Not airing President's speech at schools is worst lesson in intolerance
Special to the Review
Re: Talk of the Town---Superintendent's Directive to Not Show President Obama's Speech to Students
Last week I told Chino Valley Unified School District Superintendent, Duane Noggle, I disagreed with his decision to not present President Obama's speech to our district's students. As we talked about his decision we also talked about how difficult it is to disagree in today's political environment. Disagreement in our community is too often not tolerated. The decision to not present the speech clearly denied students the opportunity to view the speech on campus but more than that it reinforced rather than challenged our community's intolerance of disagreement.
Some parents and community members were moved to protest the airing of the President's speech. Without exception I recognized their disagreement with the President's policies, but the language I read and heard labeled the President from "too liberal" to "communist." In our community some of the opposition to the President regrettably still finds its roots in racial alienation. Racial slurs and terms like "communist" strike at peoples emotions and tend to heighten fears and heighten intolerance.
When a community's fear level rises and intolerance overwhelms the ability to disagree, a community is likely to make irrational decisions. Intolerance for something we disagree with is not rational it is emotional. Some may try to cloak their intolerance in the garments of reason but just beneath the outer layer is a core of fear.
Education is the mightiest weapon we have against intolerance and fear. Educators not only teach their curriculum, they concurrently teach students how to learn. Energizing students to be engaged learners is a primary mission of every school and every teacher.
Once you have been taught how to actively learn you will undoubtedly disagree with plenty of the ideas you encounter. Disagreement is the healthy by-product of learning.
When intolerance swirled around our schools' doors last week we didn't offer an alternative, we didn't challenge our students to critically engage, review and assess. We gave way to intolerance and taught our students the worst lesson possible---intolerance is an appropriate response to that with which you don't agree.
I believe there were practical options available to our district to accommodate the concerns of some of the parents and still create a learning moment for our students.
Mr. Noggle decided not to offer any of those alternatives.
My disagreement with his decision does not prevent me from respecting his hard work and dedication to making our school district successful for students, parents, employees and the entire community. I recognize that he and I share much common ground when it comes to our schools. Mr. Noggle is a good guy with whom I disagree.
I hope some CVUSD students will get a chance to read this!
(Paul Mitchell is vice president of the Chino Valley Unified School District Governing Board, however he is not speaking for the board in this column.)
(Editor's note: this Viewpoint column won't appear in the print edition of the Review because it exceeds the word length limit of 200 words, and the author chose not to reduce it for print. Longer versions of long columns or letters to the editor can appear on the Review's website.)