Wednesday, March 14, 2007

A disgrace to the word "educator"

If there is one thing I hope my students leave my class with, it is the ability to question everything and have a richly enhanced BS detector. I encourage them to think for themselves, question authority (including me) and speak out. In fact, this aspect is laid out clearly in my highly detailed class syllabus under goals. I would hope everyone in the education field does the same. They don't.

I was furious today reading about an incident that happened "outside" an Alaska high school, and is now an important First Amendment case in the hands of the Supreme Court. There was a time with Earl Warren and William O. Douglas where free speech would be protected, but I have zero faith in the cabal that installed Bush into power and are likely to F*** Up this case as well.

A student named Joseph Frederick was suspended by his principal, doing her best Stalin impersonation, because he held a banner that said "Bong Hits for Jesus" to get on tv as the Olympic Torch passed by. This led to a ten day suspension for the student.

To quote from the Washington Post story:

"The most important student free-speech conflict to reach the Supreme Court since the height of the Vietnam War hinges on a somewhat absurd, vaguely offensive, mostly nonsensical message of protest. Bong Hits 4 Jesus. That’s the slogan that a defiant high school student named Joseph Frederick fashioned with a 14-foot piece of paper and a $3 roll of duct tape. His goal was partly to get on TV as the Olympic torch passed through his town of Juneau, Alaska, and mostly to get under the skin of his disciplinarian principal, Deborah Morse, with whom he had a running feud. It worked, at least the irritating-the-principal part. Morse crossed Glacier Avenue to Frederick's position across from the school and confiscated the banner. She later suspended him for 10 days. Frederick, a high school rebel who at the time was fond of quoting Thoreau and Voltaire, said Morse tacked on the last five days when he paraphrased Thomas Jefferson's admonition that speech limited is speech lost."

There is a saying that you should judge yourself by your enemies. By this standard, young Mr. Frederick is a raging success, as both the Bush administration and get this, Mr. Law and Order for Cigars, one of the world's great witch hunt organizers, Ken Starr, is representing the draconian principal pro bono.

"Morse's brief, written by Starr and a team of pro bono lawyers at the firm of Kirkland and Ellis, said ratification of Frederick's victory in the appellate court would make all the more daunting "the vital task of teachers, administrators and volunteer school board members in attending holistically to the needs of millions of students entrusted every school day to their charge."

Hello, the goal of a teacher is encouraging students to speak their mind and question authority. Please leave me out of your brief Mr. Starr and the rest of your platoon.

"Frederick was one of them, five years ago, though he was not a particularly happy student at Juneau-Douglas High School. One day, he refused a vice principal's order to leave a student commons area where he was reading Albert Camus, and the police were called. The next day, he remained in his seat while others stood for the Pledge of Allegiance and was sent to the principal's office. He described it all in a mini-treatise -- "This is a story of a high school senior who refused to bow down in submission before an authority . . . ." -- he posted on the Internet."

Congratulations Mr. Frederick. I'd practically donate my left nut to science fiction (Steven Wright paraphrase) to have a student like you just once. At the same time, I hope the principal gets her tongue endlessly stuck to some frozen pole in Alaska, ala Christmas Story, for her attempt to neuter a raging educational success story -- the kind if we had more of the U.S. would do better than ranking 24th of 38 in mathematics, 9th of 38 in science, 7th of 38 in reading, and 20th of 38 in problem solving.


KAP said...

The 3 R's

Ridding, righting and withmatic.

KAP said...

Oh yeah, have to run, but why was the Principle (heh) running across the street to bust this guy?

Marianas Life said...

I heard the story on NPR and thought about the kid who was suspended for wearing the pepsi shirt to the coke presentation. made me think about all the marijuana and "f" the post office shirts i see kids wearing here. of course here the shirts are a fashion statement, not a young free thinker expressing him or herself. i remember the first time i saw a che guevera shirt here or was it a pair of pants with his face embroidered on it? anyway, i was impressed until i realized it was a line of clothing sold in several retail establishments in garapan. hmmm...

oh yeah, i added you to my links, please add me to yours. sorry for the delay:0