Saturday Open Thread

Hope your Thanksgiving was a good one.

Looks like a thought machine works in the governor's office in the state of Kansas.  Governor Brownback was speaking at high school as part of a Kansas Youth in Government program.  One senior tweeted something about confronting him and telling him he "sucked".   Here's what happened next From ThinkProgress:

On Tuesday, Sullivan was called to her principal’s office and told that the tweet had been flagged by someone on Brownback’s staff and reported to organizers of the Youth in Government program. [...]
Sullivan said the principal ordered her to write letters of apology to Brownback, the school’s Youth in Government sponsor, the district’s social studies coordinator and others.

Not much for the First Amendment, eh, Governor?  Principal?

Update:  it turns out that the student did not say anything, publicly or privately, to the Governor.  She just was tweeting big and the Governor's entourage picked up on it.  That makes him even a bigger baby than before.   A little high school girl disses you and you make a federal case.

The girl has refused to write an apology to the Governor, so we'll see if she gets suspended or further reprimanded.  If so, look for the ACLU to step in and the district to back off.

What's on your mind?


CT said…
Typical of a whiner and a bully. He's got to show that darned teenager her place. Uppity little female - how dare she criticize her overlord!
anonymous said…
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anonymous said…
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anonymous said…
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anonymous said…
I don't see anything at all wrong with the principal making the student write an apology letter. If I were the parent, and the principal didn't have my child write the letter, I would have.

It's unproductive, offensive, and unacceptable, to tell someone they suck. The boy could have said I don't like the policy that you made and here is why, he could have said I don't think you should have voted yes on I-425, or I disagree with your stand on the war. In other words it is fine to challenge someone on their views, speak up for yourself, and fight for what you believe is right. Telling someone they suck is not in that category. Just because you don't agree with what someone is doing, or what they stand for, doesn't give you the right to degrade them.

Freedom of speech has some legal limits. You can't yell fire in a movie theater, you can't slander someone, you can't threaten a person. But beyond the law, I believe there are civil boundaries, and moral limits to freedom of speech. As a parent, I would not allow my teenager to tell an authority figure that they suck, and if they did there would be a teaching moment that came out of it (like writing an apology letter).

There are societal penalties to pay when you are uncivil. If your child disliked his teacher and in the middle of class is fed up with the lesson and he tells the teacher she sucks he might get suspended for defying authority. If your child thinks the police officer that just pulled him over is targeting him and tells him he sucks the officer might take that as a sign of aggression and detain him or charge him with disorderly conduct and arrest him. If your child tells his boss he sucks he will likely be fired. If your child tells the wrong person on the street that he sucks he might get his teeth knocked out. And if your child grows up and tells his wife she sucks it will be considered verbal abusive.

Freedom of speech is a constitutional right, and we should be grateful to have such protection. It's a shame when that right is abused.

I'm proud of the principal in this case.

Open minded
SolvayGirl said…
anonymous posting and ever-changing handles...

I like the idea that we don't have to out ourselves on this blog. I don't use my real name because I am a self-employed writer and graphic designer. I avoid having my personal and business lives intersect, and also don't want my clients to get every blog post I've ever made when/if the google search me. Hence I use a "handle"—SolvayGirl.

Many of the posters on this blog use handles—the same one all the time: SeattleCitizen, RosieReader, WSWDG, to name a few. I've been reading their posts for ages and feel like I know them. I don't always agree with them, but I have a feel for who they are and what their general beliefs are.

What I don't really like are the posters who constantly change their handle to suit the comment they're making or the topic—especially when it's a response to someone else's post. I know it's well-within the rules, and perfectly legit, but it hinders the long-term dialogue, I think.

I'm sure they have their reasons, so I respect that. But I must say I prefer the people who post often under the same "name." It also helps to make it clear that a name handle truly is a new voice at the table, and not just someone who wants to appear to be.

One last thing...SHOP LOCAL TODAY...
in honor of Shop Local Saturday. Take advantage of all the little shops in your neighborhood business districts. Seattle's got some wonderful places from Wallingford, to Capitol Hill, to the stores on California, to Columbia City, to the funky shops in Georgetown. Let's keep our local businesses thriving!
I don't know what the girl said to Brownback - she only tweeted sucked so we don't know the actual wording. Maybe she did say "I don't like this policy" or "I think your governance is bad."

Yes, she was uncivil but democracy is messy. This is an elected politician and if he's that thin-skinned, he might want to consider another profession.

But that is up to the principal to remind her that the Governor was a guest and maybe let her parents know and THEY do something. You don't take students' rights away because you consider it bad behavior.

This student did not disrupt the event nor cause disruption of the school day.
ArchStanton said…
anonymous posting and ever-changing handles...

What I don't really like are the posters who constantly change their handle to suit the comment they're making or the topic—especially when it's a response to someone else's post. I know it's well-within the rules, and perfectly legit, but it hinders the long-term dialogue, I think.

...I prefer the people who post often under the same "name." It also helps to make it clear that a name handle truly is a new voice at the table, and not just someone who wants to appear to be.

DITTO. It has become one of my pet peeves on this blog. I'd really like to insist that people pick a screen name/login and stick to it. I don't mind if someone uses an alt or two, but I'm weary of the constantly changing, unattributed sign-offs (that I suspect belong to just two or three people). Oh well, it's not my blog.
Anonymous said…
Dear Censor, AKA "Open Minded"

freedom of speech is a zero or 1 thing - on or off - yes or no -

If you don't like the uncivil jackasses and loud mouths and fascist toadies of fox news and cnn - don't watch them.

by the way - do you know why you'll hear on PBS less crazy talk about the same right wing policies from the uncivil jackasses on FOX?

because people will NOT stand and tell the loud mouths what they are - in part because they fear scolds like you!

What politicians do when they go talk to underage captives - captives who can't call the politicians out - is they reinforce social norms that prize conformity and group think and not standing out and creating a society of pathetic serfs.

The governor should resign - he isn't in charge of province in the old Soviet Union, or today's repressive China.

Open Minded Double Think
Anonymous said…
RE the student and the governor:

I would say she learned an invaluable lesson - Big Brother is always watching.

Don't ever post anything electroncially you don't want your mother or your boss to see.

CT said…
The irony is that by searching out the teenager and getting her punished, he called attention to the tweet and made himself look like a revenge-seeking twit. Had he simply ignored the tweet like a mature adult in political office should be able to do, it would have all blown by the wayside. The girl had something like 61 followers before all this. Now that Brownback has made such a big deal about it, she's got something like 1300 followers, and her tweet has been retweeted hundreds of times. Even the (conservative) Kansas papers are saying this was uncalled for and he was overreaching his authority (and wasting taxpayer dollars on personal revenge).
TraceyS said…
.... or posted on the front page of the New York Times ;-)

That policy has served me well over the years. I rarely regret what I post under any moniker, though I try and stick with TraceyS here (formerly one of several NewToSPS posters). Like SolvayGirl, I would prefer to not have my posts easily picked up by search engines. But Tracey is my real first name, and my real last name does start with S (and ends with conyers, lol). Real world people can easily link me with my posts, but Google can't.
Rufus X said…
Against my better judgment - and not because I don't agree with the 1st amendment issues that have been raised, I am just trying to wrap my head around all of the implications of this instance - I will play devil's advocate re: the Tweet heard 'round the prairie.

It sounds like this young lady was attending a Kansas YiG mock legislative assembly. This was not a public assembly/speech/meeting at a community center or school open to all KS constituents. If this is the case, and IF she was representing her school or whatever community group sponsored her local YiG, does that change anything? If it's a matter of "You made your school/group/representatives look bad", does that change anything?

It makes no difference re: the 1st AM nor does it make the Brownback staff less butthole-ish for diming her out to her principal. And it was a mock legislative assembly, after all (Didn't Rep. West recently tweet some really nasty comments about Rep. Pelosi?). Just wondering how much of this is an attempt to stifle free speech vs. a principal holding his/her student representatives to a high standard (IF Ms. Sullivan was sent to the assembly as a representative and was not attending on her own).

Please, Hammer, don't hurt 'em. I'm just asking.
seattle citizen said…
Couple of interesting op-eds in Friday's New York Times.

One, by Herbert Gans The Age of the Superflsous Worker, discusses this problem of superfluous workers - not just workers that are laid off but will be rehiured elsewhere later, but workers who are just no long er needed anywhere - a potential future economy that doesn't require them. He discusses the historic methods of dealing with surplus labor - wars, selling your surplus into slavery, send them to colonies...But today those are, uh, frowned upon so what will be do OUR surplus? (This issue is why I'm hesitant of STEM as a magic bullet that will leasd to employment for all...Really?)
He suggests that one fix is to focus on opening up human, hands-on labor, and a GREAT example is cutting class size in half, thereby hiring more people and also leading to a better education for the students!

The other op-ed correlates: Pual Krugman states that We Are the 99.9% and illustrates how the top 0.1 percent has ALL the money. Would that those 0.1 percenters use their wealth to hire more teachers and police officers and case managers and health workers and build more afforable housing and provide more hands-on work, well, everywhere...
dan dempsey said…
The above ideas are interesting. Keep in mind that the USA has around a 175 to 180 day school year in most states. The OECD average is 195 days.

Round Mountain Nevada HS has a school day from 7:50 to 3:52 with a 30 minute lunch and 3 minute passing times. It has 180 school days.

The idea that the state of WA will be improving the education it offers to students through implementation of Race to the Top Reforms and participation in the Common Core State Standards and a huge increase in testing is completely without validity.

Tom Friedman's and Marc Tucker's interview with Luke Russert on Nov. 15, 2011 ..... declare average is over...... (You would never know that from actions in WA state in regard to education.)

Tucker points out that the nations that are doing really well in regard to education are smaller than the USA and that well focused state leadership would be much more likely to bring about improvement than Federal Leadership. WA state needs to break out of the pack. .... We are suffering through a dumbing down ... in far too many ways.
seattle citizen said…
This op-ed from today's NYT addresses Policy-Making Billionaires, and suggests that billionaires just give money to schools, etc and let democracy decide how to spend the money, instead of using their billions for "advocacy" to subvert democracy with dollars.
CT said…
The AP has put out a TFA article. Not quite as rosy as some of the others they've put out.
Anonymous said…
Regarding "superfluous workers", it has always stuck with me that here we're called "unemployed", but in Britain, without a job, you are "redundant".

TraceyS said…
CT, The Seattle Times has picked up the TFA story, and has a link posted on the main webpage, under the headline "Big expansion, big questions for Teach for America":
dan dempsey said…
Hey how about a DEBUNKING of the research that gets pushed?

In research organizations that have been “captured” by vested interests, the scholars who receive the most attention, praise, and reward are not those who conduct the most accurate or highest quality research, but those who produce results that best advance the interests of the group. Those who produce results that do not advance the interests of the group may be shunned and ostracized, even if their work is well-done and accurate.

The prevailing view among the vested interests in education does not oppose all standardized testing; it opposes testing with consequences based on the results that is also “externally administered”—i.e., testing that can be used to make judgments of educators but is out of educators’ direct control. The external entity may be a higher level of government, such as the state in the case of state graduation exams, or a non-governmental entity, such as the College Board or ACT in the case of college entrance exams.

One can easily spot the moment vested interests “captured” the National Research Council’s Board on Testing and Assessment (BOTA).
dan dempsey said…
Hyperlink to Seattle Times TFA story
CT said…
Thanks, though i generally try avoid reading or linking to the Times if I can help it.
Po3 said…
I have a question about the school reports, several are showing glaring issues with leadership. Are the ed directors for schools with low marks tasked with mentoring these principals?
Anonymous said…
Just one more RE the student & the Gov:

Maybe the Gov thought he wasn't in Kansas anymore?

Anonymous said…
Perfect storm of bad admins, bad cops in schools, and budget cutting:

5 year old acts out and gets arrested

KCRA 3 obtained a copy of the U.S. Department of Education's report on Michael's arrest.

The report states that the Stockton Unified School District "delayed an evaluation of the student {Michael} which denied the student a fair and public education."

They added that the school didn't offer behavioral services to Michael or his mother, because "it would cost the district money."
The report goes on to say that, whether or not funds are available through state or federal grants, the school district had an obligation to have Michael evaluated, which it failed to do.

As for Michael's mother, Gray said she doesn't want an apology from the district, she simply wants the school district to help her get Michael the education he's entitled.

"I've been asking," Gray said. "I've been begging for any assistance for Michael to get placed appropriately and this is what they chose to do."

Could it happen here?

Chris S. said…
There was a documentary they showed at Nova, probably in the spring of 2010. I dont' remember the name but it was about the effect of "zero tolerance" policies in school. It ends with a scene in which a little girl is subject to undue force like that. Much of the audience was in tears, as was the child. Anyway, it's probably been happening for a long time.
Anonymous said…
This whole thing sucks. 1st Amendment covers her opinion and yes, there is always the devil to pay for being impolitical. So we have a parable, David vs. Golliath. So there is that.

Seattle mom
Anonymous said…
Does anyone know of any high schools taking trips to Europe next summer? Or any good organizations that a student can join? Our student's school didn't get enough interest and isn't going. Our student has been saving for this, now time is running out!

Signed: European Student travel.
European, contact AFS or World Affairs Council here in Seattle. Both have exchange programs. I would also contact the Executive Director in your region and find out if a high school trip needs more students to fill it out.
seattle citizen said…
Eileen Yardley, a Spanish teacher at Ballard HS, told me that it is fine for you to contact her at
She wrote to me, in reply to my query on your behalf, that
"Lots of my students in the past have participated in either the Amigos program or the Global Visionaries program...Tricia Nielsen [another Ballard teacher]took a group to Spain last summer, but may be taking a break from traveling with students this summer. I think she goes on a tour with kids every other summer."
Anonymous said…
Chris S-
The film we showed at Nova is called The War on Kids. It's a powerful, if disturbing commentary on a student's rights and place within our public school system. The trailer has a great line from John Taylor Gatto. If only he were leading school "reform" efforts, what a different conversation we could have.

Charlie Mas said…
Other than full-blown exchange programs, there are educational trips. Check with EF Tours to see if there are any going from Seattle to Europe at Spring break.
StepJ said…
Widespread intimidation to cheat.(sound familiar?)

From a report on Rock Center this evening -- lots of unsavory behavior in the Atlanta School District.
TraceyS said…
StepJ, I knew about the Atlanta cheating scandal, but I had no idea it was so widespread. 178 teachers in 44 schools. Groups of teachers opening colluding together to change answers. IAs being fired for not agreeing to participate in cheating. Pay increases tied directly to test scores. Over a half million dollars in bonuses to the head honcho, Beverley Hall, for improvements.

Wow. Just wow. If ever there was a reason to rethink tying teacher salaries to student test scores, this would be it.
Anonymous said…
Thanks for the travel tips.

Signed: European Student travel.
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