It is getting scary out there. Real scary.
Here is the futile letter I sent to the Waukesha Schools Superintendent Todd Gray, who also bravely chose Friday to prohibit his students from hearing a message from a U.S. president.
Dear Superintendent Gray:
I have two daughters attending Waukesha schools, one at ***** and the other at *****. I spoke in person with the ****** principal Mrs.****** as I picked up my girl on Friday. But I also wanted you to know how I feel, because it is obvious that radical, unhinged people in this district have your ear. Hopefully you're willing to hear another perspective as well.
By choosing to allow the president's enemies (because their views are beyond reasonable) to dictate how you run this district, you are harming the education of my children and all future citizens of the United States. Please be aware that other parents in your district have no problem with school children hearing from the president of the United States. I swear on a stack of Bibles (which I think you can also have in school if you want) that I would say the same about George W. Bush or whatever other president, even though I have strong political views.
Now let's be honest. By your saying President Obama's comments can be shown to students later after review by certain teachers who notify parents in advance, you are not taking a middle position that is satisfactory to both sides. You are agreeing with those who believe this speech would indoctrinate students, or want another way to damage the president. You have participated in a tactic that intentionally scores partisan points for one party. This is not an apolitical or neutral decision. I guess we now know whose side you prefer.
We also both know that Obama's speech (which is not a life-or-death message, I grant you) will not be shown much. He has been successfully shut up.
If a teacher distributes literature that documents they want to show this video, won't they expose themselves, if not to you as a supervisor who seems to look with disfavor on whiffs of Democrat-leanings, then to a militant, organized faction of the community? Won't most smart teachers choose not to bring down this storm upon themselves even if they find educational value in Obama's message? (Here I am about to engage in some hyperbole, I admit) Can you make it a policy to now have all of my daughters' teachers warn me in advance when they are planning to expose my girls to U.S. presidents and what they had to say? Seriously, the people with whom you have agreed would also regard FDR's inauguration speech as a source of indoctrination.
To argue that schools cannot afford to lose the time needed for this presentation is also not credible. My older daughter, while attending *****, experienced a visit from the ex-Brewer Ben Sheets as part of a program called "Score". Mr. Sheets, who seems like a great guy, was there for more than 10 minutes, and (I guess I might sound like a Marxist for saying this) what Ben had to say came from a person with less intelligence than the man you have prevented from speaking. I think it’s fine for either to deliver a message for some part of one day of the school year.
Finally, I wanted to bring up the case of another Waukesha school administrator you might have heard of, the former principal at Catholic Memorial High School. As everyone knows, this man was drummed out of his job for daring to have an Obama sign on his lawn during last year's campaign.
So obviously there is an anti-Obama faction around here that is so unhinged but also so militant that they pose risks to the jobs of school administrators. (According to their ideology, there should not be any public schools in the U.S., so you cannot win in trying to placate them.) I am asking you to, rather than embolden them and the risks they pose to our children and society, show enough courage to do the right thing in spite of the discomfort it causes you.
Thanks for hearing me out.
There is a scene at the opening of the old movie "Down By Law" when Ellen
Barkin's character, with tears and sweat marring her mascara, says on her knees to Tom Waits' character: "Look what you're doing to yourself, Zach. You're digging your own grave." Today I am Ellen Barkin, black slip and all, saying to the country I love the same exact thing.