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Wednesday, September 24, 2003

Anti-war teacher quits her job rather than her principles

By ROBERT L. JAMIESON Jr.
SEATTLE POST-INTELLIGENCER COLUMNIST

For the kids at Olympic View Elementary, it's the day the music died.

Their popular music teacher didn't come back to the Seattle school this year. Their arts instruction has been left with a gaping hole.

The reason why seems so ridiculous: Instructor Mary K. McNeill -- "Mary K" to everyone at the school -- made the "mistake" of encouraging kids to write and sing songs about love and peace during the U.S. war in Iraq.

A few parents complained. The school principal met with Mary, who had been at Olympic View for a few years and whose methods had been embraced.

Mary was issued an ultimatum: You can sing about peace but in no way can you suggest anything about stopping war.

"I feel I was being censored," Mary told me yesterday.

So just before the school year began she followed her principles -- not her principal!

She walked away from the job she loved. Better that than get canned.

Mary -- an "artist in residence" and not a certified teacher -- got the raw end of this deal. Anyone looking for positive leaders in the classrooms of the beleaguered Seattle public schools now has one less place to look.



Olympic View's principal calls what happened "a tremendous loss." But he says he had little choice.

"Mary and I had a discussion about what is OK to teach your own children at home and what kind of things you can, as a school employee, teach other people's children in the classroom," explains Tim Moynihan. "We were exploring where that boundary was. Mary came to feel a public school was too limiting."

School officials and parents were singing a much different tune just this spring.

They held a big auction to raise money and a good a share of those funds -- some $20,000 -- was collected to pay for Mary's salary for the coming year; a special grant funding her position had dried up. At the time, no one raised a fuss about a teacher many parents said their kids loved.

And hardly anyone peeped when Mary and the kids sang at another event, also this spring, for the local East Indian community. King County Executive Ron Sims was on hand at the Indian spring festival, and hummed along to the young voices.

That song, which Mary's kids had been singing in class, went like this:

We are children of peace.

We are the children of the world.

We are children of dreams.

And we are the children of the world.

We are children of love.

We are the children of the world.

We don't want war anymore -- we are the children of the world.

The last line was the one that caused the teacher to leave her schoolchildren, and what's ironic is this -- the line didn't come from Mary. She often had the kids suggest song lines in class to foster group creativity and involvement. During one session, a 7-year-old student raised his hand and said: "Well, I don't want war."

Thus trouble was born.

"That lyric was the problem," Mary says. "I could keep my job if I sang a song that didn't add the issue of war. I could sing about peace but not against war. But if you look at issues of peace, inevitably aren't you looking at conflict?"

She loathed the idea of having to guard her tongue -- and the kids' tongues.

The school district has a policy that, in a ultrabroad way, speaks to the issue:

"The teacher, as facilitator, should treat controversial issues in an objective manner, pointing out alternative points of view, and ensuring that the major aspects of an issue are honestly and respectfully presented."

It's bothersome how this policy has been applied to Mary, who wasn't about to add a line from "Onward Christian soldiers ... " to the song.

The kids' tune was about war in the most generic terms. War in the Occupied Territories. In East Africa. And many people would agree that war, however necessary, isn't great. Mary had the song translated and sung in Arabic, Hebrew, Hindi, Spanish and Farsi -- just so it could be shared with children worldwide.

But because critics of the song knee-jerked and then shoehorned the song into the current Iraqi situation, they missed Mary's aim: to teach kids universal respect for others in ways and words they understand.

Don't worry. This 44-year-old music instructor will land on her feet. She's got work with an intergenerational choir at a local church. She's also got gigs with a couple of other schools. Mary says she has no beef with Olympic View's principal. She suspects pressure came from higher ups: "It's just heartbreaking all around."

In a flash of war-generated hysteria, in a rush to cave to a vocal minority, a fine teacher is gone. Didn't the school district learn a lesson earlier this year when it allowed outside forces to flush out a talented teacher who mistakenly used the N-word?

So far this year at Olympic View, there isn't anyone serving a diet of music rich with songs about love, compassion -- healthy stuff for young hearts and minds oft besieged by pop culture junk food.

The kids have no music at all. Just silence.

http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/jamieson/141016_roberto24.html


"La vida te da sorpresas...
Sorpresas te da la vida...,
¡Ay, Dios!"

   Rubén Blades---Pedro Navaja   


Plowshares Actions
The Nuclear Resister
School of the Americas Watch


Cauca, Colombia

Original Post

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Why is this 'article' titled "anti-war teacher...". The article clearly states she was not even a bona-fide teacher, only some sort of 'employee' who obviously felt that the views of parents had no meaning to her, and couldn't do without the young 'captive' impressionable audiences of classrooms. Why did she feel a need to teach a political view in a 'music class'?

Who amongst us would approve if an 'employee' was hired by a public school to come into classrooms and teach biblical studies and the 'love' for god to public schoolers for example? What if some 'employee' was hired to teach children 'Conservative values', would we all rush to that defense??

The aclu and others would hang an 'employee' who came in and pushed their religious teachings or certain political views on young children, so I don't see this as any different. If parents did not wish to have their children subjected to this employees 'poltical indoctrination', shouldn't their wishes be respected? Why did her politics have to come into the classroom?

Sounds like she doesnt' know the difference between her freedom to express her own views and the rights of parents to determine what their children are subjected to. The 'public' school classroom is no place for anti-war protests. She should have stuck with teaching 'music', which is what she was hired to do in the first place. She chose her own fate here, supposedly to the detriment of the kids.

And I'm fairly certain their are literally a hundred thousand others who love and can teach music in Seattle just as well or better than she could, so the article is also a little 'over-dramatic' by saying these Seattle kids will 'have no music' as if noone else in the entire region can fill her shoes for eternity. I seriously doubt that.
Mountain,

Read the lyrics of the song:

quote:
We are children of peace.
We are the children of the world.
We are children of dreams.
And we are the children of the world.
We are children of love.
We are the children of the world.
We don't want war anymore -- we are the children of the world.


The line (written by a student) that caused the problem was "We don't want war anymore", a sentament that I have heard Bush utter on TV, saying that it was a basic value of this nation, or something like that.

It is interesting that somebody who presumably supports Bush's position on Iraq would want a teacher kicked out for repeating this presidential sentiment in a song (reguardless of whether we feel that Bush was speaking honestly or not).

I know very few people who would claim to "want war", reguardless of their position on the nessesity and/or wisdom of fighting any particular war.


"La vida te da sorpresas...
Sorpresas te da la vida...,
¡Ay, Dios!"

   Rubén Blades---Pedro Navaja   


Plowshares Actions
The Nuclear Resister
School of the Americas Watch


Cauca, Colombia

If you claim that 'bush' is not speaking 'honestly', doesn't that throw your whole notion of this employee only reciting 'bush' rhetoric totally into the waste can???

Regardless, I am personally neutral on the 'war' side of the argument. Fact is, she never had the right to teach political views in a public school music class. Some of those same students may have loved ones, parents, siblings, actually fighting in Iraq or in the military, and in a time of war a little sensitivity is advised. She obviously lacked that sensitivity from what I can tell. And while understandable, it still is not really excusable, especially after being informed about this.

Like I said, just how would we all feel if an 'employee' was sent in to teach conservative values, or say, christian values to public school children when they should be teaching music or science? Hasn't that notion been dealt with harshly by civil rights organizations and lawyers all across the nation routinely for decades now? Is this a music class or a political science class? She does not have the right to do as she pleases in a public school setting, just like everyone else there.

The article says the principal did speak to her about this, obviously he was coming under pressure from parents. If she doesn't take her bosses advice and countermands the wishes and bylaws of the school, what else can be done with her except to replace her?

Given the holes in the article that I've already pointed out, I'm sure there is even more to this story than is being told here in this short one-sided article as well, would you not agree.

Please obtain the articles demonstrating the SCHOOL'S position on this matter, then we'll have something to discuss in an informed and fair manner. Until then, we are being denied half the story, no?

[This message was edited by Mountain on September 25, 2003 at 07:35 AM.]
From a paper I read in Houston:

Then again, if Pres. George W. Bush thinks-- for one nanosecond-- that the average Iraqi citizen is going to thank him (for killing their kin folks, destroying their homes, eradicating their jobs and disabling their entire infrastructure, not to mention leaving them at the mercy of thieves, out laws and mortal enemies), he's dumber than he looks, even when he isn't moving his lips. But, if America is nodding amen, while reading Bush's lips, they're even dumber. I wonder if anybody knows where I'm coming from?

http://www.aframnews.com/
Yeah kevin, and the sky is falling right?

"oh lord help me now, help me lord, my life is so hard"

You know, you'd think after a couple decades of liberal BS telling us the world is going to end, that everything is lost, that we all gonna die, especially right around about election time, that a person would finally come to realize its the same ole same ole gloom and doom and world gonna end nonsense for the gullible, in order to get votes.
(course, liberals can't fix these things, but thats another story)

Imagine, these young kids actually thinking they got it rough. So spoiled, they have no real compass of what tough times really mean.

Kevin, listen up. Your life is the same. Nothing gonna hurt ya. In fact, you barely will notice any change whatsoever. The economy is fine, and will come back even stronger, the war will be over next year and Iraq will be just fine and far better off than under saddam, the schools have been falling apart for about 5 decades now, and despite this the tax payers will pour more and more money into them, and they won't improve any.

Its the same ole story every 4 years son.

I mean, I realize you may be young yet, but its important to recognize campaign talk when you hear it. It hardly ever changes, and you'll hear the exact same things when you 60 years old.

So stop fretting, and get on with whatever it is you do. Life is too short to live it in a panic and scared of everything.
Mountain,

What am I thinking? things could never be better here....we have a robust economy, unemployment is at an all time low...and the wars started are all justified and legitimate, no matter what the rest of the world thinks, until their help is needed.......and we are all very safe......and black unemployment is also at an all-time low....now how did you like that crock I just spewed? And as so far as me personally, I do not count....i'm far off from the atypical demographic you may be eluding to with that "life's so hard" bullschit....trust me.....you'll probably panic and see hardship waaay before I do.....so save that insinuating schit...it makes you sound like a self-hater......but once again, you bush-lovers can look in the midst of the quagmire and say all is well.....amazing....you obviously didn't catch the part about 2.3 million jobs being lost since fool was in office...the exact same number created under Clinton.....duh!! by the way, his numbers are comparable to those generated by his pops....still no pattern is apparent to most americans....amazing.................

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