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The State of Modern Censorship

This article was pulled by a friend from NewsJournalOnline. . .

Hard lessons from poetry class: Speech is free unless it's critical 
By BILL HILL 
Last update: 15 May 2004 

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. 
 
The message is plain. Critical thinking, questioning of public 
policies and freedom of speech are not to be allowed to anyone who 
does not share the thinking of the school principal. 
 
The teachers union has been joined in a legal action against the 
school by the National Writers Union, headquartered in New York 
City. NWU's at-large representative Samantha Clark lives and works 
in Albuquerque. 
 
The American Civil Liberties Union has become the legal arm of the 
lawsuit pending in federal court. 
 
Meanwhile, Nevins applied for a teaching post in another school and 
was offered the job but he can't go to work until Rio Rancho's 
principal sends the new school Nevins' credentials. The principal 
has refused to do so, and that adds yet another issue to the 
lawsuit, which is awaiting a trial date. 
 
While students are denied poetry readings, poetry clubs and classes 
in poetry, Nevins works elsewhere and writes his own poetry. 
 
Writers and editors who have spent years translating essays, films, 
poems, scientific articles and books by Iranian, North Korean and 
Sudanese authors have been warned not to do so by the U.S. Treasury 
Department under penalty of fine and imprisonment. Publishers and 
film producers are not allowed to edit works authored by writers in 
those nations. The Bush administration contends doing so has the 
effect of trading with the enemy, despite a 1988 law that exempts 
published materials from sanction under trade rules. 
 
Robert Bovenschulte, president of the American Chemical Society, is 
challenging the rule interpretation by violating it to edit into 
English several scientific papers from Iran. 
 
Are book burnings next?

And here's the poem:
 
Bush said no child would be left behind 
And yet kids from inner-city schools 
Work on Central Avenue 
Jingling cans that read 
Please sir, may I have some more? 
They hand out diplomas like toilet paper 
And lower school standards 
Because 
Underpaid, unrespected teachers 
Are afraid of losing their jobs 
Funded by the standardised tests 
That shows our competency 
When I'm in detox. 
This is the Land of the Free ... 
Where the statute of limitations for rape is only five damn years! 
And immigrants can't run for President. 
Where Muslims are hunted because 
Some suicidal men decided they didn't like 
Our arrogant bid for modern imperialism. 
This is the Land of the Free ... 
You drive by a car whose 
Bumper screams 
God bless America! 
Well, you can scratch out the B 
And make it Godless 
Because God left this country a long time ago. 
The founding fathers made this nation 
On a dream and now 
Freedom of Speech 
Lets Nazis burn crosses, but 
Calls police to 
Gay pride parades. 
We somehow 
Can afford war with Iraq 
But we can't afford to pay the teachers 
Who educate the young who hold the guns 
Against the "Axis of Evil" 
Land of the Free ... 
This is the land 
If you're politically assertive 
They call you a traitor and 
Damn you to ostracism. 
Say good-bye to Johnny Walker Lindh 
And his family. 
Bye Bye. 
American Pie. 
So maybe 
My ideas about this nation 
Don't resolve around perfection 
But at least I know 
Education is more important 
Than money. 
Land of the Free . . . 
If this was utopia 
We'd have to see each other naked 
Before we got married 
But instead, we see each other naked all the time 
Because the government has my social security number 
And the name of my dog! 
And then we make babies, 
But don't worry, they won't be left behind 
And they grow up saying 
God bless America! 
But they don't know who Bush is 
Because they never learned the Presidents. 
And they will ride the ship Amistad 
To our dreamland shores 
Bearing the same shackles as us. 
I'm here to say that 
Generation X 
Is pissed and we are taking over, 
Ripping down the American illusion of perfection 
We are the future generation 
I have my qualifications 
I know it looks like Angel Soft paper, 
But don't worry 
It's a diploma 
Do I look qualified? 
You can take our toilet paper, 
But you can't take our Revolution.

 


Some sites. Some things you can do. Some more information.

The Alliance for Academic Freedom:
PEN New Mexico's Campaign:
Bill Nevin's Class Outline & Teaching: