To Gag a Mockingbird

Students at an Indiana school won't perform "To Kill a Mockingbird" because the play indicting racism contains a racist slur.

Before the play was canceled, the drama teacher asked Gwendolyn Wiggins, president of the local chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, what she thought of using the word in the play. Wiggins said she didn't want students to hear it.

"That would be giving another reason to say, 'OK, if they use it in the play, we can say it outside the play.' And that's not right," Wiggins said.

. . . "Don't we have some positive things going on with black people that we can highlight now? Find those plays and use them," she said.

So, school plays have to accentuate the positive lest students hear a discouraging word. Well, there's always Our Town .

Saying 'Hate' Is Hate Speech

At Gonzaga University, it's hate speech to use the word "hate" in a flyer. At least, it is if you're Young Americans for Freedom members promoting a speech by Daniel Flynn, author of "Why the Left Hates America." From

In a letter obtained by YAF, the university's office of student activities informed the student group that a complaint had been made because some people felt the word "hate" in the speech title was "discriminatory."

The letter then warned the students that "in the future ... watch what information is printed on your flyers." The office informed the group that the complaint would be included in its file at the school.

Paul Schafer, a student organizer of the event, spoke with David Lindsay, the university's director of student activities, who told him that "hate" is a strong word and that students shouldn't hold an event at which a speaker hates someone. Lindsay then required the group to alter the flyers to clearly indicate that the topic of the speech is also the title of Flynn's book.

The Jesuit university's posting policy bans “h--- speech.”

Protest School

Social justice is the theme of the Los Angeles Leadership Academy, a new charter school. But parents are looking for a small, safe school that provides a quality education, and don't care for the theme.

Students say social studies is their most boring class. Certainly, it's heavy on propaganda. In one scene, a teacher blames the U.S. for mass graves in Guatemala. But the teacher also opposes the Iraq war; apparently Saddam's mass graves are OK.

The real challenge is to teach reading and math: Sixth graders and seventh graders enter with second grade reading levels. Richard Colvin has a fascinating story in the LA Times Magazine.

One day they headed to a nearby Taco Bell, where they shouted and hollered and waved their homemade signs. "Taco Bell is unfair!" some chanted, while others shrieked and whistled. "Please don't buy your tacos there!" The students were supporting a claim by a farm worker rights organization that the fast-food giant underpays laborers in Florida who pick the tomatoes it buys.

"Social justice is kicking in!" a giddy teacher had declared before shepherding the group to the restaurant.

Well, maybe.

If these students were going to become the leaders of tomorrow, they had no time to waste. Typically blunt, (founder Roger) Lowenstein put it this way: "We can go to all the protest marches we want, but if we can't read, write, think critically and do math, then it's all [useless]."

Despite all the problems of a first-year school and time wasted making protest signs, students gain two years of reading skills in one year. The school's liberal founders recognize and try to fix problems in math and social studies instruction.

Number 2 Pencil discusses Colman McCarthy's "peace" teaching, which is featured in Teacher Magazine (requires registration). McCarthy, once a Washington Post columnist, is a particularly passive form of pacifist.

"I am a conscientious nonvoter," McCarthy revealed. "I don't cooperate with the voting system because anybody sworn into office is sworn in to uphold and defend a violent constitution. How can you vote for people who believe in armies? As soon as we get a new constitution that says we're going to solve our problems through nonviolence, I'll be there to participate."

He's teaching at an alternative school called School Without Walls, and students can give themselves an A without doing any work or showing up in class. But he still gets resistance from kids who think doing nothing is not the way to improve the world.

"I don't worry about being a success story. I worry about being faithful. And you can dismiss it as, oh, up in the air, idealistic -- a fantasy world." Then his eyes glimmered, and the kids realized the argument was not over yet. "Well, the fantasy world, people, are those who say, 'Well, one more war, and we'll have peace.' I mean, keep voting for people who believe in armies. They want us to vote. They want us to vote!"

Actually, they'd just as soon you didn't vote.

McCarthy spent five years at a monastery as a young man. He seems to be preaching the monastic life -- isolation, contemplation, inaction -- as the highest good.

Firm But Fair

Discipline in Morocco schools includes defenestration. An Education Ministry official defended a teacher who threw two schoolboys out a window for being noisy.

. . . He said the teacher had warned the pair she would throw them out if they were not quiet.

"They did not listen. They should have listened," he told Reuters by telephone.

A nine-year-old boy's shoulder was fractured in the fall.

Joanne Jacobs used to have a paying job as a Knight-Ridder columnist and San Jose Mercury News editorial writer. Now she blogs for tips at while writing a book, Start-Up High, about a San Jose charter school. She's never gotten a dime from Enron.

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