May 29, 2006

"What if the gum had been given to a student with a heart condition?"

Says the principal, justifying suspending the student who shared Jolt gum -- caffeinated gum -- with a fellow student. Hey, wait... on that theory you can't share a Coke! But they do turn off the soda vending maching during class hours. So doesn't that vindicate the principles of the principal?

Yes, kids, you'll have to suffer through the long hours of classes caffeine-free -- unless you bring your own supply of Jolt gum. Then, after class, step right up to our machines, slip in your coins, and partake of the semi-forbidden substance.

And don't you think the makers of Jolt love this story? Thanks for reminding all the kids about our little product, and thanks for forcing each student to buy his own. And thanks for glamorizing some dumb gum into an exciting drug-like product. That meshes nicely with our ad campaign and spikes it with messages we dare not say directly.

IN THE COMMENTS: Lotsa comments, so go in there and read. I'm just going to front page a long comment I made along the way:
Thanks for the link to the old "Coffee Achievers" commercials. That ad campaign dates back to a time when coffee drinking was dying out, and they really thought the new generations would only drink soda. I remember thinking the commercials were a pathetic attempt to bring back the past! I'm laughing as I type this in a café with a $3.50 coffee drink next to the laptop. I think back then people also thought written communication would die out, and the new generations would rely solely on images and the spoken word. But here we are hopelessly immersed in coffee and the written word.

Anyway, I'd like to say that I don't think all the news stories like this gum one imply that schools are full of folks who do things like this. It wouldn't be news if it were so common. That a dinky story like this gets reported proves it's anomalous. And I think a lot of the teachers themselves oppose the petty rules. I note that I'm a teacher, and I'm making fun of stuff like this.

As [one commenter observed], the principal is probably concerned about lawsuits. But the principal is probably also concerned with the way Jolt gum mimics drugs. I've seen kids drink Jolt cola and then act as if they are totally high. It's disturbing to adults to see that, but the trick is to find the right response. It's not obvious what it is.

I think opposing all gum and soda in the school -- during and after hours -- would be best. Kids have forgotten how to drink water. When I was a kid, in school, if you were thirsty, you got a drink from the water fountain. There was nothing else, except at lunch, and at lunch, there was only one drink: milk.

I'm just going to guess that the biggest cause of the obesity problem in America is soda. Years ago, a soda was a treat, and the bottles were 6 1/2 ounces. You were lucky if you got even one of those things a day.

I'm a cranky old person!

As I write this, the song playing in the café is -- I'm not kidding -- Bob Dylan's "4th Time Around," with the lines about gum:

I stood there and hummed,
I tapped on her drum and asked her how come.
And she buttoned her boot,
And straightened her suit,
Then she said, "Don't get cute."
So I forced my hands in my pockets
And felt with my thumbs,
And gallantly handed her
My very last piece of gum.

She threw me outside,
I stood in the dirt where ev'ryone walked.
And after finding I'd
Forgotten my shirt,
I went back and knocked.
I waited in the hallway, she went to get it,
And I tried to make sense
Out of that picture of you in your wheelchair
That leaned up against . . .

Her Jamaican rum
And when she did come, I asked her for some.
She said, "No, dear."
I said, "Your words aren't clear,
You'd better spit out your gum."

51 comments:

yetanotherjohn said...

Do you know what a speck of wheat can do to some one with celiac disease? It could kill them. What about peanuts to someone with a peanut allergy? Again, it could kill them. Imagine a dodgeball game with someone with brittle bone disease. If we are going to ignore the facts of the individuals involve and only look at the extreme case possibilities, then we need to revaluate every possible interaction.

I mean, there are cases of teachers having sex with students, so we shouldn't allow teachers to have access to the students now should we.

Dave said...

"But they does..."

Well, someone needs to go back to school and learn their verb conjugations...

I suppose that's a bit snarky of me, but the irony is rich--a blog post about asinine school policies, which blog post has a sentence that does not have its subject agree with its verb.

Bissage said...

I'm sure Jolt is good stuff, but there are other ways. For example, what got me through my mid-afternoon Administrative Law classes was my own special blend of Diet Cherry Coke and Peanut M&Ms.

Oh, and the Sudafed. That too.

Word Verification: "etssv." Isn't that some kind of new stuff all the kids are taking these days?

bearbee said...

Products acting as a stimulant are prohibited....

Does this extend to the curriculum?

Ann Althouse said...

"But they does..."

Whoops... (corrected).

John Jenkins said...

Dave, if you're going to do that, you might want to look into a few things yourself (hint: plural pronouns don't point back to singular nouns).

Seven Machos said...

I have found that almost all posts on the Internet criticizing grammar and spelling themselves contain some grammar or spelling mistake.

To me, this is proof that either God exists, or that the universe plays fairly. The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justis.

Bissage said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Ann Althouse said...

I was just reading a book by those guys who write the blog Language Log, and they not only accept but recommend "they" following "someone."

knoxgirl said...

Still, it's a passive-aggressive and bitchy thing to bother posting a comment about.

Get a life, dave

John Jenkins said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Ann Althouse said...

I appreciate having mistakes flagged so I can correct them, but the snark in this case would have made more sense if I had been siding with the authority figure and being schoolmarmish myself. So it's not actually rich.

Hey, back to the gum, etc, etc. Don't get sidetracked!

John Jenkins said...

They're free to. I wouldn't write it that way in anything I were planning to submit professionally, which is my operative standard.

It's inelegant and it violates the basic rule of agreement between pronouns and their antecedents. Even if you're such a descriptivist that you reject that rule, you would still want to avoid the construction because it is going to bother some people and cause them to miss your message.

You get around the problem by recasting in any event ("Someone needs to return to school for verb conjugation lessons").

Seven Machos said...

At the risk of offending a good half of the people here and in the world, I can't help but conclude that a huge percentage of the people who work in the K-12 education industry are silly, unserious people.

That's probably because all I know about them is what I read in the Drudgereport, and thus I am only seeing gross outliers. But it's what I see.

John Jenkins said...

Seven, you're right. Officials in public schools are like any other petty tyrants: impressed with their own power and not possessed of much in the way of good sense.

Bissage said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Bissage said...

Well, it looks like the caffeine meme is going nowhere. Still, we need to keep all this in perspective.

Seven Machos said...

I'm sure none of the teachers offer each other cups of coffee in the teachers' lounge.

And another thing, had there been a detention or two, or some semi-unreasonable punishment for this "crime," no one would have batted an eye.

Tibore said...

Well, on the one hand, I'm glad that the principal cares about her students' well being. But on the other hand... caffeinated gum? Come on! It's not as if those students aren't getting a busload of caffeine from other sources? And that "what if" she gave ("What if the gum had been given to a student with a heart condition?" Palermo said Thursday.)... What, the kids are so young they won't know who in their class is sick and who's not?

I mean, I want someone in her position to watch out for each individual child's well being. I really do. But still... I can't see this as being anything less than an overreaction.

Anyone got a different point of view? I consume so much caffeine, I don't see a problem with it (other than the twitchiness, hyper-alertness (is that a fly buzzing 200 yards away?), irritability (Hey, officemate! Quit bumping into me!), frequent bathroom trips (whoops. BRB...), sudden crashes when it wears out (zzzzz....)). Anyway, I don't see a problem with it, but I don't have any kids, nor do I know how much of a problem that product could be with a kid with heart problems. Anyone think I'm full of it?

Tibore said...

Er... addendum: Anyone think I'm full with it in regards to my opinion with this specific subject? Gotta disclaim; otherwise, you all'd run me over with "Yup's", "Uh huh's", and "hell yeah's". :)

Seven Machos said...

If schools want to ban Jolt! gum from school, fine. The issues here are:

Did the student have notice of such a ban? And I would add concrete notice, not some vague handbook rule, which presumably the student couldn't read that well, anyway. If the kid knew it was contraband, wouldn't he/she have hidden it better?

Regardless, is this punishment too strong? Could behavior have been changed with a detention, or taking away recess, or simply saying, "hey, kid, don't bring that gum to school."

Finally, let's be honest: one piece of gum is not going to cause a heart attack. The school is ultimnately simply scared of a lawsuit, which is a sad comment on the state of lawsuits in our country today.

John Jenkins said...

The interesting part about this to me is that the kids were chewing gum in school at all. When I was in high school and earlier, gum as such was forbidden (probably because the custodians were tired of chipping the crap off of the bottoms of desks).

Richard Fagin said...

Check out "Zero Tolerance Watch" that is published from time to time on James Taranto's "Best of the Web Today" column in opinionjournal.com, where you'll find loads of other examples of idiotic school officials hiding behind rules to avoid exercising judgment.

I kind of sympathize with the school officials, though. Kids occasionally get hurt at school, mostly of their own doing, but unless school have completely inflexible policies related to the causes of injury, the schools will get sued and lose.

Ann Althouse said...

Bissage: Thanks for the link to the old "Coffee Achievers" commercials. That ad campaign dates back to a time when coffee drinking was dying out and they really thought the new generations would only drink soda. I remember thinking the commercials were a pathetic attempt to bring back the past! I'm laughing as I type this in a café with a $3.50 coffee drink next to the laptop. I think back then people also thought written communication would die out, and the new generations would rely solely on images and the spoken word. But here we are hopelessly immersed in coffee and the written word.

Anyway, I'd like to say that I don't think all the news stories like this gum one imply that schools are full of folks who do things like this. It wouldn't be news if it were so common. That a dinky story like this gets reported proves it's anomalous. And I think a lot of the teachers themselves oppose the petty rules. I note that I'm a teacher, and I'm making fun of stuff like this.

As noted above, the principal is probably concerned about lawsuits. But the principal is probably also concerned with the way Jolt gum mimics drugs. I've seen kids drink Jolt cola and then act as if they are totally high. It's disturbing to adults to see that, but the trick is to find the right response. It's not obvious what it is.

I think opposing all gum and soda in the school -- during and after hours -- would be best. Kids have forgotten how to drink water. When I was a kid, in school, if you were thirsty, you got a drink from the water fountain. There was nothing else, except at lunch, and at lunch, there was only one drink: milk.

I'm just going to guess that the biggest cause of the obesity problem in America is soda. Years ago, a soda was a treat, and the bottles were 6 1/2 ounces. You were lucky if you got even one of those things a day.

I'm a cranky old person!

As I write this, the song playing in the café: is -- I'm not kidding -- Bob Dylan's "4th Time Around," with the lines about gum:

I stood there and hummed,
I tapped on her drum and asked her how come.
And she buttoned her boot,
And straightened her suit,
Then she said, "Don't get cute."
So I forced my hands in my pockets
And felt with my thumbs,
And gallantly handed her
My very last piece of gum.

She threw me outside,
I stood in the dirt where ev'ryone walked.
And after finding I'd
Forgotten my shirt,
I went back and knocked.
I waited in the hallway, she went to get it,
And I tried to make sense
Out of that picture of you in your wheelchair
That leaned up against . . .

Her Jamaican rum
And when she did come, I asked her for some.
She said, "No, dear."
I said, "Your words aren't clear,
You'd better spit out your gum."

Elizabeth said...

The use of "they" as a singular pronoun dates back to the late middle ages. We got all Aristotelian in our pursuit of logic in grammar in the 18th century; before that, the double negative didn't upset us, either. It must meant really not; I'm not kidding, no; so not, so no that you won't believe it.

I admire this kid coming up with a dodge around the ban on caffeine drinks. I've always hated, with a passion, the petty controls schools enforce over students, from the time a principal in my brother's school used to come through with a little ruler, sending home boys whose hair was 1/8" past their collars. When our city schools decided girls had to wear bras, we wondered how the hell they'd check. A friend showed up with a bright red bra under a sheer white shirt. She got suspended, but she's still my hero, 30 years later.

Ann Althouse said...

Elizabeth: I remember when they made girls kneel on the floor to check if the skirt touched the floor. Shorter than that was forbidden in the early 60s. A few years later, we were constantly rehemming skirts. One inch above the knee looked short, but only for a while. Then you needed two, then three, then four inches above the knee to look right. I was my school's trend setter and got sent to the vice principal's office all the time -- for skirts and for long bangs too. I still feel antagonistic toward that vice principle, Mr. Ginter. Yeesh... (Refer to today's other school repression post, the "Breakfast Club" one.)

Elizabeth said...

Creepy Mr. Ginter and his kneeling schoolgirls. Yech! Thanks for fighting the good fight on that one. The skirt rules were gone by the time I hit high school, except for Catholic schools. Those girls knew how to artfully roll their waistbands so that they had on stylish minis by the time they reached the bus stop after school.

John Jenkins said...

"I'm just going to guess that the biggest cause of the obesity problem in America is soda. Years ago, a soda was a treat, and the bottles were 6 1/2 ounces. You were lucky if you got even one of those things a day."

I don't think that's quite right (of course, sodas have never been less than 12 ounces in my lifetime that I can recall). The biggest cause of the obesity "problem" is the definition of obesity and its downward drift.

The definition of who is obese keeps creeping closer to stupid. Official sources indicate that for my height I should weigh about 195 pounds (6'2"). The only problem with that theory is that I have a lean body mass in excess of 225, meaning I would have to lose muscle and bone to get to a level where I am not overweight.

At a weight of 234# I am obese. Can that make sense? Nine pounds of BF would give me 3.83% body fat which is low enough to be unhealthy (and possibly make every muscle striation on someone's body visible).

My favorite thing about this is that we no longer have height-weight tables and instead have BMI and people say that's good, except that BMI is just a product of height and weight through a formula and is therefore nothing but a height-weight table reduced to an index number.

The next big problem is the internet and video games. Kids don't get out and *do* things as much as they used to. So, yes, they will get fatter because food is abundant. It's not the fact that sodas exist, however, that makes them fat. It's the fact that kids consume more calories than they expend. Diet books aside, no one has ever managed to defy the laws of thermodynamics; if you take in more energy than you expend, you're going to gain weight.

Ann Althouse said...

Elizabeth: I should, to be fair, say that the kneeling girls thing was just the rule of thumb. I never heard of anyone actually having to kneel.

Elizabeth said...

I'm glad to hear that, Ann. The whole scenario sounded a bit fetishy, though believable.

bearing said...

It's not the fact that sodas exist, however, that makes them fat. It's the fact that kids consume more calories than they expend. Diet books aside, no one has ever managed to defy the laws of thermodynamics; if you take in more energy than you expend, you're going to gain weight.

True, but if there's something special about soda that causes drinkers to consume more calories than they would if they were drinking something else, and doesn't cause them to expend more, then yes, the availability of soda can cause overall weight gain.

Since non-diet soda (along with most fruit juices) contains a great deal of calories in the form of sugar, and none in the form of fat and protein (both of which are satiating in a way that sugar is not), my guess is that soda availability does contribute to obesity. I suspect that chocolate milk at lunch isn't nearly as bad, b/c (a) it's a smaller serving --- 8 oz vs. 12 or 20; and (b) it's consumed with food, which tends to inhibit sugar absorption.

If they didn't have soda, they'd be drinking water (or at lunch, milk). Soda's got a LOT of calories.

Side note: When I was in elementary school in the 80s, we were offered only milk at lunch. Lots of kids packed their lunches, of course, but --- although I do not think there was a rule against it --- parents NEVER sent cans of soda with their kids' lunches. So, no, we didn't get pop during the school day. I don't see why it's a good idea to have it now.

Seven Machos said...

bearing -- Only because soda tastes like crap warm and pretty crappy out of a Thermos. Nothing principled about it.

I would like to say that I am happy that we have here a professor from the University of Wisconsion and no one is using that desecration of the English language, "pop."

Ann Althouse said...

"Pop"

Well, I also referred to the drinking fountain without calling it a bubbler. You don't change your basic words just because you live somewhere a long time.

John Jenkins said...

"[t]he availability of soda can cause overall weight gain."

That's a negative, Ghostrider. The choice to consume high calorie drinks (e.g. sodas, fruit juices, beer, other forms of alcohol) can indeed cause weight gain if not otherwise offset. Mere availability doesn't do the trick.

There's a problem with treating children as utterly incapable of making proper decisions on their own. If you spend too much time denying them choices, they will never learn to make the right ones. You'll raise the perfect child who will become a terrible adult for lack of decision-making ability.

Certainly, if soda is not available, children cannot choose it, but that doesn't prove that such a situation is obviously preferable to one where soda is available and some children exercise their power to choose by consuming soda and others don't.

Bubbler? Do people really use that to refer to a water fountain? 9I must confess, I never drink from water fountains: I'm spoiled by bottled water and the water cooler at the office).

bearbee said...

Soda vs Pop

How I LOVE the Internet.....

Ann Althouse said...

More I love the Internet: here's the info on the use of "bubbler" instead of "drinking/water fountain}... and even the "drinking/water" part is regional, which surprises me. I seemed to have picked up "drinking fountain" over my original region's "water fountain."

Seven Machos said...

As I often explain to people, where I come from, it's actually "Coke." As in, "What kind of Coke do you have?" "Well, we have Pepsi, Mountain Dew..."

I guess, to judge from that map, I am from the South.

Art said...

What I wonder is whether the kid hung out to dry on this (and his or her parents) will be thankful the state protected him from the evils of drugs and therefore lean Republican or get sick of puritanical officials and lean Democratic....or just give up all together since Democrats, if elected, would have to be just as repressive (are you listening, Tipper?) in order to stay in office.

John Jenkins said...

I would think that nanny-state arrogance and ignorance would push people toward libertarianism more than liberalism or conservatism (and perhaps Libertarians over Democrats or Republicans).

Seven Machos said...

Art -- Which major opinion magazine recently did a cover story calling for the decriminalization of drugs?

Hint: it was founded by a person generally known to be conservative.

Abraham said...

I hate the term "water fountain" for two reasons: (1) What other kinds of fountains are there, besides water? (2) How is a water fountain that one drinks from different than a water fountain one doesn't drink from?

The Kohler Bubbler, on the other hand, was a specific product that revolutionized public water provisioning, and was the precursor to all modern drinking fountains. Kohler being located in Wisconsin, and the original products being prominently labeled as a "KOHLER BUBBLER," it is not surprising to me that the usage persists to this day.

reader_iam said...

I have seen, multiple times (!) toddlers in strollers drinking soda pop. I also think that kids drink a staggering amount of "juice" today. It's really easy to suck up lots o' calories that way, and an awful lot of kids do.

I think there are also "size" issues, of products. The standard size of cookies and muffins, for example, from back in my childhood would be considered very small, now.

Plus, Ann, as you've noted elsewhere here, people just seem to eat all the time, and it seems the kids are encouraged to do that, also.

I can understand, for example, why there is snack time for pre-schoolers and maybe even kindergartners (though why that has to take place an hour before lunch is a bone of contention of mine, but never mind).

But now I understand that in many places, snack times are continued throughout elementary school! What the--? Maybe it's because many of the kids aren't getting real breakfasts or something. But it's not like the "snacks" that most parents send in are what a kid should be having for breakfast (at least I hope). I mean, cupcakes? Cookies? Nothing wrong with those things in and of themselves, but they're not breakfast. And for kids who have had breakfast and will have lunch, why do they need that type of snack mid-morning?

It's the cumulative effect of these things, plus less exercise.

Regarding the gum, I think the 3-day-suspension was an over-reaction. Frankly, I don't think a little bit of caffeine is all that big of deal at that age. (I do know what you mean about the Jolt cola, but when I've noticed that, it's not like the kids have drunk only one. Excess is excess.)

But then, my mother came from a farm family, where in addition to water, people drank iced tea from an early age. No one's growth seemed stunted.

SODA VS. POP! Man, oh, man. I grew saying "pop," having been raised for the first 10 years in Indiana and Illinois. When we moved to Delaware, I had to train myself to say "soda," because the other kids either didn't know what I saying or teased. (Either way, I didn't get it very often, at all, until late high school.)

Then we moved to Iowa, and I had to try and train myself back to "pop" again.

Basically, I just stutter now, or use the coy "soft drink." Life's just too darn short.

John Jenkins said...

(2) How is a water fountain that one drinks from different than a water fountain one doesn't drink from?

Man, if you don't know, I ain't tellin'.

Soft drink is SUCH a cop out.

reader_iam said...

7M and John Jenkins: What's the big deal about soda vs. pop vs. whatever?

7: I had to laugh--"pop" is a "descration" of the English language? Good Lord.

JJ: Cop-outs sometimes save time. Not to mention that "soft drink" sounds better than "s--pop," when I'm in Iowa, or "p--soda," when I'm back East every summer. ("Soda pop" itself seems so "bicycle-built-for-two" to me. Don't ask; haven't a clue.)

Sometimes the whole "when in Rome ... " thing is a real bitch, and usually over the most trivial of things.

; )

Seven Machos said...

Reader -- I've spent a lot of time thinking about this, actually, because I went to college in the Midwest, where you got all the different variations.

I think the soda/pop debate excites people because you grow up your whole life saying something, and this particular word is for something you know very well thanks to the ubiquity of usage and advertisement, and you just can't BELIEVE someone would call it something else and still claim to speak American English.

"Soda" must sound as weird to the Minnesota ear as "pop" does to mine.

John Jenkins said...

Asking for a soft drink might get you tea or lemonade. Sometimes you have to take a stand and demand soda!

Art said...

The Republican party doesn't fit my definition of conservative any more than the Democratic party fits my definition of liberal.

reader_iam said...

JJ: That's true. I was thinking of more in context of "Would you like a soft drink of some type?" to a guest or something. As opposed to, "Do you want a drink?" which of course covers the "adult beverage" category

For myself, I just ask for the specific thing I want (tea, lemonade, diet Coke, or whatever).

reader_iam said...

creek, crick
a[u]nt, aunt
sack, bag

Thank goodness my intake of caffeine has been low today, or I could just go on and on!!!

Maybe I should run out and get some of that gun (but hide it from the kid).

OK, now I'm sorta back on topic.

John Jenkins said...

reader_iam, I am ashamed to admit that those who come to my place can have any drink they want, so long as it's bottled water (or tap water, I suppose).

katiebakes said...

sneakers or tennis shoes?