Monday, October 04, 2004

Even the Office Gets No Respect

CAVEAT EMPTOR: Occasionally, the lure of the blogosphere hastens one into judgement before all the facts are known. In this case, the school district has sounded off with its version of the story, saying, in essence, there is no story. Not the one found in the newspaper, at any rate. So...

Given the idea that the parties named hereinafter may or may not be guilty of the offenses listed, take the following as a lesson in civics and leave it at that. Whether or not the parents in South Brunswick deserved the tirade, the sentiment behind it is still valid: We need to respect the office of the President, even if we despise the guy in the suit.

Read on:

I've been following this one for a few days now. My desire not to blog over the weekend was a sincere one, however, so I had to wait for the first available opportunity today to let fly on this story. Way Off Bass comments and links to Joanne Jacobs. Michelle Malkin also caught hold of this.

The basic setup is: A middle school teacher in South Brunswick, New Jersey posted a publicity photo of President and Mrs. Bush next to posters of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence. It's been in the classroom since the beginning of the school year.

At least one kid questioned the teacher about it by asking why she had it and stating that Bush has "killed people." Wonder where the charming child learned that one.

Through this point, the Assistant Principal of the school "had no problem" with the presence of the photo in the classroom, but suggested the teacher answer the kids' questions. However, during last week's back-to-school night, parents jumped into the fray. The teacher was asked why the photo was in the room. The question was framed, according to the teacher, in a way that sounded like a "political assault." More parents joined the debate and one mother stormed out.

You can guess what happened next.

The next morning, the teacher was told by the Assistant Principal to take the photo down "if you care about your job." The Principal tore into her and ended with, "Get out." She got out. She then met with the District and a union rep, who both told her she has basically already lost the fight. Her future - in South Brunswick at least - is unsure. I can speculate where this will end up, but I'd rather not.

Setting aside the obvious partisanship that permeates this entire episode, one thing about this whole episode really bothers me. Why did no one (besides the local Republican party, which I would have expected anyway) in any part of this debate remember that Civics 101 demands at least a respect for the office of the President of the United States?

First of all, the teacher herself should have used this argument. My own response would have been, "Listen, whether or not we agree with the man, George W. Bush is the current President of the United States of America, and we need to respect that office. There's no politics involved here. It's simply a recognition of who holds that office today. Or would you rather that your children not understand that?" Actually, I may not have added that last question vocally. But I would have been thinking it.

She may still have lost the argument, but at least that draws out the partisanship on the part of the parents and the administrators.

Now, you can argue all you want to about freedom of speech, denying the teacher the ability to, as she put it, "lead the discussion" in her classroom, or any other side issue you wish to name. To me, the problem is much more basic than that. A whole school full of parents in New Jersey have completely forgotten their civic responsibilities by angrily allowing their political bias to blind them to the respect demanded by the office of the President. Notice I don't say "owed to the President." Especially in an election year we understand that there will always be people who think the man holding the office should be drawn and quartered. Fine. But that man is, today, your Commander in Chief, and the elected executive of your country. Get over it and show at least that much respect. If you can vote him out of office, more power to you. If I have to respect John Kerry in that office come next January, rest assured that I will. I will certainly not ask any teacher to remove his photo from a classroom.

But also rest assured that I'll do everything in my power to make sure he gets voted out in the next election.

UPDATE: Hmm. He said, she said. Better go pop some corn...

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