A Shrewdness of Apes

An Okie teacher banished to the Midwest. "Education is not the filling a bucket but the lighting of a fire."-- William Butler Yeats

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

With a Rebel yell-- The saga continues....

Well, looks like as long as there's a trial lawyer out there somewhere, there's always going to be plenty of entertainment to be had:
A Farmington High School freshman suspended from school in September for wearing a Confederate flag cap and T-shirts to school sued the school district and school officials in federal court in St. Louis Tuesday, alleging the school district policy is unconstitutional and discriminatory.

According to the lawsuit, a coach or teacher took student Bryce Archambo's baseball cap away on Sept. 27. The cap bore a Confederate flag and the words "C.S.A. Rebel Pride, 1861." An assistant superintendent spoke with Archambo's father and told him that his son was prohibited from wearing anything with a Confederate flag "due to the alleged inherent racism that such insignia sends."

The next day, Bryce wore a T-shirt and belt buckle bearing the flag and the words "Dixie Classics" and was suspended. Bryce's mother then pulled him from school.

Bryce told the [St. Louis] Post-Dispatch after the incident that his father had called the school and told the administrator that his son had the right to wear the Confederate clothing. It was a symbol of his family's ancestry and not racist, he said.

The suit says the district's policy violates state law that bars prohibitions against emblems or clothing that are not disruptive. The suit asks a judge to bar the school from enforcing that policy, re-admit Bryce and remove any disciplinary record of the incident.

One of my students brought up this story, and it created quite a good discussion. Some of my kids discussed how they would feel if they saw someone walking down the hallways wearing a swastika, even if they had a perfect right based on their "ancestry" to wear it. Many other students talked about what kind of atmosphere would be created if the school were to allow such displays.

We then had a great discussion about flag- and cross-burning, the recent legal precedents on these issues, and what "symbolic speech" means. It was fascinating for many of them to realize that you can "speak" without ever opening your mouth. Now there's an idea that could use a bit of mulling over.

The point is, some words and symbols have become too polluted to be redeemed in the near future. The ink was barely dry on Lee's surrender at Appomattox before the Confederate battle flag was being appropriated as a symbol of nightriding racial intimidation and I believe there is a reason why many people feel it still communicates those values.


At 11/23/06, 12:32 AM, Blogger Brian said...

Those kind of discussions are one of the things I miss about teaching. I don't have too many of those in the office

At 11/24/06, 4:50 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Klan's preferred flag of choice is the good old stars and stripes.

I guess it is unredeemable too, so we'd better take it out of the schools as well.

At 12/19/06, 2:17 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

my name is bryce archambo. my question is to the maker of this blog. i want to know why not let students wear a swastika? if you knew your history you would know that in fact the Swastika's actual meaning is good luck not racism.

in 1925 the coke company used the swastika for promotion.

have any thing worth arguing you can E-mail me at buckmaster_1@hotmail.com or you could leave it right here

until then peace,
Bryce Archambo

At 12/21/06, 1:03 AM, Blogger "Ms. Cornelius" said...

Well, Bryce, I do know my history. I also know my punctuation and capitalization. If you read my first post on this subject from October 19, you would know that I mentioned the swastika previously.

Symbols are powerful because they evoke emotional, visceral responses that do not rely on the verbal reasoning that words, which are also symbols, depend upon. These visceral responses may be positive or negative, but symbols are more useful than words for the efficiency of communication when utilizing them. Unfortunately, they are also less precise, and can encourage misunderstanding even more than do words.

Symbols do not remain static in meaning over time or among cultures. Personally, I see the Confederate Battle Flag as a totem of people who were traitors to my country, flawed though it may be-- even though some of those fighting beneath it were my relatives, as well. It is also an evocative, long-standing symbol for nightriders and racial intimidation.

The swastika, while a symbol of peace or nature in Native American, Tibetan, and Hindu cultures, to name a few, nonetheless stands for Nazism and genocide in the modern West. My Hindu and Buddhist students understand this and disassociate themselves from this symbol for this reason.

Further, the "Stars and Bars" is not even one of the several official flags of the Confederacy. If you really want to honor your family's heritage as Confederates, these would be far more authentic choices which would not be perceived of as a threat by those encountering your costume as they pass you by.

Most of these official flags do not have more than 130 years' worth of association with the Klan and neo-Nazis, either.

Peace to you, as well. Sincerely. I do not believe in arguing, but I'm always open to discussion.

And I don't like Coke.

At 12/22/06, 10:51 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Again this is Bryce.

I want to say that i agree with you that symbols are just as powerful as words. I think as long as schools are still in session, a student should be able to wear what they want until they are put in uniforms, unless they have a strict dress code, they do not change for anybody even if they have money.

However i will not prosecute anyone for killing my family, because i feel if someone is going to stand up for what they believe in i respect them for that.

If someone is taught the history of something and they can give a explination of why they are wearing it, without having a week to research it let them wear it.

I do not agree with what all my family was fighting for, but they stood up for what they believed in.

I would like to say that I appreciate you for teaching I respect what you do.

Coke is my favorite soda.

At 12/24/06, 6:27 PM, Blogger "Ms. Cornelius" said...

Another thing we'll have to disagree about, Bryce. And your Southern kin would call that "pop" or "Co-Cola."

But I do not understand your reference to not prosecuting someone for killing your family. What do you mean?

You seem to be a thoughtful young man. But do you really think students should be allowed to wear whatever they want? What if their clothing includes racial or religious epithets or threats? What if it causes other students to be uneasy or afraid and thereby interferes with their ability to concentrate on their educations? Because that's what it's all about, Bryce-- getting an education.

Peace to you.

At 12/25/06, 1:59 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

When I said "I would not prosecute anyone for killing my family" it was in reference to the past, not the future.

Yes I do think that students should be able to wear whatever they want, but the attire should not be vulger or have racial slurs then again students are there to learn not to "impress".

I'm 65 miles away from St.louis, it's coke.

Merry Christmas,

At 1/18/07, 3:43 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

so seriously why can't you guys just face the fact that the coach just told him to take the hat off. because it might offend someone. hmm and he refused. it would've been better just to take the hat off. but no he wanted some attention. and no one cares about coke its nasty. yeah bryce reply to this one please!

At 1/19/07, 9:40 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


This is Bryce. I was not asked to remove my hat. The coach KNOCKED the hat off my head. Where I come from that is third degree assult. Why should a teacher be aloud to teach if the teacher assulted a student?

If the teacher had enough respect for me to ask me to take my hat off i would have, but the teacher stepped way out of line.

Coke is my favorite soda. Everyone is intitled to their own opinion, because this is America.


At 3/29/07, 11:51 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

My name is Travis M.

Ms. Cornelius has referred to the "stars and bars" flag, (also known as the 1st national flag). This flag has nothing to do with this subject. It was not the one that sparked this debate. And by the way...That flag WAS an official flag of the confederacy. It was approved by the Provisional Confederate Congress and officially started flying on March 5th 1861.

The confederate flag had no reference to racism. That is until the civil rights movement when it was labeled as such. The sons of confederate veterans have protested the misuse of this flag by the KKK. Just because the KKK is using the flag doesn't give it a new meaning, nor does it mean that anyone should now abandon its use!

As far as the students being "uneasy or afraid". Ms. Cornelius that is a part of life! There are uneasy parts of everyday living. The students need to learn how to thrive in these situations. Once they walk out that schoolhouse door on graduation day, no-one is going to protect their learning environment from possibly interrupting or even disturbing situations.

Personally I am VERY uneasy about getting on a plane, with someone wearing a turban. Does this mean that because I may feel fear, or it may stir deep emotions, that they should not be allowed to wear it in a free country?

Also I don't care for coke. But I will mention that there are MANY parts of this country that refer to it as Pop, including Minneapolis MN. Not hardly confederate territory.

And I guess that I am to say...Peace

At 3/30/07, 12:12 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is Travis again.
I want to say that I do like the idea of school uniforms. I think that this is one of the only ways to control some problems plaguing the public school system. If the school is going to control what students wear, It needs to be specific and enforce the rules across the board.

At 12/1/08, 2:34 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Don't people realize that all this will lead to is having school uniforms.
At least this will get rid of the question of "what am I going to wear today?"
I believe if it causes a disruption then it's a problem. If it offends a student it's a problem.
The more you talk about it the bigger the problem will get.
Schools have way too many other issues to worry about than this.


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