Sunday, March 02, 2008

Got Pennies?

On one hand, it was a prank. Students in Readington Middle Children's Prison were upset over the shortness of their lunch period. To give voice to their plight, several students thought of a very clever way to dramatize the problem. They paid for their lunch with pennies. According to

"Got pennies!" It's plastered on their shirts and these eighth graders wear it proudly because on Thursday they pulled a prank at the Readington Middle School, paying for their lunches entirely in pennies. "At first it started out as a joke, then everyone else started saying we're protesting against like how short our lunch is," student Alyssa Concannon said. In fact, the penny prank has earned 29 students two days of detention. "There was no rule in the rulebook about it," student Sarah Henschel said. "It was just unfair. It's U.S. currency."
The New York City news station WCBS-TV expounds a bit more about the sordid tale here.

I've always been a supporter of peaceful student protest, and am very impressed by the inherent cleverness of this one. Were I the principal of the school, I'd have to find a way to reward the young minds behind this stunt. "50 points for Griffindor!"

The event that seems to have caused the punishments was basically the laziness and lack of wit in the persons of the cafeteria workers. The complaint was that the counting of the pennies caused some students to miss lunch, because of the slowness of the lunch line--the lunch counter workers had to count the pennies(!).

The lowly penny has indeed been getting a bad rap in recent years. The US mint even devalued the penny by starting to make them from copper-washed zinc instead of a real copper alloy, back in 1980. How many of us actually pay for our cash purchases to the penny, these days? Every day we empty our trouser pockets to find between ten and thirty pennies along with the other change. What to do with them? Put 'em in a jar.

Eventually, the jar gets full. Then what? The bank doesn't want them. Laziness seems to hit bank tellers, as well. I used to actually roll up my accumulated change and take it to the bank periodically. They no longer accept it, or will charge a 7 or 8 percent fee to accept it. More often, bank tellers direct you to a change machine, into which you can dump your coins and get a cash voucher, minus a 7 to 8 percent fee, which can then be deposited (after waiting in the interminable bank line yet again).

In my youth, a penny would buy a piece of Bazooka, or a bit of sugary liquid in a wax "Coke" bottle. Today, people simply throw them away. A handful of pennies won't buy anything. One has to wonder why they're still made.

Back to the point. Pennies are still around and theoretically still have value. They're still legal tender. Since the New Jersey children's prison accepts cash to pay for lunch at the cafeteria, one has to wonder on what grounds the staff imposed punishment for the use of pennies. No one disputes the students' assertion that there are no rules prohibiting pennies. If not, then what?

It's a fine method the New Jersey Children's Prison system has for teaching youngsters: making up the rules as they go along. Very typical of the same kind of idiots that impose "zero tolerance" programs to prohibit things that prison staffs find might cause them to actually have to (shudder) think!

Returning to all fours.

Warm regards,

Col. Hogan
Stalag California


MK said...

Yeah good on the kids, shame on the school, punishing children, for just doing the right thing.

T. F. Stern said...

"making up the rules as they go along" is another way of saying, "We hadn't planned on that so you must be wrong".

Way back when I was a training officer for the Houston Police Dept. I had to fill out a couple of forms each night documenting what specific areas of training had been accomplished with a probationary officer. I was paid one hour of overtime to do this at home or in an office at the station before or after shift rather than take away training time during shift hours.

I used my computer, my personal business computer at home since computers were not as yet common around the Dept., to generate the same form making the whole process very efficient. I did that for almost a year before somebody figured out that my form was just a tad different font than the one they had. I was reprimanded and told not to use my computer to generate the form anymore since it had not been authorized from “above”.

Within a year the Dept. was doing exactly what I’d started and bragging on having streamlined the system. Some Lt. took credit for the whole deal; but it didn’t matter because the city quit hiring new police officers and there were no probationary officers to train. When they finally opened the academy again I no longer had anything to do with it.

Col. Hogan said...

MK, Do we teach the kids to be capable of critical reasoning, and action on their decisions, or shall they be bent-spined serfs?

Well, we know what government "educators" want.....

Col. Hogan said...


Isn't that the way it goes, sometimes. If the grunt thinks of something, it must be wrong. If it's a good idea, then the execs must have thought of it first.

Ol' BC said...

Here is a case where a parent would have justification to sue a school. Legal tender is legal tender. Suspend a kid for two days? C'mon. Since the days of FDR schools work to teach compliance and socialization. It was in the long term plans to achieve a socialistic society. Now, we want to begin socialized medicine with the kids. Look at the legislative agenda. When they are adults they'll naturally look to big brother.

Col. Hogan said...


They should sue! This was one of the most clever protests I can recall--and you're right. As long as the feds are minting pennies, they're as good as any other bit of legal tender (none of 'em are much good, any more!).