God Forbid Learning Gets in the Way of Education

Forest Lake Area High School bounced some Iraq and Afghanistan vets out of a school program because the vets’ visit had become controversial and school officials were afraid there’d be protests.

Wouldn’t that be awful. Then teachers would have to interrupt their lectures for that inconvenient and messy occurrence — thinking. And debating. And learning critical analysis skills.

The vets’ group, called the National Heroes Tour, calls itself nonpartisan but supports “completing the mission” in Iraq and Afghanistan. But the group had agreed not to talk about “completing the mission” at the high school appearance (what were they going to talk about — camo designs? Actually, they said they’d talk about their military experiences).

Then come two dozen phone calls and emails from people opposing the visit, according to the Strib, some of them threatening anti-war demonstrations. So the school pulled the plug on the vets, and then came phone calls from people pissed at the cancellation.

The Strib indirectly quotes a school spokesperson saying the possible protests would have distracted from the school’s mission, which is to educate. PARDON ME? What more important thing to educate young people about than war, and the responsiveness of government, and how policy is made and changed? Good god, bring on the protests and debate. Make sure that, if the Heroes tour is supportive of the war effort, you get some vets in there who view the war as FUBAR, and let the points of view fly. Have the teachers wade in with pointers on critical thinking and logic, so students have something more than just emotion and volume on which to evaluate what’s said. That’s education.

I believe I heard that half of the 4,000 US dead (and perhaps the same percentage of the 29,000 — that’s twenty-nine thousand — US wounded) in Iraq are under 25 years of age. So isn’t it a pretty good idea for young people to be part of the debate, the protests, the thinking?

The principal said he was afraid the event would become political rather than educational. As if those are mutually exclusive. Politics is how people govern themeselves. And learning critical thinking is crucial to a democracy — although there’s precious little critical thinking encouraged in most schools, which is partly why politicians are able to get away with advertising slogans rather than real discussion of issues, judgment and character.

I understand school officials not wanting things to get out of hand at an event like this. But things have gotten out of hand in this country and world, and we can’t insulate students from the hard choices and the horrific consequences of those choices. Indoctrination is orderly. True education is rambunctious.

Army Staff Sgt. David Balavia, one of the vets who ended up speaking to a group of students at a local American Legion, said it best: “What happened with the high school, it’s embarrassing. Let’s not pull any punches here.”

— Bruce Benidt online billing kind

4 thoughts on “God Forbid Learning Gets in the Way of Education

  1. Bravo! Great post. School administrators/teachers no longer take educational risks today. They can’t please everyone, so they so often end up pleasing no one.

  2. I’m with you here, but in your frustration you seem to have confused the dictionary’s definition of education – you know, teaching – with the state-mandated definition of education: making sure kids pass standardized math and reading tests.

  3. Dennis Lang says:

    Great article. I wonder if the school district would have the same reservation for Iraq Vets Who Oppose the War. My slight experience with Vets for Freedom (party to various e-mail exchanges) is that there is an inflexibility and single-minded view of “Americanism” that is profoundly political. That said, let the students distinguish dogma from reality–at least think about it.

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