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John Nippolt
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Taking it to the Streets
Volleyed and Thundered
Teabag Blues
      I am writing this as a private citizen who is a teacher. Over the past weekend and throughout the ensuing work week, our school was barraged with hate mail and irate phone calls from around the country. A complete list of my school's administrators and teachers names, including mine, and our email addresses were published on the internet.
     Isn't it ironic that an overwhelming response to inaccurate and uniformed reporting, by a group of people who failed to do their research on the story, demonstrated the value of the very assignment they claimed teachers should be fired for?
     One student's email fanned the flames of another student email, both of which were completely erroneous. Once again, something taken out of context becomes the rallying cry for those who consistently demean our public schools and teachers without proof of their accusations. It hit closer to home this time because I, my school, and my colleagues were the targets.
An English/Social Studies interdisciplinary lesson plan about propaganda proposed to students "How does media impact how we feel about issues in society? Is the use of media ethical?"
     Faculty and administration at our school were given a "heads-up" about the launching of propaganda campaigns that sophomores would be using to influence freshman to feel a certain way about events happening in America. Both sides of the issues would be displayed. Let me repeat that: Both sides of the issues would be displayed. The topics were:
Gay Marriage---Don't Ask, Don't Tell---Health Care Reform---U.S. Aid To Foreign Countries In A Crisis---U.S. Aid To Israel---War On Terrorism---Bank, Loan, Credit Reform---Obama's Alternate Energy Plan---Tea Party Movement---Race To The Top Educational Reform---Appointment Of A Supreme Court Justice
     Freshmen would take public opinion polls for sophomores to analyze, and the sophomores would present their findings and discuss ethics in the media in a Socratic Seminar.
     Students were asked to create posters or situations that would example how informational rumors deliberately spread widely would help or harm a person, group, movement, institution, nation, etc.
     One of the propaganda posters created by a sophomore whose assigned topic was the Tea Party Movement presented a bias against the movement. It was photographed by a student who was not a member of the project. He emailed the photo he took of that singular poster, to another student in Georgia. That second student stated the poster was not related to a class assignment and that a member of my school's student body government put it up as part of a free speech display. This background information from someone who doesn't even live in our state let alone go to our school, was completely false, yet it was sent out on the internet anyway.
     It is distasteful enough to deal with the lack of civility in public discourse which is so often the case when ignorance and passionate opinions collide. Does it further the discussion if a group with an agenda negatively characterizes the individuals or institutions with which it disagrees by using inflammatory and slanderous name calling? Bullying is not tolerated in our school, and it doesn't sit well with me when someone I don't know and who doesn't have a clue about me, demonizes me and my colleagues by calling us idiots and morons and infers that public education at our school will make you stupid. On top of that, it invites the world to pillory us by publishing our names and our email addresses on the internet.
     In case you're interested, my school has a 95% graduation rate with 94% of those students planning on going to colleges or institutions of higher learning. We are above meeting the national standard in math, statewide and nationwide and our reading and writing scores are only slightly below those top scores in the state and nation. (SAT Basic Profile, 2008).
     Although the hurtful words and false assumptions make us very angry, we get the last laugh because this movement's reaction illustrates perfectly what our teachers wanted our students to understand about the use of propaganda. By their own initiative, Tea Party members overt reaction validated the "21st Century Learning" goals implemented by our teachers to create curriculum that is rigorous and relevant to our students. Thank you.