The French are doing our schools’ “zero tolerance” policies one better: French pupils face jail for insulting teachers. Apparently they mean it. The cabinet has already allocated $5 billion for hiring specialized judges and constructing detention centers.
Why can’t something more informal and gentle than the slammer keep young people in order? The old dream of the rule of law seems to be ending in a society in which only law rules. Informal networks of authority based on age, sex, class, religion and social custom are now thought oppressive and irrational, and must be extirpated. We must have a multicultural society, by definition one in which no informal standards of behavior can have any authority. The result, however, is a society without common sense or forebearance in which mindless regimentation becomes the only alternative to chaos.