To outrage in some quarters and applause in others, the Untied States Supreme Court has recognized what it calls the “coercive” environment caused by non-sectarian student voluntary prayer at high school football games and stuck down such prayers as unconstitutional. (See Santa Fe Texas School District v. Doe, 530 U.S. 290 (2000). In the Santa Fe case the Court ruled the following voluntary prayer by a student unconstitutional:
“Lord, we ask for Your protection as we depart to our next destination and watch over us as we go our separate ways. Grant each of us a safe trip and keep us secure throughout the night. In Your name we pray. Amen.”
What remains to be seen is whether the American public, and specifically the Cumberland County (Fayetteville) North Carolina School District, recognizes the coercive environment created when a teacher bullies and frightens an elementary school student in front of her classmates due to that student’s support for Sen. McCain for President.*
A Finnish film crew produced a documentary regarding American education and the 2008 Presidential elections. Along the way they interviewed and filmed the Asheville, North Carolina elementary class of teacher Diatha* Harris. Ms. Harris provides an interview to the crew and proudly proclaims that her group of impressionable youngsters voted for Obama in the school’s student election. The problem, however, is how “teacher” Harris persuaded the students to cast that vote.
At one point in the film, during her class, the proud teacher turns to a young girl whose father serves in the military and who expressed her support for Mr. McCain. The student states she supports Mr. McCain because her mother and father support Mr. McCain.
Ms. Harris then asks the girl if she knows what the war with Iraq, which Obama is going to end, is really about. When the girls hesitates under the onslaught, Ms. Harris states it is a “senseless war.” But she is not through with her persuasion. Ms. Harris then proclaims that “that man” who you support for President has stated we would keep the troops in Iraq “for one hundred years if thats what it takes.” She then adds her own coup de grace: “that means your father will stay in the military for one hundred years.” (view the film here or watch it below)
With the exception of religion American’s have now long suffered a coercive educational environment. Such is evidenced in the lack of intellectual diversity on college campuses, policies and expenditures of teacher’s unions and shallow and deceptive curriculum.
The Supreme Court does not have, nor should it have, any role in the latest example of coercion in the educational environment, but certainly the parents, administrators and school board of Cumberland County, N.C. do.
It will be interesting to see how they fill that role and whether, if they chose to ban such coercion by firing Ms. Harris – the teacher’s union and others who cheer the Supreme Court’s vigilant eye for coercive environments regarding religion – will also cheer the school board’s action.
* It has been widely reported that Ms. Harris teaches in Asheville, however, she left the Asheville school district a few years back. She now teaches in Cumberland County. Her school board website is: http://www.communications.ccs.k12.nc.us/Board/BOE.htm
Ms. Harris’ school website is:
** Ms. Harris’ first name is actually Diatha. Her name was misspelled in the Swedish documentary as Diantha. Diantha is simply an alteration to the name Diana which means heavenly divine or it is derived from the “dianthus” flower which is Greek, meaning “heavenly flower.” The origin and meaning of Diatha is unknown, thus likely causing the misspelling in the Finnish film.