ALTERNATIVES Exploring Options in Policy and Practice

8Mar/121

“Protection”: Prevention, Extortion, Compensation?

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”I just bought a magic medallion!”
“What does it do?”
“It protects me from attack by Komodo Dragon.”
“There aren’t any Komodo Dragons roaming loose within 10,000 miles from here.”
“See! It really works!
-- Tired, old joke.

A well-recognized symbol for the idea of protection is the umbrella. An umbrella prevents rain -- to some extent -- from wetting you. But the hoodlum who demands money from a shopkeeper as “protection” is engaged in extortion. Unlike the rain – that raineth on the just and unjust alike, unconditionally – the hoodlum inflicts the damage selectively on those who refuse his demands.

Many schools do something similar to the extortionist, in pursuing a “mission” to increase parental involvement. In many schools parents who are particularly generous in donating time or money, get “special consideration” for their children when it comes to disciplinary treatments or failures for weak academic performance.

Not a small part of what purports to be “special education” engages in such extortionary activities. Little wonder that many school people complain that an IEP (Individualized Educational Program) is a free Do-Not-Go-To-Jail ticket for students whose parents are “involved” or aggressive enough to secure one for their child. Many a private and parochial school, especially ones on tight budgets, understand that generous parent donations help school administrators and teachers recognize the extra, special “needs” of the donors’ children.

Insurance companies play another trick. It is surprising that it works, but it does. They regularly muddle the distinction between protection as prevention and protection as compensation. Parents and travelers, nonetheless, will buy insurance “protection” against events that are unlikely preventable.

School insurance may pay a parent $20,000 dollars if their child loses a finger while playing or working in the school shop. It doesn’t prevent such occurrences from happening. If the schools manage to pass on the insurance costs to parents – as they often do in private or parochial education – there is little pressure on the school to take preventative steps against injury. This is why both private and parochial schools – as well as colleges -- permit the risks involved in some of the more combative sports, like football, lacrosse, rugby and boxing.

To examine these issues further, see Hurt, Harm & Safety

Cordially
--- EGR

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