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Leadership and Activism, Learning at its Best, School Stories

No Controversy Allowed! On Getting Kicked Out of a Middle School

I wanted to share a recent post I wrote for Common Dreams, a progressive news site. Here are a couple excerpts:

Imagine our surprise when ten minutes after the presentation we found out that the second one was canceled. The principal – who’d come in a few times during my presentation but wasn’t able to attend the entire talk – felt it was too political and called ahead to stop me from speaking at any other school that day….

Was my talk political? Only if by political we mean that it ultimately had relevance to governance. It was certainly not partisan, and it’s preposterous (and worrisome) to suggest that words like “war,” “healthcare,” and “illegal immigrants” cannot be uttered in schools. What that implies about the learning that is permitted in school is frighteningly 1984-esque.

Was my talk controversial? It shouldn’t have been, but even if some thought it was, we should welcome controversial topics in school. What better place to grapple with differing ideas? If students cannot uncover and discover truths in school and explore systems in an effort to become not only better educated about the realities behind our choices but also gain the power to be conscientious choicemakers and future changemakers through their careers and professions, then what are we hoping to achieve through schooling?…

I do not blame this principal, though. He faces stresses and challenges in his job that I not only don’t know about, but can only imagine make his work as an educational leader difficult. We live in an educational climate that is terrified of controversy, making schooling blander with each passing year, and depriving our children of the critical and creative thinking skills they need to face a challenging and uncertain future. Despite all the evidence that shows that discussing controversial issues in school leads to greater educational achievement, skill, and learning, we shy away from the issues that may be most important and relevant to our children’s future.

Read the complete post.

For a humane world,

Zoe Weil, President, Institute for Humane Education
Author of Most Good, Least Harm, Above All, Be Kind, and The Power and Promise of Humane Education
My TEDx talk: “The World Becomes What You Teach

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About zoeweil

I'm the co-founder and President of the Institute for Humane Education (IHE). IHE works to create a world in which we all live humanely, sustainably, and peaceably. We do this by training people to be humane educators who teach about the pressing issues of our time and inspire people to work for change while making healthy, humane, and restorative choices in their daily lives. We also work to advance the field of humane education, and to provide tools and inspiration to people everywhere so that they can live examined, meaningful lives. I'm also a writer. So far I've written six books and several articles.

Discussion

7 thoughts on “No Controversy Allowed! On Getting Kicked Out of a Middle School

  1. What experience did this principal have in his career that so crippled his sense of efficacy? What policy so coerced him into his kneed-jerk reaction?

    Students and parents heard the right message and weren’t afraid – maybe the principal can take some comfort and meaning from that.

    All the best,
    C

    Posted by Chad Sansing | June 6, 2011, 9:41 am
    • Actually, he had an experience that made me quite sympathetic to him, but I don’t want to share it publicly. I hope that the fact that he didn’t get complaints and there was a positive write-up of my community talk in the local paper, helped ease his fears.

      Posted by Zoe Weil | June 7, 2011, 6:34 pm
  2. Wow, that’s horrible. To me those are not political issues. Those are issues of human rights.

    Posted by johntspencer | June 7, 2011, 12:37 am
  3. Zoe, What did the principal hear you say that got you kicked out? Did he or she say? It would be great to hear more details…

    Thanks,

    Kirsten

    Posted by Kirsten | June 7, 2011, 8:22 am
  4. “We live in an educational climate that is terrified of controversy, making schooling blander with each passing year, and depriving our children of the critical and creative thinking skills they need to face a challenging and uncertain future.”

    So unfortunate. Is there hope?

    Posted by melissa | June 7, 2011, 2:10 pm
    • I believe there is hope, but my hope is challenged from time to time. I try to live as if I’m hopeful, even when I’m not. When I’m hopeful I’m more inclined to work tenaciously for change. So whether I’m hopeful or not, I fake it and keep on working!

      Posted by Zoe Weil | June 7, 2011, 6:37 pm

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