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Boardman writes: "Here's a Florida school giving an object lesson in how to be really stupid."

Expelled for a science experiment gone bad? (photo: stock image)
Expelled for a science experiment gone bad? (photo: stock image)

Stupidity Can Be Cured

By William Boardman, Reader Supported News

25 May 13


Here's a Florida school giving an object lesson in how to be really stupid.

t's not as though a bunch of white people in central Florida have been consciously conspiring about the best way to trash a 16-year-old black girl's life, but the effect of their collective personal and institutional stupidity may well produce the same effect. At first there was no sign that any of them much cared, but now there's a ray of hope for a just outcome. Read on.

It's not as though this cultural stupidity in Florida isn't an all-American sort of thing that could happen anywhere, and probably has in a variety of forms similar to the recent mindlessness that led school officials to call the police who called the prosecutor who decided, over the phone, to have a 16-year-old girl arrested as an adult and charged with two felonies under state law because she did an outdoors experiment that blew up an 8 oz. water bottle with the force of a small firecracker, doing no damage and harming no one.

This is the case of 11th grader Kiera Wilmot, a Bartow High School honor student with straight A's and a perfect behavior record, according to school officials. Sometime around 7 a.m. on Monday, April 22, she tried an experiment with a friend watching: she mixed hydrochloric acid (in a toilet bowl cleaner) with a bit of aluminum foil inside a plastic water bottle, a trick known familiarly as a "Drano bomb" or "works bomb." As predicted in online descriptions (and shown in video), shortly after Kiera Wilmot mixed the ingredients and put the cap on the bottle, hydrogen gas was produced, with enough pressure to pop the top off the bottle with the sound of a small firecracker.

Arguably, that was a stupid thing to do, at least on school grounds.

So the Question Quickly Arises, Are There Any Grown-Ups Here?

Then the adults got involved and took the stupidity to higher levels, quickly producing a stupidity tsumani of an all too familiar American kind.

The first adult on the scene is Dan Durham, white, the assistant principal in charge of discipline at Bartow High. He hears the bottle pop outside the building before the school day starts. He goes to investigate. He finds Kiera Wilmot and she tells him the whole story, such as it is.

She tells him it's an experiment she was doing in anticipation of the science fair. Apparently not believing her, perhaps fearing an international terror conspiracy, Durham calls her science teacher (who remains anonymous), who says that Kiera Wilmot's bottle pop has nothing to do with her science class with him, so his skirts are clean. Of course what she does for science class is different from the science fair, but apparently no one tries to figure that out.

Continuing his enforcement action, Dan Durham calls the cops, which is easy enough since there's a "resource officer" on the premises.

At some point principal Ron Pritchard, white, doesn't get involved and lets the situation continue to spin out of control. Faced with a bright young 16-year-old honor student with a perfect behavior record, who admits she just did an experiment that was louder than she'd expected, principal Pritchard doesn't act to put Kiera Wilmot's harmless behavior in perspective.

An Educator With a Passive-Aggressive Vicious Streak

Instead, with a kind of passive-aggressive viciousness, he ignores the best interests of a child under his care, he doesn't exercise leadership or good judgment, he stays out of the way. Maybe he thinks he's defending the institution, or himself, but whatever he was thinking, he lets law enforcement help make things worse.

And the principal knew all along what was real. Playing the kindly old duff on TV later, he said of Kiera Wilmot: "She just wanted to see what would happen and I think it shocked her that - because she was very honest with us when we were out there talking and I think, I think it kind of shocked her that it did that."

That was a few days later, when he knew full well how his own inaction had contributed to Kiera Wilmot getting arrested and charged as an adult with felony charges alleging she "discharged a weapon" and "discharged a destructive device."

Kiera Wilmot's weapon/device was an 8 oz. water bottle with toilet bowl cleaner and aluminum that hurt no one and destroyed nothing.

But principal Pritchard told a TV reporter: "She's a good kid and, you know, she made a bad choice and stuff and, uh - I don't think that - she was not trying to be malicious to harm anybody or destroy something at school or anything else."

In Florida educational circles, apparently, the offense of "a bad choice and stuff" is more than enough to put a child at risk of spending 5 years in jail and having a felony on her record for the rest of her life.

Why Would You Expect Public Servants to Exercise Any Discretion?

After school officials exercise no discretion, neither does the school's resource officer.

In his report, Bartow PD school resource officer Gregory Rhoden, white, characterized the event as a "destructive device/weapons incident." Rhoden met first with assistant principal Durham, who was the official complainant. According to his report, Rhoden did not meet with the principal or anyone else other than Kiera Wilmot, whom he arrested, handcuffed, Mirandized, and questioned.

She told Rhoden the same story principal Pritchard said she told him, except that Rhoden reports there was a male friend who helped Kiera Wilmot do her bottle pop experiment. "At this time efforts are being made to identify Wilmot's friend," wrote Rhoden, a 1993 graduate of the same high school.

"I then contacted assistant state attorney Tammy Glotfelty via telephone. I advised a.s.a. Glotfelty of the circumstances of the case and she advised this officer to file charges of possessing or discharging weapons or firearms at a school sponsored event or on school property F.S.S. 790.115(1) and making, possessing, throwing, projecting, placing, or discharging any destructive device F.S.S. 790.161 (A)," Rhoden's report said.

It concluded, "I completed a cost affidavit and property receipt for the plastic bottle. The bottle was impounded as evidence."

Lodged As a Juvenile, Expelled by the School, At the Mercy of the Law

Kiera Wilmot was taken to the juvenile assessment center. She has remained there since April 22.

Bartow High School expelled her the same day, with no due process, saying there was no choice under the district's zero tolerance policy. At the end of that day, the school system seemed to be done with Kiera Wilmot - mission accomplished - unless she exercises her right to appeal to the school board.

Belatedly, the story emerged, apparently starting on April 24 with pretty straightforward coverage by TV station WTSP in Tampa. Posted online, the story drew almost unanimous sympathy for Kiera Wilmot, along with more general observations like "Florida incarcerates children at a rate higher than the national average. We need to stop the school-to-prison-pipeline" and "This country has become a malevolent joke" and "Where can we petition the stupidity of this paranoia?"

The answer to that question is two places: and

Initial Reporting Is Shallow, Ducks Hard Questions

While WTSP reporter Melanie Michael, white, blonde, was even-handed, her report was remarkably shallow. Although she had Principal Pritchard on camera, she didn't get him to answer questions about why he thought the school's response was appropriate, or why he thought the punishment wasn't disproportionate, or what responsibility a school has for preserving its students' futures.

The intensity of the coverage of this story Ð and increased focus on the apparent injustice to Kiera Wilmot Ð picked up with an April 26 blog post on WTF Florida, on the web page of the Miami New Times, summarizing the event with a tone of disbelief under the headline: "Florida Teen Girl Charged With Felony After Science Experiment Goes Bad."

That blog post also reported the unsigned, official statement in standard bureaucratese released by the Polk County School District, mostly if not all white officials, presumably:

"Anytime a student makes a bad choice it is disappointing to us. Unfortunately, the incident that occurred at Bartow High School yesterday was a serious breach of conduct. In order to maintain a safe and orderly learning environment, we simply must uphold our code of conduct rules. We urge our parents to join us in conveying the message that there are consequences to actions. We will not compromise the safety and security of our students and staff."

What Consequences Are There For Bad Bureaucrats' Decisions?

The school system bases its literally mindless response on its "zero tolerance" policy, which apparently includes zero tolerance for assessment, analysis, deliberation, or proportionality.

The school district statement echoes the irrelevant and completely false argument attributed to unnamed "local authorities" that: "In this day and age, in this climate, you cannot be too careful." That is the argument from panic that, in effect, says the longing for safety justifies a police state.

"Unfortunately, what she did falls into our code of conduct É It's grounds for immediate expulsion," said the district's Senior Director of Strategic Communications/Community Relations Leah Lauderdale, white.

The official response to Kiera Wilmot makes a mockery of the Polk County Public Schools web site's promotional video that slickly touts "rigorous, relevant learning experiences," the effort to "prepare every student to enter college," and that "graduation for all students is Goal #1."

Reaction around the internet has been building ever since, overwhelmingly in support of Kiera Wilmot.

On May 1 on MSNBC, Chris Hayes, white, covered the story, talking to youth advocate Khary Lazarre-White, black, executive director of Bro/Sis. In his view, the Florida case reflects a wider American failure: "Really what it is, this is about adults who are refusing to do their responsibility - this is about parents, teachers, and school districts - and that needs to be the response, not law enforcement, because it really is a question about kind of an America do we want to see."

Florida May Be Worst Case, But the Problem Is National

Arguing that too many schools have stopped responding to children's needs in a child-centered way, Lazarre-White said:

"It's emblematic of a national issue. Over three million cases of expulsion and severe suspensions across the country, and it's a zero tolerance policy that is expelling children for the kinds of things that got us sent to the principal's office or talked to by a teacher Ð at worst Ð when we were in school."

On May 5, two days after Baton Rouge, Louisiana, TV station WAFB ran a summary of Kiera Wilmot's story, the station's online poll had 90% of respondents supporting her and calling her punishment too harsh.

Through all of this, the Wilmot family has stayed out of the public eye. Kiera's twin sister still goes to the same school, but she didn't join her friends who went on TV to talk about her. Their mother is a single, working mom. For all the support they've been getting from afar, locally they've had no openly public defenders.

But Kiera Wilmot does have an attorney, Larry Hardaway, black, of Hardaway & Associates in Lakeland, Florida. In an interview May 3 with Business Insider, he sounded like the first sane adult involved in the case.

Kiera Wilmot's Attorney Hopes to Prevent Further Harm

Hardaway reports that he has gotten the school board to stay its expulsion proceedings "until we can work out a resolution."

He says that he is negotiating with the state attorney's office, which has not yet decided whether to charge her as an adult or a juvenile, or whether to charge her at all - "We will have further negotiations next week about how to move forward without harming her."

Hardaway speaks highly of Assistant State Attorney Tammy Glotfelty, calling her "a very fine prosecutorÉ. There are prosecutors that are sometimes hardened, and aren't as sensitive as they should be, but that wouldn't be Tammy Glotfelty."

In a recent juvenile case that Glotfelty considered for about a month, she ended up deciding not to prosecute a 13-year-old boy for killing his brother when they were shooting at each other with BB guns. Some have criticized Glotfelty for calling that case, two white boys, a "tragic accident," but seeming to fail to approach Kiera Wilmot with the same degree of sensitivity.

Making a recommendation over the phone, based only on third party information, may strike some as less than careful, but if the prosecutors decided not to file any charges, as Hardaway is advocating, that would at least limit the damage to Kiera Wilmot.

In a Just Country, Wouldn't Someone Try to Make Kiera Wilmot Whole?

She'll still have personal and family trauma to deal with, and a financial burden, and likely social consequences if some unpleasant sort. Maybe she can go back to school and graduate (Goal #1!) and even go to college and have a decent life in spite of it all.

And Bartow High School will have achieved its goal of giving her a "rigorous, relevant learning experience" of an unusual, unfortunate, and sadly useful nature for navigating contemporary America. She will have an object lesson that those entrusted with your care won't always care for you, those entrusted with your protection won't always protect you, and those entrusted with guarding your rights won't always guard you.

It's not a pretty picture of an insecure homeland, where it's hard to find people in authority who can be trusted - but it is real.

And it wasn't a science project gone bad. It was an experiment that worked. As predicted.

Will Prosecutors' Reasonableness Be Shared by Education "Professionals?"

UPDATE: On May 15, the prosecutors announced that Kiera Wilmot would not face further charges if she successfully completes a Diversion Program agreement. The prosecutors office statement read, in its entirety:

Based upon the facts and circumstances of the case, the lack of criminal history of the child involved, and the action taken by the Polk County School Board, the State Attorney's Office extended an offer of diversion of prosecution to the child. The child and her guardian signed the agreement to successfully complete the Department of Juvenile Justice Diversion Program.

The pending case has been dismissed. No formal charges will be filed.

Attorney Hardaway told reporters the same day that he and Kiera Wilmot and her mother are continuing to discuss the situation with the Polk County School Board. After principal Pritchard recommended that the "good kid" be expelled, that recommendation was put on hold, awaiting action by the prosecutors.

The next formal step is for the expulsion appeal to be heard by a school board hearing officer.

Kiera Wilmot has now served a ten-day suspension and is completing 11th grade at an alternative school. Hardaway said his client is eager to clear her name because she's worried that people at her school think she's a "terrorist."

By their own comments, school officials have always known Kiera Wilmot was never anything like a terrorist. And now they have an opportunity to deliver a powerful, positive message by admitting they overreacted and expunging the whole episode from the record.

In education jargon, it's called a teachable moment. In life it's called fair.

And if school officials are looking for a role model, they can study the response of a former NASA engineer, Homer Hickam, to Kiera Wilmot's situation. Hickam, whose personal story was portrayed in the movie "October Sky," has given Kiera Wilmot a scholarship to the summer program at the United States Advanced Space Academy, part of the Space Camp in Huntsville, Alabama, and he's raising money for a scholarship for her sister as well.

As a teenager in West Virginia, Hickam conducted unauthorized experiments with rockets at his high school, which also led to police taking him away in handcuffs.

William M. Boardman has over 40 years experience in theatre, radio, TV, print journalism, and non-fiction, including 20 years in the Vermont judiciary. He has received honors from Writers Guild of America, Corporation for Public Broadcasting, Vermont Life magazine, and an Emmy Award nomination from the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences.

Reader Supported News is the Publication of Origin for this work. Permission to republish is freely granted with credit and a link back to Reader Supported News. your social media marketing partner


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+80 # ladypyrates 2013-05-25 23:10
...a long line of lemming-like adults jumping off the cliff into the bureaucratic sea of absolute incompetence... sad,very sad. I can only hope that Kiera truly triumphs over this idiotic display by non-adult acting officials.
+22 # Texas Aggie 2013-05-26 21:42
Exactly, but despite the title of the article, stupidity cannot be cured. Ignorance can by education. Stupidity is forever, and the only way to deal with it is to put stupid people in a position where they cannot do any harm.
+11 # HowardMH 2013-05-27 11:27
“I can explain this to you; I can’t comprehend it for you.”

Artificial intelligence is no match for natural stupidity

As Forest Gump said, “Stupid Is as Stupid Does” and there is obviously a whole lot of stupid out there.
0 # hammermann 2013-05-28 16:14
BooYaa for Homer Hickam- sentence her to... Space Academy- I love it. Stupid mindless authoritarian swine, overreacting to a SODA BOTTLE!

Florida has the worst reps of every racial, political, and ethnic group: crackers, Police, Cubans, whites, holy rollers, Repubs, criminals- think it is the sun.. and everyone is a transplant. It's not an accident that Bush v Gore happened there and was decided so corruptly. The exact same thing happened in 1876 w Tilden/Hayes race, and it was decided by the same county (Daytona Beach-Volusia).
-11 # BobboMax 2013-05-25 23:11
Mr. Boardman,

I pretty much agree w/ your analysis of the situation, but I do need to point out that you yourself don't know what you're talking about when it comes to Drano- below are the ingredients from the Daron MSDS- no hydrochloric acid- in fact, just the opposite of acid- sodium hydroxide (lye)and sodium silicate, another strong alkali plus bleach (sodium hypochlorite)

Chemical Name CAS-No. Weight percent
Water 7732-18-5 60.00 - 100.00
Sodium hypochlorite 7681-52-9 3.00 - 7.00
Sodium hydroxide 1310-73-2 1.00 - 5.00
Sodium silicate 1344-09-8 1.00 - 5.00
+33 # smilodon1 2013-05-26 10:01
Sodium hydroxide and aluminum react to produce sodium aluminate and hydrogen gas. I used to use this to blow up balloons to release. This was many years ago and now there's probably some obscure law about littering the air.
+15 # WBoardman 2013-05-26 17:12
Without claiming that I do in fact know what I'm talking about,
I'll just note that "Drano bomb" was nomenclature from
wikipedia (or the like) and was offered as a generic name,
not a literal description of what Kiera Wilmot actually did.
[One reference to "the Drano Aluminum experiment"
came from Scientific American.]

If Drano doesn't actually work,
that's kind of funny in a weird sort of way.

I take it there's no dispute that hydrochloric acid and
bits of aluminum produce the desired effect?
I found references to that specific combination in
reports on Planetary Society and Slate (
said she used "Drano and aluminum foil").

I didn't say what Kiera Wilmot used for her source of
hydrochloric acid because I don't know specifically.
Most of the original reporting I saw referred to an
unnamed "toilet bowl cleaner."

I see in the comment below, that sodium hydroxide is
substituted for hydrochloric acid.

For all I know, that combination also produces the same
or a similar effect. My last chemistry class was in high school,
in some other century....

Apologies for any imprecision, confusion, or inaccuracy.
+13 # BobboMax 2013-05-26 18:45
Interesting that I got 7 thumbs down for introducing some mildly relevant facts into the discussion (and Smilodon got 12 thumbs up for expanding on those facts.)

As Smilodon suggests, the "Drano Bomb" uses lye- drain cleaners are the commonest source- and aluminum in a form that exposes a lot of surface to the reaction. Most drain cleaners include some aluminum because the heat and bubbling improve the cleaning action. BUT, no hydrochloric acid.

I guess my point is that a lot of the hysteria about things like this comes from an ignorance of what's actually going on. I wouldn't stand next to a Drano bomb, but, ya know, they sell the stuff in the supermarket and people put it in their drains every day and Homeland Security hasn't outlawed it, yet. You really can't make a very convincing bomb out of a pop bottle- it takes at least a pressure cooker.

As some writers have suggested, there's almost certainly an element of racism in the affair, but I think most of it is the hysteria of modern America, combined with the abject need for every public servant to cover their asses these days. That's partly their fault and partly the fault of us, Jane and John Q. Public.
+4 # bingers 2013-05-27 12:17
I believe you got the thumbs down for nit picking the author for using the common term for the device. He wasn't making a chemical analysis, just reporting what happened.

If you want to impress people with your supposed intelligence, you can't do it by misunderstandin g what is written. Personally I found your pseudointellect ual post an exercise in dumb, but I didn't give you any sort of thumbs anything for it.
+7 # BobboMax 2013-05-27 18:53
I wasn't nitpicking, I am fairly intelligent and it was in fact an intellectual exercise. "Drano bomb" is the common phrase, but Drano bombs don't have any acid in them, as I pointed out above.

Details are important. Facts are important. My experience is that people who aren't careful about small details are often careless with more important facts and people who are careless with facts are part of "what's wrong with America today," as are people who are careless with their emotions. If you check out the postings, the ones with the most emotion are the ones with generally the ones with the most thumbs up. Facts don't rate very high.

The newspapers are saying the bridge accident on I-5 in WA "is a wake-up call for the sad state of our infra-structure !" Umm, no, it's a wake-up call for not letting trucks with over-size loads run into bridges. Both significant issues, but very different causes and very different solutions. Solving one won't solve the other. Facts matter. Details matter.
0 # Depressionborn 2013-06-03 12:38
Facts, sorry BobboMax.

Facts don't matter here. Everything has been decided. As for me,

I really don't understand rsn group-think. First, man made global warming is an obvious hoax but not here; second, the Monsanto seed "get out of jail free card" congressional atrocity obvious may bring famine. So how is it the rsn green crowd blindly champions the former while almost ignoring the later?

Oops, I forgot: Liberals and their dem friends are always right; Bush did it; and right wing Bible believers are destroying the world.

If it only were that simple.

Truth is good for me. It is said "truth will set you free". Truth leads to love and respect; dogma to hate and downfall. Dogma is a closed mind, mindless of reality. It is said to be a religious thing. Someone is going to tell me the Bible is dogma. Maybe so, maybe not. Whatever it is there is no hope for it.
+5 # NAVYVET 2013-05-28 03:52
Some people are giving you thumbs down and one even, shockingly, called you a "pseudointellec tual" for being able to do the obvious task of reading a Drano can! Seems tro me that anyone who considers careful observation "pseudointellec tual" is like those ancient philosophers who ascertained the number of teeth in a horse's mouth by choosing the "ideal" number, rather than looking in a horse's mouth and counting. That comments and the negatives you received exposes an element of stupidity among these replies. All analysis -- including reporting of news -- must begin with FACTUAL information, which you delivered. Unless Americans get back rheir desire to use the long tried-and-usefu l scientific method to determine reality, we are going dowen the drain, with or without Drano! I just gave you a thumbs up and hope that others do, too.
0 # Depressionborn 2013-05-28 20:25
Great idea NAVYVET who wrote: Unless Americans get back their desire to use the long tried-and-usefu l scientific method to determine reality, we are going down the drain.

Will wonders never cease?

"(Reuters) - Scientists are struggling to explain a slowdown in climate change that has exposed gaps in their understanding and defies a rise in global greenhouse gas emissions.... most climate models failed to predict that the temperature rise would slow, starting around 2000. Scientists are now intent on figuring out the causes Theories for the pause

The change may be a result of an observed decline in heat-trapping water vapor in the high atmosphere, for unknown reasons. It could be a combination of factors or some as yet unknown natural variations, scientists say.

"The climate system is not quite so simple as people thought," said Bjorn Lomborg, a Danish statistician and author of "The Skeptical Environmentalis t" who estimates that moderate warming will be beneficial for crop growth and human health.

Some experts say their trust in climate science has declined because of the many uncertainties. The UN's Intergovernment al Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) had to correct a 2007 report that exaggerated the pace of melt of the Himalayan glaciers and wrongly said they could all vanish by 2035.

"My ...confidence has gone down in the past five years," said Richard Tol, an expert in climate change and professor of economics at the University of Sussex in England."

0 # hammermann 2013-05-28 15:40
All are extremely powerful alkalis, probably more damaging to the eyes than acid. Never did NaOH + Al in my extensive lab, never did much with hydrogen except at the very beginning- filling a test tube or 2.
+72 # Regina 2013-05-25 23:14
The ignorance of all those "educators" is appalling. What Kiera did was Physical Science 1 -- basic facts of nature, nothing evil or destructive or even dangerous. The amassed stupidity of those educators, bureaucrats, police, and assorted politicians is rivaled only by their arrogance. Luckily there's now a REAL science teacher working to salvage her education. Her IQ exceeds the combined IQ's -- which might be too low to measure! -- of her accusers and purveyors of punishment gone wild.
+48 # davehaze 2013-05-25 23:27
Police state.
+8 # NAVYVET 2013-05-28 04:12
I grew up in Florida, a white teenager who strongly supported black civil rights, and I can assure you that--like the entire South--it was a Stalinist-type Police State then, and still is. NeoConfederate paranoia and intellectual laziness has never gone away in the South. Instead, stinking Southern white male arrogance has infested and infected the rest of the United States. Only New England and the northerly Pacific states seem to retain sanity in our era of constant fear and trembling. As a child growing up in and after WWII, knowing about the Blitz, the Holocaust, nuclear horror, et al., I learned that humans could be vicious, but when I was young I never thought "homo sapiens(?) could become so lazy as to turn whole nations over to the cannibals who now run our economies, social policy, and daily lives from national to local. Barf!
+68 # angelfish 2013-05-25 23:28
We have met the enemy and he is US! It seems we have lost ALL sense of proportion, fairness ans Justice in this Country. The Politically Correct among us WILL cut off our Collective nose to spite our face! You would think that, once the adults (?) assessed the situation, they would have realized it was NOT done maliciously and was just an experiment that went awry... But no THESE geniuses see fit to arrest and charge this INNOCENT young woman, with the possible result of a Felony Conviction and a FIVE (5) year jail sentence! ALL the adults involved in this fiasco should be summarily DISMISSED and given Early Retirement or, in other words, FIRE their simple, sorry, misbegotten souls!
+26 # Old Uncle Dave 2013-05-26 00:09
I fear your headline is overly optimistic. Put "suspended for hugging" into your favorite search engine.
+53 # Kiwikid 2013-05-26 00:09
This is a joke, surely? In detention since 22nd April for popping a water bottle?
Good grief - just bears out the saying we have here on the other side of the planet - 'only in America'.
+51 # tm7devils 2013-05-26 01:38
I would say that all those involved who didn't have Kiera's self- interest at heart needed a remedial course in critical thinking...exce pt they evidently didn't attend such a course previously!
Their actions go way beyond "stupid" and they should be stripped of their credentials.
+1 # karenvista 2013-05-28 20:28
Quoting tm7devils:
I would say that all those involved who didn't have Kiera's self- interest at heart needed a remedial course in critical thinking...except they evidently didn't attend such a course previously!
Their actions go way beyond "stupid" and they should be stripped of their credentials.

Texas Aggie said you can't cure stupidity you just have to put them someplace where they can't do any damage.

Here in Texas we put them on the Texas State Board of Education.

A representative, favorite quote of mine from one of those esteemed lunkheads follows:

“I’m sorry. This critical thinking stuff is gobbledygook.”

David Bradley, R. Beaumont
Texas State Board of Education

The Republicans actually want to outlaw "the teaching of critical thinking. Here's a plank from the Texas Republican Party Platform:

"We oppose the teaching of Higher Order Thinking Skills, critical thinking skills and similar programs which focus on behavior modification and have the purpose of challenging the student’s fixed beliefs and undermining parental authority."

Here in Texas we don't want education to get in the way of a child's "fixed beliefs" or a parent's ability to tell them that they are not allowed to believe in real science or real history. That might conflict with a parent's "fixed beliefs."

We won't get to the "Scope's Monkey Trial" for another hundred years at this rate.
0 # Depressionborn 2013-05-31 22:22
Yes, critical thinking is vital. It should come before data and detail. Try this example. It is timely.

"Whenever destroyers appear among men, they start by destroying money, for money is men’s protection and the base of a moral existence. Destroyers seize gold and leave to its owners a counterfeit pile of paper. This kills all objective standards and delivers men into the arbitrary power of an arbitrary setter of values. Gold was an objective value, an equivalent of wealth produced. Paper is a mortgage on wealth that does not exist, backed by a gun aimed at those who are expected to produce it. Paper is a check drawn by legal looters upon an account which is not theirs: upon the virtue of the victims. Watch for the day when it bounces, marked, ‘Account overdrawn.’"
–Ayn Rand
+41 # James38 2013-05-26 02:35
Gregory Rhoden, the brilliant cop. Are we sure this is not a typo? Maybe his name is Rodent? As in "mouse brain"?

Good grief, how does the world produce so many abysmally stupid bureaucrats?
+66 # kalpal 2013-05-26 03:57
It has been my experience that zero tolerance is installed and/or put into effect by those who have zero intelligence and just about as much discretion.

In this case I suspect that bigotry is a major motivator also.
+31 # wrknight 2013-05-26 04:02
I would fully expect such a stupid response from Floridians. My own belief is that so much sun exposure fries their brains and the problem worsens with age (which is why the youngsters are the only smart ones left).
-52 # edge 2013-05-26 04:54
When you inject the Race Card into the ZERO TOLERANCE debate you look stupid!
It is the Zero Tolerance that is idiotic, when a WHITE kid points his finger like it is a gun, or eats a PopTart into the shape of a gun they are similarly punished.
To inject Race where it does not belong removes all of your credibility!
+34 # Malcolm 2013-05-26 10:36
Quoting edge:
When you inject the Race Card into the ZERO TOLERANCE debate you look stupid!
It is the Zero Tolerance that is idiotic, when a WHITE kid points his finger like it is a gun, or eats a PopTart into the shape of a gun they are similarly punished.
To inject Race where it does not belong removes all of your credibility!

Apparently you have not lived in the southern United States.
+6 # NAVYVET 2013-05-28 04:33
Obviously Edge hasn't even traveled in the South, or did so with eyes closed and wearing earmuffs. However, that doesn't excuse the rest of the US. I remember the "Jews not welcome" signs and Jim Crow laws that still exist unofficially like "get out of this neighborhood before sundown" in Illinois, Iowa, Wisconsin, Minnesota and Pennsylvania. When have we been able to get rid of "slave wages for women", "rights for fetuses and death for children", Mexican-bashing , union-bashing, GLBT-bashing, and that 600-year-old white American sport of killing off Native Amerians? There's plenty of bigotry to go around. The point is that OF COURSE Keira was punished so severely merely for being both black and highly intelligent. That combinatioh to some Southerners who think they are Christians (but aren't) is the worst mortal sin of all: uppitiness.
+69 # rsstein 2013-05-26 06:03
I am outraged by this behavior of this Florida school. Had I been treated this way, my career would be very different. I would not have become a distinguished professor, helped start two departments of UMass, received three honorary degrees, and been elected to both the National Academiies of Sciences and of Engineering. When in elementary school, some WW-II military explosives were found on the seashore, brought back to thev school, and with my science teacher, dropped from the roof where the resulting explosion blew out a school window. There were no bad consequences, I had a hope lab., where many explosives were made, including nitroglycerine. One of my associates with this went on to receive a Nobel prize. One should read about Edison, who started a fire on a train with one of his experiments, resulting in his ears being boxed in and subsequent deafness. This kind of curiosity should be rewarded, not punished. It provides the seeds of future creativity.
+25 # chomper2 2013-05-26 10:55
Hooray for you, Dick. I had similar experiences in my youth and somehow made it through a decent career and retirement. Something has seriously gone off the track since our day.
+3 # DarthEVaderCheney 2013-05-27 19:04
For one thing, the gene pool has gotten tremendously more shallow during the last 50 years, no doubt about that!
+34 # Oscar 2013-05-26 06:16
This reads as a short story with a happy end. Reminds me that one goal of the NRA is to put an armed police in every school. In my experience, in an inner city school, police get away with tremendous abuse while teachers cannot even touch a child.
+25 # smilodon1 2013-05-26 09:48
I disagree. Stupidity can't be cured but ignorance can.
+26 # Quickmatch 2013-05-26 10:25
Of course, it's Florida; what can be expected? Consider the school system that hires as principal a man who is unable to speak in clear English: "She's a good kid and, you know, she made a bad choice and stuff and, uh - I don't think that - she was not trying to be malicious to harm anybody or destroy something at school or anything else."
God save the youth of Florida. Florida surely won't.
+21 # reiverpacific 2013-05-26 10:39
I hate to say it again but "Only in America" (and perhaps North Korea -I'm only speculating on the latter.).
Starting with Congress, maybe the "Stupidity can be cured" but I'm not holding my breath.
I mean, I can think of a few individuals where I live who would go along with this adult infantilism as "counter-terror ism judgements".
+3 # bingers 2013-05-27 12:22
Quoting reiverpacific:
I hate to say it again but "Only in America" (and perhaps North Korea -I'm only speculating on the latter.).
Starting with Congress, maybe the "Stupidity can be cured" but I'm not holding my breath.
I mean, I can think of a few individuals where I live who would go along with this adult infantilism as "counter-terrorism judgements".

I do know that if you're a Republican politician and you make an intelligent statement or judgement then as sure as the sun rises you WILL be "primaried" by some numbskull Teabagger.
+2 # BobboMax 2013-05-27 21:04

Interesting that you bring up North Korea, which, from what I understand of that regime(ref The Orphan Master's Son) it's a place where appearance is more important than reality. ( ref's_trim_our_hair_in_accordance_with_the_socialist_lifestyle )
+36 # X Dane 2013-05-26 11:33
That vice principal starting the whole mess should be fired. He has absolutely no common sense. A fine upstanding student with good grades, made a mistake and is treated as a TERRORIST??

That is insanity, and that school police man is a danger to the STUDENTS. The idiots could have destroyed Kira's life completely. They certainly would have, if others had not come to her aid and defense.

If she had ended up with a record, she would have NO chance of any help, would be prevented fro attending college.

The principal, vice principal, and the police guy are incompetent, and must be removed, for the safety of the students.

The school police cause way more problems than they prevents and solve, The least little mixup becomes a crime, and ruins the chances for many students.

And YES it is primarily students of color that are targeted Edge. Check the prisons, and the prisoners of color far, far outnumber the white.
+17 # mdhome 2013-05-26 11:52
This is so stupid, what is the matter with adults these days?? A felony? Would this include popping a paper bag, maybe popping bubble wrap? What do you get if you do all three? Lifetime in the "big house"?
+19 # turbojesus 2013-05-26 12:51
18 Year white guy builds a nuclear reactor gets the presidential medal of honor. Black girl does an experiment expelled and faces criminal charges.
+11 # solange 2013-05-26 15:11
Ignorance is curable; stupidity, alas, lives on.
+7 # BobboMax 2013-05-26 22:04
Even ignorance is only curable when it's seen as a problem. These days, in many circles, ignorance (or at least, feigned ignorance) seems to be a virtue. I saw a new word the other day, hypocracy- rule by hypocrisy.

We still haven't answered the basic question here- why is this kind of behavior by public "servants" (and others) so common? You have to believe there's some kind of payoff- if it was painful, they'd quit doing it. Yes, they're acting like idiots, but since we can be pretty sure most of them have an IQ over 87, WHY are they acting like idiots? If it were a completely pointless waste of money (time, ink, emotion, etc.) it wouldn't keep happening- somehow, for a lot of people, there is some point to this behavior.

If we can understand what the point is, maybe we can save the next Kiera Wilmot some pain (time, money, embarrassment.) And then (you may say that I'm a dreamer) we can cure stupidity in Congress.
+17 # jorspe 2013-05-26 15:15
Whatever colours you prefer to write this in, the whole thing is gawdawful stupid. Take the risks out of life and your culture will stagnate and rot. Let the kids alone for crying out loud. Nobody was hurt, nothing was damaged and there is no evidence of any malevolence. What a molehill ... and gigantic waste of time, ink and emotion.
+21 # WBoardman 2013-05-26 17:23
And a serious, pointless waste of money --

first by the state in its "enforcement" process,
where the state had NO proper role beyond the school --

but much more seriously, by Kiera Wilmot's family,
forced to bear the cost of defending her
against frivolous charges in multiple venues.

If there were justice, the state would make the
Wilmot family whole.
+8 # Texas Aggie 2013-05-26 21:39
The behavior of the school administration was so typical and exhibits very clearly why school administrators have a well-earned reputation for being complete dolts.

The aphorism is "those who can't, teach, and those who can't teach go into administration. "
+3 # DarthEVaderCheney 2013-05-27 18:58
Quoting Texas Aggie:
The aphorism is "those who can't, teach, and those who can't teach go into administration."

Truer words were never spoken! One exception: "Those who can't, teach, those who can't teach, coach and teach, and those who can do neither, go into Administration. "
0 # bingers 2013-05-27 12:05
Ignorance can be cured, stupidity is baked into the brain. But stupidity isn't the fault of the stupid people, it's genetic.

Ignorance is what afflicts most conservatives but they wallow in their ignorance and refuse to learn facts or truth. They embrace ignorance and worship it and condemn anyone who thinks and learns.
+3 # fredboy 2013-05-27 13:33
Bartow is off-the-charts redneck Florida. Drooling redneck. Always has been.
+3 # DarthEVaderCheney 2013-05-27 18:54
As a retired educator, I've seen many instances where administrators and teachers take special pride in their advanced degrees of PhD in Stupidity and Lack of Common Sense. This is definitely a good example of such a case!It happens in many states, but FL, TX, and the conservative states seem to take pride in screwing up students' lives when they should be helping them. Most administrators are throwbacks from coaches who couldn't coach so the school boards would coddle them into the M.S. in Education Administration where they did most excellently in NOT being good Admins either. There IS a chain of events which lead to educational dysfunction, mostly from the bottom of the sports barrel of ineptitude. That's where it starts. Now blessedly, Ms. Wilmot (it is reported) has been cleared of all charges! Let this be a lesson to other school districts: Where the HELL was the teacher when this took place? Rhetorical question... I know.
+1 # joe seven 2013-05-28 15:10
Mr Bobbomax,
I appreciate your information about the ingredients. Some of us know that details matter. Definitions matter. The thumbs down that you received was a reaction no doubt to your pointing out that the author did not know the chemistry involved. And so some people might feel that you were riding down his whole presentation. They were merely reading without comprehension or critical thinking. They didn't like your tone of voice maybe. You were getting in the way of the story with confusing facts and figures.
It was secondary that what you wrote would help in better allowing them to intelligently converse on the subject.
Pepsi or Coke. Whats the difference?
NaOH or HCl . Whats the difference?
Just because we all believe that stupid things were done in this school situation does not necessarily make us here immune from our own stupidities.
I thank you for the information.
By the way, if she had used more than 4 oz. of chemicals then according to the FBI what she had was a WMD. Someone let me know if I am wrong.
0 # BobboMax 2013-05-29 12:13
Thanks, Joe. Gotta love that phrase "not necessarily ... immune from our own stupidities."

I do hope you're wrong about that FBI-WMD thing. I put a couple of pounds of "professional grade" drain cleaner down a particularly recalcitrant (outdoor) drain the other day and I still have a pound left in my truck...
0 # WBoardman 2013-06-01 10:45
If that's right --
that the FBI would consider 4.00000000001 oz
"of chemicals"
a WMD --
that's a whole new pandora's box of stupidity.

But then we've lived (mostly) with that for almost ever.
0 # Texan 4 Peace 2013-05-30 00:39
I'm confused by the author's statement (in reference to the science teacher) that "his skirts are clean." Are we meant to understand that idiotic behavior, even when committed by a male, is essentially female?

Hurrah for Homer Hickam for stepping in to do right by this young lady.
0 # WBoardman 2013-06-01 10:41
Holy cow!

I thought I was just using a traditional cliche,
but my inner [fill in the blank] apparently betrayed me.

Perhaps "his hands were clean" would have been preferable.

As to genderizing idiocy, I can see how that could seem
to be the case, but it was not intended.

Objectively, and off the top of my head, I think
a very strong case can be made for male leadership
being the most idiotic. As well as dangerous.

Not that I'm demeaning women's capacity for idiocy,
just that patriarchic traditions have protected them
from opportunities to behave as badly.... ;-))) ?
0 # Depressionborn 2013-06-01 09:51
Very few of us are stupid. Many however are ignorant, (not knowledgeable) of many things. It is bad schooling I think.

for example:
World Bank Insider Blows Whistle on Corruption, Federal Reserve
A former insider at the World Bank, ex-Senior Counsel Karen Hudes, says the global financial system is dominated by a small group of corrupt, power-hungry figures centered around the privately owned U.S. Federal Reserve. The network has seized control of the media to cover up its crimes, too, she explained. In an interview with The New American, Hudes said that when she tried to blow the whistle on multiple problems at the World Bank, she was fired for her efforts. Now, along with a network of fellow whistleblowers, Hudes is determined to expose and end the corruption. And she is confident of success.

Citing an explosive 2011 Swiss study published in the PLOS ONE journal on the “network of global corporate control,” Hudes pointed out that a small group of entities — mostly financial institutions and especially central banks — exert a massive amount of influence over the international economy from behind the scenes. “What is really going on is that the world’s resources are being dominated by this group,” she explained, adding that the “corrupt power grabbers” have managed to dominate the media as well. “They’re being allowed to do it.”

This is big
-1 # Depressionborn 2013-06-02 12:24
cure stupidity? not if you believe Obama.

Climate change is real, it's caused largely by human activities, and it poses significant risks for our health. Some members of Congress disagree with this simple, scientifically proven fact. We need to work to curb climate change, and a big step is to raise our voices to change the conversation in Washington. Call these deniers out. Hold them accountable. Ask them if they will admit climate change is a problem.

We will continue updating the list below as supporters get answers to the basic question of whether their representatives in Congress accept the science on climate change. We hope that this list will shrink as members clarify what they truly believe about climate change.

the IRS is with us all the way.
0 # born1929 2013-06-05 15:20
Sparing the details many of my boyhood friends and I, lacking today's toys but having to learn how things worked by experimenting with chemicals and electricity and such in our basements, would now most certainly be facing twenty-to-life in a Florida prison had it been our fate to grow up there and at this time ...(and get caught)...
Those of us who are still here to tell would all be in our eighties. The kids are sure missing something... Stan Levin
0 # Moefwn 2013-07-17 12:36
Well, now we know why the US school system is failing to produce as many scientific researchers as it used to.

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