Dark Bilious Vapors

But how could I deny that I possess these hands and this body, and withal escape being classed with persons in a state of insanity, whose brains are so disordered and clouded by dark bilious vapors....
--Rene Descartes, Meditations on First Philosophy: Meditation I

Home » Archives » May 2004 » This is scary....

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05/18/2004: This is scary....

From an editorial in the Daytona Beach News-Journal: Hard lessons from poetry class: Speech is free unless it's critical, by Bill Hill

Bill Nevins, a New Mexico high school teacher and personal friend, was fired last year and classes in poetry and the poetry club at Rio Rancho High School were permanently terminated. It had nothing to do with obscenity, but it had everything to do with extremist politics.

The "Slam Team" was a group of teenage poets who asked Nevins to serve as faculty adviser to their club. The teens, mostly shy youngsters, were taught to read their poetry aloud and before audiences. Rio Rancho High School gave the Slam Team access to the school's closed-circuit television once a week and the poets thrived.

In March 2003, a teenage girl named Courtney presented one of her poems before an audience at Barnes & Noble bookstore in Albuquerque, then read the poem live on the school's closed-circuit television channel.

A school military liaison and the high school principal accused the girl of being "un-American" because she criticized the war in Iraq and the Bush administration's failure to give substance to its "No child left behind" education policy.

The girl's mother, also a teacher, was ordered by the principal to destroy the child's poetry. The mother refused and may lose her job.

Bill Nevins was suspended for not censoring the poetry of his students. Remember, there is no obscenity to be found in any of the poetry. He was later fired by the principal.

After firing Nevins and terminating the teaching and reading of poetry in the school, the principal and the military liaison read a poem of their own as they raised the flag outside the school. When the principal had the flag at full staff, he applauded the action he'd taken in concert with the military liaison.

Then to all students and faculty who did not share his political opinions, the principal shouted: "Shut your faces." What a wonderful lesson he gave those 3,000 students at the largest public high school in New Mexico. In his mind, only certain opinions are to be allowed.

But more was to come. Posters done by art students were ordered torn down, even though none was termed obscene. Some were satirical, implicating a national policy that had led us into war. Art teachers who refused to rip down the posters on display in their classrooms were not given contracts to return to the school in this current school year.
"Military liason"? Military liason? WHY THE FUCK DOES A PUBLIC HIGH SCHOOL HAVE A "MILITARY LIASON"? There are some questions here that need answering.

Like, didn't Senator McCarthy die a while ago?

Len on 05.18.04 @ 12:04 PM CST


Replies: 3 comments

on Wednesday, May 19th, 2004 at 1:26 AM CST, BSTommy said

Jesus Christ that's scary, and damned disheartening.

on Wednesday, May 19th, 2004 at 6:28 AM CST, lawrencehaws@yahoo.com">Haws said

Public schools don't have military liasons. Was it a Jr. ROTC instructor? Who knows. The author of the article describes the fired teacher as a personal friend of his, so maybe he was taking some creative license with the term for dramatic effect. I haven't heard of this story anywhere else, so I don't know if things are as he described them in the editorial (it's a bit hard to believe), but if they are, it's outrageous.

on Wednesday, May 19th, 2004 at 8:40 AM CST, Len Cleavelin said

FWIW, a Google search on "Bill Nevins" "Rio Rancho High School" pulls up a number of news articles, most of them about the filing of the lawsuit. As is common in such cases, most of the facts being reported are the plaintiff's allegations, as the defendants (the Rio Rancho principal and several school district administrators, IIRC) are not making any public comments. A few URLS in case you're interested:




(you have to scroll a way down the page to get to the Nevins case)

None of the articles explain the "military liason", unfortunately.

The Google search gets about 100 hits; some of these are straight news articles, while most (at least of the first 20 or so hits; I don't have time to review them all, alas) seem to come from left-leaning, civil liberties and activist websites. Make of that what you will. The case is worth keeping an eye on, I think.

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