November 13, 2008

Idaho Say What?

I admit that over here in Massachusetts, being a teen in the 80's, we got a very strange picture of Idaho. First, there were those "Hey, ho, I'm from Idaho!" commercials to push Idaho potatoes. Later, somebody at Keebler invented "O'Boisies." Remember them? They were O'boisterous! Presumably from the magical elves of Boise, Idaho.

Well, this isn't helping:

Students chant 'Assassinate Obama' on school bus

Whoolery and his wife couldn't believe it when their second and third graders got off the bus last week and told them what other students were saying.

"They just hadn't heard anything like this before," said Whoolery. "They were chanting on the bus, 'Assassinate Obama. Assassinate Obama.' Then adding in a name sometimes of a classmate on the bus, 'Assassinate Obama and Kate.'"

My thoughts went to "what the hell are these kids hearing around their community?" Kids are great repeaters. They're also amplifiers, to the embarrassment of the adults around them. Many kids will carry their imprinted attitudes into adulthood. This is upsetting on so very many levels (including the obvious bullying of 'Kate.')

Beyond the obvious, this part of the story really struck me:

Matthew Whoolery and his wife aren't blaming the school district for what happened on the bus but they do think all parents need to be careful about what they say and teach their children. [...]

It's not that the Whoolery's are big Obama fans they just don't like people joking about a serious matter concerning any leader of the country.

"I'm assuming if it were, 'Assassinate McCain' you'd feel the same way?" asked reporter Nate Eaton.

"No question about it," replied Whoolery.

So, wait - this reporter in Idaho thought that it was important to clarify (for his readers) that the parents' complaint about the chanting wasn't motivated by partisanship? The reporter felt the need to (defend?) clarify the Whoolerys as not being "big Obama fans?"

What does that imply to you about the atmosphere in this part of Idaho?

Here's my suggestion to this community: According to this Time article, your statewide standardized test scores are much less rigorous than national standardized math tests. As a state, you're not alone in that, but your tests are among the least rigorous. Focus more on improving education and less on... whatever it is that you are doing in your public schools. Unbelievable.

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Posted by James at November 13, 2008 10:26 AM
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What about zero tolerance? Anyone calling for the assassination of another person should be held accountable. If someone chanted "assassinate " it would be taken as a serious threat. These kids need someone to teach them that this is not okay. Their parents don't seem to be.

I'm not recommending suspension or anything counterproductive. I think that each culprit should have to research and write an essay on either a non-violent protester, the dangers of hate speech, or some other relevant concept.

Posted by: briwei at November 13, 2008 1:43 PM

Back it way up. First, who knows where kids get these words.

There have been news reports about asassinaiton plots against President-elect Obama (boy, it feels good to say that), so perhaps a parent was talking about that, the child repeated it at home and was told not to, the child thinks it's a "naughty" word that holds power (like all those other words kids are not allowed to say), and said it without understanding the meaning and significance.

I remember very clearly one day, when I was maybe 8, going by the TV that was showing the "Phil Donoughue Show" on TV where they were talking about abortion. I walked into the kitchen and asked my mother, "Have you had an abortion?"

I had NO idea what that word meant, but I knew it was inappropriate for me to discuss, judging by the look on my poor mother's face!

Yesterday, a co-worker said he had to have a talk about language with his five-year-old because he heard him say "damn." When he told his son not to say it, his son replied, "Why? Mommy says it."

So, considering we don't know the circumstances in which the child who started the chant came to know the word, I would like to reserve judgement. I would hate for this to become one more thing blown totally out of proportion.

Posted by: Patti M. at November 13, 2008 2:51 PM

Patti, apparently you're not familiar with the rules in school these days. As Brian mentions, we have "zero tolerance" which means that kids routinely have their parents get called in to school for things I did all the time when I was a kid, like draw "violent" pictures (sketches of Star Blazers and Battle of the Planets would no doubt have qualified.)

Of course, we can debate the lack of merit of "zero tolerance" but it is a fact of life, nonetheless.

In any case, I'm more concerned about the way this story was reported. Why does it matter whether the concerned parent was an "Obama fan" or not? I guess you have no credibility in Idaho if you support the president-elect.

Posted by: James at November 13, 2008 2:58 PM

Of course, we can debate the lack of merit of "zero tolerance" but it is a fact of life, nonetheless.

Yep, that's a whole separate post right there.

As for the reporting, it was poor. There are instances where you need to get reaction from the other side, but here, Nate Eaton ("reporter") doesn't seem to realize there's no "other side," but he soldiers on nonetheless, thinking he's getting a balanced view for his report.

Remedial Reporting Note to Nate: If your story is about, say, budget negotiations between the firemen's union and the state financing board, and the union spokesman says to you, "The $600,000 dollars we asked the board for is for necessary educational fees and the city can afford it," that is a statement that needs reaction from the "other side" as there is an assertion of "fact" that needs to be corroborated or rebutted.

People don't debate themselves, and thus, the search for the balancing "other" viewpoint he went on was, well, kinda dumb.

Nate gets a C for this report.

Posted by: Patti M. at November 13, 2008 3:18 PM

The other day I was picking up a friend's 5-year-old from school. She was in a cheerful, talkative mood and she started talking about television commercials. From there she went on to the election because most of the commercials recently were political ones. She said she was happy that Barack Obama won. Then she said that one of her classmates said that "Barack Obama kills babies. But I don't believe that."

Both her mom and I were saddened by the comments. However, if we want to know where kids get it from, we can look to the political "leaders" (whether they are elected or part of the media) for the source of that language.

If we want our kids to behave with dignity, then we adults need to start setting a better example whether in the privacy of our homes, on the television, over the radio, or in our campaign speeches.

Sorry, preaching to the choir here.

Posted by: Bridgette at November 14, 2008 12:01 PM

Bridgette, you're right. If we as a society want to see children behave with dignity, which includes treating others with dignity, we have to show them how.

I think having a well-spoken president will go a long way, and I'm not saying that just to be snarky. Just like sports figures, the President of the United states is a roll model.

It will be instructive for children to see the President of the United States standing up straight, wearing a crisp suit, and speaking clearly and thoughtfully.

It will be a good change from the style of the amost-former president, who touted his C average in a college commencement address.

As James said, it's time to end the anti-intellectualism.

Posted by: Patti M. at November 14, 2008 12:20 PM

On the news last night it was reported that 3 students were doing the chanting.

Mayor apologizes:

Intolerance has no place in our community

I am saddened by the notoriety that has recently come to our community because of a reported school bus incident which has received national press coverage, where children repeated hateful remarks concerning President-Elect Barack Obama.
Since this incident occurred, I have received numerous e-mails from individuals around the country associating our community with hate and intolerance. I am extremely sorry that this incident occurred, and I do not believe that it reflects the values which make our community a great place to live and raise a family. Having said this, I also recognize that Madison County has had a reputation as Idaho’s and even America’s “reddest” county.
This reputation and the conservative nature of our community should in no unequivocal terms be an excuse for hate and vile comments.
Parents must realize that things said in anger or even in jest can have lasting repercussions not only damaging young hearts and minds, but a city’s reputation.
One letter that I received from a gentleman in British Columbia had a quote by Jacqueline Kennedy which states, “If you bungle raising your children, I don’t think whatever else you do well matters very much.”
This reminds me also of a quote from the ninth President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, David O. McKay, who said, “No other success can compensate for failure in the home.”
If we have in our community one home, one school or one school bus where hate and intolerance is allowed to be spewed without a responsible adult correcting the behavior, we are failing in our responsibilities.
About three years ago, I had the opportunity to attend a meeting where the keynote speaker was Sen. Barack Obama. I was inspired as I sat and listened to Sen. Obama. He talked about his faith and how his upbringing had influenced his policies and his priorities. I left the meeting with a conviction to do what I could at a local level to make government work for the people that I serve and to strive to be a better public servant.
He will now be sworn in as the President of the United States of America, and though we face tremendous challenges as a nation, I feel hope and optimism for America and in particular, the masses of individuals that participated in the election for the first time in their lives. It may sound trite, but I share President-Elect Obama’s view that we are not made up of red states and blue states, or for that matter red and blue counties or cities. We are the United States of America.
Larsen is the mayor of Rexburg.

Posted by: Margo at November 19, 2008 9:19 AM

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