Wednesday, March 23, 2011
Sign, sign, everywhere a sign
After a month in which we’ve watched protesters in Middle Eastern countries bravely taking to the streets carrying signs denouncing autocratic regimes, and crowds of people in Wisconsin rallying with signs to protest the governor’s attempts to slash school funding and break teachers’ unions, what was on the agenda at last night’s school board meeting in Iowa City? A proposal to . . . prohibit people from carrying signs at school board meetings.
The proposal, which the board had approved on its first two readings, failed on its final reading last night on a vote of 3-3, apparently because one of its supporters happened not to attend the meeting. Its supporters had justified the proposal on the grounds that it “was necessary to keep control of board meetings,” and because “some signs and placards could cause some members of the audience to not speak out, particularly when there are several people speaking on a hotly debated topic.” Credit goes to Tuyet Dorau, Michael Shaw, and Sarah Swisher for voting against the proposal.
Leave it to our public school officials to suggest that the government should control the way in which people peacefully express themselves at a public meeting -- because otherwise things might be, you know, chaotic or scary! It’s one more example of the school system’s reflexive attachment to order and control at the expense of all other values. Free expression, limitations on authority, tolerance of dissent -- those are hallmarks of meaningful democracy. Why are my kids being educated by people who seem to find those things so frightening?
Related post here.