Saturday, March 18, 2006

Censorchimps: The Missouri Subspecies

A new subspecies of Censorchimp has been reported, this time in the Show Me State. A high school drama teacher in the town of Columbia has lost her job due to "a handful" of parent complaints over her production of the musical "Grease" and concerns over her selections of Millers "The Crucible," and Shakespeare's "A Midsummer's Night Dream:"
A central Missouri high school drama teacher whose spring play was canceled after complaints about tawdry content in one of her previous productions will resign rather than face a possible firing.

"It became too much to not be able to speak my mind or defend my students without fear or retribution," said Fulton High School teacher Wendy DeVore.

DeVore's students were to perform Arthur Miller's "The Crucible," a drama set during the 17th Century Salem witch trials.

But after a handful of Callaway Christian Church members complained about scenes in the fall musical "Grease" that showed teens smoking, drinking and kissing, Superintendent Mark Enderle told DeVore to find a more family-friendly substitute.

DeVore chose Shakespeare's "A Midsummer Night's Dream," a classic romantic comedy with its own dicey subject matter, including suicide, rape and losing one's virginity.

DeVore, 31, a six-year veteran teacher, said administrators told her that her annual contract might not be renewed.

"Maybe I need to find a school that's a better match," she said.

Both Enderle and the high school principal declined to discuss DeVore's resignation, citing privacy concerns. The resignation must still be approved by the school board.

Publicity over the drama debate, including a front-page story in The New York Times, has cast an unflattering light on Fulton as an intolerant small town, several of DeVore's colleagues said.

"We have become a laughingstock," teacher Paula Fessler told The Fulton Sun.
It's this type of incident that discourages so many talented young people from entering the classroom.

The irony, of course, is that Miller's play, "The Crucible," is all about intolerence and fear.

Perhaps Superintendent Mark Enderle should consider taking some cash out of his district's slush fund piggy-bank and going down to his local grocers and buying a few pounds of intestinal fortitude.

Related: See the Fulton Sun's review of "A Midsummer's Night Dream"
right here and the New York Time's front-page blurb over there.

Update: (3/19) Commenter tsiroth notes that these events happened in the town of Fulton, not the larger town of Columbia, which is the dateline of the AP story.
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