May 21, 2004

Free Speech Today

What a great civics lesson for future voters, emphasis mine (Thanks to VSync):

Bill Nevins, a New Mexico high school teacher and personal friend, was fired last year and classes in poetry and the poetry club at Rio Rancho High School were permanently terminated.

...The "Slam Team" was a group of teenage poets who asked Nevins to serve as faculty adviser to their club. The teens, mostly shy youngsters, were taught to read their poetry aloud and before audiences. Rio Rancho High School gave the Slam Team access to the school's closed-circuit television once a week and the poets thrived.

In March 2003, a teenage girl named Courtney presented one of her poems before an audience at Barnes & Noble bookstore in Albuquerque, then read the poem live on the school's closed-circuit television channel.

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.

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.

...But more was to come. Posters done by art students were ordered torn down, even though none was termed obscene. Some were satirical, implicating a national policy that had led us into war. Art teachers who refused to rip down the posters on display in their classrooms were not given contracts to return to the school in this current school year. ...

Truly, a great day for democracy. A military liaison and a fanatic principal team up to stifle free speech among high schoolers who neither committed violent acts, nor did anything obscene. Read the whole article to find out what happened to the teacher. To paraphrase Alice, it gets furiouser and furiouser.

However, towards the close of the article, the author mentions the Treasury Department interpretation that would have forbidden the translation or editing of any written material produced in countries currently under trade sanctions. That interpretation was withdrawn with respect to scholarly publications on April 2nd, to the great relief of everybody with an electrically conductive cerebrum and more than one buttock.

Posted by natasha at May 21, 2004 06:27 AM | Civil Liberties | Technorati links |

I am torn... not on the merits, which are clearly just as you say, but on the possibility that the column itself has been censored. I can't help noticing that columnist Bill Hill does not name either the principal or the military liaison in this column. Yet he does name the teacher. What gives?

If the name of one of the principals (the teacher... pun inevitable) in this story is revealed, all the others (the school principal and the military liaison) should likewise be supplied. Is the Daytona Beach News-Journal holding back to avoid lawsuits?

Posted by: Steve Bates at May 21, 2004 02:54 PM

Better Angels of our Nature, a soldier who has served in Iraq, has a good take on this story.

This military advisor needs to, at the very least, apologize; personally, I think he needs to resign, the sooner the better. The military doesn't need to be within a light year of anything that even remotely smacks of the suppression of basic freedoms.

Posted by: Ron In Portland at May 21, 2004 04:13 PM


Here's a second link to the story - the one you used no longer works.

Posted by: palamedes at May 21, 2004 05:53 PM

This story may be untrue - check out this post on Volokh.

Posted by: Ampersand at May 27, 2004 10:26 AM