June 17, 2007

Censorship in Wilton, Connecticut

I've written before on the attacks the Miami-Dade School Board has made on our most basic rights. Now here's a case of another School Board violating our most treasured right.

A group of students at Wilton High School, in Wilton, CT, worked to create a play that was relevant to their lives. They chose to create a play using the words of soldiers fighting in Iraq. They gleaned the material from published letters and interviews with soldiers.

You might think that this is a fine way to honor our soldiers who are risking their lives to defend our country. Well, you and I might; the principal of the school and the school board didn't: They canceled the scheduled performance of the play.

Wilton High School principal Timothy Canty , quoted in The New York Times felt that it might "hurt Wilton families ‘who had lost loved ones or who had individuals serving as we speak,’ and that there was not enough classroom and rehearsal time to ensure it would provide ‘a legitimate instructional experience for our students.’ "

Remember, this isn't commentary about the soldiers, it's their OWN WORDS. Canty isn't just silencing his captive student population, he's silencing the voices of those making great sacrifices for our country.

And one would hope that the School Board would have more sense; but no such luck:
Superintendent of Schools Gary Richards: "The student performers directly acting the part of the soldiers ... turns powerful material into a dramatic format that borders on being sensational and inappropriate."

So reciting the words and adapting the persona of the soldiers to explore their views is "inappropriate." In my day, that was called "effective instruction."

As much as the canceling of the play distresses me, the REALLY distressing fact is this:
during their history classes, they also discuss CURRENT history, with one caveat: “We are not allowed to talk about the war while discussing current events.”

How can you competently discuss current events in the world that affect our country and NOT discuss the war? Of course, you CAN'T. Wilton students are being deprived of more than their first amendment rights, they are also being deprived of an adequate education.

Our school administrators and school board members are supposed to set an example of what a good American is: someone who defends the Constitution, who protects our freedoms, and respects the rights of others. Wilton's Canty and Richards fail miserably as role models for children of The Constitution State.

These incompetent hacks not only owe their students an apology, they owe the citizens of Wilton their resignations. These men have no place in any education system in the United States; they should perhaps pursue work in Cuba, China, or North Korea.

Fortunately, the students were able to present their play: at the Culture Center, in New York City. A performance at The Public Theatre is scheduled, and some of the soldiers portrayed in the play will attend. Stanley Tucci helped arrange it; he was already working on helping students at his alma mater who were punished for performing "The Vagina Monologues" and using the word "vagina." (Noting that his alma mater was only 15 miles from Wilton, he quipped "perhaps it's something in the water!" What a shame that it's not.)

Theatre is supposed to alter our perception of the world around us; at its best, it moves us to consider things outside our comfort zone. Ours is a country with unprecedented freedoms; it gives us opportunities to express bold new ideas and question ancient taboos. It is this freedom that has allowed us to develop into a premier nation in the world. Men like Canty and Richardson would throw all that away. There simply isn't any good argument FOR censorship; so why expend energy doing it?

We shouldn't stand for it, and we don't have to. Come election time, toss the bastards out. If we don't take steps to remove those who erode our freedom, we deserve to lose it.

Christian Science Monitor
Hartford Courant

1 comment:

  1. It's like that Fawlty Towers episode..."whatever you do, don't mention the war!"