It seems some of the residents of my hometown, Farmington, Maine are having a little bit of trouble discerning the facts surrounding the production of "Hurricane of Change," a joint collaboration of Foothills Arts Center and the Mt. Blue Middle School music department, directed by Anne Geller. The show about global warming and related topics was researched and written by seventh and eighth graders at the middle school as part of their after-school program funded by a 21st century grant. Students brainstormed topics and discussed their own experiences with environmental changes in the Farmington area, did research on global warming, then developed a script, wrote the songs, and created the giant puppets that were part of the production.
I was appalled by the reporting of the event by the Lewiston Daily Sun. Ann Bryant inaccurately portrayed the show as one on which students did "some work," and then proceeded to cover only one side of the controversy--the cranks who feel the traditional middle school spring concert was hijacked by left wing liberals. I'm curious that she could not find one single supporter of the show to quote from an audience of 600. While Bryant did quote Geller, she appears to have relied for the most part on a letter to the editor from J. Dwight in the Daily Bulldog for her [mis]information. (Do I need to comment on proper journalism here, or how to determine if a site is trustworthy--things I teach my juniors and seniors in high school??)
Anne Geller is my mother. She has spent thirty years, the vast majority of them unpaid, working to improve education for all children in SAD 9. Twenty five years ago, long before NCLB was conceived, my mother worked tirelessly for an enrichment program open to all students only to see it transformed into a gifted/talented program once a director was hired. She is soley responsible for the district's amazing string program. In fact, if it weren't for her, the audience for "Hurricane of Change" would not only have been sitting in the dark, they would have been sitting in silence. The cranks who are complaining that Geller hijacked their kids' performance are the exact same people who used to go to budget meetings and vote to cut the arts.
I'm beginning to remember why I hated every single minute I spent at Mt. Blue Junior High (now the middle school).
Even though much of the rhetoric used by the naysayers is familiar to me from my days in Farmington, I found the diatribe surrounding this particular issue particularly mean-spirited. I'm afraid it is part of the legacy of eight years of Karl Rove's machinations. Ever since Bush took office, our freedoms and the forums from which to criticize our leadership have been curtailed so much so that the press can barely report that they are being curtailed. The Bush White House has made people forget that one of the freedoms we're spending billions to establish halfway around the world is the freedom to express oneself. These people who are bashing the kids' show are the ones who are endangering our democratic traditions, not my mother.
Funny that the people who yell loudest about democracy are the least democratic, and the ones (often the same ones) who yell loudest about being Christian are the least Christian. How Christian is it to harass and threaten your neighbor with a horsewhipping?
The real victim(s) in all this is not my mother, who can certainly stand up for herself, but the students whose show this was. Unlike high achievers who will just put on a show if they're told they're going to put on a show, lower level learners (who are the target of the 21st century after-school program as part of NCLB) won't produce unless they are invested in the process. They couldn't have done the show unless it came from their hearts. Not from my mother's heart, their hearts. These kids have done something really great, maybe for the first time in their lives, and for the umpteen millionth time in their lives, someone has to come along and say they did something wrong, again.