Voltaire and Chomsky taught us that freedom of speech means supporting the right of others to express views you despise. Last week Kennett High School censored President Obama's educational address and even disallowed Social Studies teachers to air the speech in class.
We may or may not have missed a golden opportunity, I am unsure. I do not support Obama and did not vote for him. I find his loyalty to Wall Street embarrassing and his foreign policy disastrous much like the reactionary statist, George W. Bush, who set the country back something awful.
But by not allowing the first person of color to hold the Presidency to broadcast a positive message to the multicultural Kennett student body about the importance of valuing education, the school acted counter-intuitively and took a step backward. It seems we strive at inclusion in rhetoric, but not in policy. At the hands of mostly well to do white parents in the professional classes, who proudly call themselves "Tea Party Express," our shrinking Kennett Square African American base and our burgeoning working class Latino population were again denied something of value.
And what poor timing and taste when the first black President has an assassination threat count that outscores former President Bush at the same point in his first term by an astounding 70 percent. Little wonder for a third generation neighborhood school placed on a warning list for not adhering fully to the Brown decision by the PA Governor as late as the 1960s - not to mention an abysmal recent and even current record of punitive and alternative placement of the same aggregate.
The very influential and fundamentalist strand of Kennett Square consistently voices approval for elite traditionalism while intensely denouncing and resenting any semblance of what is universal, secular and progressive. Not to worry totally. The censorship has produced for me an even more interesting topic and lesson plan as a sociological case study.
That lesson will show students that the business elite and owners of the Kennett community have an utter contempt for democracy. They are stockholders with private interests not responsible for their stakeholders and the public-trust.
When a Tea Partier phones school leadership from a golf course or a plush du Pont office and manages the airwaves in a federally functioning institution, it is evidence that we live in what James Madison called a polyarchy, not a democracy. Is democracy to remain a vague concept in the overstuffed AP textbook? Is democracy to remain a term of convenience used arbitrarily by the accepted socio-economic sectors with privilege? Is democracy only for the few, select, controlling and influential suburbanites? Or is democracy an action for all members of a diverse and complex society?
Thoughtful students know democracy is an action, not a glossary item and must be taught as such. The masses will transcend and grow even stronger. We shall answer, with vigor.
Daniel J. Falcone
Teacher of History
Kennett High School