For every idiotic overreaction, there’s an equal and opposite idiotic overreaction.
Granted, that won’t push Newton or Kepler aside on the world’s intellectual pantheon. But most of the time, the hypothesis has almost much as much dependability as natural law.
You no doubt heard about the high school teacher in Cherokee County who earlier this month made two students leave the class for wearing “Make America Great Again” shirts. On any “What the hell were you thinking?” meter of Wrong, Stupid and Public, that one would break the needle.
Teacher Lyn Orletsky was video-captured telling two students at River Ridge High School that their shirts were inappropriate for the same reasons that “you can’t wear a swastika to school.”
Never miss a local story.
Another student can be heard objecting — quite rightly, I should add — to the teacher’s directive. The objection should have been sustained, in which case this might have ended right there.
No such luck. Nonsense fuels and ignites more nonsense, which brings us to Michael Williams.
The state senator and, not coincidentally, gubernatorial candidate from Cumming is off and running with this one. He’s not just demanding that Orletsky be fired, but making River Ridge High School a free speech battleground.
“Liberal activists across the country are on a mission to silence conservatives on college campuses, places of employment, and community forums. Now they are taking their fight against free speech to Georgia public high schools,” Williams said in a statement released last week. “… Lyn Orletsky, and other liberal activist teachers, I’m putting you on notice: If you suppress free speech in the classroom, you will hear from me and many citizens until you are fired or resign. The First Amendment will not be destroyed in Georgia!”
OK, time out.
For one thing, there isn’t enough room in the Library of Congress to catalog all the times and ways freedom of speech has been abridged in American public schools, from dress codes to school newspapers to yearbooks to debate clubs to literary magazines to God only knows how many other things we haven’t even heard about. Using a high school classroom as a First Amendment political proving ground is a really, really bad idea, even for a politician.
For another, Williams, whose self-described “fierce” support for President Trump probably explains a lot about the tone of this crusade, clearly wants us to believe this is the only kind of political spinning that goes on in public schools. That might fly with his fans, but it’s nonsense. A comprehensive list of student political attire and expression that has been deemed unacceptable around the country might enlighten him, though I doubt it. (If the senator would like to hear some of the misogynistic fundamentalist right-wing crap my own child was force-fed in public school, I’d be glad to share it.)
The teacher hasn’t exactly helped her own cause in the aftermath of the initial offense. As quoted in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution: “I explained to them, 'Support your president. That's great. It's fine to have a President Trump T-shirt … I never had any intentions of it being political at all. I care about my students and I want them to feel safe and comfortable.”
That’s almost too easy to dissect, because it’s so achingly self-refuting. It’s acceptable to have a Trump T-shirt but not a MAGA shirt? That makes absolutely no sense. And her contention that this was never about politics but only about other students’ comfort level doesn’t pass the most liberal, so to speak, smell test.
(If my public school teachers up the river in West Point had addressed my comfort level by turning those clanking World War I-era radiators down somewhere below 85, I wouldn’t have cared if somebody else’s shirt had a picture of Vlad the Impaler.)
Williams is pushing this one to the wall, scheduling a public protest at the school for Wednesday: “She must be fired and immediately. No other resolution is acceptable. Had this been about Hillary, ANTIFA would have already burned the school down.”
Yeah, Mike — thank God we don’t have to add River Ridge to that burgeoning list of antifa school burnings.
If this is the only time this teacher has done something this dumb, I’d say a stiff punishment short of trashing her career would be in order for a first offense, but I wouldn’t necessarily question the school board’s authority or judgment for firing her.
That depends, of course, on whether such action would be because school officials think it’s the appropriate penalty for the crime, or because an ambitious politician is beating his chest at the school board.
Which brings up another question: Is Williams a “limited government” conservative who thinks a man who would be governor ought to be setting local school policy in a county where he doesn’t even live? Just asking.
Dusty Nix, 706-571-8528; firstname.lastname@example.org.