Archive for March, 2007

Lieberman on Gonzales
March 31, 2007


U.S. Sen. Joe Lieberman had some tough words today for embattled Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, who is involved in an uproar over the firing of eight U.S. attorneys.

Lieberman, I-Conn., said Gonzales’ case was hurt by testimony from his former chief of staff, who on Thursday contradicted Gonzales’ earlier accounts of not being involved in the decision-making about which prosecutors should be fired.


I need not labor on the details of the first three points: knowledge, experience and qualifications, judgment and personal behaviors, and nominee’s ethics. I believe that this nominee, as everyone has said, including those who are opposed the nomination, has a remarkable life story that speaks to his strength, to his balance, to his values. He has acted under pressure and gives me the confidence that he would do the same as Attorney General. He has spoken quite eloquently in his testimony before the Judiciary Committee that he understands that his first accountability as Attorney General will be to the Constitution and to the people of this country.

Remember also that this is the guy who waved through Michael Brown.


Just in case there was any doubt
March 30, 2007

Just in case anyone was still wondering whether or not blocking the play at Wilton High was politically motivated, it turns out that the school administration is a little inconsistent in what it classifies as protected speech. Here’s a handy guide:

Writing a school play that deals with Iraq by quoting at length soldiers, some of whom are pro-war and some of whom are anti-war, while examining the toll of the war on both: Offensive, disrespectful and completely inappropriate for a school environment. Must be blocked at all costs.

Saying that writers of said play should be hung as traitors: A-okay!

At least the students involved in the play are getting some positive support – they just received Music Theatre International’s first-ever Courage in Theater Award

March 29, 2007

So here’s an interesting list: Karl Rove’s targeted House races. One name that really stood out to me was CT’s very own Chris Shays, who tries to portray himself as something of a maverick who answers to his constituents before he answers to the administration. This list isn’t really a huge surprise, since we already knew that was basically untrue. But this list strengthens my desire to see him get gotten rid of in ’08. There’s already talk of a strong contender for his seat, one Jim Himes.

And now back to refreshing my inbox over and over again until I get some college mail.

March 27, 2007

The Wilton High story is still gathering steam. Now it’s taking over local news. I don’t think this story is going to be over any time soon.

Hell, the story’s got its own My Left Nutmeg tag.

March 26, 2007

Whoa! Where has this been hiding?

HB: 7395 would authorize persons of the same sex to enter into marriage. It removes the definition of marriage as a union between a man and a woman and redefines marriage as the legal union of two persons

About bloody time. Apparently this is in the judiciary committee as we speak. Let’s hope it makes it to the floor.

March: The Month of Tinker and Hazelwood
March 26, 2007

This shaping up to be a weird month for freedom of speech in public schools. First there’s the whole “Bong Hits 4 Jesus” case being argued in front of the Supreme Court. Then there’s the Wilton High thing. And now, finally, via Fark, here’s another one. Apparently a school in Indiana has suspended a teacher for running pro-gay rights op-ed by a student in the school newspaper.

Unfortunately, it appears that the principal is in the legal clear, since the paper is funded by the school. Funding the paper means that the administration can more or less censor whatever the hell they want in it. My experience from talking to other student journalists across the country is that there are a lot of papers like that. If you’re lucky, though, a good administration will fund the paper and still manage to restrain themselves from censorship at this level of absurdity.

That’s pretty rare, though, and I’d still rather not leave it up to the administration. This is why I advocate that, whenever possible, school newspapers strive to be self-funded. And the school, whose purpose is to educate, would do well to help that happen. Why? Because of shit like this:

Three of the seven members of the newspaper staff resigned, including the editor. Carpenter, who now questions her plans for a career in journalism, said she’s disappointed that the school district is quieting students and leaving a teacher in doubt about her future.

It’s nice to see the editor, and two of his writers, show some backbone over this, but it’s still somewhat heartbreaking that this whole incident has caused one of the students involved to question journalism as a career. A high school exists to educate. What exactly are they teaching their students here?

March 25, 2007

Via MLN, here’s the Good Morning America feature on Wilton High.

FDL Jumps In
March 25, 2007

The Wilton High story has now officially made its way into the national blogosphere. FDL has a post up with, as of right now, almost 300 comments.

More on Wilton HS
March 25, 2007

The superintendent of Wilson public schools has released a statement, the full text of which can be read here. It’s worth reading to understand at least some of the rationale for banning the play, though some of it is clearly disingenuous. Like this part, for example:

The play has contained direct excerpts from a book, documentary films, letters to newspapers, and web-sites. These sources are modified and “cut and pasted” together in a way that does not give them attribution nor cite the viewpoint of the particular author or filmmaker.

Besides copyright issues not even being mentioned in the Times article, it seems like this is the sort of thing that could easily be solved by either editing the script to include attribution or including some sort of bibliography in the play program. Worst case scenario, the group wouldn’t be able to charge admission for the play. Then again, I’m not a copyright expert, so maybe I’m off here. Regardless, it seems clear that this wasn’t the primary reason for blocking the play.

School performances are different from private or commercial performances. Because the performance is part of the educational program, we have a unique obligation to our audience. Most people understand that we can not perform plays or musicals that contain vulgar language or strong sexual content because it would be inappropriate for a high school student audience. On a much more serious level, we believe that this play can be upsetting to our student, parent, and community audience. Our community, like many, is grieving the loss of our own and feeling anxious about those currently in harm’s way. As a school, we have a responsibility to ensure that the Iraq war, the lives lost, and the sacrifices made by soldiers and their families are presented in the appropriate context with appropriate support and guidance. We need to figure out how best to do that. In its present form, the play does not meet those standards.

On one level I sympathize with the school administration. This controversy is a principal’s nightmare, and they’re caught between risking the ire of angry civil libertarians and angrier “pro-decency” parents and conservatives. I can understand the desire to try to shield students from things that might be shocking or offensive. But this is a high school. The students attending Wilton High are on the verge of entering the real world, and it seems to me that trying to sugarcoat the Iraq War or remove any offensive or shocking content does a basic disservice to these students. War is shocking, war is violent, and war tends to not only involve a lot of violence, but also a lot of profanity. How is the school supposed to educate students about the Iraq War by reducing the entire concept of war to something roughly equal to a particularly lame Civil War reenactment?

I’ve been talking to Sarah Anderson, one of the students involved in the play who was interviewed in the Times article, and one thing that she made very clear very early on was that the play was intended to present all sides of the debate over the war. That might be part of the problem for the administration – the only viewpoint that wouldn’t be considered shocking or offensive is the kind of empty “support the troops” rhetoric and tired flag-waving that’s completely detached from any substantive debate over what our troops are doing in Iraq in the first place.

It’s also worth noting that, as Sarah points out, the project was canceled while the script was still unfinished. Given that, as the article points out, many changes were made to the script at the request of the administration, it looks like the administration wasn’t overly interested in reaching some sort of compromise over the play’s content.

You can read both the original version and the edited version of the play here.

You can’t talk about that in a high school!
March 25, 2007

A few people have brought this to my attention: at Wilton High in my very own state of Connecticut, the principal has intervened to prevent kids from putting on a self-written play about Iraq. from the article:

For the spring semester, students in the advanced theater class took on a bigger challenge: creating an original play about the war in Iraq. They compiled reflections of soldiers and others involved, including a heartbreaking letter from a 2005 Wilton High graduate killed in Iraq last September at age 19, and quickly found their largely sheltered lives somewhat transformed.

But even as 15 student actors were polishing the script and perfecting their accents for a planned April performance, the school principal last week canceled the play, titled “Voices in Conflict,” citing questions of political balance and context.

The principal, Timothy H. Canty, who has tangled with students before over free speech, said in an interview he was worried the play might hurt Wilton families “who had lost loved ones or who had individuals serving as we speak,” and that there was not enough classroom and rehearsal time to ensure it would provide “a legitimate instructional experience for our students.”

“It would be easy to look at this case on first glance and decide this is a question of censorship or academic freedom,” said Mr. Canty, who attended Wilton High himself in the 1970s and has been its principal for three years. “In some minds, I can see how they would react this way. But quite frankly, it’s a false argument.”

It’s kind of disturbing to me that the concept of “balance” has become so fetishized. How on earth could art possibly be balanced? The article mentions that in previous years the school had staged productions of plays like The Crucible. Maybe the principal should have blocked that one for being overly sympathetic towards witches.

On the other hand, if this is an explicitly school-sponsored or school-funded activity, it seems like there’s little the kids can do to reverse this decision. It might not have been school-sponsored, though; I’m not exactly sure how even my own high school drama club operates on that score, so it’s certainly possible that this was a completely independent production. It doesn’t really say in the article. But the fact that, as the article says, the kids were discouraged from putting on the play even off-campus, means that this whole case stinks of censorship.

Oh, and then there’s this:

The current issue of the student newspaper, The Forum, includes an article criticizing the administration for requiring that yearbook quotations come from well-known sources for fear of coded messages. After the Gay Straight Alliance wallpapered stairwells with posters a few years ago, the administration, citing public safety hazards, began insisting that all student posters be approved in advance.

Around the same time, the administration tried to ban bandanas because they could be associated with gangs, prompting hundreds of students to turn up wearing them until officials relented.

This is an interesting case to me, as a member of the NCAC’s Youth Advisory Board, a high school student, and a CT resident. Expect some more on this story here as more information comes out.

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