You may only read this site if you've purchased Our Kampf from Amazon or Powell's or me
• • •
"Mike and Jon, Jon and Mike—I've known them both for years, and, clearly, one of them is very funny. As for the other: truly one of the great hangers-on of our time."—Steve Bodow, head writer, The Daily Show

"Who can really judge what's funny? If humor is a subjective medium, then can there be something that is really and truly hilarious? Me. This book."—Daniel Handler, author, Adverbs, and personal representative of Lemony Snicket

"The good news: I thought Our Kampf was consistently hilarious. The bad news: I’m the guy who wrote Monkeybone."—Sam Hamm, screenwriter, Batman, Batman Returns, and Homecoming

November 09, 2007

They Said It Was Insubordination

Arthur Silber explains the five lessons the students at Morton West High School in Illinois are being taught about life by the school's adults. And of course it's not just the students who protested who're learning; it's all of them.

The local school board yesterday postponed their vote on whether to go ahead and expel the protesting students, so they may be feeling the pressure. You can endorse a petition in support of the students, now with over 6,000 signatures, here.

Posted at November 9, 2007 08:23 AM | TrackBack

Children don't have any rights in the US legal system. It's ALL 'Interests of The State'. (but I'm signing anyway)

Posted by: Mike Meyer at November 9, 2007 08:52 AM

Arthur's such a downer. How about this for a lesson: "If you do have the courage to break the rules, thousands of people you've never met will rally to your cause."

Posted by: SteveB at November 9, 2007 09:44 AM

From everything I've read about the case, the students' behavior has been exemplary. They've shown maturity, courage, and moral character in equal amounts. Come to think of it, these are pretty much the qualities college admission administrators claim to be seeking. As someone who's been disheartened by the mind-numbing self-centeredness and sheep-like behavior of today's college students, I'll be happy to write a letter on their behalf when they apply to college. If they or their parents happen to read this, they are welcome to take me up on this offer and get in touch with me.

PS Just curious... If the students' commotion had been in celebration of their school's victory in the local football tournament, would they have been charged with "mob activity" offenses?

PPS: Anyways, I wish to compliment Supt. Ben Nowakowski for singlehandedly making his lovely high school into a national laughing stock.

Posted by: Bernard Chazelle at November 9, 2007 10:56 AM

Unfortunately, the Supreme Court ruled 7-2 quite a while ago (Bethel v. Fraser, 1986) that the free speech rights of students were subordinate to the need of the school to keep order. Specifically, one cannot disrupt the educational process.

We may not like or agree with that position, but it is the law of the land. And that was the (relatively) more liberal Burger Court!

There are other precedents that involve political expression, but those found permissible were passive, non-disruptive expressions, such as the wearing of armbands.

So, sad to say, the school is probably well withing its legal rights to expel these students.

All the more reason to elect a Democratic president, to moderate future Court appointments.

Posted by: Chard at November 9, 2007 12:17 PM

All the more reason to elect a Democratic president, to moderate future Court appointments.

Please take your shilling for the Democrats over to Daily Kos. I'm sure it will find a friendly reception there.

The ultimate protection for our right to free speech is not in the Supreme Court, its in our willingness to speak out, and to support others who speak out. If parents and students in Berwyn organize a powerful response to the students' threatened expulsion, and if enough people around the Country stand up in support for these students, then the students will not be expelled, regardless of what your precious court says.

Posted by: SteveB at November 9, 2007 01:44 PM

Tsk. Chard is right. Don't try to pretend having a Democratic president won't make any difference. Or that a Supreme court stuffed with righties won't make a difference. Or that replacing them with more normal justices won't.

Of course that alone is not enough, but there's no inconsistency between taking the action you suggest and working for more and better Democrats. Unless you actually want Republicans in power, which it seems some of the more gullible, sorry, more radical greens and such seem to. It helps hasten the REVOLUTION, you see. I'm not sure if it'll happen before or after TEH RAPTURE.

Posted by: me at November 9, 2007 02:36 PM

"such seem to" should be "such do"

BTW, there's a report on the Great Orange Satan's website. Looks genuine, but I can't think of an easy way to verify it.
There's some discussion over at the linked site the diarist presumably owns. advertise on, FWIW. Hasn't been formally front paged, but did get mentioned in a diary rescue thread.

Posted by: me at November 9, 2007 02:53 PM

What has this got to do with Presidential politics? The court decision that Chard cites is from 1986, so which Democrat was I supposed to have put in the White House more than thirty years ago, to have that decision come out differently?

OF COURSE the Supreme Court is going to rule that students have virtually no free-speech rights, as they have ruled that workers have virtually no free-speech rights. It's not an issue Republicans and Democrats even debate any more, so why try to turn it into a way to pimp for Hillary Clinton?

I'm not putting much faith in the Supreme Court, or some future Democrat appointing more pro-free-speech Supreme Court justices.

I'd rather put my faith in people like these:

1) Back in 2003, a guy was arrested at a shopping mall in updstate New York for wearing a "peace on earth" t-shirt. A week later, a hundred people showed up at the same mall with the same t-shirts, and the mall dropped all charges.

2) Last year, a couple in Colorado was ordered by their Suburban homeowners association to take down a "peace wreath" they had placed on their home. It became a national news story, local people protested on their behalf and the board of the homeowners association resigned and issued an apology.

In both of these cases, the ultimate guarantor of "free speech" wasn't the courts, it was the willingness of ordinary people to support those practicing free speech. That was my point, and twisting it to claim that I want Republicans in power is just bullshit.

Posted by: SteveB at November 9, 2007 03:38 PM

SteveB: You always make good points here, and you express them clearly and cogently. Keep it up!

Posted by: John Caruso at November 9, 2007 05:32 PM


Bethel v. Fraser had nothing to do with the "need to keep order" but the desire of the school to ban lewd and indecent speech.

In fact, just the opposite happened:
Burger wrote:

"The Court today reaffirms the unimpeachable proposition that students do not "`shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate.'"

Re. the disrupting of the "educational process" I note that the students offered to move their protest to another part of the school. So what exactly was the Supt's problem? A Burmese junta complex?

But as others rightly said, it's pathetic one would have to rely on the supreme court to enforce such basic freedoms. Perhaps the reason some Americans brag incessantly about their freedom is because it is, deep inside, so unnatural to them.

Posted by: Bernard Chazelle at November 9, 2007 08:09 PM

@ chard & me: i assume you have a bukkit-ful of LOLDems who are better/cuter/smarter/less craven than the current crop hidden away somewhere? if not then what's the point in shilling for them?

Posted by: almostinfamous at November 9, 2007 09:25 PM

almostinfamous: I nominate the honorable Chuck Schumer: a Dem with the moral courage to keep taxing hedge fund managers at 15% and vote for Mr "torture, what torture?" for AG. Obviously, SCOTUS material.

Posted by: Bernard Chazelle at November 9, 2007 10:25 PM

Schumer for SC.. he's even got the initials in his name!!

Posted by: almostinfamous at November 10, 2007 12:43 AM

I student-taught at Morton West a few years ago. The admin there is kinda crappy, given that I never saw the principal out of his office in the 10 weeks I was teaching. That he'd overreact to the students' demonstrating is no surprise to me...I got the impression he was afraid of students and teachers alike.

Another telling fact is the postponement of the expulsion hearing. Boards usually back their Superintendent, since this is the guy they hired to run the district. Voting not to expel would be a slap at the Super, and by association would be dissing themselves.

However, as a former school board member (not of Morton district) I would not be inclined to expel, mainly because there was no serious disruption to the educational process.

Posted by: Willy at November 10, 2007 08:48 AM

SteveB: I'm glad you didn't take it personally.

Ad hominem attacks and name-calling on people who fundamentally agree with you are less than constructive. Shouting down people you imagine don't agree with you isn't any better.

I wasn't shilling for anyone. FWIW, I'm not particularly fond of Hillary Clinton or any other particular candidate. And I rarely read DailyKos.

I certainly agree that the best way to defend one's rights (and those of others) is to exercise them. Heck, I've even written that in my puny little blog.

But objectively, rather than relying on a Court to uphold your rights, wouldn't it at least be better if said Court weren't actively attacking those rights? I believe that any of the major Democratic candidates of the last few decades (Kerry, Gore, Dukakis, Mondale, McGovern, Humphrey) would have appointed Justices to the Supreme Court who are more in alignment with my view of individual rights than those appointed by the Republicans who defeated them. My view: it would be hard NOT to do better than Alito, Roberts, Scalia, Thomas, and Rehnquist.

Do I think those other appointments would make things perfect and wonderful, and remove all threats to my rights? Of course not. But there would be far fewer attacks on rights I hold dear, like free speech and assembly, equal protection, habeas corpus, and so on.

Your mileage may vary. I'm OK with that. But please don't put words or attitudes in my mouth. I have plenty of my own.

Posted by: Chard at November 12, 2007 12:39 AM