"Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness." That's what America is about. Yes?
What does that mean? I've never been sure what "the pursuit of happiness" is. Is it having the right job? The right spouse? Living in the right neighborhood? Is it living comfortably, because you have a good job? Is it being entitled to a fair education (which another story - what does THAT mean?)?
It can be one or two or all of those things, but to me, it starts with an education. Few of us can pursue much of anything if we don't have an education. In this country, we've gone to great lengths to provide an education for our children - in public schools. Now, understanding that not all schools are created equal, let's agree that most parents want their children to learn when they're in school. They want the basics, at the very least: reading, writing and arithmetic . If the child can read, she can write. If she can write, she can do basic math.
But is that enough to pursue happiness? I submit that it is not.
For me, I love history. I love American History. I'm not sure what's taught in most public schools is American History - it seems that we Americans like to coat our history to make it palatable - in other words, to make sure we come out on top. But let's not go too far in that direction.
Instead, let's look a case in point: A young black girl in Rochester, NY, my hometown, was taken out of school for writing a "comparative analysis of The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass." In her version, she felt that her "overcrowded, poorly managed" school life was preventing her, and others, from real learning and it produced the same outcome as... something mentioned in the Douglass narrative, specifically,"Douglass heard his slave master, Mr. Auld, telling his wife after catching her teaching Douglass how to read. "If you teach that nigger (speaking of myself) how to read, there will be no keeping him," Auld says. "It will forever unfit him to be a slave. He would at once become unmanageable, and of no value to his master."
The young girl in the Rochester school wrote that teachers (not of color, as we don't have enough teachers of color, and while I understand the desire for that, it should not matter - a teacher is a teacher and color or race or creed should not matter) depended on "pamphlets and packets" that were handed out, to do the teaching, rather than actually teach the students. She wrote that this has kept learning at the same level as it was in Douglass's day - "not much has changed since the time of Douglass, "just different people, different era" and "the same old discrimination still resides in the hearts of the white man."
I know that discrimination exists. It existed when I went to school in Rochester, but I don't actually think it kept anyone from learning. I think our teachers, most of them being white, wanted the best for the students, who were mostly black. Yes, I was the minority in my high school. One thing you can't dictate is a child's 'desire' to learn and those who had the desire, learned. Those who did not...well, I won't say they didn't learn, but they didn't excel.
The essay at question here, is different. It's one person's opinion and she needs to not only feel good about being allowed to make her opinion public, she needs to be applauded for sharing it. I think the young girl who wrote the essay, in a contest, instead of being hounded out of school for making her point - and it was her point, not anyone else's - should be thanked. She understands the pursuit of happiness better than most. We need to remember that perception is reality. Since she perceived this, it needs addressing - and the school district needs to be held accountable for harrassing her and causing her to be taken out of school. Just saying - free speech and everything. And, gee, she didn't even curse on the air and call anyone names. Just saying.
But, that's just my brazen opinion.