctrinated with the idea that it is wrong for you to defend yourself, no matter what?

You get your clock cleaned, that's what. Many times, perhaps.

This doesn't even make sense. In fact, it is so bereft of logic as to be downright dangerous, and that is the scourge of political correctness. Why in the world would it be considered wrong to teach children to defend themselves? Yet Mr. Teska says, "The tulips that grow in the spring become a visual representation of the commitment to live a peaceful and non-violent life."

The terrible events of September 11 have shown us all that it isn't always possible to live a non-violent life. Heaven knows that's the ideal. I can't think of anyone who's really just flat-out delighted that we're fighting a war. I can't think of any person I know who actively seeks out passersby to punch in the head, either. That's really not how most people are wired. The difference is that there are times when most people -- people who consider themselves to be "peaceful" folk -- concede that there is a need to fight, a compelling reason to fight.

It's either going to be that, or the gritty streets of Kabul are going to bloom with a riot of color next year when the tulips lift their jaunty heads. Of course, Lincoln Elementary School might well have been reduced to smoke and ash by terrorists by that time, but hey...anything to lead a peaceful life.

Shelley McKinney is a senior writer for Enter Stage Right.

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