Wednesday, May 19, 2004

Because Fear is so much easier to gain than Respect....

Because Fear is so much easier to gain than Respect...

The Philosophical Scrivener brings us this story.

A student's poem is considered Un-American by the school's principal, and he goes apeshit, and it costs one, possibly more, teachers their jobs:

Bill Nevins, a New Mexico high school teacher and personal friend, was fired last year and classes in poetry and the poetry club at Rio Rancho High School were permanently terminated. It had nothing to do with obscenity, but it had everything to do with extremist politics.

The "Slam Team" was a group of teenage poets who asked Nevins to serve as faculty adviser to their club. The teens, mostly shy youngsters, were taught to read their poetry aloud and before audiences. Rio Rancho High School gave the Slam Team access to the school's closed-circuit television once a week and the poets thrived.

In March 2003, a teenage girl named Courtney presented one of her poems before an audience at Barnes & Noble bookstore in Albuquerque, then read the poem live on the school's closed-circuit television channel.

A school military liaison and the high school principal accused the girl of being "un-American" because she criticized the war in Iraq and the Bush administration's failure to give substance to its "No child left behind" education policy.

The girl's mother, also a teacher, was ordered by the principal to destroy the child's poetry. The mother refused and may lose her job.

Here's the kicker. Nevins still is getting hell:

Meanwhile, Nevins applied for a teaching post in another school and was offered the job but he can't go to work until Rio Rancho's principal sends the new school Nevins' credentials. The principal has refused to do so, and that adds yet another issue to the lawsuit [Nevins has filed], which is awaiting a trial date.

It's an extreme case. I'm extremely curious as to what the poem says.

Michael Chabon wrote this editorial a while back that I posted a link to a while back. In it, Chabon argues that expression isn't the strongest suit with teenagers, especially teens who tend to shy away from communicative gestures. Often, it is they who are most confused by what they think, and any opportunity to communicate should be praised, and not crushed because of what is said in the communication.

What the jackboots fail to realize is that in their fervor to uphold what they see as the American standard, the resentment they breed with their actions outweighs (generally by far) the respect they garner with their show of strength and support of their America. They end up creating more anti-American spirit. In the worst case, those who have something they need to express see what happens when you do express it, they hold it in, and ultimately lash out in a horrible way, for lack of an outlet.

But then, I've found that school principals are, more often than not, educators who found themselves ill suited to the actual process of teaching, or over time lost the ability to communicate themselves. Through stubbornness and stick-to-itiveness, they became administrators, and came to view students in much the same way a warden would view prisoners.

Part of the problem is the current political environment. Everybody's worried to some degree about the threat to our nation. A few people turn G.I. Joe in their small positions of power, trying to root out evil, and in their mouth-frothing fervor, they are mistaking simple disagreement for that evil.

The other part is what we pay teachers nowadays. Granted, there are assholes and ignorance on every level of the pay scale, but I tend to think if we'd put a bit more financial incentive into the educational process, we'd get a more intelligent, creative educators and fewer square-headed prison wardens who couldn't cut it as a football coach but who still enjoy their couple of months off in the summer.

And that's not a knock on educators...we have many, many bright, creative, excellent teachers teaching today despite the fact there is more money to be made elsewhere....I just think we'd have more people like them if we put a bit more into the educational process....


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