Censorship in U.S. Schools?

nomorewar3310920bigDuring the past weeks ISR has featured articles focused on schools that don’t stand up for teachers who are confronted by wealthy/powerful parents and/or over–privileged children. Of the many teachers who commented on this topic via our ISR Blogs, most were in agreement that living and teaching in the Middle East could leave one open to unforeseen problems due to cultural differences. See: Schools That Throw Teachers Under the Bus and Guilty Until Proven Innocent.

To our surprise, it looks like the United States school system, at least in Washington state, has engaged in censorship that resonates loudly of the modus operandi so many international educators find objectionable about the Middle East.  Mary McNeil, a music teacher in the Seattle school system, asked students to create lyrics for a song. The last few lines of the song go: We are children of love…We are the children of the world… We don’t want war anymore. It was this last line of the song that the school principal wanted removed from the song.

Interestingly, the line in question was actually contributed by one of her students. To Mary’s credit, rather than compromise her principles for the principal, she resigned her position to the dismay of parents and students alike.

One could argue that teachers should leave their political views at home. As educators, however, are we not charged with teaching children to use their intellect rather than brawn? What could be more in line with the philosophy of education than singing We don’t want war anymore? We invite you to comment on this topic. We should add that this event took place some ten years ago, but the fact that it did take place is reason to give pause.

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27 thoughts on “Censorship in U.S. Schools?

  1. ISR I usually support your take on things, but I think your own ideology has shown through for the first time here. I agree with you that censorship is wrong, but so is leaving out the time at which the censorship happened this is censorship as well leaving out important facts.

    As Randy pointed out above no one should want war, but sometimes things get so bad that war is the only solution. It shouldn’t be the first solution. If PAX would come off his soapbox for a minute maybe he’d understand HISTORY not ideology masquerading as history. Today people write revisionist history where the west is always wrong well that is wrong as well. History can’t be written from this perspective. You can’t put our cultural values back in time and force our point of view on history. Slavery to us is wrong it was wrong to many people in 1776 including Benjamin Franklin, but he overlooked slavery in the South, because to him the revolution came first then you could tackle Slavery. Every moral issue has its day or time in history where there is a meeting of the minds in public opinion then the moral wrong is righted, but until that moment in history you can’t put our values on other time periods.
    Randy is also right when he says that some people usually LEFT leaning people try to make out good and bad sides in history migration has always happened in history. The ancient Romans would claim today Italy as their homeland, but the Vandal,. Goths and other German tribes that came across the Roman border changed that, so it is with the migration of Europeans to the Americas or to Australia and other places. Left leaning people have never understood history except to create ideologies to grind their axes on.
    The old saying life isn’t fair and neither is history and it isn’t going to change, because LEFT leaning people create their theories and ideologies to explain regular historical migration away. History is about the movement of people. Now GENOCIDE such as what happened in World War 2 is a different matter or the Armenian GENOCIDE this wasn’t just migration, but deliberate decisions to wipe out whole populations. History has to be taught without ideological blinders. I would ask ISR next time tell the whole story.


  2. One of the main reasons I left teaching in the U.S. is that the administration was constantly throwing teachers under the proverbial bus! I saw so many teachers sacrificed because some kids parent threatened the school with a lawsuit over some trivial issue that I decided I wasn’t going to live like that. It also happened to me before I got out. I say good riddance to the U.S. school system, but not before I sued them and showed them that teachers, too, can be represented legally if they are wronged.


  3. I’d like to think that pretty much any student that has been successful in IB TOK could see through must of the above opinion, and could certainly point out the flaws in logical thinking that abound. The problem here is not that a principal challenged a teacher’s work, per se, but that the analysis of such a situation is taken from a highly insular and ideologically informed position, yes just like many of the comments.


    1. I’ve just realised we’ve been the subjects of a ToK hoax! Well done ISR for making us realise the power of the media and demonstrate how easily we can be manipulated by omitting important facts to further political agendas. My hat is doffed to you.


  4. Left wing teachers think their orthodoxy excuses them from virtue.
    Many schools are teaching junk science, the founding fathers
    were all racists, Indians who migrated to North America from
    Asia are called native Americans and walked on water before
    the “white” man ( Most teachers do not know that Indians
    called all non-Indians white regardless of their color. ) came to
    North America, and America is responsible for all bad things
    in the world.
    Thus, I say to you liberal teachers that it is easy for you to find a
    school that teaches your “truth”.


    1. Questioning the efficacy of vaccines is junk science. Teaching history in a way that recognizes the prior claims of Native Americans is:

      a) not science;
      b) not junk.

      Your assertion that to be liberal means being devoid of virtue is, quite frankly, rather stupid.


    2. Removing an incident from its historical context is also rather stupid and insisting that the Indians were the only aggrieved party is also stupid. Taking land from weaker states was part and parcel of how politics was done right up to the liberal West’s insistence that you couldn’t do that anymore in the 1960’s. Looking down on someone for doing that in an historical context is insulting to them and ignorant on your part.

      Indian’s way of life was the raid and war on neighbors. Europeans who were settling in North America saw this aggressive behavior in a different light from what the Indians saw as a social norm and reacted in a way that they would have reacted in Europe to protect themselves i.e. to remove the offending parties to either 1) another local from whence they could no longer raid or 2) the happy hunting ground.

      There isn’t a place on earth this is currently occupied by a people that wasn’t occupied by someone before them. The Europeans came to North America and displaced the Indians. Migrations of people happen. Crying about it and using the courts and guilt of the invading people to better your position within the new political structure is clever. Trying to re-write the history in a more favorable light isn’t. Looking at history honestly is smart. Putting a liberal spin on history and trying to place labels on people such as “bad” and “wrong” isn’t. For being so open minded, liberals tend to be the most closed minded, insular people that I know.


  5. It just shocks and frightens me that people feel that war is never justified. The world is a terrible place sometimes. People do bad and evil things sometimes. The only security that the “civilized” world has against the tyrants of the world is a strong defense and that sometimes means that going to war is not only an option but sometimes the only option. Wishing the world were all sweetness and light only gets you sent to the labor camp for reeducation faster. The liberties and freedoms that we in the West enjoy and support so steadfastly would be the first things to go if not for brave men and women standing at the sharp end of a very thin knife that holds the wolves of the world at bay. You can’t negotiate with a homicidal maniac or a narcissistic dictator. What we see as reason and logic they see as weakness and opportunity. If you are going to keep your freedoms you sometimes have to fight for them. There is no other option. Please, build your castles in the sky and hope that they don’t fall down but be realistic. There are many, many instances where war is a necessary evil and all that we can do is hope that the people that we’ve chosen to lead us in a democratic society are wise enough to exhaust opportunities to avoid it before resorting to it. The democratic system failed in the 1930’s and 40’s because there was a lack of resolve on the part of the democracies to stop fascism. Do we have less of a duty and responsibility to stop fascism today? Ideology is necessary for every thinking person but our own personal beliefs shouldn’t interfere with our obligations to the children that we teach. Leave indoctrination in the hands of parents. Leave your own personal biases and idealism at the schoolhouse door. If not, you deserve to be fired. I don’t want someone espousing a love of the tenets of fascism to my children. I also don’t want someone espousing the tenets of unlimited pacifism which, I feel, is at least as damaging, and probably more so, than fascism. Being a pacifist is great for individuals but it’s death for a nation.


    1. Pacifism is at least as damaging as fascism?


      Why is it ‘indoctrination’ if the message is peaceful but our ‘obligations to the children’ to endorse war?


    2. No on is endorsing war. I’m saying that sometimes war is necessary. Read what I wrote before calling me an idiot. Unbridled pacifism is the path to slavery. If there is nothing that you are willing to fight for then someone will take everything that you have. These aren’t my rules, these are just the way things are. If you don’t want to live in a ruthless dictatorship then you had better be willing to fight for your freedom. It is just as indoctrinating to state that war is never justified as to say that war is always a viable solution to a nation’s ills and political conflicts with its rivals. Wake up and smell the coffee Pax. Don’t call someone an idiot if you aren’t clever enough to figure that one out.


  6. If you want to be a teacher … with tomorrow’s citizens in your care … and if you can’t accept the world as you find it and trust the government who know more than we do, … and teach that primary lesson to those in your charge … … you should resign, as unfit for the purpose. NOT !


  7. “War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things; the decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks nothing worth a war, is worse. A man who has nothing which he cares more about than he does about his personal safety is a miserable creature who has no chance at being free, unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself.”
    ― John Stuart Mill


  8. The usual ISR hyperventilating. So ONE principal questions a teacher’s decision, and suddenly it’s all of Washington State infringing on freedom of speech?


    1. trav45 and shabba, you must be sour grapes directors upset about the reviews of your school on ISR and looking for any reason to attack ISR. It looks to me that all ISR is saying is that the US has censored teachers so all you that are so quick to point your fingers at the Middle East need to get off your ivory tower. It happens everywhere. Even in your country that so readily invades other countries based on false information. Oh, maybe that’s why it’s a no no to sing for peace.


    2. Moving forward…. More assumptions. So you know that the previous people are directors? I think it’s a fair point to bring up the fact that the incident was ten years old. And I also think that you could find more current incidents of relevance in the US school system.
      You feel the need to speak of decisions the government made–invading countries based on false information. Resorting to country bashing based on government decisions doesn’t seem necessary. The article is about censorship in US schools.


  9. The economy of Seattle involves military production, and many children are taught that war brings freedom from tyranny. In many schools and the USA Is no exception, independent thought is the pathway to unemployment. Teachers are expected to mirror the norms of the community they teach in.


  10. The days of having a personal opinion are long gone, any opinion you have is going to piss someone off – parent, administrator, another teacher.
    As for the Middle East, humiliating obnoxious parents and their offspring goes a long way to stopping harassment of teachers, I know from personal experience


  11. I have taught in the Middle East and found that the school was really run by powerful and rich cliques of parents. They could change grades, protect their coddled children from the consequences of their bad behavior and they treated teachers as another set of servants.


  12. Thanks for the compliment on the ISR blog topics. You are correct when you say this article is from 10 years ago. An ISR reader brought to our attention and we were quite surprised to learn a U.S. public school had imposed such a censor. Although the incident is dated, its similarity to the censorship outlined in recent blogs focused on incidents in the Middle East seemed worthy of comparison and discussion.


    1. If the incident occurred when the country is at war (in the wake of 9/11 and at the time the iraq war was portrayed as justified), there is a massively different agenda possibly being put forth.

      This is sensationalist reporting ISR. Very disappointing and certainly makes me question your other articles on the Middle East and elsewhere. I think it is very important in the interests of what is fair and right that you publish an addendum explaining that this was either a) a mistake or b) an intentional attempt to mislead your readers.



    2. Shabba, you appear to be an ISR basher and rather aggressive at that. It looks to me like ISR is simply pointing out that the Middle East is not the only place with a record of schools censoring teachers. It makes no difference to me if this incident took place yesterday or twenty years ago. Of course you super patriots don’t want to hear this.


    3. For what it’s worth, I have lived in the Middle East for the last 13 years.

      If I were to be flippant, I could say that I recently read an article about how German children are taught in schools that ethnic minorities are to blame for their country’s ills. The fact that the article is 80 years old is probably quite important.

      Time, place and context matters a great deal Up Front With It – ISR knows this (or, surely, should know this as an “educational” publication) and has deliberately mislead its readers.


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