Creeping authoritarianism

I had a discussion with two of my teens yesterday about the definitions and real world examples of: totalitarianism, tyranny, dictatorship, fascism, and communism as practiced by the former USSR and the CCP, and authoritarianism.  My daughter had a great example of authoritarianism to share.

At her middle school the students are required to display their student photo ID at all times around their necks.  The photographer several weeks back didn’t like my daughter’s smile, and directed her to smile more in order to get the photo taken.  She initiated a forced smile with glaring eyes, and that is the photo on her school ID.  She loathes it to the extreme — not unsurprising for a self-conscious, depressed 13 year old — and covered the image on her school ID with Abe Lincoln on a $5 bill. 

Yesterday school staff decided to do a spot check of student IDs of the kids entering the lunch room, and asked all who had defaced or covered their own photos to step aside and then to individually speak with the assistant principal.  The assistant principal explained to my daughter individually that she must not cover the photo on her student ID.  My daughter insisted that she could not uncover it, that she would prefer to leave it home and face the consequences.  The assistant principal pushed the issue and my daughter (13, self-conscious, depressed, etc.,) began to have a panic attack and started bawling uncontrollably.  At this point, the assistant principal decided to change tactics and attempted to compromise with my daughter – suggesting that she turn the ID to hide the picture or button up her overshirt to cover it – and the assistant principal reached over (violating my daughter’s personal space) and buttoned up her overshirt.  My daughter’s emotional cascade did not diminish.  Finally, the assistant principal suggested that my daughter simply needed to uncover the image in order to get lunch, and let my daughter alone.

My daughter explained to myself and her brother that afternoon that she doesn’t eat school lunch (she is a very picky eater), but is still made to show her student ID in order to enter the lunchroom – and she is not given the option to skip the lunch room, even if she is not eating.

Her brother is in high school and mentioned that he keeps his high school ID in his wallet in his pocket – and no one asks to see it when he as at school, not even when he gets lunch.  In response I sighed and suggested to my daughter that since I can’t change her school, that it would be a good idea not to fail any classes so that she can go onto high school next year.  And I confirmed that, yes, her experience was a valid example of authoritarianism.

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