Saturday, September 12, 2009

Squandered Opportunities and Despicable Lessons for Children


To the Editor,

Glenn Beck’s psychotic hard-right stranglehold on local decision-making couldn’t have been evidenced more clearly than at the 9.8.09 Bloomsburg School District’s board meeting. While Superintendent Curry insists that the decision to prevent children from watching President Obama’s speech—and then his decision to tape it, “screen” it, and make it available later—were strictly his own, there’s plenty of blame to go around for a decision so poor it made a mockery of the Pledge of Allegiance for which we all stood at the meeting’s start.

Indeed, every member of every school board in the region who failed to vigorously defend the live broadcast of this speech ought to be embarrassed and ashamed. This includes Berwick’s Superintendent Brookhart whose letter home offers a lesson in suspicion and disrespect to children and confirms the groundless paranoia of some of their parents.

This would not have happened were Obama white, or Republican regardless questions about “helping the president”—and we ALL know it.

Not only did these administrators and board members fail to provide an opportunity to participate in history, to hear the president inspire kids to work hard, respect their teachers, become engaged in their educations, and comprehend their roles as citizens, they effectively taught the despicable lesson that the office of the president deserves to be treated with suspicion and that THIS president is not to be trusted. We all knew exactly what was going to be in this speech, and that that FACT didn’t matter to the very people whose decisions we rely on to set an example for our kids should provoke us to outrage.

This squandered opportunity wasn’t about THIS president; it was about respecting the office of the president. It was about being something more than a kid, namely, a citizen. The very idea that children need to be protected from an American president’s speech extolling basic human virtues teaches the contemptible lesson that a citizen only owes respect to those with whom they agree—and not to those with whom they differ.

The notion—evinced by Michelle Malkin among others—that the speech is part of a secret plot to convert kids into socialist drones—is simply crazy. But this is the Republican Party. Hi-jacked by it’s most fanatical “patriot’s voice” fringe, it’s no wonder that representatives like Joe Wilson think they can yell at the president in the middle of an important address to congress about health care.

The lesson is that Republicans are willing to do anything—exploit any perceived weakness, fuel any paranoia, fabricate any opportunity—to undermine this president. Happy to sacrifice the uninsured for their political agenda, this week we learned that they’re just as willing to sacrifice kids to regain the Whitehouse. How telling about what it is we really want our children to learn—bigotry and narrow-mindedness—that our own local representatives, board members, and even some school teachers can be so suckered?

Instead of owning up, apologizing, and assuring us that no such idiocy would occur in the future—Curry offered excuses. The speech was broadcast on all the major news channels—no Broadband was required. Hiding behind the excuse that they didn’t get “official notice” in time, Curry and Brookhart merely demonstrate how behind the ball they are with respect to important national events. Fact is, they and their acquiescent boards have set an awful example for our kids, one that demeans the integrity of the presidency and its representatives, including the public school.

That not a single school board director has gone on record publicly opposing this reprehensible decision should make us all think long and hard at election time.

Wendy Lynne Lee
595 words.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

A School District --Bloomsburg--that Caves to the Far Right Right

[The following is a letter to John Riley, school board director, Bloomsburg School District, Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania}

Dear John Riley,

I am writing to implore you to reconsider the decision of the Bloomsburg School Board to not broadcast President Obama's address to children for the opening of the 2009 school year. Not only is he participating in long-standing tradition, not only is his message to stay in school, study, work hard, and to care about education precisely the right message, it is especially the right message now--when nothing but the best possible educations will insure a stable future for American citizens.

By refusing to broadcast his address, your school board has effectively conceded to the worst--most bullying, verbally malicious, and hate-mongering-- politics of the far right who would have you believe--and apparently does--that the president's speech is a partisan ploy to advance his party's agenda. It is not. You know that it is not. And no matter what excuses you might offer, say, that lesson plans are already fixed, the real motives are plainly transparent and no one with any sense is going to see this decision as anything other than pandering to a political agenda--or at least caving to one. Surely, you know better.

This is not just any speech. This is the president of the United State's speech. The refusal to broadcast it sends a message wholly contrary to your very mission as an institution of education. Your decision converts the school district from being a politically neutral center of education into a politically manipulable mouthpiece for a single ideologically saturated world view--and one that has so profoundly mischaracterized this president's participation in this tradition that to concede to it is, well, shameful.

Wendy Lynne Lee

Wendy Lynne Lee, Professor
Department of Philosophy
Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania
Bloomsburg, PA, USA 17815