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Student suspended for using 'gun' in writing assignment. What overreaction?

A South Carolina High School student has been suspended for writing a story which was supposed to be written as though it were a Facebook post. It was intended to be listed as if it were a status update on a Facebook page. The student, Alex Stone of Summerville High School, was arrested and suspended because the 'update' used the word gun even when talking about having killed his neighbor's per dinosaur. you can read about it here:

Set aside if you will the general absurdity of the situation. We all know that dinosaurs no longer exist. We also should see that the reaction to the assignment was extreme: when you tell students to write a fiction then you should expect to get a fiction. Even the simple use of the word gun should not have been such a red flag. What we would like explained is why such an assignment was given in the first place.

To make school fun, perhaps? As an attempt to engage the student in the assignment? Neither reason is terribly stupid, one might suppose. But does address the real point of education when students are told to write a fictional Facebook post?

Not really. Why not give them a serious reading assignment and have them answer serious questions about it? If the intent is to teach good writing then it seems that they ought to be given examples of good writing and then asked to emulate that. We can hardly imagine Carl Sandberg or Robert Frost writing things willy-nilly as though merely sharing a quick tale with friends who might respond, LOL!

It is assignments such as these which make modern US high schools inferior to many others in the world. If we want serious education then we must take education seriously. This means teaching students to write not just anything, but to write well about things worth writing about. Until then, we shouldn't expect anything except silly tales about shooting dinosaurs. All that gives are easy grades for the teachers and inflated GPAs.

Education deserves better than dumb assignments and overreactions to them. Until we begin to truly educate, we will only have more such drama. In fact, in the current environment of the schools, we invite it.

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