Not in the curriculum

04.03.03

A group of students from the high school down the street from me got to miss class time to protest the war in Iraq. Understandably, parents are incensed – but, in my opinion, for the wrong reason:

Theresa Leblanc was appalled to learn that her daughter spent her time in art class on Monday at École secondaire Des Sources making anti-war posters while students were ridiculing U.S. President George W. Bush.

Then when she heard the posters were for an anti-war march that would take place during school hours, she hit the roof.

“I’m just up in arms,” said Leblanc, who has a nephew in the U.S. marines, fighting in Iraq.

“This is such a lack of respect. You can have a debate but it’s another thing to have a demonstration like this during school time. It’s appalling.”

Another parent, who didn’t want to be named, said she was also furious when one of her two daughters said she had been forced to make posters.

She, too, was unhappy about a demonstration during school time. “My girls missed physics and French – that’s more important than a march.”

It’s not as though it’s a big sacrifice for most high school students to miss class time. We used to invent any reason we could think of, from play practices to charity walkathons, all in effort to spend as few hours as possible behind a desk.

But this crosses the line, since it is essentially pressuring the students into all thinking the same way. While the Gazette reports that “students who didn’t want to participate in the march had the option of attending a debate on the Iraqi situation”, I bet I know exactly what form that so-called “debate” took.

I’m sure there were students who wanted to demonstrate because they read up on the issues and formed educated political opinions. But I’m also sure that there were equally as many who did not. Consider the following quote by one of the organizers:

“I’m against killing innocent people,” said Grade 11 student Ruba Al Karan. “Saddam (Hussein) did a lot of stupid things but Bush is no better.”

Other students spoke of U.S.-bashing going on while the students used their time in art class to draw up posters.

High school can be a difficult time for students with dissenting opinions. There’s an incredible amount of pressure to follow the crowd. Not to mention, about half the students at the school had probably never taken a history course in their lives. Students are entitled to their opinions, but this was incredibly inappropriate.

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Hanthala 04.06.03 at 9:01 PM

Can’t disagree with you here Segacs. High school teachers and administrators have no business forcing their own political opinions on their students. On the other hand, I heard or read (I believe it was the Gazette) that some high school students are being threatened with expulsion for participating in anti-war demonstrations even AFTER school. That’s just as fucked.

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2 segacs 04.06.03 at 10:41 PM

For once we agree Hanthala. People should be able to express whatever political opinions they choose on their own time. Can you point me towards that source, if you find it? I’d be interested in hearing more about that story.

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3 Peter Lehrer 04.08.03 at 8:27 AM

In the fifth grade my class marched from my school to the borough hall to protest the war in Vietnam. I’m sure we got our point accross because only three short years later Nixon and Kissinger cut a deal with the North Vietnamese

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4 Peter Lehrer 04.08.03 at 8:27 AM

Now those were the days!

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5 segacs 04.08.03 at 3:10 PM

Not the point, Peter. Whether or not your march had any effect is as irrelevant as whether or not this high school protest has any effect. But the point is even more marked among fifth-graders. Now, of course, we have the benefit of hindsight to analyse the Vietnam war. But at the time, how many fifth-graders had enough context and knowledge to make an informed political opinion? Making grade-school kids demonstrate politically on one side of a divisive issue is simply exploitation of children because there’s no way that they are all there of their own desire and volition.

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