Tempe Union High School and the NIER Photo

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Tempe Union High School and the NIER Photo

Postby Cpt(K) on Wed Mar 30, 2016 9:24 am

I saw this unfold over social media, and seeing how this forum contains some interesting topics for discussion, I'm curious what you guys think of this controversy. It has died down over the 3 months since, but it was trending on some social media sites (in this case, Facebook).

https://www.facebook.com/TempeUnion/?fref=nf

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This is the official statement, which was released by the Superintendent and Principle. Notice the disregard for the context of
the usage of the word. They literally said they must act compulsively when there's an instance of a potential misunderstanding.
Oh my word (pun not intended).

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This is apparently worthy of my outrage. I should be seething in anger. How dare they take a photo that I could think of as a
euphemism for racial prejudice. How utterly silly.

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They don't even acknowledge that it "appeared" to be a racial slur; there aren't any asterisks in the word "Nigger."

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The "hate" is real, but it doesn't appear to be emanating from the six girls.
Note: screenshot was taken hours after the controversy broke

The photo triggered the student body, and the internet. I'll share an informal essay of sorts. In response to the official statement from the High School:
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We are deeply sorry for ever pretending to be an institution of learning where the content
within the freedom of expression each student may share can be scrutinized objectively without punishing
their exercise of First Amendment rights.

Not to worry, we are not merely suspending them for five days. Actually, we'll go farther and announce their
pending discipline with ambiguity. Put away your outrage for us, so that we can continue to falsely assert
that their distasteful picture cannot be tolerated.

Furthermore, let it be known that our foremost goal is not to educate students, that is, prepare them for
whatever pursuit they may have after graduation: the objective is to provide a safe spacewhere high school
students don't have to encounter what may be offensive to them, doing this will ensure that their resolve is
tempered enough to endure actual life situations.

Yes, we are taking the necessary steps to solidify the path that this institution of learning is taking, mirrors
that of the higher education institutions across the nation; they'll be wonderfully seasoned with sensitivities
even before entering college.
/end satirical ridicule statement

"Nigger" is a word. A word that doesn’t appear to be fully spelled out in the photo. Every single time one of these
stories breaks it's as if someone begins beating the drum, as if rallying all the warriors of justice to begin their
repetitive routine of outrage.

Instead of making light of a word that has been used to divide people, reducing the effectiveness it has upon those
who are easily offended - the school decides to perpetuate a great mistake: holding a word in contempt, and going as
far as to inflict penalties that only give the word more power. A false power, which is perceived to be real. The ability
to inflict immediate harm, by invoking the negative connotation that’s usually associated with it.

In other words they're essentially saying "Hey, this is an object of unpopularity - instead of encouraging you
the-individual-in-distress to inquire further we'll just rid you of it. So that you stay satisfied, and we keep our good
standing with you - while forsaking whatever reason the students employed. We swiftly act in this manner, because
there’s absolutely no way for you to not become offended.”

Could it have been a joke? No, of course not. You could see the hate embodied in them, foaming from their mouths.
Their eyes were bloodshot, and violently worked in cohesion with their hateful intent to create grief and animosity.
They took pleasure in tearing the fragile fabric of feelings each minority student holds onto for dear life! One girl
in the photo even wears a look of twisted ecstasy as the photo is snapped, no doubt she was anticipating the immense
pain and suffering she’d inflict on those who were assaulted by the photo. /end sarcasm (funnier when read with a particular voice)

The reaction from school administrators was probably like this:

"Why did you think that was funny? Don't you know you cannot in any shape or form dare to diminish the pain that
word is associated with? The word is just too powerful for you to callously joke about! You have no idea the damage
you’ve wrought to the vulnerable feelings of- of minorities! The only thing we can do to fix this now, is to punish you
so that you will never do this again.”

It is amazing how the freedom of expression is only allowed to be practiced within arbitrary policies that only serve to
abridge freedom, and why? To maintain appearances, while simultaneously preserving the learning environment for the students.

Ironically this behavior stifles the learning environment, which is evident by the school's insistence on unlearning a valuable principle: https://youtu.be/ElU3NfyDPjg

Its. A. Word.
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Apparently the school recognized that threats were made against the six seniors, which is one of the reasons police were on scene to monitor the situation.
However, somehow I think they should have released a response from the accused seniors long before now and announced the developments as they become appropriate.

http://nypost.com/.../students-spell-out-n-word.../...

The students in the video are poster-children for the mean-well cause of banning words, books, and anything that has a negative connotation attached to it.
They are conditioned to immediately think the very mentioning of the word is dangerous.


Obviously there's no way an institution of learning can function how they do now with zero policies affecting speech, but that's not an excuse for the inflexibility many institutions demonstrate when faced with these scenarios.

The tax dollars aren't even given to these schools to police speech. Their job specification is to educate, not exasperate the problems stemming from different cultures. This concept may seem a little off base, but perhaps that's because parents have become too reliable, if not complacent with their expectations for schools.

No longer is it sufficient for the education system to educate, now they must extend themselves into areas parents eventually find themselves regretful for having conceding to educators. Only after they overstep will the parents of these communities realize - they should be the ones teaching their kids about particular subjects.

Notice the call for sensitivity training in the official statement? Whelp, it appears the school believes they need to teach students how not to be racist. How to be courteous, sensitive, and responsible.

Should school really be teaching those six girls that? You can't just assume that they even significantly lack any of those qualities. The school however, feels obligated because the parents have given their job to the school.

So many issues for discussion just spontaneously appear out of nowhere.

What do you guys think? This story broke like 2 months ago, but I was curious and dug around a little more. The school is patting itself on the back for "taking action."
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Re: Tempe Union High School and the NIER Photo

Postby benji on Wed Mar 30, 2016 3:18 pm

There is one thing school administrators care about before anything else: liability.
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Re: Tempe Union High School and the NIER Photo

Postby Cpt(K) on Wed Mar 30, 2016 3:45 pm

That is very true, but it appears in stories like this they almost always cave. When they absolutely don't have to. They must act, obviously, but the high school acted wrongly in my opinion. Liability is a big deal, wouldn't want your kids or their friends going to a haven for racism (undoubtedly what the spin would be, had they not acted), but this is where a few composed official statements regarding the incident should come through. Not "we assure you we will punish them, because this cannot be tolerated."

I think something more like:
While the photo may appear to some as inappropriate, we assure you the Tempe High school District does not endorse or condone it. However we cannot at this time condemn it either, because we have an ongoing investigation into the controversy, and will reserve the details for a later, and more informed response. As we investigate, please remember although the content of speech may offend you -- it is protected. Instead of immediately silencing someone, it is more productive to inquire. Only then can we effectively conduct a conversation about what happened, and get to the bottom of this.

Would it make them sweat beads to release a response like this? I mean, really, I think they dropped the ball. I actually had interest in academia at one point (I wanted to teach mathematics at the high school level), but good grief. If school administrators must use compulsion this way, eh, I'm even more glad I switched majors.
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