Re: First Amendment
Fri, 20 Dec 1996 10:22:48 -0500


I always thought it was the really unpleasant speech that needed
protection--not the nice stuff.

Your description of activities kids around you have enjoyed would make almost
any parent feel warm and fuzzy. It puts me in the same mood as a Norman
Rockwell painting. Probably the action depicted in the painting really did
happen, and the artist casts a sentimental glow over the scene.

Yes, absolutely, the kind of things you describe do happen at our schools.
But your picture is no more a balanced description of what goes on than an
old Saturday Evening Post magazine cover. To give the full story you would
need to include, for example, some kids disrupting a meeting, consuming
sugar, playing violent computer games, listening to gangsta rap and yelling
"Eat my penis!" at the top of their lungs. But to focus on that part of the
picture would be a distortion also.

Our schools embrace it all. Any parent, staff member, or student coming in
contact with this much freely expressed humanity will find some parts a joy
and some parts a challenge to be around. The challenging parts, whatever
they may be, will put many people off before they have a chance to grasp the
whole. Or they may lose sight of the whole they once grasped when something
comes up that obscures their vision. If they don't leave right away, they
may discover the powerful structure which allows for the high degree of
freedom provided by the school. I'm talking about the school meeting,
judicial committee, and lawbook. These are designed so that the easiest and
most effective thing for any student, parent or staff member to do is to be
respectful and take responsibility for their own experience, actions, and
contribution to the whole. Of course, as has been discussed at length
recently on this list, it is impossible to force another person to be

Many adults feel the challenge of taking responsibility is too great for
themselves, let alone their children. So be it. I will say that accepting
the challenge is much easier than thinking about it, and I have seen that the
rewards are miraculous. The rewards may or may not include becoming a good
speller, fly tie-er or cake baker.