Free Speech! (Also: Motor Trend)

Posted on October 14, 2010Filed Under 8th grade, Me, Nothing But the Truth, Outside links | Leave a Comment

First off: I’ve been a little scatter-brained lately. My PU’s 50th wedding anniversary party thing is this weekend, and we’re leaving tomorrow for my high school stomping grounds; the suburbs of Sacramento.

My dad sent me a load of pics to put together into a slideshow for the party. Most all of them brought back the required memories, but there was one photo that used to be legendary in our family. Sorry if I’m going all “circle time” on you, but I thought I’d share. I always have been a magazine lover, but I’m not really a car fan any more. I’m about 2 or so in the pic.

The kids were all, “You were reading when you were two years old?”

“Pretending to anyway.”

These days I sort of have a phobia about getting my picture taken, so I haven’t had a new pic in the yearbook for 3 years. I was going for having the one from my first year last until I retire, but somehow that one was lost a while back. The yearbook crew ambushed me while I was eating lunch that year, and they’ve been using that one ever since. I tried to get the yearbook lady to use this one from eighth grade, but she couldn’t cope with black and white.

I think the newly unearthed one will do nicely.

On to today’s topic. My eighth graders are 2/3 finished with Nothing But the Truth, and while I’m lagging a bit on the Facebook wall thing, we did have a fine discussion today.

We’re getting to the point in the story where the wire services and talk radio morons are starting to pick up the story of Philip’s “patriotism.” I paused the  reading today — we’re reading it live in class so it unfolds sort of in real time, and they can react to it without knowing how it ends — and we talked about free speech.

“Philip is claiming that it’s his right to sing, well hum anyway, the national anthem, even though the rule is to stand at silent, respectful attention. Is his right to free speech being violated?”

The answer was almost unanimously yes. I was a little shocked. We had talked about Phil’s motivation for the humming. The kids acknowledge that he started doing it so he could get kicked out of Miss Narwin’s class. And they still think he has a right to do what he’s doing.

So I flashed up on the big screen something I found at ReadWriteThink. It lists the three main Supreme Court decisions affecting the free speech rights of students at school, and breaks each one down in a paragraph. Here’s the link.

“The first decision says it’s all about  ‘reasonable disruption.’  Is Philip’s humming causing a reasonable disruption? Does it violate the rights of other students to listen to the anthem with respectful silent attention?”

“No!”

“Hmm. We’ll come back to that idea in a minute. Let’s look at the other two decisions first. The second decision is about political vs. ‘vulgar’ speech. This guy made a speech supporting his candidate for student government, and he used language the school  thought was lewd-”

“What’s lewd mean?”

“Of a sexually suggestive nature.”

“Ooooooh.”

“Anyway. The Supreme Court sided with the school, saying that we should be teaching you ‘socially appropriate behavior.’ So even if your intentions are good, you can’t be ‘inappropriate’ as we call it around here. You can’t get up at an assembly and give a speech about how we should ‘f’in help those f’in starving African kids.'”

Now right about here, the conversation shifted. Suddenly we’re talking about the recent ban on those pink bracelets that say “Save the B_ _ bies” or something similar. It’s been a bit of a fad recently, and finally the word came down that said bracelets will now be considered dress code violations.

It’s a classic junior high loophole: “I’m just supporting breast cancer research.” (And getting to walk around saying b_ _ bies all day long.)

“I think that’s free speech! That’s not disruptive!”

“Lewd?”

“Mr. Jellyfish (our esteemed vp) says it all the time when I’m in his office. Take off you boo-”

“I get it. But that’s not the same thing. It’s not public. And anyway, very little of what Mr. J does would stand up to Supreme Court scrutiny. But this does bring us to the third decision. This one is about setting high standards for school related activities.  So basically, would it be appropriate for the school to send home a flyer asking for help with their breast cancer research fund-raiser with the headline, ‘Save the B_ _ bies’? If so, then your bracelets might be protected speech.”

Two or three managed to slip the word in as they made their points. They really got into this one.

“But all we’re doing is support-”

“That doesn’t matter. Remember the f’in African babies?”

We went ’round and ’round on this one well into break time.

More on this as it develops.

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