Michael Brown Shooting

School District Bans Talking About Ferguson

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auvet/Flickr

Google Maps tells me that Edwardsville, Illinois, is just a 33-minute drive from Ferguson, Missouri. It seems natural that Edwardsville students might want to talk about the events drawing national attention so close to their own homes—but they best not do it at school. As of Wednesday, talking about the Michael Brown shooting and surrounding events is prohibited in Edwardsville classrooms. 

Superintendant Ed Hightower told CBS St. Louis that normally he encourages open discussion, but there are just too many "facts that are unknown" in this case. So Edwardsville middle- and high-school teachers were instructed this week not to broach the subject themselves and "change the subject and refocus" if students brought it up. 

On Thursday, a memo went out to parents explaining the superintendent's decision. Via the Edwardsville School District 7 Parents Facebook page

Subject: Discussion of the Ferguson/Florissant Incident

On Friday, August 15, 2014, and Monday, August 18, 2014, Dennis Cramsey, EHS Principal, and I were inundated with calls from parents complaining that some EHS teachers were biased and injecting their own opinion regarding the shooting of Michael Brown, an 18 year-old African American student, by a Caucasian police officer in the Ferguson/Florissant community. The general consensus of parents who called was that if the administration did not get a handle on this situation, there might be violence among students occurring at EHS.

As Superintendent, I will take full responsibility for not preparing administrators and staff members how to deal with this volatile situation. As a result, on Monday afternoon, the decision was made to cease discussion of the event because of the tension, emotion, and anger surrounding the Ferguson/Florissant events.

It was not our intent to ignore the educational relevance of these events. However, we felt it was important to take the time to calm a potential situation at the high school and to prepare administrators and teachers to approach this critical issue in an objective, fact-based manner. Everyone has an opinion—the sharing of which can be polarizing. Far too many facts remain unknown, and without these facts, none of us is in the best position to moderate between opposing views.

The memo continues by noting that the district is developing "a framework" for teachers to follow when discussing the issue that will ensure "a safe and orderly environment" is maintained. As soon as this framework is completed—which the district expects to happen sometime during the week of August 25—Edwardsville school district will return to "its commitment toward diversity, positive race relationships, due process, and social justice," it assures parents. 

Some parents on Facebook were supportive of the Superintendent's decision. "As a parent, I am already having these conversations with my child at home where I feel they should be discussed," wrote Nick Pieri. "I am not sure I feel comfortable with teachers, or a politician for that matter, speaking with my child about this topic without knowing ahead of time what will be discussed."

But others were dismayed by what they saw as an overreaction by the school district. Some suggested that the superintendent could have simply instructed teachers to cool it on the personal opinions, rather than shut down conversation entirely. "While I respect that individual teachers' opinions should not be part of the classroom discourse about any topic," wrote Mandi Cygne, who has three children in Edwardsville schools, "I feel that by effectively censoring current events out of our schools, you are doing a grave mis-service to our student population in District 7, including my own children." 

"As a District 7 parent, I expect the professionals who teach my son to make good use of opportunities to engage students in critical thinking, particularly when the subject matter is an urgent and timely one," wrote Steve Moiles. "I also expect that District 7 administrators will not prohibit faculty from engaging in meaningful discussions of significant current events when students offer their own observations or ask questions." 

I called the Edwardsville School District Friday morning for confirmation and commentary; alas, only the superintendent himself can say anything, I'm told, and he's apparently in meetings "all day." 

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  1. Yes, let’s prohibit discussion so that people are never exposed to others with different viewpoints and ideas, thereby further polarizing people and reinforcing TEAM behavior. Oh wait, that works beautifully for reinforcing the state and the power of politicians and bureaucrats, so carry on.

      1. That movie was such a disappointment. Much like you, Hugh.

        1. I’m surprised to see you here, Epi. What with this being payday I figured you’d be out looking for a hooker with IBS to give you a Seattle Mudslide.

          1. I still have plenty of time for that!

            1. Come to Minneapolis and hire the hooker who was on the 5-bus this morning. White, “blonde”, somewhat plump, breasts spilling out of her hooker-sundress, clearly on an opiate, getting the nods and pretty much rolling around in her seat.

              1. That looks like the Ghetto-Mall of America route. I would expect a vibrant ridership.

      2. Chuin would give you a frontal lobotomy without breaking your skin for such impertinence.

  2. As of Wednesday, talking about the Michael Brown shooting and surrounding events is prohibited in Edwardsville classrooms.

    Say what you will, the kids are getting an education.

    1. “Today’s lesson, children, is: fuck you that’s why. This is part of our broader curriculum of No, Really, Fuck You.”

  3. I called the Edwardsville School District Friday morning for confirmation and commentary; alas, only the superintendent himself can say anything, I’m told, and he’s apparently in meetings “all day.”

    That seems like a pretty poorly designed system. I mean, if only one guy is able to speak for the district and he can be tied up in meetings for an entire day, then how is the district supposed to provide timely and honest answers about their policies to the publ–ohhhhhh.

  4. First NIU, now Edwardsville – I am so proud of my state, making it into the pages of…..wait a minute?!

  5. “As a District 7 parent, I expect the professionals who teach my son to make good use of opportunities to engage students in critical thinking, particularly when the subject matter is an urgent and timely one,” wrote Steve Moiles. “I also expect that District 7 administrators will not prohibit faculty from engaging in meaningful discussions of significant current events when students offer their own observations or ask questions.”

    Oh, you poor naive soul.

  6. Although I, uh, hate to judge before all the facts are in, it’s beginning to look like, uh, Superintendant Hightower exceeded his authority.

  7. “As a District 7 parent, I expect the professionals who teach my son to make good use of opportunities to engage students in critical thinking, particularly when the subject matter is an urgent and timely one,” wrote Steve Moiles. “I also expect that District 7 administrators will not prohibit faculty from engaging in meaningful discussions of significant current events when students offer their own observations or ask questions.”

    District 7? That the one with coal miners? Coming soon children fighting each other to death to preserve peace and order.

    1. “Fuckin’ prawns…..”

      No, wait….

    2. Just be glad your kid doesn’t have to go to District 9 with all the baby lobster aliens.

      1. +1/2 eaten can of cat food.

  8. Proud Illinois is getting its high school students prepared for Orwellian University.

    Keep it all in the “Show Me Nothing” state! Roll Illini!

  9. “n, the decision was made to cease discussion of the event because of the tension, emotion, and anger surrounding the Ferguson/Florissant events.”

    The hubris and insanity here….

    …is that bureaucrats have either the *right* to tell other people what they can and cannot discuss, or the ability to *enforce* that decision in any case.

    What, will they suspend students who talk about certain things between classes?

    This CONTROL AT ALL COSTS mentality is absurd and needs to be discarded.

    1. and yes, i know this is actually very much like the situation of the kid who ‘said something about a gun’ in his dinosaur-story, and subseqently triggered the Police State Interrogation/Punishment system on himself for daring to suggest they were ‘over-reacting’.

      1. No to mention the student that was suspended for saying “bless you” when another student sneezed.

  10. Just don’t talk about the war. I mentioned it once, but I think I got away with it alright.

    1. +2 egg mayonnaise,
      +1 prawn Goebbels,
      +1 Hermann Goering,
      and +4 Colditz salads

      1. Is there something wrong?

        Will you stop talking about the war?

        Me? You started it.

        We did not!

        Yes, you did. You invaded Poland.

        1. +1 Japanese Canadian moose

        2. Stop talking about the Race War!

  11. commitment toward diversity, positive race relationships, due process, and social justice

    So this subject isn’t a valid topic for someone with those goals? I guess not if the reality is that they are null-value bullshit phrases that serve only as a useful vehicle for for the true commitment to Obey and Control.

  12. Egh.. not as bad as this idiot “teacher”

    “Alabama teacher accused of telling students to reenact Michael Brown shooting

    Sixth-grade Selma teacher placed on leave for having pupils recreate the racially charged Missouri gun death. She has African-American students play Brown’s part and white children portray cops”

    http://www.nydailynews.com/new…..-1.1910883

    1. I imagine that she will be called before the grand jury due to her amazing understanding of the particulars of the incident?

    2. So, I guess she somehow knows exactly how it happened with enough certainty that she can have kids reenact it. Does everyone know this valuable eye witness is available?

      1. How many bullshit recreations of the Pilgrims’ Thanksgiving have you sat through or been forced to participate in? Any one of us can look back and see the non-stop propaganda we were fed in school.

        1. I was honestly surprised to find out things like Marconi developed radio, or that the Germans had the lead in chemistry before WW2. I was under the impression that everything and anything of any consequence had been invented in America, and we were the best at it.

  13. I was teaching middle school age students during the Zimmerman fiasco. Our administrators encouraged us to speak to our kids about the incident. Now, I am white, whereas the student body is about 50+% black. There were a few teachers, mostly black, who took this as an opportunity to blame racist Amerikkka. Others, including myself, talked about the legal system, presented all of the evidence that was available, and encouraged students to ask questions and to wait for more information to be made known, if answers were not readily available. It went quite well. And students, even black kids raised around the “blame whitey” mentality, are pretty savvy. You just have to know the case and be prepared to explain this complex incident in terms that kids this age can grasp.

    1. Thats why I think the police officer, if he stands trial, will be found not guilty.

      It’s not that I think he is innocent, but his story is plausible and the evidence for Mike Brown is questionable, especially the eyewitnesses.

      1. The two things that I kept emphasizing with them was 1) what theory does the evidence support; 2) avoid using emotions and assumptions to jump to conclusions. These were good lessons and the kids still remember them.

      2. The two things that I kept emphasizing with them was 1) what theory does the evidence support; 2) avoid using emotions and assumptions to jump to conclusions. These were good lessons and the kids still remember them.

        1. Repetition is the mother of memory. Another good lesson.

    2. “Others, including myself, talked about the legal system, presented all of the evidence that was available, and encouraged students to ask questions and to wait for more information to be made known, if answers were not readily available.”

      Clearly, you’re a racist.

  14. This far in and no Fight Club jokes?
    I am disappoint.

    1. The First Rule of Fight Club Jokes..

  15. I went to a small grade school. In 5th grade (1968), the 8th graders came to our class room an hour a day for “Current Events” with our teacher (the cool young male teacher).

    So we were exposed to very spirited debates about the Viet Nam war. Viet fucking Nam being argued in front of 10 year olds. Can you imagine the horror.

    1. Truly the good old days. Few and far between.

  16. As school craziness goes, this is pretty far down the list. It is not irrational. Kids go to school to learn the subjects taught not to discuss current events. Think of it this way, imagine you are teaching a math class and Tony and Shreek are two of your students. Every time you try to teach that day’s lesson on solving two variable equation Tony and Shreek get into an argument with the other students about Ferguson. Wouldn’t you at some point just tell everyone to shut the fuck up about Ferguson so we could get back to what we are here to do?

    That is pretty much what the school is doing here. It is a bit extreme but I could imagine circumstances where it would be justified.

    1. Point taken. If math class is getting derailed because of Ferguson, it would be proper (and relatively simple) to say STFU about Ferguson.

      Then there’s this “Far too many facts remain unknown, and without these facts, none of us is in the best position to moderate between opposing views..” Assuming the subject is appropriate to the class, you can moderate a discussion even if certain facts are in dispute. But I read that as, don’t talk about Ferguson until we’ve got our marching orders on what to tell you to think about it.

      Maybe I’m just cynical.

      1. “f math class is getting derailed because of Ferguson, it would be proper (and relatively simple) to say STFU about Ferguson.”

        Agreed, and it’s enough for the math teacher to say that without a diktat from the principal.

    2. “Wouldn’t you at some point just tell everyone to shut the fuck up about Ferguson so we could get back to what we are here to do?”

      No. You’d tell Tony and Shreek to shut up, and when they didn’t you’d send them to the principal’s office.

      Where he could, of course, have the sheriff come in and arrest them.

      1. +1 Police State

    3. Think of it this way, imagine you are teaching a math class and Tony and Shreek are two of your students.

      1. Tony leaves Oklahoma at 2:00 on an eastbound train for Atlanta traveling 88 km/h. Weigel leaves Atlanta at 12:30 on a westbound train for Oklahoma traveling 79 km/h. How long will it take before the trains collide, and how awesome would that be?

  17. School District Bans Talking About Ferguson

    If only Reason would follow suit.

    1. Does anyone named Lucy live in Ferguson?

  18. sounds reasonable. opinions in the absence of evidence = bullshit

  19. Lets jsut roll with the punches dude.

    http://www.AnonCrypt.tk

  20. Seems like the best “critical thinking” is done when there is some consensus on the facts. While I abhor the delay by the police and their overlords in releasing information about this case, I question the point of discussing this particular case until the facts are known.

    For example, if discussed during week one, the class would have been talking about a good young man about to start college. Week two we had a video that shows pretty convincingly that he was a tall, hefty, strongarm robber, and was due to start refrigerator repair school. Week three we have a video with community witnesses describing the situation pretty much the same as the unofficial police reports.

    None of this justifies the shooting anyone, but all of these “ambient” details color the discussion and the conclusions.

    So, yes, I’d have teachers tell the kids to wait until some facts were established.

    And I’d never want public school teachers sharing their personal opinions. Not the public school teachers I’ve met. Kids take a lot of what teachers say as gospel.

  21. This is a very misleading headline, in fact an outright lie. No child was banned from saying anything about it, kids don’t get detention for asking questions about it.

    Teachers were merely instructed to focus on the curriculum instead of spouting their opinion on an affair which is still entirely unresolved. I would compare teachers discussing the events in Ferguson now, to teachers suddenly lecturing on Islam on sept 12 just becuase it was a current event.

    There is a time and place for such discussions in schools and that requires the correct forum (a pertinet, class of which there are not many in high school) an informed teacher (no one is truly informed right now) and a curriculum based on teaching how to reason about the situation rather than what to think about the situation (the school actually claimed to be working on a curriculum). For teachers to approach any subject without those things is I think irresponsible.

  22. Find it hard to get too exercised about this decision. We’re talking about an event that is still in flux, with many facts unknown and its relevance to discussion in the classroom.

    In what class would this be an appropriate topic? There are probably a few. But in most, such discussion would simply not be relevant to the subject of the course of study. Got a class in “current events”? By all means, discuss it there. Math? Physics? Chemistry? Geography? English? Foreign language? History?

    Not relevant and not appropriate.

    And it’s not as if discussion outside of classrooms has been stifled. And there’s nothing to suggest that there can be no discussion once facts are resolved.

  23. Wouldn’t it be great if there was some way where you could have a choice of where you sent you kids to, so that if they ended up talking about things like this, and you didn’t want them to, you could send them to a different school, and vice versa?

    But, of course, we can’t have that because OMG, religion!

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