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Friday, October 03, 2008

Assault on Free Speech, Part I

I read an article in the Santa Cruz Sentinel (Santa Cruz, granola capital of the world, home of mellowness) about how public school teachers were forbidden to wear their Obama buttons in school. Even scarier, they were not allowed to comment for the article, which begins with this:
Teachers at Soquel High School have agreed not to wear "Educators for Obama" buttons in the classroom after a parent complained that educators were attempting to politically influence his daughter and other students.

John Hadley, an importer of South African goods, called the school to complain Friday after his 16-year daughter Teegan returned home and reported that she had seen several teachers wearing the buttons.

Hadley said his family supports Sen. Barack Obama's rival, Sen. John McCain, but that he is opposed to teachers wearing political paraphernalia regardless of its nature.
Censorship is alive and well in the public schools. Usually, it's the students who are told they can't wear t-shirts supporting causes. Now, a school district is telling its teachers not to wear their Obama buttons. What is everybody scared of? Where are the kittens supposed to learn to discuss and respect differing opinions if the schools are giving them the message that ideas are toxic?

No wonder adults have no credibililty with kids. When you tell them not to have unprotected sex or take drugs, will they see that as a well-reasoned position, or yet another example of adult timidity? I know what I thought when I was a kitten and Mama told me not to jump the fence. Mama thought the same thing about adults back when she was a kitten, and so did Daddy. Kids shouldn't be sheltered, especially in high school. It doesn't work, and they just develop contempt for you. Not sheltering kids is different from forcing them to conform to your political views, though you must enforce standards of civilized behavior in classroom discussion.

The McCain kid in the article who complained about the Obama teachers said, "they shouldn't be stating their opinion in front of students who can't even vote." Shouldn't someone tell the kid that you can discuss things, like drinking or going to war, that you're not old enough to do? And why shouldn't the student also state her opinion? I know kids form cliques and pressure one another to conform, ostracizing racial, religious or political minorities. It is worthwhile to face this behavior head on by discussing divisive topics in the classroom under the guidance of teachers, rather than pretending it doesn't exist. Nor is there any benefit to sanitizing the teachers into insipidity, so that they appear to have no involvement in, and no authority on, real life.

Dig this quote from the article:
If teachers had been wearing buttons supporting McCain, [the student] said she would still think it was wrong but acknowledged, 'I probably wouldn't have told my dad about it.'
That child sure learned a lesson in democracy — shut down those who do not agree with you. She could have learned to discuss her opinions without losing her temper, but that apparently was not an option.

I feel strongly that kids are not being prepared for adult life in school, and the culture has changed such that the preparation they get at home is spotty. They may become adults not knowing how to intelligently eat, handle finances, have love affairs, live a clean and well-ordered life. We clearly see — after the last 8 years — that America is not turning out voters educated in democracy. Wasn't that of of the original rationales for a public school system — to educate voters? Where did that idea go?

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