A Modest Proposal: Don't Try To Censor Students Who Have This Thing We Call The Internet

from the only-positive-stories-around-here... dept

Way back when I was in high school, I wrote for the school newspaper, and occasionally we had some problems with either the paper’s “advisors” or the administration not liking something that went into the paper. While we were able to get plenty of stuff published, there were occasional arguments. The best we could do at the time was complain — and eventually some of us started a non-school-sanctioned paper to allow us to be more free. That, of course, was in the days before the internet was widely available. These days, things work quite differently. Romenesko points us to the somewhat ridiculous story of a principal confiscating the school newspaper and demanding that the students write more “positive and uplifting stories” after he freaked out about a student’s attempt to mimic one of the most famous pieces of satire: Jonathan Swift’s A Modest Proposal. Apparently, the principal didn’t get the satire of the piece, which proposed executing all of those who score in the bottom 25% on an IQ test. Of course, in censoring the paper, the immediate response is pretty much what should be expected these days. The editor of the paper resigned and posted the whole ordeal to Facebook, where it spread quickly, not only making the principal a laughingstock for not recognizing a clear homage to Swift, but it gave the actual column much more attention — even to the point that the major newspaper in Atlanta, the Atlanta Journal Constitution, republished the student’s modest proposal within its own pages. Now that’s a positive and uplifting story.

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Comments on “A Modest Proposal: Don't Try To Censor Students Who Have This Thing We Call The Internet”

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30 Comments
Anonymous Coward says:

Hrm, nice to know you only need to be able to write on a HS level to get a published article in the news paper. And the print business wonders why it has flagging sales. Beyond that, its not really funny. If you are going to make news out of non-news, at least make sure its worth the read. I know he’s only a high school kid, and everything you write while in school is crap. And I’m willing to give the kid some credit for writing it, but for gods sakes this doesn’t belong here. This isn’t tech, and it isn’t dirt. Nor is it even a “neato look at this” article. No one on staff at a public HS could ever let a write-up like that one fly out of its school paper. Imagine if Bush came out and gave a speech with similar content.. oh wait.. he has.. 21% approval rating… Yeah.. Exactly.

Anonymous Coward says:

had it right in ‘First Off’:
First off, charity should be outlawed. No longer should people be allowed to use their children as a source of income. People who cannot afford to have kids simply should not have kids. Unemployment benefits also must be disbanded — go get a job. That isn’t to say those with disabilities should not be helped, but not with handouts, just a hand.

Things became unhitched immediately following in ‘Second’, standardized testing would indeed be good but there is no need to execute anyone over their ability to learn, after all it ain’t their fault, have a look at the genes…. unless you could make the action retroactive one generation ….

Hmmmmmm

Regards,
A Coward Too

Anonymous Coward says:

Poor Poor US, the next presidental election is going to be as bad as the last one with not one good candidate on either side.

If anyone reading this is a bored billionaire please run for president as an independent. The people need a voice, and our elected officials only seem to want to listen to ATT, Comcast, [Insert Any Other Evil Corporate Entity Here].

Pele says:

So Long

I now remember why I stopped frequenting this site: 15 post and only 5 that are related to the story at hand (and I’m being generous on a couple of them when I say “related”). Too many users here are mere adolescents who are more concerned with pointing out peoples’ spelling or grammatical mistakes, than they are about creating constructive discussions.

So long and thanks for all the fish.

Arochone says:

Take it to court.

Or at least the school board. There’s plenty of precedent that a school paper cannot be censored by the administration. In one case I recall the students brought it to the school board, the board told the principal he had to let them publish. The principal ignored the request, so the board printed their own version of the paper and walked in to the school and started distributing it themselves. Student was Priscilla Marco, of Long Island City High School, and the school paper was titled ‘Skyline’. Then there’s the case of Lauren Boyd, where the Federal District Court in Alexandria, Virginia decided that, since the school paper was “a conduit for the student expression”, that it fell under the first amendment, and cannot be controlled by the school board.

priscilla marco says:

Re: Take it to court.

wow! I was 17 years old at the time I wrote that article for my school newspaper. My high school principal hated kids and did not believe in students having any rights. That occurred over 30 years ago! I am wondering how you know about it. Because of that experience, I became an attorney. It really changed my life.

Max Powers at http://ConsumerFight.com (user link) says:

Smart Kid

Any kid in high school that at least “thinks’ about a solution to a problem, but then also “acts” on that problem is alright by me.

He accomplished what a kid journalist should do, spread his word through any media possible. It happened to be the Internet that gave him the needed exposure so yes, that is “Tech” related, and yes, some of these posts confirm the “Dirt” part.

Him (or he shall not be referred to in the 1st per says:

On the other hand...

I agree in principle with the fact that most schools Principals and faculty take control far too far, but I can see some reason in this. Imagine someone said “kill the least intelligent or least attractive or least conformist or least stylish or least perky 25%” in normal conversation at a high school. Imagine there were no well known works of satire from which the speaker could have pulled these words. Imagine that the speaker meant every word sincerely. Now stop imagining because since most high schoolers are not familiar with the works of Swift this is exactly what many of the students would believe they were reading had they read this in the school newspaper. I can’t say that I recall A Modest Proposal, nor did several of my colleagues. As intelligent as they are. Intelligent enough to recognize the work as satire when reading it, but sadly many high school students wouldn’t grasp that. What that says about the quality of our education system aside no responsible principal could let this go unchallenged. As sick as it is any responsible principal has to consider the possibility that at least a few of his students are potential Columbiners, school newspaper writers and readers alike.

Schools seem to focus far too much on making kids conform to the administrations standards and ideals rather than teaching kids to be individuals and to think for themselves. Conformity is a valuable skill to learn because if you stray too far from the masses your odds of success are greatly diminished but every single person who has created something great or done something truly noteworthy has dared to be an individual; to stand apart from the crowd. They understand that though there is value in likeness, it cannot, it must not define us. School administrators have never understood this. Crushing dissention has always been the norm, so this seems like more of the same. But how would you react as a parent to read this in your kid’s school newspaper? Remember, you need to see this not just thru your own eyes but the eyes of your child, your child’s friends and the nutty kids who your kid goes to school with. Many of them won’t recognize this as the satire that it is. Even though I feel a bit too responsible, too rigid – too old fogeyish, if you will, as I say this; I believe the principal was on the right track. Although he should have rather worked with the school newspaper staff to explain how this could be a problem and discuss ways to explain the meaning and purpose of the piece to those who wouldn’t have otherwise understood it – as the ATL Constitution and Facebook undoubtedly did. Don’t kid yourself, though many people who read about it after the fact got a kick out of it many wouldn’t have gotten it if they’d read it in a school newspaper. It’s fun making fun of the old principal but how many would have made exactly the same decision if they were responsible for the safety of however many hundreds of children?

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