Quantcast

«

»

Sep 11 2011

A free speech poll

I think this was an excellent lesson. There’s nothing magical about the American flag, and it’s good for children to learn that.

A Kansas high school teacher is apologizing after parents complained because she stepped on an American flag while discussing free speech rights in her class.

Officials at Circle High School in Towanda says Jennifer McKinsey, a U.S. government and history teacher, stepped on the flag this week while discussing controversial behaviors that are protected by the First Amendment.

Unfortunately, the parents in Kansas don’t understand free speech, and they complained, and tried their best to limit McKinsey’s speech. They just threatened her job. I guess the kids have learned a different lesson, that America does not have free speech.

The voting on the poll, which up to this point is probably largely local, is overwhelmingly in favor of silencing teachers. I wonder if it will change with a different audience?

Do you support a Towanda teacher’s decision to step on an American flag during a lesson on free speech?

Yes (20.7%)
No (79.3%)

102 comments

Skip to comment form

  1. 1
    MudPuddles

    Off topic, but to do with speech… I’m sitting in front of TV watching Karl Rove on Sky News saying that 9-11 justified the war in Iraq, and that the war in Iraq had nothing to do with the current deficit in the US, and in fact attacking Iraq has helped keep the deficit down. Apparently, the US would be economically worse off if Iraq had not been attacked. The man has the right to spout horse shit all he likes, but I wish to jebus Sky News wasn’t such a Murdoch puppet and challenged him on his version of history. America and the rest of us are so f*cked if the Republicans get back into the White House.

  2. 2
    godskesen

    Well, KSN clearly doesn’t understand free speech either. It shows from the way they pharsed the poll question. It’s not about whether anyone supports the teacher’s decision but her right to do it. She has the right and we should all support it. In this case we can, anyway, support her decision as well since her reason for it was (probably) also good: The aim of teaching and demonstrating to children what free speech means in very concrete terms by using an example is a good reason. This is how good teachers teach.

  3. 3
    Aquaria

    MudPuddles: Does the UK not have truth in media law of any kind? I know that we don’t have any of that in America, but some countries do.

  4. 4
    MudPuddles

    Hi Aquaria, no not as such. There was a big debate about it a while ago when Channel 4 television screened a documentary highly criticial of climate change science, with direct accusations of conspiracy by scientists and the UN to defraud the public with alarmist claims blah blah blah. There was uproar, and it went to the Broadcasting Complaints Commission, who ruled that as long as it was unproven that the content of the programme would actually result in harm to the public, they could not rule against Channel 4. The BCC did say the programme was a crock of crap, but Channel 4 is allowed to screen that kind of crap as an independent channel (though it usually is much better than that on science subjects, and I believe they have produced some of Dawkins’ programmes).

    Rumsfeld just on Sky now, repeating the Republican version of recent world history and global economics, including the belief that everything the US did in Iraq under his leadership was A-OK. I feel sick.

  5. 5
    ohioobserver

    Schools are perceived as existing in order to transmit the knowledge and values of the American culture. What most people forget in incidents like this is that dissent IS an American value, enshrined in the First Amendment and Article 6 of the Constitution. Since public schools are “public” and politically dependent, administrators are hypersensitive to vociferous criticism.

  6. 6
    McCthulhu

    Newsflash: Attempting to demonstrate constitutional rights with colourful rags makes redneck reactionaries apoplectic. Film at 11.

  7. 7
    AussieMike

    I love poll day!

    What’s ‘magical’ about a country is when they are doing their best with their resources, their people and their opportunities. Americans are great flag wavers, but I think the US flag has become a shield to hide behind when many US citizens don’t want to face the real problems or make the hard decisions. ‘Believing’ you are a great nation under god and ‘believing’ in the American flag does not solve anything. It might make one feel better to wave it high and proud, but that’s all and that’s what religions do also.

    As an Australian I think the US believes too much in themselves and the victors in WWII (often forgetting many other nations lost so many of their own as well) and haven’t kept up since. I also think the US is not the greatest nation on earth but does have the potential to be probably above all others. The US is staring into the face of a lost opportunity.

    So step on that flag, burn it, wipe your bum with it and any other flag I say. Find the magic in the people not the icons.

  8. 8
    Inaji

    One for the irony meter. Voted, in support of the right the teacher was attempting to illustrate.

  9. 9
    The Countess

    My irony meter went off, too. Plus I see “Towanda” and think of “Fried Green Tomatoes”.

  10. 10
    piranhaintheguppytank

    At least she didn’t vandalize a holy cracker.

  11. 11
    AussieMike

    Yahooo!

    Yes (50.6%)

    No (49.4%)

  12. 12
    piranhaintheguppytank

    Being a teacher in Kansas. Isn’t that punishment enough?

  13. 13
    Nerdette

    Circle High School… they were our “rivals” in Butler Co., Kansas. They also stole my favorite biology teacher. Ah, well, at least I know the kids are getting a good education in the sciences, if not constitutionally protected rights.

  14. 14
    Beatrice, an amateur cynic looking for a happy thought

    Children have certainly learned something about free speech in US.

  15. 15
    piranhaintheguppytank

    What if the flag had been wrapped around a copy of Darwin’s “Origin of the Species”. Would Kansans be conflicted?

  16. 16
    Ogvorbis: Still failing at being human.

    And the comments are, well, frightening. Amazing how fast they descended into mysogyny. Amazing but, sadly, quite predictable.

  17. 17
    brokenSoldier, OM

    ohioobserver says:

    What most people forget in incidents like this is that dissent IS an American value, enshrined in the First Amendment and Article 6 of the Constitution.

    and

    AussieMike says:

    Find the magic in the people not the icons.

    QFT. And for what its worth, I guarantee that is a lesson that most of those children will never forget. It’s just a shame that their remembrance of the event will be stained by their parents’ misguided petulance.

    And to expand on this a bit, whenever I get into discussions about the flag, people automatically default to the assumption that because I am an ex-soldier its desecration will piss me off. Yes, there were very strict rules on how we were expected to treat the flag. (For instance, if you were carrying or folding the flag and it was allowed to touch the ground while in your care, you could expect a great deal of correction in the form of pushups, mountain climbers, or whatever form of physical training your superior desired.) But as a soldier, they assume that I ‘fought for the flag,’ so I must therefore be incensed when someone treats it with perceived disrespect, and this opinion ignores one very crucial fact. I did not pledge to defend a flag – I pledged to defend the nation it represents. So the simple act of stepping on a flag does not piss me off, especially when done with the motivation of teaching children a very basic aspect of what that flag stands for in the first place. However, if she were stepping on the flag to demonstrate her disagreement with what it stood for, my opinion would be entirely different. Motive matters.

  18. 18
    DR

    I think everyone is missing the teacher’s point here. It’s not her own speech she was demonstrating. She was trying to make the point that even if something is sacred to some people, it doesn’t mean that the government can make it illegal for people to desecrate it. That’s a direct consequence of the first amendment: you have not only the right to speech; you must also have the right to blaspheme.

    You can believe whatever you want. You just don’t have the right to have the government enforce your beliefs…

  19. 19
    Aquaria

    I did not pledge to defend a flag – I pledged to defend the nation it represents.

    I always tell them I didn’t pledge to defend a flag, but to uphold the Constitution, and the Constitution says fuck-all about the flag. One of the rights I served to defend is for people to burn cloth if they want to if that’s how they want to express themselves, as long as they aren’t harming others. No, harmed feelings don’t count. Harmed as in burning down buildings, or setting people on fire. Real harm.

  20. 20
    Ogvorbis: Still failing at being human.

    brokenSoldier:

    I have also run into the, “You’re a veteran, you automatically honour the flag” and when I try to explain that I took my oath to defend the Constitution, they utterly fail to grok. It appears to me that a majority of USAnians are more concerned with protecting the flag than the Constitution which sets the rules for ‘the nation, for which it stands.’

  21. 21
    Samantha

    This is an interesting case, because although the teacher certainly has the right to free speech, the school also has the right to discipline her for actions in the classroom if they so choose. Many schools here have “morality” clauses where teachers can be disciplined and even dismissed for legal actions that the school (or school board) find to be unacceptable for a “real” reason. That’s why many teachers end up losing their jobs over “inappropriate” things varying from having photos of themselves drunk on Facebook to e-mailing a student back regarding class matters after a certain time at night. Parents have the ability to complain and request whatever they want from the school/school board/teacher, though they won’t necessarily get what they want.

    So while I don’t think that the teacher did anything wrong, I also don’t think the reaction invalidates her lesson or the spirit of the First Amendment. Nothing in it guarantees a person that his or her speech or actions won’t garner negative reactions, anger or even loss of their job – just that the government won’t try to impose legal sanctions. Kids should know that although the First Amendment allows you to legally say and do offensive, stupid or “unpatriotic” things, it doesn’t protect you from social repercussions. Too many people try to use the argument of “you can’t censor me, I have rights!” to prove that private businesses or people must pass along their speech/action when that is not at all what the law says.

    That all being said, I think the school/school board would be foolish to actually discipline the teacher at all. She did something purely in the context of classroom education and she has apologized to the people she offended by her action. I don’t see what else is necessary. As for whether I’d support her actions – well, I think she might have been better off considering her wider audience (and their likely reactions) but I get why she chose to provide a physical example of her subject matter.

  22. 22
    artymart

    The members of the Reich wing always feel freedom of speech applies only those who agree with them. Additionally I don’t think they have the sense to understand the symbolic nature of what this wise teacher did. Perhaps some of the kids will recognize the courage of the teacher and inability of zealots to understand what this country is really about.

  23. 23
    piranhaintheguppytank

    I realize I’ve been beating up on Kansas pretty bad in my last posts (darn, that free-speech can be a bitch!), but to the (apparent) minority of Kansans out there who still believe in good science and Constitutionally protected free-speech, let me just say that I, as someone posting from the heart of “Nascar Country”, can sympathize!

  24. 24
    Dhorvath, OM

    Bloody flags are worth something? That’s farcical, we put them out in the sun to fade, in the wind to fray, get them made by other nations – individually packaged and boxed, we put them on stickers and patches there to suffer all manner of indignity, and somehow one used in a classroom to illustrate an important point is being disrespected?

  25. 25
    mck9

    brokenSoldier @ 17:

    However, if she were stepping on the flag to demonstrate her disagreement with what it stood for, my opinion would be entirely different. Motive matters.

    So freedom of speech does not extend to speech that you disagree with?

    I hope that’s not what you meant.

  26. 26
    brokenSoldier, OM

    Aquaria:

    I always tell them I didn’t pledge to defend a flag, but to uphold the Constitution, and the Constitution says fuck-all about the flag.

    Well said, indeed.

    Brother Ogvorbis:

    It appears to me that a majority of USAnians are more concerned with protecting the flag than the Constitution which sets the rules for ‘the nation, for which it stands.’

    Yep, and as an aside, the pledge of allegiance has always just creeped me right the fuck out. I can’t believe how many people think that the pledge is something that has been around as long as the nation has, as if the founders were the ones to start that tradition. These are also the people that don’t know that the original pledge salute (the Bellamy salute) had to be changed before the Congress even adopted official use of the pledge in 1942, because it was too similar to the Nazi salute. And if you really want to make a republican’s day, make sure to point out that the guy who wrote the pledge in the first place was both a Baptist minister and a socialist – just make sure to wear something that’ll shield your clothes from their soon-to-follow headsplosion…

  27. 27
    Dr. I. Needtob Athe

    In one of his books, Carl Sagan pointed out that “to desecrate” literally means “to make unholy.”

  28. 28
    quincyme1970

    Another stupid poll Pharyngulated.

  29. 29
    brokenSoldier, OM

    mck9 says:

    So freedom of speech does not extend to speech that you disagree with?

    I hope that’s not what you meant.

    No, that’s not what I meant at all. If her motive had been different, the only thing that would change would have been my opinion of her action, not my belief in whether or not she had the right to do it.

  30. 30
    Rorschach

    brokenSoldier, OM

    Hey mate, good to hear from you again !

    Stepping on a flag ? Seriously ? WTF ?

  31. 31
    Zinc Avenger

    Voted.

    Idea for second poll: “Do you think worshiping idols is appropriate behavior?”

  32. 32
    Neil Rickert

    When I receive mail (ordinary postal mail), it sometimes has a flag stamp. And that flag has been descrated by the cancellation mark used by the post office.

    I sometimes wonder why those who make the flag into a religious ikon are not offended by the postal service.

  33. 33
    Alexandra (née Audley)

    So… is anyone else reminded of the Futurama episode where Zoidberg ate the flag and was arrested and tried?

  34. 34
    brokenSoldier, OM

    Likewise, Rorshach :)

    Stepping on a flag ? Seriously ? WTF ?

    Sometimes the best lessons (IMHO) are the ones that shock the student out of their comfort zone.

  35. 35
    Sili

    I sometimes wonder why those who make the flag into a religious ikon are not offended by the postal service.

    I’m sure they are. Postal service is socialism.

    And if it wasn’t for the DMV, the USPS would be the byword of poorly run state monopolies.

    (Not that any of that is true, but since when has that ever been an issue?)

  36. 36
    a_ray_in_dilbert_space

    OK, a pet peeve here.

    So it’s unacceptable to trod upon the flag to make an important pedagogical point and try to shock some life into the poor, braindead devilspawn of Kansas, but it’s perfectly fine to fly the fricking flag in a fricking hurricane until it is a torn, threadbare faded rag!

    What the motherfuck! Look, I was a fricking boyscout. We were taught proper care of the fucking flag, unlike the gaddamed, uncivilized, NASCAR-loving, Faux-News-watching trailer trash of Kansas. Fucking secede already, why don’tcha?

  37. 37
    brokenSoldier, OM

    Audley Z. Darkheart OM, purveyor of candy and lies:

    So… is anyone else reminded of the Futurama episode where Zoidberg ate the flag and was arrested and tried?

    Audley, you are awesome for that ;) Especially since (if I remember correctly) the way Zoidberg ended up saving Earth from the subsequent occupation was to burn another flag and throw it at the palace so that the heat-seeking missile they fired could find it and blow it up.

    Plus, it always made me laugh that the earth flag was called Old Freebie.

  38. 38
    piranhaintheguppytank

    Remember today is September 11, 2011. Be sure to fly your sacred piece of holy cloth.

    Above all, be vigilant! We can never rest easy as long as Teh Terrorists are out to get us.

    Don’t hesitate to call authorities if you spot anything suspicious, like a stray shopping cart in a parking lot. Even that innocuous-looking wad of gum on the sidewalk could be a plastic explosive!

  39. 39
    Allen

    YOU are the one who does not understand free speech here, PZ. The question is do you support her “decision” to step on the flag, not her “right” to step on the flag. Don’t I have the right to protest and oppose her decision and action, while, at the same time understanding that government power should not be brought to bear to force her to stop?

    If the question is do I support her decision or act, the answer is no. If the question is do I support her right to do so without government retaliation, the answer is yes.

    Free speech is way more complicated than merely allowing the most provacative voice to speak freely. It also allows those who disagree with provacative speech to speak out against her decision or her act and request that she stop. We even have the right to engage in boycotts etc. as a means of free speech. All free speech means is that the GOVERNMENT does not silence either side in a debate about flag stepping or anything else. The parents can have their say too and the students can refuse to attend her classes as a protest if they wish. It is ALL free speech.

  40. 40
    qwertyuiop

    Koran, Bible, the flag, it’s all the same irrational reverence of inanimate objects and trying to force others to do the same.

  41. 41
    Tom Clark

    Sweet, we overtook this poll within 4 hours.

  42. 42
    Brendan

    Allen, the problem is not that there is controversy over what the teacher did. The problem is that the teacher has to apologize for exercising her constitutionally-protect right. If the parents don’t like what she did they could protest, but she can;t be forced to repent for doing something.

  43. 43
    Ogvorbis: Still failing at being human.

    It also allows those who disagree with provacative speech to speak out against her decision or her act and request that she stop.

    And if it is the government (in this case, public schools) stifling her free speech? Especially since the reaction has not been a discussion of the relative merits of her pedagogical style, but whether or not she is even allowed to step on the symbol. If the government wants to disagree with her teaching methods, that is fine. If they bow down to the Constitutional ignorance of the people of Kansas, then an argument could be made that the government is throttling her free speech.

  44. 44
    Matt Penfold

    Allen,

    You seem very upset about what happened to a bit of cloth. In fact you do not seem to be rational. It was only a flag. Had she asked a student to lie down and then had the rest of the class step on him or her then I would understand your concern, but it was a fucking flag.

    For fuck’s sake get a grip man. When you have feel free to rejoin the rest of us in the rational world.

  45. 45
    stanton

    Just some food for thought, but, what are the differences between free speech via desecration, i.e., defiling a flag, or a Eucharist host, versus vandalism, i.e., smashing an idol in a museum or setting explosive charges in El Templo Mayor?

  46. 46
    stanton

    Or even, say, deliberately stepping on the original “Stars and Stripes”

  47. 47
    Matt Penfold

    Just some food for thought, but, what are the differences between free speech via desecration, i.e., defiling a flag, or a Eucharist host, versus vandalism, i.e., smashing an idol in a museum or setting explosive charges in El Templo Mayor?

    Ownership.

  48. 48
    Brendan

    Staton,

    The difference is that that museum piece does not belong to you. You are destroying the property of another.

  49. 49
    Ze Madmax

    Allen @ 39:

    If the question is do I support her decision or act, the answer is no.

    Why not? She was trying to teach her students about how the First Amendment applies even to actions that may offend or upset people, and to be honest, stepping on a flag is a pretty harmless way of doing it.

    (And as a side note, the less people obsess over the flag as if it was some sort of holy relic, the better off this country will be, IMO)

  50. 50
    Matt Penfold

    And as a side note, the less people obsess over the flag as if it was some sort of holy relic, the better off this country will be, IMO

    The US is not unique in having people treat the flag with reverence, but it does seem to take it further than any other country, excluding oppressive and totalitarian regimes. I find it very odd, and rather unhealthy. It really does suggest a country that is not at ease with itself.

  51. 51
    longpete

    brokensoldier et al’s comments about what they signed up for reminds me of Wilfred Owen’s poem “The Next War” whose final lines are:

    We laughed, — knowing that better men would come,
    And greater wars: when each proud fighter brags
    He wars on Death, for life; not men, for flags.

    A modern version would end, therefore: “He wars on terrorists, for constitutions; not hundreds of thousands of Iraqi and Afghan civilians, for flags” except that that wouldn’t fit into a sonnet.

  52. 52
    Ulgaa

    Thanks for the pharyngulation of the poll folks. Those of us in Kansas that are not the so called “gaddamed, uncivilized, NASCAR-loving, Faux-News-watching trailer trash of Kansas” appreciate the effort.

  53. 53
    Brendan

    @Matt Penfold,

    Of course the USA is uneasy with itself. It;s a republic that took longer to abolish slavery that Autocratic, reactionary Russia took to abolish serfdom! Many parts of the South still refer to the Civil War as ‘The War of Northern/Yankee Aggression’. It’s a nation where being smart is dismissed and being a jock is held as a near religious virtue.

    The USA is a nation falling apart at the seams between endless wars, a widening gap between the rich and poor, a ballooning national debt, and a society that places value in mindless consumerism, jackassery, celebutants, spoiled brats, and ‘keeping up with the Joneses’. It’s only natural that a nation that rotting from the inside out would put such a massive focus on ‘patriotism’ to keep the populace in line.

  54. 54
    ogrelike

    Free speech is difficult. The First Amendment guarantees the right to free expression. It does not guarantee that such expression will be popular. Ms. McKinsey’s lesson was sincere, I think, and very effective. She did not stand on an American flag out of disrespect. Her lesson was based on a reverence for a principle. She knowingly put herself at risk to show her students what that principle really means. The right to speak one’s mind without fear of government reprisal is one of our most important freedoms. The reactions of parents who do not understand her purpose must be considered part of a larger lesson for the community. I am certain there are many there who do understand.

    The flag is a symbol of the freedoms in the Bill of Rights that so few seem to remember these days. It is what our symbols stand for that make them important. Forget the meaning and the flag really does become just a piece of cloth.

    To Ms. McKinsy I say well done! I hope she gets to keep her job, and I hope that her community, the whole United States of America, recognizes what an amazing teacher they have in their midst and how lucky we are to have her.

  55. 55
    rrlane

    I just got into a mild argument on Facebook because I posted an image of the Constitution as my profile picture, and explained that I felt it was a better representation of what we need to remember today than the flag. I was immediately set upon by a couple of people who said I shouldn’t be trying to be so divisive on this day of days.

    I replied by saying that they needed to understand that having differences is NOT the same thing as being divisive.

  56. 56
    The Count

    If one looks at the political will of this country and agrees that it’s a bit skewed towards religion, then it’s simple.
    Religions are founded on symbols and religions teach the ability of symbols to hold much mojo. In christianity, the cat lickers may have taken it to excessive heights but even the protestants have, at the very least, their cross and jesus fish.

    To them an American flag is easily more than mere cloth (even if they were, gasp, made in godless China). For all their talk of idolatry, they just can’t help themselves.

    Besides, to some, the constitution is practically holy writ. Unfortunately they then treat constitution as they do their magic book… they interpret it any damn way they want. Along with swords distributed by strange women lying in ponds, that is no basis for a system of government.

  57. 57
    Allen

    @ Matt Penfold
    I am not angry. I was just speaking up for the people who speak in opposition to provacative speech. But I do think you are oversimplifying the issue. You don’t seem to understand the use and importance of symbols to a lot of human beings. And I fully support your right to not do so and to step on the peices of cloth you want. But I still think it much wiser in some settings to use actually intellectual speech to convey an idea rather than provactive acts that evoke emotional response. Thus I think her dcecison was unwise. I do not mean it was immoral or worthy of punsihment, just unwise.

    @ Brother Ogvorbis
    As I clearly said, I do not support governmental action to stifle free speech. I am only suggesting that other individuals do not have to support her decision to engage in particular speech in order to support her right to do so.

    This issue does get a whole lot more complicated when the government is also the employer and the person speaking is bieng paid to speak. If you are interested, read The United Supreme COurt’s decision in Garcetti v. Ceballos, 547 U.S. 410.

  58. 58
    Allen L.

    First, I’m not the Allen #39. I support the teacher in Kansas, sometimes a demo is worth more than 1000 words, spoken, read or written. The teacher probably didn’t expect such a reaction from allegedly educated adults.

    Too bad many people focus on the symbols rather than the content. I remember learning about the House Unamerican Activities Committee in school and thinking “WTF, how can political dissent be Unamerican if America was founded by political dissidents?”

    I’m glad I teach in Canada.

  59. 59
    Anri

    Everyone who’s upset about the flag-stepping, relax!

    The flag had 51 stars and therefore wasn’t actually a holy relic.

    Really.

    (Well, not actually, but if pretending that it did makes you feel more comfy about how someone you don’t know treated something you don’t own and have never seen, then so be it.)

  60. 60
    kantalope

    Idolatry!

    Idolaters can object and the school (government) should fire her and that is not government punishing speech? weird

    brokensoldier says that if the protest is for what the flag stands for then he would disagree. But what does the flag stand for? Free speech? Free speech for corporations? 2nd Amendment only? 5th Amendment? 4th? Does it stand for war against terrorists or the special renditioning of terrorists? Does it stand for soldiers fighting nazis? Or does it stand for indefinite detainment?

    That is the trouble with symbols(idols) – they can stand for so many things.

    Best to treat it as an object.

    And as for the soldier being all upset about it. I always found that any punishment dished out highlighted the arbitrariness of the rules and the capriciousness of power more than anything else in the military.

  61. 61
    Matt Penfold

    I am not angry. I was just speaking up for the people who speak in opposition to provacative speech

    It was a flag, a bit of cloth. If you and others find standing on a bit of cloth provocative then you are the ones with the problem.

    You don’t seem to understand the use and importance of symbols to a lot of human beings

    I understand that a symbol is not the thing itself. A distinction you clearly do not get.

    And I fully support your right to not do so and to step on the peices of cloth you want. But I still think it much wiser in some settings to use actually intellectual speech to convey an idea rather than provactive acts that evoke emotional response.

    And yet you fail to understand that a demonstration has so much more impactf than words alone.

    Thus I think her dcecison was unwise. I do not mean it was immoral or worthy of punsihment, just unwise.

    Your concern is noted.

    Has it not occurred to you that you consider her actions to be provocative is the problem. You are the problem, not the teacher. Quit blaming others for your failings, and grow up.

    It is a bit of cloth. Get over it.

  62. 62
    Xios the Fifth

    @longpete

    A modern version would end, therefore: “He wars on terrorists, for constitutions; not hundreds of thousands of Iraqi and Afghan civilians, for flags” except that that wouldn’t fit into a sonnet.

    He wars on terror, for rights; not innocents, for banners.

    (Not quite right (and terror isn’t the right word) but less wordy.)

    Back on something approaching the topic-she is an exemplary teacher who has, hopefully, reminded those around her what free speech means. It means supporting the right to speak regardless of your support of the words spoken.

  63. 63
    Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls

    You don’t seem to understand the use and importance of symbols to a lot of human beings.

    And when those symbols become more important than what they stand for, then the need to desecrate those symbols to teach perspective becomes very important. Pretending the flag is more important than free speech is just an example of unwarranted idolatry. The flag is nothing more than a piece of cloth, and shouldn’t be treated as sacred.

  64. 64
    Matt Penfold

    And when those symbols become more important than what they stand for, then the need to desecrate those symbols to teach perspective becomes very important. Pretending the flag is more important than free speech is just an example of unwarranted idolatry. The flag is nothing more than a piece of cloth, and shouldn’t be treated as sacred.

    Damm you Nerd! That is what I wanted to say, but you said it so much better.

  65. 65
  66. 66
    abb3w

    I suppose one response would be for someone a bit closer than I am to obtain permits for a flag burning in the school district… annually. Then let the teacher and the school district know. She could even expand the lesson from free speech to the Streisand effect. “The school board exercised their legitimate ability to restrain my speech while I’m acting as a government employee. The response has been a more extreme form of speech by private citizens not subject to this restriction. Is this a good thing, or a bad thing?” And the school board can decide whether it thinks the policy is a good idea.

    Of course, I’m too lazy to drive across two other states just to burn a flag in Kansas. Tempting, though.

    Until someone decides to do this, I’d suggest that if the teacher has any A/V capabilities at all, she should show the excerpts of West Wing with Penn&Teller and base the lesson on that.

  67. 67
    Bronze Dog

    My opinion is simple: The flag idolators who voted against the flag stepping example worship the flag, but hate America and everything that flag is supposed to represent.

    Of course, the America I want to believe in has been steadily vanishing. I feel like I’m stuck in a declining foreign country instead of my homeland.

  68. 68
    John Small Berries

    I sometimes wonder why those who make the flag into a religious ikon are not offended by the postal service.

    Or by those toothpicks some restaurants use to adorn the food, with little miniature American flags that simply get unceremoniously tossed in the trash at the end of the meal.

    Or by conservative Presidents and conservative figures who happily sign their autographs on American flags, despite that being expressly prohibited by the US Code, in the section entitled “Respect for flag”.

  69. 69
    khms

    I’m thinking, if this had happened here in Germany, it is entirely possible that some parent would have protested – dumb people are everywhere – but I cannot help thinking the lesson itself would have failed, because to most people here, I have the impression that stepping on the flag just isn’t all that disturbing.

    Of course,neither do we have something like the pledge …

  70. 70
    Zinc Avenger

    I wish some of these people woild make logical connections between their own opinions. I bet some of them think extremist Muslims are over-reacting over “just a cartoon”.

  71. 71
    Alexandra (née Audley)

    Brokensoldier:

    Especially since (if I remember correctly) the way Zoidberg ended up saving Earth from the subsequent occupation was to burn another flag and throw it at the palace so that the heat-seeking missile they fired could find it and blow it up.

    Yep, you’re absolutely correct. Plus, Zoidberg ate the flag on Freedom Day, the one day of the year when you are free to do anything.

    It was an interesting comment on how Americans view our freedoms.

  72. 72
    Carlie

    I’d say the lesson succeeded beyond her wildest dreams. Pity it was the adults who need to learn it instead of the students.

  73. 73
    Lauren

    Sounds like a teacher doing her best to get her students to learn. Concrete examples are always better than vague concepts. Silly parents, objecting to their children learning. Psh.

  74. 74
    Benjamin "Derp" Geiger

    abb3w:

    Yes, and follow it up with this recording to explain it.

  75. 75
    Teshi

    Most ironic story of the day by far but ultimately, for those children whose parents didn’t complain, now a lesson made even better than the original conception.

  76. 76
    Al

    The Mobile Oppression Palace; heading your way soon…

  77. 77
    Bronze Dog

    Something that might make the idea of flag stepping more understandable for the idolators:

    If we aren’t allowed to step on the flag as an example of free speech, that also means we won’t be able to do it as a protest against the unpatriotic, subversive, and corrupted elements and policies of our government. If we abandon our freedom of expression, we lose our first, best weapon against tyranny.

    If you think the terrorists hate our freedom*, what better victory would there be than the self-inflicted destruction of our freedom?

    Ms. McKinsey is the real patriot in this affair.

    *Of course, the issue of what the terrorists really hate about America is full of complexities and individual variation, but you can bet a lot of the fundamentalists in their ranks would include freedom of speech as something they hate, since it’s legal to defame religious figures like Mohammed over here.

  78. 78
    Ulgaa

    Yes (77.9%)
    No (22.1%)

    Nice.

  79. 79
    Matt Penfold

    I know I have seen the Union Flag (Union Jack) as a cushion design. So here in the UK we seem quite happy with people sticking their bums on the flag. I am pretty sure I have seen the flag on floor rugs and/or door mats as well.

    One has to wonder how Allen would cope with that.

  80. 80
    David Marjanović, OM

    Almost full reversal.

    Yes (79.2%)
    No (20.8%)

  81. 81
    madscientist

    At 79.5 Yes and 20.5 No, a person could imagine that Eric Hovind was behind the poll and had switched the results (or changed the question).

  82. 82
    David Marjanović, OM

    Yes (79.7%)
    No (20.3%)

  83. 83
    Ulgaa

    Well they changed the poll to one about the KC Chiefs. Sorry to say it’s spot on there.

  84. 84
    Larry

    Seriously, the teacher has issued no apology. Read the article again. She is not quoted in it. Do you think a teacher who led such a demonstration would bow down and apologize? Of course not. She did nothing wrong.

    She has been silenced. That’s what should upset every one of us. Welcome to Kansas.

  85. 85
    mikmik

    piranhaintheguppytank says:
    11 September 2011 at 8:11 am

    At least she didn’t vandalize a holy cracker.

    I was at a church performing an informal communion with pieces of bread(body of Christ) and a sip of grape juice(blood). I joked with a friend about taking the bread back and saying, “Hey, I want a new piece, this one is missing an arm.”

    I am atheist living in a Fundamentalist community(film at 11). It is a treasure trove of opportunity for: comedy and sarcasm, and asking questions that highlight the absurdity of the bible and the christian religion.

    (I do, of course, conduct myself with tact and diplomacy and respect. I’m here to help do good humanitarian work, not criticize the very good people doing it.)

  86. 86
    Tom Coward

    Re: Matt Penfold @79: I have two Union Flag tea towels that I use to do the washing up, clean up dog vomit, etc. This causes no comment either in the US or the UK. I can’t imagine doing the same with a US flag teatowel. I have asked Americans about this, and they agree it would give them pause (at the least!).

  87. 87
    crowepps

    My Dad was in the Pacific Navy in WW II and trained us kids to all to honor the flag scrupulously. I find this free speech lesson teaching the values BEHIND the flag far less offensive than attending Fourth of July parades and having the majority of people continue to sit in their lawnchairs when the veterans go by with the flag. I do my best to talk really loudly when I tell my grandsons to stand up and put their hands on their hearts, and have occasionally shamed my neighbors into joining us, but when I retire and can finally act as cranky as I feel, I may ask if I can walk the route right in front of the VFW with a big banner saying “Get up on your feet and take off your ballcaps, people, the flag is coming.”

  88. 88
    Inaji

    Tom Coward:

    I can’t imagine doing the same with a US flag teatowel. I have asked Americans about this, and they agree it would give them pause (at the least!).

    It wouldn’t bother me in the least, however, I don’t consider the U.S. flag to be all that well-designed, which is why I wouldn’t have ‘merican flag tea towels or the like.

    I really think a lot of Americans would flat out lie about this subject, as you can get just about every tacky product to be found with the ‘merican flag on it (including mind blowingly ugly parachute pants. For real). I can’t even tell you how many camp chairs I’ve seen that have the flag printed on the seats and back. Lots of Americans have no problem at all sitting on them, folding them up and tossing them in a truck, getting them covered with dirt, etc.

  89. 89
    Crissa

    I don’t see the poll results or question in the article. Says it was updated 9/11 but there’s no note of what was changed.

  90. 90
    Crissa

    and having the majority of people continue to sit in their lawnchairs when the veterans go by with the flag.

    And I would blame over-use of the flag on this: When the flag is raised by every yahoo and regiment in the parade, which group do you stand for? All of them? There’s a point at which even reverence and law takes a back seat to laziness and complacency.

  91. 91
    Dr Marcus Hill Ph.D. (arguing from his own authority)

    I’m glad to see that I’m not the only non-USAnian who is perpetually puzzled by the fervour of the flag worship that seems to occur over there. Mind you, we do see something a little similar here in the UK when someone who should know better hangs the Union Flag upside down, but that tends to be more the faux-indignation of pedants who know what the right way up is (and the historical significance of hanging it upside down, given that this isn’t likely to be spotted by most foreigners) – these are often the same people who insist on calling it the Union Flag unless it’s hung from a mast at the bow of a Royal Navy vessel. However, not even these people get as worked up as some Americans when someone treats our national flag like a piece of cloth.

  92. 92
    Species8472

    Actually, it sounds like she was very successful at teaching her students about free speech. She even managed to demonstrate how people tend to only support free speech when it favours their opinion.

  93. 93
    Q.E.D

    What’s the Matter with Kansas?

  94. 94
    EveeDream

    I actually have a series of paintings where I paint on American flags instead of canvas. My favorite is the one covered in sand, oil, and blood (yes, real blood, but nobody worry, it’s not from sacrificing Christian babies; I’m a female so I have a regular supply). I absolutely love them, and I hope to do some more if I ever get more free time. I’ve got a project in mind with a few bibles as well…

    But I have to admit, I’m as free speech, “it’s just a piece of fabric,” as the next hippy liberal, but I still had a hard time making that first cut into the fabric. Years of indoctrination made it uncomfortable to break that barrier, but I felt fantastic once I did :)

  95. 95
    sparky-ca

    And that ladies and gentleman, is exactly why I fled Kansas for the Coast. And after that whole nonsense that started the FSM movement, I am embarrassed to say I have a Bachelor’s of Science from the University of Kansas. I can just see the thought bubble above most people’s heads “Really? They still teach science in Kansas?”

  96. 96
    Ronster666

    Regardless of how you feel about the act of the teacher you must admit that the lesson was effective. Just look at how much reaction, conversation and controversy it generated. She got some people thinking. That is the goal of education. You can teach fact and theory until you are blue in the face, but until you get your students to think, question and react, you have not succeeded. This is just my opinion and it is how I judged my success when I was a teacher.

  97. 97
    mikmik

    Speaking as a student that had a couple of teachers like you, you are 100% bang on. Not only do I remember the lessons I learned and how important critical thinking and understanding are, I remember them as great people. This teacher sounds like one. What you teachers do is precious, Ronster666

  98. 98
    thajarin

    I live in Kansas less than 8 minutes away from Towanda. I went to grade school there. The town has about 4000 residents and the district is so small, they bus in students from up to 35 miles away.(which is weird because I do not live inside the district.) This is the type of town that gets their panties in a twist over Halloween. So much so, that it is virtually not celebrated there. These people are the worst kind of right-wing ignorant rubes. Ironically it is the same town where 4 different people stuck giant flag poles to their trucks as if it were a sign of respect. It’s the kind of place where it’s ok to beat a flag until it is ragged and falling apart in your truck bed because we are killing foreigners but a teacher can’t use one to make a point. I’m not at all surprised by this.

  99. 99
    cm's changeable moniker (quaint, if not charming)

    A gallery floor is painted with stars and stripes; the stripes are annotated with the text of the amendments — 1st through 17th, (ignore 18, meh), 19th.

    What do you stand on? What do you tread on? Is standing on principle American?

  100. 100
    thajarin

    There was a demonstration I think the page needs to be revisited

    http://www.ksn.com/news/local/story/American-Legion-Riders-demonstrate-against-class/v0v989HmZUWU3oc47fubHg.cspx

  101. 101
    eshop maker

    This post couldnt be more on the level!

  102. 102
    guitars

    Thats some scholarly writing…

Comments have been disabled.