Today’s Lesson: Truth Panels and Censorship
In law school they teach you to appreciate issues on all levels, from different viewpoints. It is not an easy process, and the road to truly understanding problems and attacking them is a complicated mixture of taking in various opinions and facts and developing one’s own individual and unique understanding. The road to learning is arduous and sometimes overwhelmingly difficult, but it feeds the brain with the knowledge which is so desperately sought by the human animal in its quest to make the right choices.
One cannot learn without exposure to other viewpoints. True, I may not like what you have to say, but I need to be open enough to listen to your messages, so I can learn from it and decide what to believe. If our minds are not exposed to life’s different voices, we will not lead full lives, and we will stagnate or recede.
Appreciating the value of learning is not something we are born with. It needs to be taught and appreciated. That’s one justification for going to school. From pre-K to the end of schooling, our teachers convey the message that we must seek understanding of all aspects of our world. Yet, for many, the message gets lost, and the need to learn, to really understand things, is too often considered non-essential. That’s part of the reason our nation is in an intellectual and functional period of decline.
So when the President of the United States wants to stress, by direct communication with students, the value of getting as much out of school as possible, he should be allowed to do so. School boards should be willing to embrace his message, for his is an intelligent and relevant plea, and it has been their mantra as well.
Sadly, however, some school districts, teachers and parents are planning to block the President’s remarks on education when aired on September 8.
It is nothing less than betrayal for teachers and educators to block the President from stressing the need for the very same educational message to which they have committed their professional lives. To silence a Presidential plea to students to get the most out of their educational process is to contradict and defeat the the urgency of teaching. It provides, at the least, lesson in incivility.
Forcing those who may not be able to see the message when outside the classroom to diversions in the form of free speech blackouts, is, plainly stated, morally and intellectually dishonest. Message suppression in any form rarely works to achieve good, and often produces backlash. We witnessed that from Iran in June of this year.
By permitting censorship of Mr. Obama’s message, the hand of ignorance will grip the very same institutions that are supposed to teach and form young minds. Allowing embargoes of Presidential remarks on education will teach that censorship of constructive discussion of public issues is justified. It will set unhealthy examples for students to follow in the future. Blocking out the President’s right to encourage and inspire students will help usher in a new age of intolerance.
Critics have decried that White House plans a message of socialism, without any articulate reasons to back up such an assertion. A message about staying in school and getting the most out of it is as patriotic as apple pie and Old Glory. It is not a Democratic message, nor is it a Republican message. It certainly is not a socialist message. It is an American message.
Who better than the President of the United States to directly talk to the youth of our troubled times, directly, about the need for a good quality education and to get as much of it as possible. The goal is to reduce the dropout rate and encourage students to work hard, not to change the American form of government.
If Mr. McCain won in November and tried to give such a speech, there would be no protests. But because Mr. Obama is trying the tackle the very same issues we elected him to solve, and considering such a mission engenders passionate responses from all quarters, the White House is criticized and censored on what should not be a controversial subject. Critics have a right to express themselves. Those criticized should be afforded that right as well.
We should not allow a modern form of book burning. Cutting off the President’s message is media burning.
President George H.W. Bush addressed school children directly when he was in office. His 1991 message was to labor hard and reject drugs. Ronald Regan talked to students about the evil of taxes in 1988. Those messages got out. Parents that cared talked to their kids about the messages, and teachers were able to dialogue with their students about those messages. Why not allow for further discourse in the aftermath of this President’s speech to students?
It is refreshing, that after 18 years, a President wants to talk about education to those who are being educated. Whatever he says, it can be discussed and students can decide for themselves what the words mean. Just like the nonsense threat of “death panels” deciding your health care, we don’t need truth panels deciding that good-intentioned messages about education should not be conveyed from the White House because (and let’s admit it) of base political agendas.
Blocking Mr. Obama is nothing but approval of pure censorship. That’s one of the worse lessons society can teach. We are not in Iran, Venezuela, Cuba or North Korea, and we should not follow their examples.
Those who seek to close the ears of others would be the first to decry such treatment if it were to be turned upon them. If today’s lesson is censorship, tomorrow’s lesson may be much worse, and cripple true educated understanding for a generation or more. Under such circumstances, a future America will not be able to dissect issues from different dimensions, and we will have the kind of nation that knows no wrong, because such wrongs might not be identified in the first place.
Update 9.8.09. The President’s speech was delivered to schools across the nation today. It inspired students and teachers alike.