City Lights: Thankful for our free society

November 22, 2011|By Michael Miller

I guess it's fitting that this column will run in print on Thanksgiving Day. Every year at this time, we're supposed to reflect on what we're thankful for — which, in the United States, should include accessible schooling, lenient authorities and the right to free speech.

A couple weeks ago, I covered a protest outside Huntington Beach High School, led by a core group of students who felt the school objectified learning too much and stifled their creativity. The story drew more reader comments than any I've written in years. Here are a few, with spelling and punctuation intact:

"What they are saying is true. Teachers are told to prepare their students for the tests that come at the end of the year. In more of my classes then not, that is all I learn — just enough to pass the test."

—HBHS Student

"Where is the truant officer?"



"The principal and teachers are so consumed with grades and test scores to keep their API high, that all they do is memorization drills. They threaten to hold kids back and even have 'superkindergarten' to hold kids back and keep the scores high."


"Ah leave em out there on the street. Let them get used to it, thats [sic] where they will end up anyway."


Of course, those are anonymous posters. Among those who went on the record, Principal Janie Hoy defended her school and cited the Model United Nations as an example of students getting to spread their wings. I also spoke to teachers union president Shawn Werner, who acknowledged that government standards could be a drag but stressed that schools found other ways to liven the day.

At any rate, the protest has ended. Rafael DeCamargo, who led it along with two friends, told me he encountered mostly hostility the day he returned to campus but had some classmates thank him and even teachers lead discussions on civil disobedience, using his endeavor as a model.

Regarding the merits of the students' protest, I'm impartial. I haven't had their teachers and don't know how rigid or non-rigid their classes are. I do know from having been an education reporter that many people are unhappy with No Child Left Behind and the emphasis on objective measures, and their complaints always sounded legitimate to me.

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