Thursday, March 02, 2006

Another Voice Is Heard regarding the Bush Administration: The Children’s

Anyone who reads this blog a fan of the West Wing? I’m a huge fan, and I suspect I’m not alone here, since it’s in many ways a left-wing pulpit, raising many topics that are very pertinent to the left-wing platform, often issues that the right want swept under the rug. Anyway, they had an episode a couple years back where these students came in to talk to Toby Ziegler about why children aren’t allowed to vote. They raised the issues that the actions of today’s government will often weigh heaviest on their generation, and they should have some say in the future of this country and the world.

It’s a very good question, and from the perspective of a liberal like me it’s more pertinent in this administration than in any other recent administration. Their generation will pay off the huge debt being accrued by this government; they will be embroiled in the conflicts that we are creating around the world, particularly in the Middle East and in North Korea, they will deal with the leaks in our borders created by deals like the port deals, and they will rebuild the economic and physical infrastructure of the sites of tragedies that were allowed to happen while the Bush Administration waited to act until destruction was devastating.

Well, finally the children are struggling to make their voice heard. A couple of big stories came out today regarding the voice of our children, and they inspire hope, to me. The first is a mock trial of George W. Bush in Parsippany, NJ for “crimes against civilian populations and inhumane treatment of prisoners.” The second is hundreds of students protesting the suspension of a teacher for his left-wing anti-Bush rant, as it was portrayed by the administration, though I would call it more of an attempt to challenge the students to think about the issues confronting them today.

In Parsippany, students are holding a mock trial, complete with witnesses and jury. “The prosecution list included Khaled El-Masri, a German citizen allegedly tortured by U.S. forces; international human rights attorney Michael Ratner; Larry Wilkerson, chief of staff for former Secretary of State Colin Powell; retired CIA foreign policy analyst Ray McGovern; and U.S. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.” Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld are next, and the defense will cal eight additional witnesses. The jury is comprised of two English Teachers, a history teacher, a guidance counselor, and a media teacher.

The teacher, Joseph Kyle, has refused to give any opinions on the Bush administration, but wanted to challenge his advance placement government class to think for themselves. The principal is backing Kyle, but the former Sheriff, John Fox and alumnus of Parsippany High School, has come out loudly against the hearings, and is gaining support from other alumni. A verdict is expected by the end of the week, though I suspect the verdict will not be honored anywhere else but the classroom.

In Colorado, a professor has been suspended for a “Left wing political rant” that lasted over 20 minutes. 16 year old Sean Allen had a tape recorder for keeping class notes and tapes a large portion of the rant, and then complained that he shouldn’t be subjected to the leftist political ideals of the 10th grade teacher, Jay Banish. He brought the recording to radio KOA talk show host Mike Rosen, who played it on the air. Then things began to get out of control.

I’ve heard the tape, and yes, there are some things in there that are even too leftist for me to agree with. The worst is a comparison between Bush’s rhetoric and Hitler’s rhetoric, though he’s quick to point out that Bush is not like Hitler. It’s more about the messages that each sends to the population. "I'm not saying Bush and Hitler are exactly the same, obviously they're not. OK? But there are some eerie similarities to the tones that they use," says Bennish.

He also says a few times that he is not asking for the students to accept Bennish’s views, but that he is really looking to challenge them, and get them thinking about what is really occurring in the world today.

"I'm not in anyway implying that you should agree with me, I don't even know if I'm necessarily taking a position. But what I'm trying to get you to do is to think about these issues more in depth and not to just take things from the surface.”

But to my mind, there’s a happy ending for this story; while the one student went to the radio station and complained, the rest of the students were outraged….most by the suspension, others by the preaching. Hundreds of students protested the suspension, walking out of Overland High School demanding “Freedom of speech – Let him teach”, while some students, when leaving classes naturally, chanted “teach, don’t preach.”

Now I am all for the teacher being allowed to challenge the students, and forcing them to think about issues and make up their own mind. While I may not have agreed with his opinions, I don’t believe they were out of line, and I believe they were meant with the best of intentions. Further, as an educator, I think it’s important for him to get his students to examine the world around them critically. But the best part of the story is, without question, that the students made their voices heard, and peacefully. Whichever side of the issue they were on, the fact that the students took impassioned positions is a sign that people are getting involved earlier, and that’s great news.

Is it an accident that both these stories came out just 1 day after the video tape of the Katrina preparatory meeting was aired? Has this new proof of Bush’s lies forced the Bush administration to try to squash even the youngest of dissenters, thus bringing the stories to the front of public view? Or has the level of frustration among the youth risen exponentially as a result of his complicity, forcing Bush-related issues to the foreground? Or maybe you think these incidents aren’t that big a deal? Well, I see them as a big deal, and hope that it leads to further engagement by the younger generations around the world.

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Posted by Scottage at 3:23 PM / | |