Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Principal Orr:

That you censored the Red and Black’s freedom of the press (Times 6B) in a story about student achievement scores appalls. I protest.

Your action is un-American abuse of government authority. Without free speech, we don’t have democracy. The first thing dictators do is to shut down the free press and make a crime any negative comment about the thugs in power.

Your action teaches HHS students on the cusp of adulthood that hypocrisy trumps truth and that the authorities endorse flimflam. What kind of twisted ethics is that, sir, with which to afflict the young? No wonder we have a panorama of lies in local, state, and national government now and always. Schools teach lying now to prepare the young for lying later in life.

Do you also require teachers to give passing grades to students who flunk because the earned grade would hurt the failing students’ feelings? Do you require social promotion in such cases instead? I infer you do. Otherwise, I would not have gotten hordes of students when I was teaching college freshman English from county schools who couldn't punctuate a sentence and write a paragraph.

I reject the selective sensitivity Ms. Bertha Baker endorses when she says it’s ok if the Times or Tribune publishes the scores from a government source but that a “`student newspaper has to be a little more sensitive to the feelings of the students.’” Doesn’t La Bertha mean a little more duplicitous?

I’d like to assign Ms. Bertha Baker an essay on the epistemological assumptions of the word “sensitive” as she uses it in her crackpot eschatology. Meanwhile, Ms. Baker gets an F in logic and an A in ditziness from this veteran teacher. Censor that grade, if you dare, Mr. Orr.

Is Hillsborough High School a little island of make-believe in which students get fed doctored data to coincide with the principal’s or vice-principal’s sense of pop psychology, la-la-land spin, and brave-new-world public relations? Doesn’t that attitude endorse selective truth by making the Red and Black staff doorkeepers for the Wizard of Oz?

For shame, Mr. Orr, for your craven leadership in this incident. For shame for your teaching journalism students to fudge truth for some undocumented social goal.

Meanwhile, do this: Put La Bertha in lockdown until she memorizes the Constitution.

As a Red and Black reporter from fifty years ago, I protest the snuffing out of free speech in the student press at my alma mater. I wish the Red and Black staff had stood its ground and defeated you in court. That experience would have changed these oppressed young people’s life. Never again would they have submitted to mindless, anal-retentive authority. A session in court would have also been salutary to a principal who misuses his authority to suppress free speech and to teach students under his thumb to favor hypocrisy over truth.

lee drury de cesare, Class of `51
15316 Gulf Boulevard 802
Madeira Beach, FL 33708