I don’t imagine that I will be writing about my other passion–debate–too often on this site,but my experience this weekend was actually quite eye-opening. I often think that I live in a conservative state, but perhaps I should count my blessings. For all of our seeming conservatism, I think free expression–even for teachers–is still valued in Montana. This week, at the meeting to select the national debate topic, conservative pressure has led to the modification of three critical topics.
On a number of issues, the spectre of “going back to school administration” was raised as an argument to avoid some discussions. Two things about that stun me–that an administrator somewhere actually cares about the national debate topic, and second, that there are places in the United States where that kind of pressure still keeps educators and students from talking about controversial issues.
The examples are stunning. The AIDS topic was gutted, because some parts of the country cannot talk about HIV prevention programs. 20 years after the emergence of AIDS, after the deaths of untold millions, hell, after Tom Hanks played a gay man in ‘Philadelphia,’ high school students can’t talk about preventing the spread of a disease that is still ripping through their schools and lives? We ended up with a vanilla resolution that promotes research. Perhaps we need to research the attitudes that are causing us to ignore a silence, when silence ensures its spread.
We also stripped population control out of a resolution about Africa, and entirely changed the meaning of a proposed resolution about the War on Drugs. The author of the WoD paper was focused on ending the abuse of the ineffective war, and the proposed resolution we created ending up being: The USFG should substantially increase its regulation of illicit drug use in the United States.
The amazing part of these alterations is that the people who worked on these resolutions are hard-working, intelligent, open-minded people. And yet, among us, the fear of red state thinking was chilling. The Right can claim that “politically correct” thinking is oppresive, but it is nothing compared to the social weight that conservative thinking has on our schools and communities.
For a list of the resolutions on the ballot next year, check here.