Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Never Going Back To My Old School

I was surprised to see a story about my hometown on CNN's "ireport" site.  I was shocked and angry and more than a little embarrassed by the story.  The accompanying photo?  Well, let's just say you have to see it for yourself.
Someone thought it would be . . . what?  Funny?  Some kind of rallying cry? . . . to enhance school spirit by putting black face on a couple kids and have them act out Chris Brown beating the crap out of Rihanna.

I know.  I know.  What the hell does any of this have to do with a pep rally, right?  There are so many questions about this story, its ugliness, its mindlessness, and the even more ugly and mindless people from my hometown defending the event in comments on the story (scrolling through them, I'm figuring none of the people who think this harmless fun know any more about what happened than the people who are decrying it; that they would consider acting out domestic violence and celebrating racist attitudes and actions appropriate in any setting, most especially a high school pep rally, makes me wonder if they actually finished attending classes at the school) that I'm not sure where to begin.

Where were the school administrators and teachers in all this?  The photo showing the kids sitting there - far too white and comfortable as they watch a racist display re-enacting domestic violence - shows they, apparently, had no idea what they were seeing was "wrong".  Not a single teacher stepped up and said, "You know, putting black face on white kids is wrong.  Having them act out a man beating a woman is wrong.  Celebrating this by using it to rally students before a football game is wrong."

The local newspaper has a story (subscription required; I don't have one) in which Superintendent Joseph Yelich responds with the kind of general platitude that makes me wonder if he went to the same schools as Mitt Romney:  “I want to assure everyone that our Waverly School District is committed to creating a positive atmosphere through all of our activities.”  Really, Mr. Yelich?  Really?  You can't even come out and say, "Clearly, the public response to the skit at the homecoming pep rally ignores the broader context in which it occurred."?  The best response might have been, "Unaware of what the skit was going to be, the school administration is investigating and will respond with appropriate measures to all involved."  Because merely mouthing nonsensical platitudes that are belied by an abundance of evidence doesn't exactly create confidence among those of us who have to live with the fact that we went to this school.  Hell, my father taught in this district for 24 years.  What do you think this does for his reputation?

I'm guessing at some point, someone involved in this, whether a student or someone else, is going to be quoted in the paper saying something that begins, "We didn't think . . ."  Which is precisely the problem.  Schools are places where young people are taught to think.  This pep rally "skit" clearly demonstrates multiple failures of thought all across the board.

So glad I live in Illinois now.

Virtual Tin Cup

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