I used to think that Palo Alto was a great place to raise my kids, now I am beginning to wonder. The bar is high here. How high? Drop by Paly and see what the topic of conversation is: college apps, AP scores, applying to Princeton, getting into Duke, excelling on exams, getting straight A’s, participating in extra curricular activities, competing on sports teams… building their resumes. Room for failure? No. Margin for error? Nope. Okay to make mistakes? Not here, not in Palo Alto. Much of a chance just to be a kid? Not under the watch of the current Paly administration.
Spirit Week is supposed to be fun, foster school spirit and lend a sense of togetherness. Instead, administrators have turned it into a stressful time where kids walk the line between having good clean fun, and running the risk of jeopardizing their college careers. “Egg Wars” -- not a school sanctioned event -- is a tradition that seems to involve good, clean (or gooey) fun. It is intentionally planned to be in an area where no property will be damaged and kids participate willingly. It is not vandalism or hazing, and it should not be treated as a crime. If someone crosses the line and throws eggs at a building or, worse yet, throws a frozen egg, they should be punished. But for the vast majority, it seems like kids being kids and blowing off a little steam, escaping from the pressure cooker for a night. So why do they face suspension if caught participating? Why does the Paly administration even get involved?
After Tuesday night’s egg wars, which were largely thwarted by the police being called in early, Paly administration cancelled Wednesday’s lunch time rally. Cancelled it to prove what? That they are almighty and have the power? Cancelling the rally does nothing more than frustrate the kids, and pit them against the administration. Why not let them enjoy what little they have left to enjoy?
Do we want a school where there is no margin for error, where maximum punishment is the rule not the exception, where throwing a water balloon or streaking become expellable offenses or punishable by law? Life is full of choices, decisions and consequences. Gilbert and Sullivan had it right: let the punishment fit the crime. Make them clean, make them do service, let them set right what they did wrong. But getting suspended for throwing eggs, streaking, teepeeing? Paly administrators should be ashamed that the environment they are creating is one of no tolerance, no mistakes, and stress so intense that depression runs rampant and students’ expression of themselves becomes something for which the police are called. Restrictiveness only adds fuel to the fire of our already stressed out kids. Next thing you know the Palo Alto police will be called in if our kids slip and get B’s. Shame on us all for letting this happen.