Sanity Injection

Injecting a dose of sanity into your day’s news and current events.

Posts Tagged ‘freedom of expression’

Consider the audience

Posted by sanityinjection on October 2, 2008

The New York Post reports that the United Federation of Teachers is handing out Obama/Biden camapign buttons to New York City teachers, and some of those teachers have been wearing the buttons to school:

Naturally, this is a direct violation of New York State Department of Education policy, which holds that schools are not the place for political advocacy. But some teachers are claiming their right to free speech should not be infringed.

Are these people serious? Do teachers really not understand that many parents already think they are trying to force their political views down students’ throats? The teachers claim it is not their intention to indoctrinate students or intimidate anyone with an opposing viewpoint, but in this case intention isn’t really the point. The teachers’ union can distribute buttons to every teacher in New York if they want, but they should not be worn in school. This is consistent with other office environments which prohibit political expression in the workplace for exactly the same reasons. The rationale is only augmented by the fact that the target audience for a teacher wearing a political button during the school day can only be the students.

Perhaps the most unsettling thing about the entire matter is that the teachers in question are either being deliberately disingenuous or are genuinely clueless. Either way, are these the people we want teaching our children?


Posted in Politics | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

The Great T-Shirt Debate

Posted by sanityinjection on September 23, 2008

It seems that every year somewhere in America, a student gets suspended for wearing a shirt to school with a controversial message on it. The incident inevitably gives rise to debates about freedom of speech and political correctness in schools.

Apparently we’ve started early this year. Less than a month into the school year, an 11-year old in Colorado has been suspended for wearing an anti-Obama T-shirt.

The whole mess began when the school decided to have a day on which students were asked to wear red, white, and blue to show their patriotism. Already, we’re off to a bad start here. The potential for ostracism or discrimination against kids who choose not to wear the colors is obvious. As much as I believe in patriotism, I also believe that America should be a place where you should be free to not be patriotic if you don’t feel like it, provided you can do so respectfully.

Anyway, the kid at the center of this incident, who bears the rather hard-to-believe name of Daxx Dalton, followed the school’s dictates to the letter. He wore a homemade red, white, and blue T-shirt. Problem was, his T-shirt said “Obama A Terrorist’s Best Friend”. By now you should be able to guess what happened next. The school gave Daxx the option of either turning his shirt inside out, changing his shirt, or being suspended. Daxx chose to stand on what he and his father saw as his 1st amendment right to free speech and took the suspension. Of course, Mr. Dalton now plans to sue the school district.

I think the issue becomes pretty clear when you view what the T-shirt actually looks like:

It’s obvious that the T-shirt was designed to provoke a response. I believe the school could reasonably assume that this shirt would be disruptive and proscribe it on the grounds of maintaining order. Had Dalton simply worn a standard McCain or Obama T-shirt, then I think his right to express his opinion should have been respected (despite the fact that legally, minors are not automatically entitled to all the rights expressed in the Constitution.) But in this case, he was clearly trying to provoke those who might be supporters of Obama – not just expressing an opinion, but the equivalent of “fighting words”. So, I think the school did the right thing, and the father should find something better to do with his time than using his kid to fight political battles.

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Posted in Current Events, Politics | Tagged: , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Jewelry, religious freedom, and education

Posted by sanityinjection on July 29, 2008

A tale of two court cases in Britain. The British High Court ruled today in favor of a 14-year old Sikh girl who was supended when she refused to remove her bracelet in compliance with a school policy forbidding jewelry. The court ruled that the bracelet, a thin steel bangle called a Kara, is part of the observance of Sikh religion and that the application of the ban in this case unreasonably restricted the girl’s freedom of religion.

This stands in contrast to a ruling a year ago upholding a school’s jewelry ban as applied to a teen girl who wore a “chastity promise” ring to class. There the court found that wearing such a ring was not an integral part of the Christian faith.

I think the court made the correct decision in both cases. But it raises the question in my mind: Why do schools in the UK feel the need to ban jewelry to begin with? I don’t have any children in the schools, so for all I know this may be common here in the US as well. But I’m not sure I see the reason for it. I have never been a particular fan of school uniforms, either. School dress codes should focus on protecting students’ safety, maintaining a respectful atmosphere and eliminating excessive distractions in the classroom. Now if a student felt the need to, say, wear a giant swastika around her neck, or a T-shirt with inflammatory or vulgar language on it, I think one could reasonably ban those items to maintain order. But I hardly think simple jewelry items would create major distractions in the classroom.

For girls (and increasingly for some boys) jewelry is a form of personal expression. I think that young people should be encouraged to develop and express their own style as individuals, provided they remain within reasonable norms of decency. Not to mention how much money the schools would save by not having to defend against these kinds of lawsuits.

Posted in Foreign Affairs, Religion | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »