We Don't Need No Thought Control

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Principal Gary Tripp of New Mexico's Rio Rancho High School apparently shut down his school's poetry club and fired the teacher who was the club's advisor for failing to censor the public reading of a student poem that criticized the war in Iraq. If anyone who lives in the area feels like sending the superintendent some feedback or e-mailing the school board, I'm sure they could benefit from some constructive guidance.(Via Radley Balko.)

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  1. To be fair to this guy, he’s a public High School principal, so he can’t be very bright, and whatever understanding of the world he may have once had, has been cruelly burned away by a lifetime in hell.

  2. to all students and faculty who did not share his political opinions, the principal shouted: “Shut your faces.”

    Hee. I can see how this guy would feel threatened by a bunch of poets.

  3. This goes beyond administrative asshattery; the man is obviously insane.

    I think it would be interesting to hear the girl’s poem and then the one read by the school’s “military liaison.” What the hell is that, and am I the only one frightened by the thought of such a thing?

  4. How can you have any pudding if you don’t eat your meat?!?!

  5. I think it would be interesting to hear the girl’s poem and then the one read by the school’s “military liaison.” What the hell is that, and am I the only one frightened by the thought of such a thing?

    Probably he meant the head of the school ROTC.

    The writer seems long on hysterics and short on details — all he does it repeats that the poem “wasn’t obscene”. That’s interesting, but there are all kinds of things that aren’t obscene, but which might provoke an irrational overreaction from a school principal. Saying that she “criticized the war in Iraq” doesn’t tell us much, since that covers everything from “war is not the answer” to “it is the duty of all right-thinking people to murder anyone who supports this war, starting with the kids in this school”.

    Why didn’t Hill print the poem? That would make it a lot easier to determine if this is just silly zero-tolerance bullshit, or obscenely offensive zero-tolerance bullshit.

  6. I agree with Dan that it would help to confirm a proper response if we could read the poem.

    “To be fair to this guy, he’s a public High School principal, so he can’t be very bright, and whatever understanding of the world he may have once had, has been cruelly burned away by a lifetime in hell.”

    Even though I know there are a good number of absolutely gifted and brilliant principals out there who get results, I just laughed my ass off.

  7. the wall…

  8. Yeah, whatever the circumstances, if this principal is firing teachers for political reasons, and engaging in wholesale repression of free expression, he needs to be fired, and maybe sued for violating some people’s civil rights.

    That said, there are an awful lot of unsourced allegations in that little op-ed, and I am immediately suspicious of any journalist who places a single word in quotes. (“A school military liaison and the high school principal accused the girl of being ‘un-American’ because she criticized the war in Iraq . . . “) It’s usually a strong indicator that something is being quoted not only out of context, but in a context completely opposite what the speaker intended.

    I think we need to see a lot more of the details on this. Sorry, Bill Hill, but that article doesn’t quite do it for me.

  9. Dan,

    “it is the duty of all right-thinking people to murder anyone who supports this war, starting with the kids in this school”

    While the sentiment is indeed sound, your command of iambs is for the birds. ;>

  10. Poem “Revolution X” (the one read over the PA system) is at http://www.greenleft.org.au/back/2003/531/531p22.htm.

  11. What, exactly, makes that a poem?

  12. That poem was deeply, and predictably, bad. Just a bunch of tired, nonsensical ideas, with essentially no interesting language. The poet obviously doesn’t have an original bone in her body. What luck that she should have as her nemesis a brain-dead administrator who could make her think her cliches and lack of talent represent some sort of “threat” to the Establishment.

  13. “What luck that she should have as her nemesis a brain-dead administrator who could make her think her cliches and lack of talent represent some sort of “threat” to the Establishment.”

    Seriously, how happy must she be about this? On the dark side for her, I can imagine her wasting years of her life trying to develop the un-talent that sparked this national controversy.

  14. However, if the poem had refered to the stupidity of allowing illegal aliens free access to all public services, or challenging the constitutionality of affirmative action or supercitizenship of minorities or questioning gay marriages, then what?

  15. For legal purposes, the issue is not whether the poem was obscene, but whether the reading of the poem over the school’s closed-circuit TV system
    “materially and substantially disrupt[ed] the work and discipline of the school.” See Tinker v. Des Moines School District, 393 U. S. 503, 513. If it was disruptive, that would justify punishing the student, but it probably wouldn’t justify censoring the teacher and shutting down the whole poetry club. Whether or not the poem was disruptive in the circumstances I don’t know, and I suppose the court will investigate.

    I must say that there are things in this poem which could well cause an administrator, in good faith, to be nervous about possible disruption. Consider some of the stuff that the student said over the school’s closed-circuit TV, presumably to a captive audience of youngsters throughout the school:

    “. . . Muslims are hunted because/Some suicidal men decided they didn’t like/Our arrogant bid for modern imperialism. . . ./. . . God left this country a long time ago. . . . /If you’re politically assertive/They call you a traitor and/Damn you to ostracism./Say good-bye to Johnny Walker Lindh/And his family./Bye Bye. . . ./I’m here to say that/Generation X/Is pissed and we are taking over,/Ripping down the American illusion of perfection . . ./You can take our toilet paper,/But you can’t take our Revolution.”

    Amusing as those last two lines are, the quoted remarks go beyond innocuous “war sucks” stuff.

  16. If they needed a reason to shut down the Poetry Club, how about the fact that their poems SUCK . . .

  17. Principal Tripp missed the cluetrain some time ago. How could someone authorize a team of slam “poets” without expecting the club to become a redoubt of predictably infantile leftism? I mean, isn’t that sort of required? As for the author – and why don’t the greenleft people credit her as the author? Was this some kind of commie collective production? She seems to have at least one good notion:

    Because the government has my social security number
    And the name of my dog!

    But she’s not too sharp on demographics. She’s to young to be in GenX/13. Perhaps she’s ashamed about how patriotic her fellow millenials are.

    We also have no idea what our Oppressed Poetess looks like. I’m going with It-Girl, Monique:

    http://sinfest.net/d/20000202.html

    Kevin

  18. A lot of posters are dwelling on the fact that this girl wrote bad and idiotic poetry.

    Remember, first they came for the idiots who wrote bad poetry. But I did nothing because I was smart enough to not try my hand at writing bad poetry.

    πŸ™‚

  19. Wow, the first story I’ve read in a long while that I completely failed to root for either party in the dispute. On one side: infantile “poet” trying to rhyme something or other with he word “revolution.” On the other, “school principal” trying to stop the Poets-Against-U.S.-Oppresion-And-For-Lefty-Oppression-Instead (PAUSOLO-i) invasion of New Mexico.

    I ask my fellow citizens; Is our schools learning?

  20. but if she were on the correct team and writing libertarian verse, no matter how hackneyed, people would have been kinder.

    Not only would people be kinder to her, they’d probably point out that this is yet another example of government schools trying to stifle any hint of pro-liberty sentiment. But since her hackneyed poetry was anti-war and probably left-leaning (just a guess), we get “Well, OK, I guess we have to defend her first amendment rights, but the poem certainly was lousy, and she really shouldn’t be complaining.”

  21. 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.

    What’s the real name of this school? Commie High?
    Hitler High? How ironic if this principle thinks that the Iraq war will make the Iraqis free. One can’t get much more un-American than this principle.

    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.

    This idiot must not understand the difference between “principle” and “dictator”.

    Joe Clark:

    “If it was disruptive, that would justify punishing the student”

    What?? If some students actually did become disruptive upon hearing that poem, then THEY are the ones who should be punished not the author.

    What’s disruptive here is shutting down the poetry club. That principle should be fired and not allowed to inflict his anti-freedom values on students again.

    “Whether or not the poem was disruptive in the circumstances I don’t know, and I suppose the court will investigate.”

    The article doesn’t even say that, that is an issue in the case.

    “the quoted remarks go beyond innocuous “war sucks” stuff.”

    And that matters because…

  22. Walter Wallis,

    We should still defend her right of free speech, of course.

    Jennifer:
    “What the hell is (a “military liaison.”)”

    Yeah really, what? Sounds like what they actually need is a libertarian liaison.

    Of course the advice might be; for real and ethical educational excellence, get the government out of the school business and get capitalism in!

  23. “no, but if she were on the correct team and writing libertarian verse, no matter how hackneyed, people would have been kinder.”

    Some people were upset about the Ayn Rand paintings Julian posted here a couple of weeks ago. I don’t think it was the same people making fun of this epsiode. It wasn’t me.

    Part of what makes this funny to me is how stereotypically mindless and “angst-ridden politically ‘aware’ teen”-agy the content is. And how the absurd reaction of the principal plays directly into her likely beliefs. If you’ll check the first post, I made fun of him too. Maybe the whole thing is satire.

    Those under the impression that her views *are* the height of political awareness, won’t get the joke. Others just won’t think it’s funny.

  24. thoreau: Not every act of stupidity by those in authority is a step onto the slippery slope. Sometimes an asshole IS just an asshole . . .

  25. JDM –

    “Part of what makes this funny to me is how stereotypically mindless and “angst-ridden politically ‘aware’ teen”-agy the content is.”

    Me too, but stereotypes become stereotypes because they have an essential kernel of truth. She clearly IS an “angst-ridden politically ‘aware’ teen”, and I suspect that most of us who bother to post here on even a somewhat regular basis went through a similar phase at one time or other.

    Maybe we’re still going through it.

  26. no, but if she were on the correct team and writing libertarian verse, no matter how hackneyed, people would have been kinder.

    In response to that, allow me to quote the following scene from the movie “The Abyss”, where the character of Lindsey is theorizing that they have encountered aliens:

    Lindsey: Not us. Not human, get it? Something non-human, but intelligent… a non-terrestrial intelligence.

    Hippy: Non-terrestrial intelligence. NTIs. Yeah, I like that better than UFOs. Although that works too, Underwater Flying Objects. Right on! Hot rods of the Gods. Right, Lins? Hey, no really! It could be NTIs. The CIA has known about them for years. They abduct people all the time. There was this this woman I knew in Albuquerque who…

    Lindsey: Hippy, do me a favor and stay off my side.

  27. Many of the stories here also appear on TalkLeft. There must be at least three stories in common on both blogs’ front pages, and not just from my buddy Julian. What’s up with that?

  28. Not to stop anybody from having fun, but from other sources on the blogoshpere (check the comment by Jim http://www.theagitator.com/archives/012034.php#comments) , contrary to what the article said, the teacher was fired because he let his student appear at an unauthorized event. This opened the school up to liability issues. Also, the author of the article supposedly was a friend of the teacher. For what it’s worth if Jim is right, the article has serious problem.

    Back to the principal bashing.

  29. Speaking as a high school senior: yes, our poetry does tend to suck. So do our short stories and analytical papers. Give us a few years for our brains to solidify. There has only ever been one Rimbaud, after all.

    As for politically ‘aware’ teens: my mom is like that, too, and she’s 40. Harmless fools are found in all generations (but I suppose that principal would be a fool on a power trip, and unaware of the right to free speech).

  30. Bad as the poem is, I am impressed that the author is at least vaguely aware of Thomas More’s Utopia.

  31. Okay, I’m gonna step up for the poetess here. (It’s a girl, yes?)

    A. She’s a high school kid. For making an effort to write any poetry at all and having the guts (or the gall) to perform it in public she should automatically graduate with honors as she is already above and beyond the popular pale by a light year.
    B. It isn’t great poetry, but it isn’t horrible either. Three metric feet per line (or most lines) is not an easy rhythm to sustain, and she does a decent job. Read it out loud, and you’ll see what I mean.
    C. According to what little standards there are for so-called “def” poetry, this actually has some thought behind it – not original thought, but thought. Helluva lot more than Malcom Jamal Warner demonstrates on cable t.v.
    D. I had a niece by marriage once – father was a big time oncologist at Duke U. and the kid had every advantage – yet she had posters of Che Guevara all over her room and wore “Free Mumia” tee shirts to bed. Naive and stupid, yes, but she slowly got over it. So will this poet.
    E. Any of you monkeys tried writing any poetry lately. It’s hard work.

  32. Jeff Clothier,

    You should have written: “It’s hard goddamn work!”

  33. Gary,

    Either way, the line is three metric feet. πŸ˜‰

  34. Monkeys are we, Jeff?
    Defending teen poetry
    Makes YOU simian.

  35. ROTFF (rolling on the f*cking floor!) πŸ˜€

  36. See, if she’d written, “…God bless America/They should take out the B…” and let the reader’s mind make the jump, it would have worked so much better.

  37. Hey:

    Did you guys know that the kids are yelling “you asshole!” at the end of Another Brick in the Wall (part 2)? It’s hard to make out, but they are. (toke)

  38. i’m sure if it had been hackneyed randian poetry people would have been more charitable.

  39. joe –

    A lot of things would have worked out much better, but that’s not the point.

    I also sympathize with the principal somewhat. When I taught, occasionally the kids would get on certain kicks that would pretty much prevent getting anything accomplished for weeks. Remember the “Satanic cult” scare about fifteen years or so ago? Supposedly they were kidnapping and sacrificing blonde virgins. That one gal in my school was scared to death! And the rest wasted two weeks taking bets on when she was gonna get it.

    Occasionally, you gotta put the kibash to these things in order to get any work done. The fact that this guy was such a tyrannical jerk about it was a sin of degree, not of kind.

  40. Jeff Clothier,

    Sorry, couldn’t resist using a line from “WMCJ.”

  41. dhex – Is there such a thing as “hackneyed Randian poetry?” Never read any. “Randian poetry” seems a contradiction in terms to me, and I consider myself an Objectivist. But then, I also violently disagree with her taste in music. What she didn’t know about art, despite all her pretenses to the contrary, was a lot.

  42. Gary G. – Oh, never resist temptation, my friend. It may never come your way again.

  43. i don’t know if there’s such a thing as randian verse. maybe libertarian verse, then? i just meant verse illustrating a political position posters felt more comfortable with.

    i’m not a poetry person myself (though i’m starting to warm up to WB yeats due to my wife’s continued cheerleading on his part) but my larger point is you have to be a fucking jackass to go “ha, little high school girl, your poetry sucks!”

    which i guess would have made a better post the first time around.

  44. “I’m here to say that

    Generation X

    Is pissed and we are taking over,”

    Um, sweetie, if you’re still in high school, you aren’t in Generation X. We’re out and working and not voting in record numbers already.

  45. Well, we were going to take over in about 1994, but then Ted came home with a case of Sammy, and you know…

  46. No pacifiers
    Ayn Rand daycare cultivates
    The bottle within

  47. “i just meant verse illustrating a political position posters felt more comfortable with.”

    That’s right, it’s the powerful content that makes us afraid, so we mock what we fear.

  48. “but my larger point is you have to be a fucking jackass to go “ha, little high school girl, your poetry sucks!””

    dhex – I agree.

  49. You know, I should have been a mildly inflammatory establishmentarian in high school — it’s harder to get fifteen minutes of fame now that I’m an adult.

  50. “That’s right, it’s the powerful content that makes us afraid, so we mock what we fear.”

    no, but if she were on the correct team and writing libertarian verse, no matter how hackneyed, people would have been kinder.

    large government is bad
    makes me sad
    libertarians are rad!

  51. I was under the impression that this was a current event.

    It happened over a year ago.

    Still the poem wasn’t profane but probably shouldn’t have been read over the PA. But that was the administration’s fault. The poetry club was recognized as a success and the principal probably decided to let them read over the PA(what an idiot). But firing the teacher, closing the club, and threatening those sympathetic to the teacher and student? That’s insane, or fascist.
    This is a perfect example of why we shouldn’t have public schools. What if you’re a parent of a student there and you try to encourage critical thinking and adherence to the principals in our Consititution?

  52. It’s not important if poem was good or bad, the most important is that someone was persecuted for his student ideas.
    1984 welcome

  53. Wow, that principal is a bonehead. But what else does this story tell us? That teenagers are idiots. Seriously, go back and read a paper or a poem you wrote when you were 17. It probably sucked ass.

    “Children are our future. Unless we stop them now!” – Homer Simpson.

  54. You poetry critics should hook up with the “movie critics” on fan sites. The rhetoric, indignation, and righteousness are what and what. Good on her for expressing her feelings, or the feelings she’s been taught by her environment to foster. Beats unicorns, kitty cats, and summer vacations.

  55. Walter,

    I think that you may be forgetting the sentiment expressed by; “I may disagree with what you say, but I will defend with my life your right to say it.”

    Folks who love individual liberty really think that way. This forum and those like it are evidence for the victory of that sentiment in the US. I hope we will always do what is necessary to preserve freedom of speech against attacks from both the left and right.

  56. Rick, Walter is just standing up to the multitudes of bad teenage poets, foreign journalists, and Democrat soldiers who are itching to destroy America! πŸ™‚

  57. Come on, folks, you know what would have happened if a poem condemning abortion, condemning affirmative action or praising accomplishments of the white “race” were read over the PA system? The principal would be looking for a job.
    Selective outrage.
    Sheeesh!

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