Tuesday, February 28, 2006

The Concerned Teacher And Her Suppressed Poem

Graycie has written a poem that she has titled "The Winner." The concern was that her hall principal had forbidden her from sharing it with any and all of her high school students because, according to him, the vocabulary and its usage has racist overtones:
"The Winner"

“You talkin’ to me?”
“I don’t hafta do anything.”
“Woman, you whack!”
“I ain’t gonna do that.”
“You can’t make me.”
“Sumthin’ wrong wit you.”

Child, you’re right.
You don’t hafta.
You ain’t gonna.
I can’t make you.

You win.

Later, you remember that.
You didn’t hafta.
You weren’t gonna.
They couldn’t make you.
You won.

When you’re flipping burgers,
you remember
that you won.
When you’re lined up for your welfare
or your food stamps,
you remember that.

You won.
Just to make his intentions clear, the principal indicated to Gracie that if she chose to share this with students that it would result in a reprimand.

Gracie asked readers this question:

"I would like to ask your opinions. The people who comment on my feeble attempts at writing are wise and competent and sensitive to their students. Is it out of line to use this poem, "The Winner," with freshmen students?"
I wonder what Graycie's administrator would have thought of Mark Twain's Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn? I wonder if he would forbid the books from being read in the classroom and order their removal from the library shelves? The vocabulary of Twain's works could, if taken as individual words, be thought of by some as racist. But most folks with a thorough grasp of those two novels would agree that Twain's message (especially in Huckleberry Finn) was anything but racist. Quite the contrary.

In the case of Graycie's poem, I think that it may be a case of what I call "defensive administration." The hall principal wants to remove even the possibility that a concerned parent might file a complaint over Graycie's choice of classroom material. For many school administrators, a quiet school is a good school.

Heh. I seem to remember a few years ago when administrators spent quite a bit of time bloviating about the need to "empower" teachers. I guess those times are long gone...

Like Paul Harvey, here Graycie tells us The Rest of the Story.
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