Big Sky High censorship, continued

by Pete Talbot

The message Tuesday night: school board elections are coming up and there needs to be some changes.

More than 50 people crammed into a meeting room at the county courthouse to watch the video that was banned at Big Sky High School, The Story of Stuff. The film ran about 20 minutes and was followed by an impassioned discussion.

“It’s a vocal minority,” one said, kindly, “It’s the lunatic fringe,” said another — comments aimed at the critics of the video shown in a science teacher’s classroom. There were comparisons to the Scopes Monkey Trial.

The video seemed innocuous to me; simple, almost cartoonish, but informative. It raised questions – which is what high school should be about.

The big issue was balance. Does a teacher have a responsibility to present opposing views? The teacher in question encouraged discussion after the film. And we’re talking science here but some parents keep challenging evolution and global warming and consumption — and all they’re kids have to do is turn on the TV for balance: don’t question, buy this, you’re not cool if you don’t wear that, listen to this, drive that.

So at what point does a teacher offer balance against truth?

The meeting was sponsored by the Missoula County Democrats. They passed a resolution, unanimously, condemning the board’s vote and supporting a teacher’s right to present a thought-provoking curriculum.

Ana, a Hellgate High School student, says it more eloquently than I.

  1. Feisty mom

    Thanks for reporting on this, Pete. It’s great that the Dems are paying attention. Maybe the school board should watch Inherit the Wind at one of their meetings. (Hate to be snarky, but I wonder what they’d have to see to “balance” that “propaganda.”) This is important and I hope the school board can get on top of this. What a great opportunity for a thoughtful, energetic person to challenge a board member in May and really make a difference.

  2. Larry Kralj, Environmental Rangers!

    The nazis, know nothings, and Whigs are an EXTREMELY organized bunch. If good people don’t respond, they get their way every time. They must be confronted. Kinda suprising that this is happening in Missoula. I would’a thought that the nazis wouldn’t bother there. This sort of thing rarely happens even in small town Montana. Oh sure, there are the obligatory evilotuion fights, but I think that they are designed more to simply give the local wackjob fundi preachers some credibility. BTW, been there, done that, fighting the eviloutionists!

  3. Are Jim Sadler, Rick Johns, Drake Lemm and Kelley Hirning up for re-election this spring? Do they have challengers?

  4. Nick D

    I know Johns’ term is up in 2009. Hopefully he’ll meet some stiff competition.

  5. Lizard

    Larry, it’s pretty unproductive to refer to people you don’t agree with as Nazis.

    Lots of people, not just conservative folks, feel threatened when their way of life is being questioned.

    Consumerism, materialism, whatever you want to call it, is in the process of crumbling, and that means lots of pampered Americans will face a steep decline in their standard of living.

    I don’t agree with the school board at all, and I think this whole affair has been taken a little too far by one angry parent who obviously doesn’t want the indoctrination he’s used on his own kid to be challenged by “liberal bias” in the schools.

    Save the nazi rhetoric for those who deserve it, like Israeli’s who support final solutions for the Palestinians they’ve herded into open air concentration camps and murder indiscriminately.

  6. Crazy Jewboy

    Lizard, stop acting like a Nazi.

  7. petetalbot

    First, everyone, please let’s reign in the use of the word Nazi.

    Second, Rebecca, there are four seats up for election on May 5 of this year. Filing deadline is March 26.

    Two who voted to censor the film are up: Rick Johns (Hellgate School District — that’s Hellgate Elementary and Middle Schools, not Hellgate High) and James Sadler (Target Range and Bonner).

    Nancy Pickhardt is also up. She voted against the censorship. And Jenda Hemphill’s term expires this year but I’ve heard she’s retiring. By the way, due to illness, Ms. Hemphill missed the board meeting where they voted to censor. Not sure why the other three board members missed that meeting: Scott Bixler, Debbie Dupree and Joe Toth.

  8. agree with pete on this. heated rhetoric is not helpful. the school board members voting for censorship are fervent christians who are a bit misguided about the role of religion and government…most of them are vehemently anti-environmentalist…and they certainly don’t understand anything about the first amendment of the constitution. it is more ignorance oriented than related to der fuerher…but of course if we don’t keep an eye on this it can quickly get out of hand.

  9. Crazy Jewboy

    Every single one of those school board members are holocaust deniers, just like Lizard.

    Why do these ignorant people torment us!?

  10. Anonymous School Board Member

    These liberal teachers should be boarded on to trains and gassed. That’s right. Gassed.

    They want God out of the schools, and want to homosexualize our classrooms with their tree-loving rainbow rhetoric.

    Gas them all.

    • concerned for you anonymous school board member

      That’s taking it way to far…just because they have different beliefs than you do doesn’t mean they need to be in your words “gassed.” Grow up and realize your beliefs aren’t the only ones who should be respected. Just because they believe something about a movie doesn’t, in any way, give you the right to even think they should be “gassed” because it doesn’t go with exactly what you believe. That’s disgusting and etremely disturbing that someone whose not in prison would even think that way…

      And to anyone who is so threatened by the fact that there are gay people in the world need to get a grip and come to the realization that no matter what you do, if 2 girls like one another and you force them to be separate it won’t give you any more of a chance to be with them. The world is getting over populated anyway what is so wrong with 2 people expressing how they feel about each other, and possibly adopting a child??

      The main point i’m trying to make is, don’t ever insult someone or say they should die or be “gassed” as some helpless people like to call it, just because they have different beliefs than you do, it’s childish and extremely disrespectful. People have died trying to get respect and the chance to speak their mind and you’re throwing that away like it was nothing.

      Don’t ever say things like this…it’s immature, arrogant, and humiliating to the human race.

  11. petetalbot

    I almost deleted the comment above but unless a comment is really out of line (and this one comes close), I usually let them stay. And since this post is about censorship, well, I’d hate to be called a hypocrite.

    Some comments on the comment, though: I suppose the “gas them all” comment is part of the thread having to do with Nazis, etc. Still, sarcasm is tricky, and in this case, if it is sarcasm, it doesn’t work, IMHO. If it isn’t sarcasm, then you’re one sick f*ck.

    This much I’m sure of, you’re not really on the school board (I hope).

    And finally, I’m guessing I won’t find “homosexualize” in my Websters.

  12. It’s a troll, probably designed to do exactly as you surmised. If you “censor” their comment, you’re a big meanie hypocrite look at the funny liberals wahh.

    Pete, nuking trolls is not censorship, anymore than kicking a ranting drunk off your property would be.

    But still, the wise Steve T. gave us great advice for dealing with these lowlifes.

  13. Larry Kralj, Environmental Rangers!

    Well, little lizzard, thanks for the lecture. Are you the site monitor, or just a busybody? I have been fighting such people for about the last twenty years!, fundis, militias, racists, wise users, etc. (in the flesh, not on anonymous blogs) And ya know sumthin’? If I want to call them nazis, I think I will! Sorry you don’t like that. Well, not really. The site can pull my stuff any time it likes, but then, that would be censorship now, wouldn’t it?

  14. Lizard

    for my part, I apologize for steering this thread off topic, that was not the intention.

    heated rhetoric just gets irrational emotions involved, and when that happens, constructive conversation is impossible.

    which is kind of funny, because the conversation the video all this hoopla is about was intended to do just that, start a conversation.

    too many of us don’t want to have those difficult conversations, especially older folks who are too entrenched/indoctrinated by an old paradigm that is no longer sustainable.

    Ana, the student courageous enough to state her opinion for the school board, gives me hope that her generation will see through the bullshit, fear, and bullying ignorant “conservatives” push on supposedly “liberal” educators.

    this thread is a good indication of how fast things can turn ugly.

  15. Lizard

    whoops, strike that first conversation in the third line and it makes more sense.

  16. Crazy Jewboy

    I stand corrected Anonymous SBM. I guess holocaust denial is way different from holocaust revival. You school borders are still Nazis though.

  17. petetalbot

    Thanks for the links, Wulfgar! Funny graphic. Still, I haven’t quite figured out this troll business.

    And no, Larry, we aren’t going to pull your stuff. I just think that everyone is bandying around the word “Nazi” way too much.

    It’s like the folks on the right calling me a “Communist” — socialist, maybe; lefty, for sure — but I ain’t no Communist.

  18. Lizard

    Larry, call anyone you want a nazi, this is still sort of, kind of like something that resembles a free country, so you probably still have that right, I think.

    I just don’t think it accurately represents the folks you are referring to, and therefore dilutes the potency of the term.

    But, if you want to compare what happened in Gaza to what happened in the Warsaw Ghetto, then using the term Nazi makes more sense, because it makes a historical comparison to events of the past that is accurate.

    (for the record, I believe the holocaust DID happen, but I don’t use a capital “h” because I think all genocides are equally horrific)

  19. just pull that shift key off the keyboard with your leatherman like i did lizard- one day all bears will be free of the tyranny of the capitalizationalists…..and the censors…..i swear…

  20. Larry Kralj, Environmental Rangers!

    Pete, there’s ALL kinds of lefties out here. Let’em speak. I get sick and tired of all lefties being categorized as sandal-wearin’, latte drinkin’ effeminates! Some of us ain’t that at all.

    Lizzard, I hear ya. I don’t think anyone has condemned the actions of israel more than I have. But I’ve also dealt with the extreme rightwing fundamentalists, and they are NOT in any way, shape or form Americans. What they preach is very anti-American. You see, unlike many people who post on these forums, I have followed and fought with the extreme rightwing for a loong time. I watched their rise here in Montana and I was on them immediately. The Constitution party is just their latest incarnation. Very, very ant-American group.

  21. Lizard

    Larry, allow me to briefly describe why I am hesitant to refer to this group you have been battling with inaccurate rhetoric.

    My Grandma is a Christian Fundy who venerated George and demonized Billy because she had her opinions basically beamed into her cranium by Pat Robertson, Bill O’Reilly and their ilk.

    My Grandma is not an anti-American Nazi, she’s just an old, scared white woman easily manipulated through fear and media distortions.

    The approach I took to get her to see that George Bush had done irreparable harm to this country didn’t entail assailing her with talking points from “the left” but talking common sense to her.

    Common sense, as I see it, means admitting that both Clinton and Bush have done damage to the average Americans ability to make a living, while their foreign policy decisions have made us, on the global stage, less safe. They are also both corporate whores.

    Maybe NAFTA, expanding NATO (read: provoking Russia), and repealing Glass-Steagall aren’t as bad as the Patriot Act, Afghanistan and Iraq, and FISA, but if you’re keeping score accurately, both sides of the isle have more allegiance to the Corporate class than they do the Working class.

    If that’s not obvious by now, there’s really is no hope.

  22. darrel armstrong

    I belong to an older perhaps obsolete generation. When my country was committing murderous attrocities in south east Asia, including fire bombing hundreds of thousands of people in a neutral country…and enslaving American students into the military to do the dirty work, I actively objected, like many other students that wanted no part of it…and some who had managed to survive it and return to school. The proudest moment for many of us here in Missoula was the day in the aftermath of the bombing of Cambodia and pointless paranoid killing of American students, when we were doing yet another peace march from the U to downtown. By then most of the cat calls from the rightwingers on the side lines, and the occassional violent incidents here–all to my knowledge directed at the protestors, not by them–had ended. Our numbers had swollen not dozens or even hundreds any more, we were thousands turning off University onto Higgins. When we got down to Hellgate High, some students were at the upper floor windows, defying their teachers to cheer us on. We pulled them yelling “Come join us!”…
    and there was an audible thunder over our chants and the street noise…past befuddled teachers, down the stairs, and out the doors they came by the hundreds to give peace more support. With a few very brave teachers slipping into the crowd at the risk of their jobs.
    I have never known a moment I was prouder to be an American and a Missoulian. There was a real future for democracy in the country and River city.
    Talk to me Missoula students. I am old now but I am still one of you…and if you want that I WILL run for the School Board. But whatever you do-left, right, or centered-always think for yourselves and do what you feel you must.
    Talk to me

  23. Ana

    In response to ASBM, I really hope you are not a school board member. If you are, then I question your career choice and maybe it’s time you resigned. I feel sorry that you think that way. Schools shouldn’t be completely liberal but they shouldn’t be strictly conservative either. Ideally there would be a healthy balance and hopefully we’re heading in that direction.

    As for being “homosexualized” and removing God in our classes, there is no such thing. There is the promotion of diversity and acceptance, which includes making sure that students, staff and faculty of all religion, race, sexual orientation, and so on, feel safe in school. Obviously you haven’t been in a classroom for some time. Take a look around you, homosexuality isn’t a disease, it’s not a disability, it’s not an evil. It’s a form of love and who are you to deny people that? And God hasn’t been removed. A brief glance at our music department’s choice of performal pieces will show that. “He” is still in our classes and in the hearts of students who choose to believe in God.

    As for the constant use of “nazi”, can we please find a better word? The school board is not full of nazis (in the literal and figurative sense), a few of them actually seemed supportive of us (the students that spoke up on Feb 10). The school board seems to have a strong dislike of teachers (and this is apparent in more than the Big Sky censorship case) but they are not nazis. But if you really feel that the school board is a bunch of nazis, then do something about it. Step up and run against them.

  24. Ana – don’t know if you noticed, but Darrel said he would run if you are interested…

  25. klemz

    I almost think that’s too naive not to be a ghost post. If I’m wrong, then perhaps Hellgate needs to show “The History of Trolls.”

  26. gettin’ a little too weird around here for bears to comment but…love how the kids (like ana) are keepin’ it real though…

  27. I have heard that story before.

  28. Ana

    I did see Darrel’s comment, and it made me smile to hear his story. Honestly Darrel, we need people to run and if you have students’ best interests in mind as you say you do (I love how you refer to yourself as “one of us”, it’s wonderful) then by all means, run for school board. We need someone to challenge the current school boards and we need change. :)

  29. Catching up on this story by way of other sites led me here. Just thought I’d draw the attention of commenters Larry Kralj, Lizard, Crazy Jewboy, petetalbot, Ana to what is known as “Godwin’s Law” – which can be expressed thus:

    “As any (online) discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches 1.”

    I would particularly like to thank LIZARD, who managed to get the ball rolling by the SECOND POST! Thank you, thank you, thank you, Mr./Mrs./Ms.(?) L for giving us a lab demonstration of how Godwin’s Law works, and the results of the process – the degeneration of any discussion where GL comes into play into irrelevant issues of personalities and personal agendas. Another blow struck for the demise of rational discourse. Keep up the good work, L.

    General note, folks: anyone can throw the N-bomb into a discussion anytime. Review the progress of this discussion from the time L threw his.

    Then, consider how the discussion might have proceeded if you all just concluded from his shrieking “NAZIS!” (the rhetorical equivalent of shrieking “the BOGEYMEN ARE COMING!”) that L had just labeled himself – and his argument – unworthy of reply, unworthy of adult attention.

    Who knows, maybe if you had just ignored the child, you could have gone on discussing something like … well, you know … THE ISSUE.

    Give it some thought.

  1. 1 No sex talk at UM « 4&20 blackbirds

    […] bad enough the Missoula School Board is censoring environmental films for high schoolers. Now college students must be shielded from “sex” […]

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