Zero Tolerance Syndrome seems to be one of the epidemics of the 2000s. In a way, it's kind of like AIDS: a viral infection compromises the immune system to the point of rendering it moot, so that any small bug that would normally pass unnoticed suddenly becomes a chronic issue. In this case, however, the "infection" is some kind of perceived evil, real or imagined, that somebody in power thinks merits a witch hunt. The "immune system" is common sense.
The problem is that the whole notion of "zero tolerance" has become something of a status symbol. Authority figures want to show how righteous they are (read "make people believe their family jewels are a bit larger than BBs") by vowing to get tough on anything that even vaguely smacks of [insert public enemy du jour here]. And since righteousness (ahem *manliness* cough) tends to be strangely competitive, you often wind up with a whole bunch of leaders trying to outdo each other in terms of just how zero their tolerance really is.
After all, the good old US of A, while being the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave®, is also the country where:
- A child can be suspended for giving a classmate a cough drop. (Zero Tolerance of drugs)
- A teenager can be suspended for using mouthwash. (Zero Tolerance of drugs)
- A Cub Scout can be suspended for bringing a camp utensil to cut a cake. (Zero Tolerance of weapons)
- A teenager can be suspended for having his father's hunting rifle inside his car. (Zero Tolerance of weapons)
- Or even for just having a box of shotgun shells in her car. (Zero Tolerance of weapons)
- Heck, even an Eagle Scout can get axed for having a Swiss army knife in his car. (Yes, more Zero Tolerance of weapons)
- Even making a "gun" with your fingers can get you kicked out. (Still more Zero Tolerance of weapons)
- Forget drugs and weapons; the US flag can get you booted off campus. (Zero Tolerance of racial intolerance[?])
- Even teachers aren't immune; venting your frustration on Facebook after being subject to religious harassment by evangelist students can get you axed. (Zero Tolerance of religious intolerance[?])
- Being cranky on Facebook isn't a good idea if you're a principal, either. (Zero Tolerance of Sarcasm)
- Also, if you're a principal, you can get suspended for insisting a parent respect school policy. (Zero Tolerance of...what?)
- Meanwhile, outside of the education arena, an old woman can get arrested and jailed for slapping her mouthy, spoiled-brat teen granddaughter. (Zero Tolerance of domestic violence)
However, I still have to wonder whether, far from being any kind of noble crusade, this Zero Tolerance stuff is just a way for authority figures to boast about fighting a problem while at the same time ducking it. They say they're allowing no gray areas because they don't want any complaints or accusations of discrimination, and yet at the same time they seem to be trying to turn life itself into a series of mindless "if - then" statements without any thought about the consequences. They're only too pleased to see innocent members of the community if not honor students have their whole record ruined just so the guy on top can pass judgment without having to use his head...let alone take any kind of criticism. Zero Tolerance certainly makes things a lot simpler.
Then again, "simple" can be synonymous with "brainless".