April 14, 2006

Conservative Media Defeat Educational Experience

It’s normal for teachers to ask students to participate in projects. It’s part of an important learning process. Sometimes these projects might draw complaints from the students for their difficulty, but rarely do parents or others complain about the actual project being done. That all changed for the worse when a mock trial that put President Bush on trial for "crimes against civilian populations" and "inhumane treatment of prisoners" was conducted in a Parsippany High School AP Government class.

The right became very angry. Conservative media pundits everywhere were in a fit. Freedom of speech and educational value be damned, they weren’t going to let this go on. How dare these students even suggest that any laws limited President Bush’s powers? Who would even think that our President, the savior of democracy, freedom, and apple pies, be put on trial? The answer is that the trial is an important exercise of free speech, educational freedom, and a vital lesson on the powers of the executive branch.

The trial is indeed a very important exercise in the powers of free speech. Criticism of government officials is necessary to the democratic process. Public discourse helps to inform the citizens of the country on important issues and sides that parties are taking. Even views that some would consider extreme, such as Bush being put on trial, need to be tolerated in order to further public discussion and discourse on important topics. Limiting this trial would be sending a message to the future citizens of America saying that criticizing our President at all would be wrong, and that anything that tells us to the contrary is treason.

But more importantly, the trial should continue to protect academic freedom. When parents and outside administrators are allowed undue influence over the classroom, the end result is a bad education. Teachers aren’t allowed to teach the material because they always have the threat of parents hanging over their heads. Tests would be abolished because of whiny students complaining to their parents. Nothing would ever get done in a classroom again. Public schools would truly become failures.

But lastly, people must learn more about the United States government, especially about the powers of the President. In fact, the only thing that the majority of the US knows about the President is his name. Furthering knowledge on the powers of the executive branch will make these students better citizens for the future.

Why would such an issue become huge then? It’s because the conservative talking heads tacitly think that if Bush were to be put on trial, he would be convicted. In their minds, the evidence against Bush is very strong. They don’t want a trial, even a mock one, to reach a verdict because they fear the chance of a guilty verdict. What is ignored is the fact that without this trial continuing as it should, neither side of this debate, including the defense of Bush, will become known to the public. People will just assume that Bush would have been guilty had the trial gone on. If the conservatives really believed in the innocence of their president, then they would have let a verdict be rendered, and if they had, then there’s a chance that they could have won. It’s too bad that this event, as usual, was botched by the Republicans who overreacted.

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