American public schools are prisons. They even look like prisons. See the nearby picture of Century High School in Santa Ana. Even hoity-toity schools in Newport Beach look like that, although the facades are ritzier.

And consider this Sept. 3 report from my old newspaper, the Orange County Register:

“SANTA ANA – Santa Ana Unified School District police officers patrolled city streets Tuesday morning – the first day of school – with support from the California Highway Patrol and the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad Police.”

That’s four separate police units incarcerating the kids: school cops, local cops, state cops and train cops.

Back when I was an inmate of the Wayne-Westland School District from 1960-73, the only time we ever saw a cop was when one came in for vocation day and said, “Your Policeman is Your Friend.” There were truant officers, but they were former teachers promoted to administration.

More from the Register:

“Santa Ana Unified police Sgt. Brian Harris said officers mostly look for those who are violating the rules of the road around school zones.

“ ‘Some of the most common things we see are jaywalking, kids riding bikes or skateboards without helmets, kids walking on railroad tracks and motorists failing to yield the right-of-way to pedestrians,’ he said.”

Fifty years ago, nobody even heard of someone wearing a helmet while riding a bike.Seiler_piece And I can’t remember anyone dying of that or anything else during the school year, even though Wayne Memorial High School contained more than 2,000 students. Same thing with skateboards, which in those days sported treacherous metal wheels, instead of the smooth plastic kind nowadays. One of our heroes was Red Wings goalie Terry Sawchuk, whose mask-less kisser had been smacked a couple hundred times by pucks.

As to railroad tracks, it was a common practice to put a penny on the track, then pick it up after the train ran over it. Nobody seemed to care. I even remember how, while we were waiting for our yellow school bus, back when we were about 13 years old a friend of mine used to run out into the middle of Michigan Ave. (U.S. Route 12 to Chicago) after a stream of cars had passed, lie down pretending he was asleep, then rise up to avoid getting run down by the next series of cars. Nowadays, he’d be dumped in a foster home and his parents arrested and imprisoned.

“America is too safe,” is a saying I have. Normal kids grow up learning what things are dangerous and what are safe. There always will be daredevils who get closer to danger than most of us. Those are the guys who become stock car drivers, fighter pilots, Alaska fishermen and Chronicles writers. By shutting down all risk, American kids are being turned into millions of zeks who shuffle along and do what they’re told.