Thursday, March 29, 2007

Voices in Conflict

Last night I spoke with Bonnie Dickinson, the teacher who created the "Voices in Conflict" project at Wilton High. All I can say is it's too bad there aren't more teachers out there with this woman's creativity and courage.She's put her job on the line in the defense of intellectual freedom - as she said to me last night, "When this all blows over and people stop writing me 40 e-mails a day offering their support, I'm still going to be at this school teaching."

I can't imagine it will be such a great atmosphere for her either. I met with four of the students from Ms. Dickinson's class today, and these kids are being seriously hassled in the hallways of enlightened Wilton High. They're being called "faggots" and told that they should be "hanged for treason" and have been brainwashed by their "liberal pig parents". Ms. Dickinson is being referred to as a FemNazi.

The irony is that the play was a collaborative effort by all the students in the class, and it is, apparently a class that is politically diverse, with conservative Republicans as well as "liberal pigs". The four students I spoke to embraced the diversity in the class, because they felt it helped them to produce a more balanced script.

What it all boils down to is that Principal Canty caved into pressure from ONE parent of ONE student. According to Ms. Dickinson, Barbara Alessi got wind of the script and said that she wanted her daughter Gabby to take the class and not only that, they would be able to provide material for the script because her son, 2nd Lt. Zach Alessi-Friedlander is currently serving in Iraq.

Unfortunately it appears that Mrs Alessi was inserting Gabby as a mole, rather than to actually attempt to contributing toward the production in a meaningful way. After a few days Gabby dropped out of the class and Mrs. Alessi was pressuring Principal Canty to silence the production.What's supremely ironic about this is that Gabby Alessi-Friedlander is self-righteously spouting on the news outlets how the play is "insulting" to currently serving troops.

But meanwhile, Gabby's brother, 2nd Lt. Zach Alessi Friedlander, wrote the following in an article about how his unit was helping two Iraqi schools that was published in the Fort Drum Blizzard last October: http://www.drum.army.mil/sites/postnews/blizzard/blizzard_archives/news.asp?id=6&issuedate=10-19-2006

"Quality education teaches students how to think critically about their own lives and illuminates the variety of opportunities available only to those with the necessary academic training.

Natan Sheransky, famous commentator on Middle Eastern politics and society, has focused particular attention on the importance of education in determining the region's future progress. He warns against "societies that restrict intellectual freedom and prevent the free exchange of ideas," favoring instead those that "unleash the creative potential of their people." "

As student James Presson said to me, "This play was important to the school. Now it's important to the nation. We're just trying to show what the troops are saying. The only reason to be against this is if you don't have respect for the troops own words. :

I'd interviewed Paul Reickhoff, Executive Director of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (formerly Operation Truth) a few years back, and I contacted him today asking him if he'd be willing to speak to the Wilton HS kids (which he was). He'd just blogged about this quite eloquently over at the Huffington Post: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/paul-rieckhoff/censorship-in-america-hi_b_44522.html

Anyway, my column on this will be in Tuesday's Greenwich Time, but I had to limit that to 750 words and I could write about the great kids I spoke to today for five times that. They are smart and brave and so is Ms. Dickinson. They deserve all of our support.

4 Comments:

Anonymous Brent Hartinger said...

Fascinating! Please keep us updated!

1:00 PM  
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^^ nice blog!! ^@^

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