The U.S.S. Censorship

As a legal secretary, I’ve been privy to some pretty big loads of “steer excrement” if you know what I mean. Okay, it’s MY blog: Bull shit.

This, however, is a supersized portion. Don’t choke on it:

[Source: School Board of the City of Virginia Beach, Virginia]

Policy 5-38

STUDENTS

Freedom of Speech

A. Generally
Schools, by their very nature, must encourage free inquiry and free expression of ideas. Oral expression is needed as a learning mechanism and as a psychological outlet. School should provide opportunities for the students to express themselves orally.

B. Guidelines
1. Students have the right to free and dynamic expression of ideas. Such expression shall include the personal opinion of students. Controversial ideas are not to be avoided.

2. Students shall not be forced by any means to accept a purely personal and arbitrary opinion or idea.

The above is probably old news in most blog circles, but I just stumbled upon this student‘s plight today. He is a high school student at a Virginia Beach high school. He also has a blog. For whatever reason, he was called to task for having the blog, was made (forced, coerced) to sign an affidavit regarding it, its contents and its readership…. You can read all about the whole sordid affair here. The long and short of it is that he has decided to take the path of least resistance, acquiesce to the school’s demands (after all, he has the rest of his adult life to expound upon the injustice of it all later on), keep a low profile and blog from home in the future. It was either that or be EXPELLED. For doing nothing more than practicing what the above text encouraged. Encouraged!! “Say what you want? Sure, no problem, you betcha. But then we’ll just expel you. If you’re a bright student, with his eyes on college, well, we’ll fuck that up for you too. We love to fuck with young minds. Why? Because we can.”

My blood pressure is up just writing this! I’ve looked as his journal. He’s not out there disclosing State Department secrets, he’s not pandering warez or porn, he’s not writing about how to build a bomb or writing about any other subversive topics. So what gives? What about the quoted text above? Doesn’t any of that matter? Was it just placed there to placate the ACLU and other human rights watchdogs? This kind of censorship just sickens me. There are all kind of Internet vermin out there. Go after THEM with the same venom.

Of course, schools have for a long time now been breeding grounds for cookie cutter ideals, churning out nameless, faceless, uniform-clad automatons. Step out of line and you are branded a rebel, a troublemaker. Challenge a teacher and the same, or worse, label is slapped on you. Conformity is pounded into a student’s head from the moment he enters pre-kinder. Fitting in is the goal. Being different is frowned upon by administration and student body alike. By the time he’s graduated from high school, he has no desire to think for himself, to express an opinion of his own. He’s had no practice at it. Unless he was fortunate enough to get it from home.

When I was in school, back in the late 1960s and early 1970s, students were encouraged to think for themselves. Right in the middle of the Watergate scandal in my English class, the teacher (one of the brightest and most inspiring teachers in the school and my favorite) sensed that we were uncomfortable with current events and wanted to talk about what was going on. So for a few days we talked about nothing but politics and politicians and morals and ethics and right and wrong. And watched, from our classroom, the infamous “I am not a crook” farewell of old Tricky Dick.

Maybe we didn’t learn about gerunds or participles that week. But there would be other weeks for that. For the here and now, it was about Watergate. She quenched our thirst for knowledge. Even though SHE was supposed to be filling our cups with Kool-Aid, she gave us gin and tonic instead. Two years later she was “let go” during teacher cutbacks. I will never stop believing it was because of some of her “let’s throw the lesson plan out the window this week” methods of teaching. But she was the most revered teacher I had in high school.

I feel sorry for the kids in high school and middle school today. I don’t think a lot of teachers are as dedicated and devoted as the ones I had as a young student. For one thing, they have a lot more on their minds. Weapons, killings, shootings, school security, drugs, etc. And all this before they even get to class in the morning. Sadly, it’s not the same and there’s no turning back the clock.

Because the world itself is different than it was when I was young. We didn’t have the Internet, we didn’t have instant access to the entire world the way we have now. Children have to be given the coping skills, the communications skills. Denying youngsters an opportunity like this — like was taken away from young Sammy here — is doing all students a disservice. That a high school student could form complete sentences, could articulate his feelings and thoughts on an online journal, that he would want to share that on the Internet — is something that should have been commended. Not punished.

I weep for the future. And pray for change.

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