Another NY educator promoting intolerance -and banality- under the label of cultural sensitivity
Some months ago activist officials in the NYC Dept. of Education sought to ban certain words from standardized tests, citing the potential the words could offend some parents. Among the activists' alleged offense-likely groups of parents were those with religious views who look at words such as Halloween and holidays as being insensitive to their beliefs. When the plan to censor the tests was abandoned -due to widespread parental complaints- many around the nation gave a sigh of relief, and for a little while there was hope that this abandoned idea might signal an end to cultural sensitivity run amuck in the NY school system.
We exhaled way too soon.
Greta Hawkins, Principal at a Coney Island school, has now prompted a new public uproar with another tactical move aimed at bringing overbearing cultural sensitivity into the school system: when she found out that the kindergarten class was scheduled to perform Lee Greenwood's, "God Bless The USA" during a graduation ceremony Hawkins pulled the plug on the song. When pressed for an explanation Hawkins is quoted as saying, “We don’t want to offend other cultures."
Not surprisingly, the NY Dept. of Education bureaucrats stand by Hawkins. Spokesperson Jessica Scraperotti jumped on the bandwagon by contending, "The lyrics are not age-appropriate."
In the kind of brilliant move one might expect from Californian educators, Principal Hawkins suggested a replacement ditty for the kindergarteners to sing: Justin Bieber's pop hit, Baby. The brilliant DOE have been only too happy to embrace this proposal.
Many parents and even school staffers are upset by Hawkins' action and are calling for her to be fired.
Now before I go further let me say I am NO fan of Justin Bieber's music. I think his songs -like most pop music today- is banal bubblegum at the very best. I also feel -and strongly so- that to force children to sing his music is downright cruel. Despite my personal feelings I also believe his music is NO MORE EVIL than the rock and roll of Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath or Metallica...just a lot less interesting, inspired and original.
With that noted, let me also add that I love the "God Bless The USA" song; it is a beautiful, stirring patriotic song. Everything socialist extremists loathe in music.
Now some pundits may suggest the evidence points to Hawkins attempting to make children into mindless liberal zombies by playing the cultural sensitivity card. And further suggestion might say that by saturating their impressionable brains with numbing pop crap makes the process all the easier. Indeed, this scenario is not beyond the pale, and frankly, if this had happened at the instigation of your ordinary teacher or principal I'd be on board with that feelings. However, there is a problem with this suggestion, for it doesn't take into account Hawkins' personal agenda or the atmosphere that has allowed her to act upon that agenda. To understand this, let us return to the aim to censor words from NYC standardized tests:
The pro-censorship side in that issue argued they wanted to spare discomfort from parents who, for religious reasons, could have potentially been offended by certain words, including Halloween, and Halloween, according to the pro-censorship side equates with paganism which, they further argued, equates with devil worship. Now hm, this was just a bit insensitive to the pagan community, wasn't it? And then, additionally, the advocates wanted mention of the word holiday also banned from the tests. Now, what religious organization equally frowns upon the celebration of holidays and Halloween? Could it be Catholics? Nope. How about Muslims? No. The Buddhists? Nah, not even close. The Baptists? The Methodists? The Unitarians? No again and again. Alrighty then..let's just hazard one last guess here..uh, could it possibly be the Jehovah's Witnesses?
Why yes! Jehovah's Witnesses believe it is wrong to celebrate holidays, whether it is Christmas, Mother's Day, Father's Day or Valentines Day. And birthdays are considered particularly wrongful. According to JW's all these holidays and celebrations "give excessive importance to an individual" (quoted from the Watchtower homepage). Likewise, they believe that displays of patriotism are further forms of temporal wrongdoing, e.g. reciting the pledge of allegiance is seen as an act of worship.
Now I do not for a moment believe or allege that all Jehovah Witnesses are rabid fanatics that seek to push their religious views down the throats of everyone around them. I've known some JW's who are very rational, neighborly and tolerant people. Unfortunately, I've also encountered a few JW's who are the exact opposite. These are the JW's who claim celebrations are ungodly, who swear that rock-and-roll music comes from the Devil and who believe in every updated and revised prediction concerning the End of the World as delivered by the mouths of the JW prophecy-mongering elite.
As it happens Principal Greta Hawkins is a JW.
I don't really care if Ms. Hawkins' religious beliefs keeps her from saying the Pledge. If she honestly believes that there is no difference between worshiping a deity and paying respect to the flag of the country she lives in then I say more power to her - as long as she doesn't try to force the children in her care to believe the same. But one would have to be pretty damned blind not to be able to connect the dots between her personal taboos regarding shows of patriotism and her objection to "God Bless The USA". If she was working at a private Kingdom Hall school she could do this and there would be no problem whatsoever. But this isn't the case. She made the choice to work at a public school. She knew that once employed in the public education system she was going to be dealing with children who come from a great variety of religious backgrounds. And she knew that saying the Pledge of Allegiance with one's hand pressed respectfully over their heart is part the traditional American school experience.
But this isn't the first time Hawkins has been in the middle of controversy: she's been accused of making racist slurs against white and Jewish staffers and of threatening to wrongfully turn parents of unruly children into Children's Services. Her reputation is so bad that even complaints about her behavior made to the United Federation of Teachers identify her as a bully. In a day and age when the attitude of the US teaching profession is often "Us AGAINST them stupid parents" it seems to me that it would be counter-productive to that position for Hawkins to be criticized with no supporting evidence whatsoever.
In all fairness, it is possible that these other charges are all complete fiction and she just happens to be surrounded by staff who get their rocks off by making up utter fantasy tales about their superiors. Whatever the case may be -we'll let the official investigation make the final verdict- I do suspect Ms.Hawkins is using politics to advance her religion. Whether by design or accident, the goals of that pro-censor movement echoed the very core of Hawkins' prohibitions regarding holidays and Halloween. How convenient? Maybe for her, but in truth an extremist Liberal ideology already jeopardizes the education system. This ideology strains the relations between teachers and parents and sometimes even teachers and students. By using the battle cry of cultural sensitivity to validate her sentiments Ms. Hawkins is using a political ploy already in play by overtly Liberal educators. This is ironic -hypocritical(?)- too, as Jehovah Witness doctrine has consistently held that politics is just as ungodly an activity as saying the Pledge of Allegiance.
Whatever the outcome of the new controversy Hawkins has now landed herself in, the truth is I feel sorry for her. My own religion is not mainstream and my beliefs sometimes meet bias and mockery. And I understand how someone might be uncomfortable saying the Pledge of Allegiance when the words "Under god" are typically viewed as referring to a traditional Christian deity. But I believe it is the theme of the pledge that counts: I pledge allegiance to a nation built on a premise of fairness and freedom. And despite the many incidents in history when these themes have not been lived up to by various leaders and factions, I still love this nation. I love the principles of liberty and of justice. I think of my own Gods when I recite the word god in the Pledge. When I hear Lee Greenwood's "God Bless The USA" I again see Their faces, and I know how very fortunate I am to live here in a nation where we are all free to follow whatever belief system we choose.
If system players like Ms. Hawkins can't abide children singing a patriotic song then they are the insensitive ones. If extremist JW's use political ploys to advance religious objectives they are playing the very politics they allege to disavow. And no teaching professional -whatever their religious faith may be- has the right to claim they are educated if they can't distinguish between paying tribute in song to the brave servicemen who protect this country and the act of worship.
Freedom isn't free and the conscious embrace of ignorance is the first step in losing it for good.
May the good Gods bless and keep you all.
This Hub ©June 12, 2012 by Beth Perry