Does Your School Tell You What to Think?













sonny purdue
Would you clap for this man? Keosha Morgan didn't.

"If you don't clap, then you get detention." The face of the menacing teacher giving us this new rule angered me. Who was he to tell us whom to clap for? Who was he to tell us whom to like or dislike? For two days, the news that Gov. Sonny Purdue was coming to our school had spread like wild fire. I spent those two days thinking up questions I wanted to ask him. I just wanted to know what he thought of the Atlanta Public School system.

Though my teacher did not intend to, Gov. Purdue's visit would not only be an experience to learn about politics but also to learn about my rights as a student and a human being. At that moment, I realized that my school system was taking away my right to think for myself.

A few of my classmates and I decided that we did not want to clap for the governor, in spite of the warning from our teacher. Some of our teachers had blown it off, thinking we were just kids acting dumb. But this one teacher took our refusal to clap as a sign of disrespect. It angered me that he would say something that disrespectful to his own students. We were all standing in the hall before the Governor's speech, being told what to do and -- it seemed to me -- like what or who to believe in. No one else took it as personally as I did, but I think they should have. How could our teacher tell us what to do? What to think? What to believe? Who to clap for? Though he thought that not clapping for the governor was a sign of disrespect, he did not realize that making us clap was an even bigger sign of disrespect.

I have noticed that every day I am told what to do and what to believe. By telling us we had to clap for the governor, I felt like my teacher was telling us we had to be like him. It seems like every day teachers and administrators are telling us what to do and what to believe in -- even how to think about politics. It seems to me that we are taught in social studies that Republicans are racist, rich, white men, while Democrats are always for the people and by the people. In class, we learned about the impeachments, scandals and suspensions that were committed by or imposed on Republicans, but whenever the topic of Bill Clinton comes up, our teacher changes the topic. We are also taught that Democrats have always been the "heroes" and that they have always tried to help the less fortunate. Then further showing the hypocrisy in schools, we were ordered to embrace our Republican Governor. It seems as though we have been taught to conform to their beliefs and way of life. We were all supposed to give in and all be the same, ever since elementary school.

I think it frustrates adults when they cannot instill their ideas into teens. When we are told whom to like and what to do, and we don't listen to those adults, it frustrates them even more, and they are forced to extremes like this teacher, threatening detentions.

Even the second highest U.S. court believes in students exercising their self-expression rights. In 2002 the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that students have the right to not participate in the Pledge of Allegiance at school. I think this ruling can be applied to my situation.

I went to the assembly to hear Gov. Purdue, but I didn't clap. Before I could even raise my hand to ask a question, we were all herded out of the auditorium and into class, once again to learn what they want us to learn, and to believe what they want us to believe.

Keosha Morgan is an 8th grader at Inman Middle School and thinks everyone should be able to show their own beliefs.
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