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Oregon Principal Blocks Jr. High Play

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Nearly 50 Sherwood, Oregon Middle School students are desperately trying to find a new venue after Principal Anna Pittioni called off this weekend's long-scheduled performance of "Higher Ground," claiming it "exceeds the maturity of many" of her students.

Even though the play has been in production for months, Pittioni claims she didn't receive, and hadn't read, the script until Tuesday, the day before she e-mailed parents and students she was stopping the play.

The play's central theme deals with the issue of the various ways students face being bullied. The main character is a boy who gets teased and harassed following a misunderstanding about whether he is straight or gay.

Other characters are bullied because they are overweight, Latina, in special education, tagged as "Goth," a high achiever, and have a father in prison.

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I admit to only reading what the Dude just posted, and having done no further research, so maybe my comment will be inappropriate. This sounds to me just about as stupid as saying that since kids shouldn't be having sex at age 12 or even younger, the subject of sex is too mature for them and they shouldn't be taught anything about it.

If the act can be committed, whether it is sex, bullying, or anything else, it is appropriate to have the subject discussed, taught, and talked about at school. This principal needs to be in charge of an elementary school, grades 1 to 3, where this perspective may be valid.

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The fact is, middle schools are where the most vicious and frequent bullying takes place. It certainly runs throughout high schools as well, but is not as a general rule as prevalent there.

Boys in middle school are generally in the earlier stages of puberty, are experiencing changes in their bodies and thoughts and feelings, and for the first time having competitive and challenging thoughts about sexuality. This is also a time when the herd mentality is gaining it's strength, beginning to control thoughts and behaviors, a time when there is a premium on being like everyone else and people outside the norm are seen as a threat and so a target to the majority.

Saying the subject of bullying is beyond the understanding or maturity level of middle school students is like saying to a boy of thirteen that he doesn't need to know about sex yet, he wouldn't find the subject of any interest at all for at least another few years.

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As the father of a boy who was bullied when he was only seven, I'd like to know more about why the principal things the play exceeds the maturity of the kids. The topic itself is unlikely to be the case -- let's face it, schools nowadays are aware of bullying issues from the day kids start school. It has to be the detail of the content -- maybe it was excessively graphic or potentially encouraging bullying (the infamous copycat issue). I think it is more likely that the principal has overreacted, but I'll give her a small degree of leeway in that judgement. She may have a legitimate point, even though I think it's unlikely.

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I haven't read the script yet, but if anyone is interested here is a URL about the story which also provides a link to the script of the play.

http:/blog.oregonlive.com/oregonianextra/2008/02/drama_floods_over_higher_groun.html

I personally think the principal wrong and out of line. How can you solve the problem of bullying when you won't even talk about it? Reading between the lines, and I may be very wrong so take this as only a guess, but I think someone was offended that the subject of homosexuality was addressed in an oblique manner and they complained, and the principal was so lacking in intestinal fortitude that she caved.

If you wish to read more, run a search on oregonlive.com/oregonian/ for Sherwood Middle school.

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I hope they found another auditorium where they could perform the play without interference from this very misguided middle school principal. I'm about half-way through reading the script, and it's good, very intermediate-school-kid realistic. I'd like to see it posted on sites like CW and AD. I wonder if the teacher would be willing... hmmm.

Colin :lol:

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I still get the email bulletins from my high school. This coming Monday's bulletin came today, and here's one of the announcements:

We've all got secrets. Come see advanced drama students in a self-written and directed play based on the Gay Straight Alliance's "Post-Secret Project" tonight at 7:00 p.m. in the Theater.

Yes, this is high school and not intermediate/middle school, but a lot of actual words will be used in this performance that were only hinted at in the Higher Ground script.

About the script: I read it all last night, and I like it. It reminded me of when I was in intermediate school (2000 to 2003). The ending is a bit too-nice too-positive too-fast, but this is for a middle school audience. It must have been written by the kids themselves, because there are a LOT of typos. Nevertheless, the voice and personalities of the kids are very realistic. What a shame that it couldn't be performed at that school. Principal Anna Pittioni :icon7: really blew a fantastic opportunity to teach about bullying and its impact on kids. And what kids themselves can do do about it. :icon1: On the other hand, the kids who were prevented from performing and viewing this play learned that a lot of adults are much more immature than they are. :icon1:

Colin :icon1:

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I'd say the students received an early lesson in how closed-minded people can be. Who was it who's being immature, again? The kids who are being bullied? (Not likely.) The kids who are doing the bullying? (Certainly.) The parents? (How many agree with the school? How many disagree?) The school administrators? (Too bad.) The school teacher? (Nope, she gets an A.)

Bullying in middle school can be very real. If you don't fit in, for whatever reason, you will get at least gossip, and very likely physical taunts. It can be subtle or blatant, and it leaves its mark for a long time.

Why is it that some people so interested in "protecting" others are more interested in keeping others from making choices and doing things for themselves?

The kids (all of them) and the parents (all of them) were prevented, not protected, from an opportunity to learn and decide for themselves. What a terrible lesson in citizenship and censorship that is. I wonder, could it be a form of bullying in itself? How many kids and parents might have paused to think about the effects of words and actions on other people?

I'm glad a few of my teachers, counselors, and administrators were truly interested in helping students, while most others were trying.

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...The kids (all of them) and the parents (all of them) were prevented, not protected, from an opportunity to learn and decide for themselves. What a terrible lesson in citizenship and censorship that is. I wonder, could it be a form of bullying in itself? How many kids and parents might have paused to think about the effects of words and actions on other people?

I'm glad a few of my teachers, counselors, and administrators were truly interested in helping students, while most others were trying.

Yes the thought that they all were 'prevented, not protected' appeals very much to me, as an instance of bullying.

Where educators combine their roles of protector and custodian of imposed values, then we are likely to see the teacher's ability to open the doors of the pupil's mind curtailed, and that door slammed shut and locked. This is not only bullying, it is intellectual incarceration at the expense of the freedom to learn.

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I couldn't agree more, Des, but this type of subliminal bullying is something we teens face on a daily basis. Okay, not just us teens. Adults face this everyday too.

There are people who, with the best intentions, attempt to make others see things their way. This tends to stiffle creativity and free thinking. We never hear "this is what works best for me" or "let's try it your way and see what happens". What we are told is that as an adult they know what we really need and then they ignore our ideas.

I have a lot more to say but would only piss people off so I'll do what kids have done for eons. I'll find a way to do it my way and just further convince these sub-liminal bullies that kids don't know crap.

Tim

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Man, is there anyone on Earth who didn't think middle school sucked? I mean, come on - you've got no money, you've got no car, your limbs are disproportionate, you can't get a date, you live with your parents, your coccyx is fusing to your spine, making it painful to sit for any length of time, and you've got 7+ teachers telling you to sit still all day, next to a bunch of other kids who are just as miserable as you, who decide to take out their frustrations by attacking all your newfound insecurities, including the group-identity that you voluntarily took on in order to cover up OTHER insecurities.

And then some administrator comes along and tells you that you're too immature to understand things like bullying. Jeez.

We never hear "this is what works best for me" or "let's try it your way and see what happens". What we are told is that as an adult they know what we really need and then they ignore our ideas.

Heh, I use those lines so much that they're almost starting to lose meaning. As a tutor/academic coach and as a student-teacher, that's the main thing I try to get across - "This way works for me, but you're not me. If your system works, use it; if not, we'll figure out something else."

Anyone with perfect confidence in their one-size-fits-all advice is someone worth ignoring. As Socrates said, "I am the wisest man alive, for I know one thing, and that is that I know nothing."

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Man, is there anyone on Earth who didn't think middle school sucked? I mean, come on - you've got no money, you've got no car, your limbs are disproportionate, you can't get a date, you live with your parents, your coccyx is fusing to your spine, making it painful to sit for any length of time, and you've got 7+ teachers telling you to sit still all day, next to a bunch of other kids who are just as miserable as you, who decide to take out their frustrations by attacking all your newfound insecurities, including the group-identity that you voluntarily took on in order to cover up OTHER insecurities.

And then some administrator comes along and tells you that you're too immature to understand things like bullying. Jeez.

Heh, I use those lines so much that they're almost starting to lose meaning. As a tutor/academic coach and as a student-teacher, that's the main thing I try to get across - "This way works for me, but you're not me. If your system works, use it; if not, we'll figure out something else."

Anyone with perfect confidence in their one-size-fits-all advice is someone worth ignoring. As Socrates said, "I am the wisest man alive, for I know one thing, and that is that I know nothing."

That is the difference between exerting power over others, and empowering awareness in others.

One seeks to control, the other liberates.

Where liberty is realised, control is corrupted, power over others challenged, sometimes, defeated.

Because Socrates sought and taught, Truth in Knowledge he was charged with corrupting the youth of Athens.

This was not a sexual based charge, but related to his inciting the youth of Athens to use the "Socratic" method of questioning, rather than accepting what they were told.

He was condemned to death for it.

Today he would be stopped from speaking to a certain middle school, especially about the nature of bullying being used to control others.

Finally I would like to reassure today's youth that there are older people who believe in everyones' (including young people,) individual ability to be innovative and creative.

______________

I could site a Plato-Socrates wiki reference, but I would probably do better just to encourage reading Plato's "Socratic Dialogues" (Particularly The Symposium, The Crito, The Apology, Charmides, etc.) and then research what you can for differing interpretations of Socrates' life and times, starting perhaps then, with Wiki.

For those wanting a softer more romantic approach to the culture of Ancient Greece, I recommend the novel "The Last of the Wine" by Mary Renault.

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I could site a Plato-Socrates wiki reference, but I would probably do better just to encourage reading Plato's "Socratic Dialogues" (Particularly The Symposium, The Crito, The Apology, Charmides, etc.) and then research what you can for differing interpretations of Socrates' life and times, starting perhaps then, with Wiki.

For those wanting a softer more romantic approach to the culture of Ancient Greece, I recommend the novel "The Last of the Wine" by Mary Renault.

And on that note, I'll also recommend "Teacher: The One Who Made The Difference" by Mark Edmundson. It's a true account of a teacher's use of the Socratic method in a modern (well, 60's) classroom and a discussion on applying Socrates's principles to modern education from the student's point of view. It's about 75% autobiography, 25% educational philosophy. The autobiography parts are kind of dull, but it's worth it for the rest.

And since we're talking books that relate to this thread, I'll also suggest "13: Thirteen Stories That Capture the Agony and Ecstasy of Being Thirteen", edited by James Howe. Short stories and poetry about middle school (and the suckiness thereof), written by top-name young-adult and teen authors.

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There's an update to the story about the play Higher Ground at http://www.oregonlive.com/education/oregon....xml&coll=7. The cast voted to cancel the performance instead of rewriting it as was requested by the principal. The student who was playing the character Josh said the cancellation and publicity show how the "play's message of tolerance and the harm of presumption" is needed, and how the controversy has "...given us great publicity." Bright kids!

There's also another article with more details about the cancellation and the controversy that generated at http://www.oregonlive.com/education/oregon....xml&coll=7,

Colin :icon1:

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Thinking more about this led me to something else.

How many times do you or I use one approach, only to find that a friend or even a competitor has a better approach we didn't think to try, or else we thought ours was better, or (let's hope not) "the only good way?"

How many times does someone else, a friend or a competitor, use one approach, when you or I might have a better one that our friend or even our competitor doesn't think of, or doesn't think is the one to try?

Sure, it's a very different thing than dealing with bullying or dealing with narrow-minded authoritarians... or is it?

In other words, "we have met the enemy, and he is us." (from Pogo, though I haven't read those old, classic comics).

I really wish more people would listen to teens, kids, and old people, or anybody who is outside the "norm," instead of dismissing them. It used to tick me off no end when someone would dismiss me, when I was a kid, just because I was a kid. "Oh, you don't understand...." Hmpf. Or, "You're not old enough / mature enough to understand / know about / be told about this yet...." Often, that is baloney. The kid was asking, which means he wanted to know something new, or has already been thinking about it. Or the kid is old enough to learn at least some basics about a subject.

I wonder how many times the world has missed out on some great ideas because some kid was "too young" to be taught... or "too young" to be listened to, when the kid might have something to teach. Yeah, it's an unknowable answer, but the questions are worth considering.

...Just my two cents.

Uh, somebody help me down from this soapbox, please? :lol: (Though my ego would love to think it's a bully pulpit. Different meaning of "bully," there, eh, Teddy?)

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Here's the latest story I have from Sherwood Oregon... and the newspaper... The Oregonian

SHERWOOD -- The student cast of a Sherwood Middle School play voted this afternoon to cancel rather than rewrite a play their principal deemed "inappropriate" and shelved days before opening night.

"We don't think there's anything wrong with the script," said Hailee Brownell, an eighth-grader at the school.

? Read the full play "Higher Ground"

The cast and their families are now searching for an alternative venue for the play and already have a couple of offers from a private school and a college drama group.

Jennie Brown, the school's drama teacher, wrote the winter play, "Higher Ground," focusing on labeling, bullying and harassment and how some middle schoolers overcome such problems. The central character is a boy who becomes a target for bullies after he shrugs off a misunderstanding about whether he's straight or gay.

Other characters face bullying because of their race, ethnicity, learning disability, personal style or having a parent in prison.

But the school's principal Anna Pittioni, announced Wednesday on the school's parent email list that she decided to postpone the Friday night opening and Saturday performance of the winter play.

"Based on the broad audience of students we serve," she wrote, "I believe that the existing content exceeds the maturity of many of our students."

Dan Jamison, superintendent of the Sherwood School District, said while the play's intent is admirable, it depicts students verbally and physically victimizing other students.

He said the script makes references to homophobia, incest, domestic violence, tormenting of an obese student, slurs based on race and disability, calling a staff member a "Nazi," the Columbine school shootings, gassing students in the locker room and verbal, physical and sexual harassment.

However, a number of parents and student actors in the after-school drama program have complained that they did not find the play offensive, saying Brown handled the main theme and the individual subtopics carefully.

They called it unfair to put off a play months in the making just days before it was to open. Brown has said she's never had to submit scripts for approval.

--Maya Blackmun;

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This just shows how children in schools are being made to think. With standardized testing and zero tollerance policies we are slowly forcing our children to only be able to think one way and essentially sheltering them from reality. Administrators at the becking of the majority of parents try and shelter our youth from issues and events that they feel could be harmful (such as bullying), but in the end all the child does know is that he doesn't know how to handle such an event. It is good to see that there are still people and students who are fighting the system and trying to retain their retational thought and independant minds.

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This just shows how children in schools are being made to think. With standardized testing and zero tollerance policies we are slowly forcing our children to only be able to think one way and essentially sheltering them from reality. Administrators at the becking of the majority of parents try and shelter our youth from issues and events that they feel could be harmful (such as bullying), but in the end all the child does know is that he doesn't know how to handle such an event. It is good to see that there are still people and students who are fighting the system and trying to retain their retational thought and independant minds.

It turns out that it wasn't a majority of parents. From the February 21 Oregonian:

But several parents feel it's unfair to put off a play that has been months in the making because the families of three cast members -- in a play originally involving 48 students -- raised concerns about it just days before it was to start.

Colin :lol:

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This just shows how children in schools are being made to think. With standardized testing and zero tollerance policies we are slowly forcing our children to only be able to think one way and essentially sheltering them from reality.

Schools, in America at least, have always been used for this purpose. It's not for naught that George Carlin refers to them as our society's 'indoctrination centers'.

I don't think they are any more so these days than they were, for example, in the days when the Bible was what you learned to spell and read on and teachers carried rods or switches to chastise slow learners. Every society wants what it wants of its young--the specifics may change but the pattern remains.

Hitler knew that when he asked 1933 Germany to give him its young, and with them he'd create the world they all wanted. He only did more extravagantly what schools in America, and probably elsewhere, have always done: social indoctrination and training.

I report this as a longtime classroom teacher, btw, and not as outside observer.

*******************************further reporting....

Back to the subject here, of the play's cancellation, I'd like to report that I've had this happen to me twice through my years as a drama teacher and coach: had a play halted mid-run by some crackpot complaint.

What outsiders may not understand is the essential and deep conservatism of school administrators--if there is any complaint, no matter how trivial or ludicrous,their initial impulse is to shut down, stop or hush up the complaint's source. It's reductionist but that's how school-think works.

Thus have I had two productions halted AFTER initial performances based on some crap comment or complaint from someone....anyone really--a parent, a fellow teacher--but they usually do so by indicating in any sort of public forum that it's 'too mature': which is 'hot button' school politix gobbledegook code for sex, drugs or violence. The play doesn't have to actually have sex or violence, of course, the response is knee-jerk, I promise you.

It could be some tiny thing in the script, one line if that, and nearly always has nothing zero ziltch nada to do with the quality of the play (one of mine that was cancelled had been a prize-winning Broadway hit) or the importance of the subject to the students viewing it. That's the part that outsiders aren't grasping, imo, if these posts are an indication.

Reality and School are two different things.

It can even be some teacher with a grudge against the drama coach picking the best way to injure the drama teacher: shut down or discredit the drama program. They may even hate the queer/disgusting/Goth/weird/drama kids who skive off class (with full permission, always) to work on the sets.

Don't kid yourselves that drama programs are supported and encouraged-- they exist as weak little fiefdoms on the sufferance of an autocratic and ever-changing administration staff and goals. You only have a drama program where you have a drama teacher not only qualified to put on productions but willing to fight a neverending and thankless fight on behalf of his or her students.

It takes nothing to shut down a play, unfortunately. The best you get, when and if reality ever comes home, is a weak 'apology'...cold comfort to the many students, parents and teachers who worked hard to get the play into production.

I can't tell you how much making that announcement to your cast and crew SUCKS---utterly and absolutely SUCKS. :lol: Everyone crying?I promise, you'd rather have your eyeballs gouged out with toothpicks than face your kids with that news.

:lol: TR

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TR,

You have my heart felt sympathy.

By extension to your school experiences, I add my own woes in the difficulty of teaching or even being accepted into local dramatic events.

Even though I trained as a classical actor and have been involved with theatre most of my life, I am not permitted to teach what I know because I don't have an education certificate. Neither did anyone who taught me.

Professionally I have been told that I can't be used because my knowledge and experience would intimidate the new young artists and technicians. (Yeah I have a foot in both tech and artistic sides.)

That really hurt because I have always put my fellow artists and the play itself ahead of my own ambition, ego etc.

Read that to mean, "Oh no you have this really weird idea that theatre should be accessible to the audience."

My point being that the indoctrination in schools is used differently here in Australia, they give the same opportunity for everyone, to fail exams or flunk out of school. The remainder are supposed to be the best of the best.

Inadequate education standards have invaded our schools, along with equal rights for politically correct nonsense, often overlooking the real needs of the challenged and certainly dismissing the talented.

The trouble is this has overflowed into our Arts organisations which are brutally mismanaged by bureaucrats.

So the result is the same, one tiny voice is enough to censor, ban, or inhibit creative pursuits both in the schools and in the theatres themselves.

I have had great fun recommending the movie "Freedom Writers" to teachers and school kids.

One teacher told me she loved it but couldn't show it to her class as it showed what learning was all about.

We now return you to your normal inoffensive and ineffectual classroom.

:lol:

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Reality and School are two different things.

:lol: TR

Then that right there is the problem. How can we expect adolescences to mature into adults and be productive members of society if they are not taught how to be productive members of that society. It seems the only way to learn anything about reality and how the outside (of school) world works is to be kicked out of the house at a young age (or have some other tragic happening), join the military at 17/18, or skip college and go right into the work force. The sheltering has even extended to the college aged student and you can pick out of a crowd those that went straight from HS and momma and dadda's house to a dorm room at a college. When they speak in class they tend to be 180* from the "seasoned" students who tend to be commuters and have lived outside of a sheltering for a good while. When the teacher asks a question and is looking for a specific response that takes critical and logical thinking the 'sheltered' student tends to be off-the-mark while the seasoned students more-than-not get it. I'm not sayin every student is like this either way and some are able to develope critical life skills on their own, but we're talking in majority sense. (Or even not in a majority sense, but a good amount none-the-less.)

This is from a college student of 2 1/2 years and not from an outside observer :lol: .

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Inadequate education standards have invaded our schools, along with equal rights for politically correct nonsense, often overlooking the real needs of the challenged and certainly dismissing the talented.

I think innapropriate and unrealistic standards are worse than inadequate ones. When you have generic standard for all schools in a state or country you are tend to ignore cultural influences on that particular school or even that schools method of teaching. I also cannot stand political correctness what-so-ever. The whole 'can't publicly celebrate Christmas' issue of this past year drove me insane. I heard someone say it best when they said, "Your being offended offends me."

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Probably almost as offensive is that almost nothing that is aired on TV daily, for hours on end, is 'acceptable' for a school play, or even reading material. It would be interesting to find out how this type of thing works in private schools. After all, supposedly the reason for sending one's child there is to have a better education. Maybe the administrators don't cater to the lowest denominator there?

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