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Teachers suspended for teaching about the Constitution in a Senior Government Class

Norfolk, Virginia

Two Norview High School teachers were placed on paid administrative leave this week after a parent complained that they distributed classroom materials that gave advice on how to deal with police if stopped.

What material did they show these High School Seniors in government class? The movie Busted from flexyourrights.org.

Let’s see now. Senior year in High School. Government class. Nope, that’s not the time to teach them about their Constitutional rights as American citizens. We need to wait until… never?

The really disturbing part for me was reading the comments to the article (and I did not read all of them). Fortunately, there were a number of good commenters about the situation (and more joining in all the time), but a disturbing number of early commenters seemed to feel that teaching this material was completely inappropriate.

Now, I’ll say that the teachers probably should have found a slightly better vehicle, given their geographic location and the volatility with which people deal with controversy in the public school system (I would have recommended flex your rights’ new film, which is more professional in appearance than “Busted” and less likely to be able to be described as a video that “teaches kids how to avoid getting caught for pot” (it isn’t, I know, but it’s going to be described that way).

I would never teach anywhere but in College, because I don’t want to put up with the bullshit of oversensitivity (or zero tolerance policies, for that matter).

Still, this is teaching the Bill of Rights in a government class!

I grew up believing that the Bill of Rights was the default position — that everybody (except a few weirdos) at least believed in that… it was so… basic, so true, so logical, so critical to freedom.

Yet it’s been said that the Bill of Rights wouldn’t pass if brought up for a vote today, and after years of political reading and writing, I wouldn’t be a bit surprised. Sad, scared, and depressed, yes. Surprised, no.

It’s why we can’t depend on simply telling people that the drug war is a violation of their rights and expect them to come running to our side. We have to find the buttons to push to get them involved (whether it’s the environment, medical marijuana, harm reduction, prison reform, violence in Mexico, etc., etc.), and then, once they realize that everything they’ve been taught about the drug war is wrong, we can teach them more (like how rights are not given by the government, and how rights make us safer, and how rights are for the innocent, and how rights are essential to freedom).

It is also another reason why our battle is so important, because the drug war is one of the prime mechanisms for dismantling the Bill of Rights. If we allow the drug war to win, our rights are in further trouble. If we can stop the drug war, then we have a chance of at least partially reversing the damage to the Constitution over time.

And it’s why we should be supportive of others who keep an eye out for authoritarian over-reach in a wide variety of areas (why Glenn Greenwald is often a must-read, for example).

Keep an eye on Flex Your Rights for more details on this story as it develops.

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16 comments to Teachers suspended for teaching about the Constitution in a Senior Government Class

  • damaged justice

    The teachers work for the State. Therefore, they will teach what the State wants them to.

    “Come out of her, my people, that you receive not of her sins, nor partake in her plagues.”

  • […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Classroom Supply, Jeremiah Reeves. Jeremiah Reeves said: Teachers suspended for teaching about the Constitution in a Senior Government …: Nope, that's not the time to te… http://bit.ly/co65Ca […]

  • Kozmo

    I’ve often remarked to friends and others that the cop shows on TV are brainwashing the masses into believing that the police can do anything they want and you are to submit to their will. This story is a fine example of that brainwashing effect.
    The “keeping us safe” meme thats been pushed into the public realm over the last decade is another tool being used to erode our rights in this country. It’s working as well as the drug war for that purpose.

  • kaptinemo

    As always, the Comments section of the article provides a neat illustration of the mindsets involved. The authoritarian one is represented by ‘Traditional Catholic’ serves to show how the opposition ‘thinks’.

    In describing that mindset, I believe that calling it ‘two-dimensional’ is being polite.

  • Dante

    “The really disturbing part for me was reading the comments to the article (and I did not read all of them). Fortunately, there were a number of good commenters about the situation (and more joining in all the time), but a disturbing number of early commenters seemed to feel that teaching this material was completely inappropriate.”

    Norfolk is a Navy town, through and through. The Navy mindset is notoriously right wing, like John McCain. I wouldn’t be surprised if some people called for a public beheading. Nasty little town, Norkfolk.

  • Scott

    “It’s why we can’t depend on simply telling people that the drug war is a violation of their rights and expect them to come running to our side.”

    I agree.

    However, we can verbally wield our written foundation (including the self-evidently naturally-given and unalienable right to liberty specified in the U.S. Declaration of Independence, legally protected by amendment nine in the Bill of Rights) in the public debate to force our opponents to publicly oppose our law.

    Try to find one “public servant” who will walk up to the national podium and shout something like “Screw the Constitution and your rights!” They never do that, instead opting for slippery tactics to dodge any mention of their illegal agenda.

    That dodging can work in a press conference perhaps, but it can fail big time online where statements persist (more and more people can read and prominently discuss the dodge in a way that brightly exposes it).

    Powerful communicators can use the language of our written national foundation to defeat corruption.

    As any salesperson can tell you, mentioning something once (in a non-simplistic way, no less) is probably not going to lead to a sale. Repeated mentions (in simplistic language) is often needed to get people to buy.

    We need to sell the ending of drug prohibition directly to the public using sales tactics (and we do not even need to lie about our “product” at all).

    To concisely use our supreme law against law enforcement (the primary supporters of drug prohibition) to their discredit in the court of public opinion can be very powerful for us.

    The interpretation of the Commerce Clause connecting drug prohibition to our Constitution is, without exaggeration, unbelievably outrageous and pathetic, and I have yet to encounter any conservative who continues to argue in favor of drug prohibition once that false connection is exposed.

    They understand that if drug prohibition is unconstitutional by any rational measure (rationality critical in law), then regardless of any other fact in this issue, drug prohibition must immediately end.

    Such focus on the law increases our credibility as good Americans, while discrediting our opponents (who have taken an oath to uphold such law), and completely negates the propaganda machine run by the prohibitionists about drug related harms, etc.

    Constantly applying the combination of the obvious disconnect between drug prohibition and our Constitution, and the prohibitionists’ inability to prove any disaster occurred after reducing relevant penalties at least 30 times over the course of multiple decades, constitutes an extreme beating against their credibility.

    Firmly consolidating our movement’s resources to sharply focus on our opponents’ critical weaknesses is essential to promptly ending their disastrous policy.

    While I applaud the hard work done in our movement and the success consequently achieved, I feel we can do a much better job publicly attacking our opponents in a positive manner, taking the fight to the public arenas on their turf.

  • We should do hoaxes more. Like start spreading a rumor that soon alcohol will be banned completely and joint ranks with all the other illegal drugs. That’ll get people interested in their socalled “rights”.

    What’s really horrible is how this sort of thing seems to require dead people, planes crashing or some such. Like when the guys behind the SAFER campaign target those three universities where there’d been some really bad alcohol accidents. Seems that got people somewhat out of their stupor.

    So more literally dead students due to drinking, please.

    *cough*

  • Chris

    And people still think the only reason we care about this issue is “to get high without going to jail”. Right. Nothing to do with issues like the corruption of the police force.

  • kaptinemo

    “What’s really horrible is how this sort of thing seems to require dead people, planes crashing or some such. Like when the guys behind the SAFER campaign target those three universities where there’d been some really bad alcohol accidents. Seems that got people somewhat out of their stupor.”

    Jesper, it’s a truism that until it gets personal, pleas to consider the ‘commonweal’ don’t work. So, if tobacco smokers and alcohol drinkers did think that their ‘favorite poisons’ were in danger of being banned, there would be an immediate outcry.

    Our opposition is willing to sink to any level to take advantage of a tragedy. I am reminded all too well of what some wretch over at DEAWatch wrote way back on 12 September 2001, exhorting his fellow DrugWarriors to hound their pols and demand more money by spot-welding the War on Drugs to the newly-minted War on Terra (not a misspelling) to get more funding. That jerk made ghouls look like saints.

    But it’s not being ghoulish to point out that the deaths that the prohibs point to as being caused by drugs are in fact caused by drug prohibition. A prohibition said prohibs are responsible for. If we have to keep slapping their rhetorical faces with the gory paintbrush dipped in the blood of their victims, so be it.

  • thelburt

    I once asked a professor of law at USD why cannabis is illegal if the state constitution of CA states in section I that I have an inalienable right to pursue safety, happiness and privacy. her answer: happiness is too abstract a word to have meaning in a court of law. it took less than a nanosecond to answer, as if she’s had this question before.

  • darkcycle

    The Bill of rights is a dead document. It had been on life support up ’till 9/11, when they used that as the excuse to pull the plug. Upsetting, yes, but I defy you to name one right that hasn’t been abridged, either in the War on Drugs or the war on brown people…er…terror. That being said…there IS a vestage of our former rights that remains codified in the ‘legal’ rules, that has yet to be purged. These rules of evidence and search are the ones that were being taught to students. Since the rights we have left can only be upheld after the fact in a court of law, it is incumbent upon the individual to know when and where to assert these rights.
    These students were being taught twenty-first century survival skills. Those teachers won’t be reinstated, but the lessons they taught will serve these kids well. The fact that it has fearful people thrashing about and waving their hands,… well, fear is the number one weapon in their arsenal. Those who easily succumb to fear will always be used as tools by the elites to preserve the existing order and shout down the sane among us.
    To those brave and thoughtful Teachers, from me, Darkcycle, Thank You.

  • claygooding

    I was not in the classroom,so I don’t know how the film was presented or introduced but it must have been suggested as drug arrest avoidance to the student that went home and told her mother that she had learned how to hide her dope in class that day.

  • TrebleBass

    The kids at that school will at least get a chance to reflect upon the controversy, and hopefully most will realize how eroded the rights in america really are, when their own teachers are literally being punished for teaching them about their rights. I hope it shakes them up a little and gets them to see how far things are from what they’re supposed to be. Unfortunately, most people are just so accustomed to the “drugs are bad; drugs are a crime” mentality to even see it. But hopefully, at least there will be some debate, and they’ll get to reflect on it.

  • […] Norview High School teachers deserve a promotion but were suspended instead after leading a Senior High-School government class in a discussion about Constitutional rights in which a video on the subject was presented. The video, Busted: The Citizen’s Guide to […]

  • jon

    “Upsetting, yes, but I defy you to name one right that hasn’t been abridged, either in the War on Drugs or the war on brown people…er…terror.”

    The Third Amendment is still going strong!

  • […] Teachers suspended for teaching about the Constitution in a Senior Government Class - Drug WarRa… […]