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Image 9 of The Advocate Messenger April 20, 2012

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SCOTT C. SCHURZ JR., President, Editor and Publisher JOHN A. NELSON, Executive Editor OPINION FRIDAY, APRIL 20, 2012 A9 THE ADVOCATE-MESSENGER LETTERS@AMNEWS.COM  |  WWW.AMNEWS.COM Education and activism — a fine line C HICAGO — We are now a nation of activists living in a “movement” society. If something upsets enough of us, we try to get the situation rectified through online or actual taketo-the-streets protests. Is it any wonder that the new Occupy-anything-youEsther Cepeda can-think-of ethos has made Syndicated its way into public school Columnist classrooms? Last week, Brooke Harris, an English and journalism teacher at a Pontiac, Mich., charter school, said she’d been wrongly fired for encouraging her students to organize a fundraiser for Trayvon Martin, the hoodie-wearing Florida teen who was shot while making his way home from a convenience store. Harris told e Detroit Free Press that her students wanted to donate to the Martin family the proceeds from a day when students would pay to wear hoodies to school, with the hoods covering their heads, in order to show solidarity with the slain teen. She had gotten permission for the fundraiser from her principal but the superintendent, Jacqueline Cassell, forbade Harris from moving forward because students flouting the no-head-coverings policy would disrupt the entire school. Cassell told the Free Press that though she objected to the fundraiser, “I certainly would not use this issue as a reason to terminate anybody.” But Harris claims this is exactly what happened. “I was told I was a bad teacher, that I was being unprofessional,” Harris said, “that I’m being paid to teach, not to be an activist.” OK. Raise your hand if you believe wholeheartedly that public school teachers are employed by taxpayers to educate students in the academic subjects required for high school graduation — and not to feed students their personal political or socialissue opinions and encourage protests. e problem is that it can be tough to spot a difference between a teacher who appropriately supports student efforts to exercise citizenship responsibilities taught in civics classes from one who serves as the impetus for an act of advocacy. And it’s not like teacher preparation programs routinely train new educators on how to teach critical thinking by addressing controversial current events and other touchy topics relevant to academic subject matter, with unbiased facts that present all sides of an argument. Such guidance usually isn’t a staple of teacher orientation at schools, either. Given that, for the most part, teachers mold young minds behind closed doors, you have to wonder how any lesson can be slanted when presented by an activist teacher who feels it is part of his or her mission as an educator to pass their politics on to students. Yes, I said “activist” teachers. ey believe that part of their job involves teaching students about the injustices of the world and how to challenge them — which is fine, I suppose, if you happen to see eyeto-eye and heart-to-heart with a teacher’s social and political beliefs. Go ahead, residents of New York City, Milwaukee, Chicago, San Francisco, Boston and Atlanta, check out www.teacheractivistgroups.org and learn the missions of organizations such as “Teachers 4 Social Justice,” “e Education for Liberation Network,” and the “Collective of Radical Educators.” All perfectly lovely organizations, I’m sure, if you don’t mind a little anarchy with your algebra. I called Kyle Olson, the founder of the reform organization Education Action Group, which routinely details examples of teachers who preach pro-union, anti-establishment political beliefs in their classrooms, and the author of “Indoctrination: How ‘Useful Idiots’ Are Using Our Schools to Subvert American Exceptionalism.” He offered an effective, nonpartisan tip for how all parents can navigate school situations that sometimes send kids home saying the darnedest things. “Parents need to be engaged in the learning process,” Olson said. “ey need to ask their kids: ‘What happened at school today?’ ‘What’s your homework?’ ‘What videos did you watch today?’ If you’re concerned, you need to find out more — nothing will change until parents complain.” at works for teachers as well. Protesters are demanding Harris’ reinstatement and have staged a rally for her. If she wasn’t out of line and was wrongly terminated for merely enabling her pupils to support a cause that they believed in, her students’ families are correct to exercise their right to complain online and on the streets to anyone who will listen. Advocacy for your children is a lesson more parents need to put into practice. Esther Cepeda’s email address is estherjcepeda@washpost.com. The decline of scandal in this age I t's another sign of the blah times: e sordid details of our public figures’ none too private scandals have grown beyond boring. By now, scandals have become as repetitive, predictable and standardized as the apologies for them. Just one more thing to be logged into the system Paul Greenberg at the end of the of the day’s Syndicated routine. Like answering your Columnist emails. Oh, what ever happened to mink coats and satin sheets? Back streets and midnight rendezvous? Caviar and champagne? Or perhaps a crisp PouillyFuissé served cold but never frosty, like Eva Marie Saint to Cary Grant in “North by Northwest.” But even to conjure such scenes these days is to be hopelessly dated. Alfred Hitchcock is definitely dead, leaving no survivors, including glamor and suspense. Of scandal and its decline I sing. First the whole, once lush field was abandoned to the Stanley Kowalskis, who at least had an animal magnetism in Tennessee Williams’ overheated sensibility. Now scandal has become the province of pols and football coaches and the drab like. Definitely a step down despite the seven-figure contracts involved. Or maybe because of them. Money can corrupt even scandal. Call it the corporatization of scandal, which pretty much takes any fun out of it. Once, just once, I’d like to see some scamp caught in the act issue a different kind of statement: “I did it, I’m glad, and I won’t insult your intelligence by pretending otherwise. And I’ll probably keep on doing it. You know me. Now how about a bourbon and branch, easy on the branch?” It wouldn’t be an apology, but it might be something better: a model of sincerity. And stand out in this Age of the Kind-Of Apology. e only real scandal remaining in such an age is what the apologizers have done to the language, reducing what might once have been racy dialogue and double entendre to a standardized form. A kind of 1040-A for the formally penitent, complete with a sheet of instructions and a checklist. at way, no one is left out of the apologies — family and friends, my-dear-wifeand-children, employer and employed, “all those I’ve let down,” flag-and-countryand-team, probably in that ascending order, plus the family dog. Just fill in the handy-dandy blanks. e whole mechanized, now computerized and emailed process takes any remaining romance out of scandal, and devalues even the sordid by reducing it to boilerplate. (Fill in remorse here). Call it the Clinton Form or Gingrich Excuse or Petrino Play or by any number of other proper names that have become common nouns, very common. When it comes to scandals, supply has all but driven out demand. And the apologies for them have become mere formalities, like mass-produced thank-you notes. It is not an improvement. Seldom has English prose been so ... prosaic. It is as if the miscreant caught in flagrante had composed his admission-andapology with the help of spell check and a spreadsheet. Power Point, TED and their unending successors just ain’t the same as what used to be the art of the apology, which enhanced the dignity of both those who offered it and those who graciously accepted it. All that is gone, gone. Replaced by the fatal construction, “I'm sorry but. ... “ Of course it is the but that speaks louder than the apology. e decline of scandal is one thing, but when it becomes the decline and fall of language, all is lost. Let’s remember what is most important here: the treasure of the English tongue, which by now has been reduced to a pauper’s leavings by this routinization of mea culpas. e slovenliness of the usual affair is one thing. When it slops over into the language, something important is being lost. Maybe the most important thing. e most striking aspect today of what was once the art of the American scandal is the complete, comprehensive and by now predictable lack of any originality whatsoever in the apology for it. Yet, no one seems to bemoan scandal’s collateral damage to the language, only the loss of some faux dignity that the principals had always faked anyway. It is the rare individual who can keep his priorities in order when scandal raises its ugly rear. One such was a legendary copy editor and ladies’ man at one of the Little Rock dailies who, as luck would have it, was tracked down at his Hot Springs hideaway by his long-suspicious wife. Confronting him, she demanded to know: “Who are you sleeping with now?” Our exemplary editor, who knew what was truly scandalous, responded with indignation. “Whom am I sleeping with now,” he corrected her in no uncertain terms. “Whom am I sleeping with now!” e man had his priorities in order. is age doesn’t. Paul Greenberg is the Pulitzer prize-winning editorial page editor of the Arkansas DemocratGazette. His email address is pgreenberg@arkansasonline.com. VOICE OF THE PEOPLE Danville is finally making progress Dear Editor, I am sitting here a la librarie at 11 a.m. I would respectfully like to express a feeling of glee. Just recently there was a picture in your paper of the building that used to be beside the library here on Broadway. at building, I don’t know what the name of it was (I don’t care), but that building had the word “SHAME” painted on it. I can only imagine that whoever painted that word was a fuddy-duddy who is/are descendant(s) of the fuddy-duddys who have kept Danville, yea Kentucky, in the past. I grew up in Boyle County, and that lot next to here is already looking better. I have heard a story about Kentucky in all my Mallard Fillmore 47 years, and the story goes: Kentucky was 10 years behind in the Great Depression. It took Danville 10 years after the Great Depression started before anybody around here knew about it. I can only imagine that the ancestors to the fuddy-duddy(s) who illegally painted on the wall of the building next door here are who kept the state in this state. But my feeling of glee is expressed by the fact that there are those who are coming in from out of state, or at least the area, who are apparently saying “Get thee behind me fuddy-duddy.” Danville is finally making some progress in coming out of the 20th century. Jeff King Parksville Send your letters: Letters to the editor may be mailed to The Advocate-Messenger, 330 South Fourth Street, Danville, KY, 40422, faxed to (859) 236-9566, or sent by email to letters@amnews.com and should be kept to a maximum of 350 words. Letters must include the name, address and telephone number of the author for verification purposes. Only the name and town will be published. The Advocate reserves the right to edit for length or content.

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