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Civil rights and uncivil wrongs

Whew! That was a close call. If this obvious conspiracy to dragoon Durant High School students into the Ho Chi Minh Fan Club had been allowed to fester, no telling where things might have wound up.

The football team dressed out in Kim Jong Il leisure suits, perhaps? Mao's Little Red Book required reading? The school newspaper renamed Pravda? Lenin — The Musical billed as the annual school play?

But thanks to Geoff Ross, the Panhandle's Joe McCarthy who rode his pitchfork to the rescue, Durant is safe from all manner of fifth columnists, saboteurs and Sandinistas plotting to transform the student body into a bunch of sniffling Bolshevik do-gooders.

Ross, who is a member of the tea party and the John Birch Society, which wins the quiniela of paranoid conspiracy theories, was stunned to learn Durant counselor Angel Vazquez had invited students to participate in a variety of discussion groups to explore issues such as bullying.

Vazquez also created a discussion forum he called the "Justice League," which would explore topics such as equality for all — clearly the evil handiwork of the dark forces of oppression. After all, once you start jabbering away about social equality, just as those Trotskyites who drafted the Declaration of Independence, folks might start to expect to be treated equally. Where does it end?

Cue The Internationale.

The very idea that students in an educational setting could be exposed to radical concepts like social justice in Plant City so aggrieved some Durant parents that they informed Ross, who contacted the school to complain that "social justice" sounded an awful lot like Marxist communism to him.

Ross, who took time from combing out his pelt collection in Navarre, expressed concerns that Vazquez was promoting a "pity party" for people who might be poor, or oppressed, or discriminated against because of their race, or some other social glitch.

To assuage the fears of Ross and the other school parents that students weren't going to be Shanghaied to, well, Shanghai, principal Pamela Bowden sent 2,400 letters to the Durant families, assuring everyone that the "Justice League" was completely, totally and absolutely apolitical. Ross dubiously insisted the principal also promised that families could sleep well knowing that she would never allow communism even to be taught at the school.

After all, there are probably some pinko, left-wing, uber-liberal, Red-loving fuddy-duddies out there who might argue it hard to teach concepts like economics, the Russian Revolution, the Iron Curtain and the Cold War without having to at least whisper the word "communism."

A cynic might suggest any attempt to censor the teaching of communism could be a plot to keep the students at Durant as dense as possible in order to qualify them as prime candidates for membership into the Geoff Ross Institute for Cultural Illiteracy.

Indeed, Bowden was so rattled by Ross' academic Salem witch trial, she felt compelled to justify her own patriotism to the Gen. Curtis LeMay of the Panhandle.

When a public high school principal has to pass some specious litmus test to prove her love of country to a tea party/commie-behind-every-bush John Birch Society zealot, you understand why Vazquez created a social justice discussion group.

In an email distributed to his supporters, Ross bragged, incorrectly, that Vazquez had undergone the public school equivalent of having his epaulets ripped off his shoulders in a thorough shaming involving a summary "court-martial."

Uh, Mr. Ross? Since public high school teachers are not part of the military, they cannot be "court-martialed."

The assault on Vazquez does offer a valuable teaching moment for the students and parents and faculty of Durant High School.

Now that Bowden has been cleared by the Navarre Star Chamber, perhaps Vazquez will be permitted to consider several other timely discussion group topics.

We could begin with a class on academic freedom and free speech protections against ill-informed ideological extremists.

The scourge of civic illiteracy in American public education might be worth a few laughs or tears.

Why not "Standing Up To Bullies — From Down the Street To the Panhandle" ?

And finally: "Social Justice In Plant City — It Ain't Easy, or Pretty."

Civil rights and uncivil wrongs 12/15/11 [Last modified: Thursday, December 15, 2011 5:20pm]

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