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Sunday, January 22, 2006

Frank Gray - Speaking Frankly

Frank Gets It Right and Gets It Out

The people of Fort Wayne are lucky to have Frank Gray writing for them.

That's the way it ought to be expressed. Frank writes about the absurdities, raw deals, and the intended and the sometimes unintended or thoughtless consequences visited upon regular people.

Today, he wrote in the Fort Wayne
Journal-Gazette about the actions of the Carroll High School adminstrators in expelling Jeff Fraser. Only he didn't mention Jeff Fraser by name.

That allowed Frank Gray to keep the focus on the actions of the Carroll administration and the words that got them to "play the role of a giant crushing dissidents beneath its feet."

Frank walked his readers through the contents of the book. He provided much needed context about the whole discussion:
The foreword tells students how important they are. They do work that produces data which is compiled and placed on quality paper with silver and gold specks and sent to the North Central Association (a school accrediting organization), which is so impressed it names Carroll a four-star school. Students shouldn’t get the idea they’re four-star students, though. They’re just data generators so administrators can write gobbledygook that makes them look good.

The book makes reference to a legacy of losing teams, says the assistant principal for discipline spends 4 percent of his time disciplining students and 63 percent of his time is unaccounted for.

It says black students are guilty until proven innocent; asks who would enforce the cell phone ban if there were a crisis at the school, and suggests the graduation rate is determined by counting the number of students on the last day of school and comparing it to the number who graduate. That’s why the rates are so impressively high.

Any power students, such as the student council, have are not real powers but Austin Powers, it says.

It examines the parking habits of students and notes where overachievers, band members, kids to be found in detention and the mediocre masses park, and blasts one teacher for preaching communism.
And, of course, by so doing, Frank puts the issues, raised by Mr. Fraser in a satirical fashion, out for discussion by the whole community in a sober fashion.

Are administrators more concerned with presenting the school data in such a way that it gives an overly positive impression of student achievement? Are "zero tolerance" rules, such as those for cell phones, so strict that they defy common sense? Is there a double standard on discipline detrimental to black students?

Those questions, and the others suggested by the writing of Mr. Fraser and now catalogued by Frank Gray, are worth discussion by the School Board, the taxpayers, and the parents and students the school is to serve.

Individual taxpayers and parents in Northwest Allen Schools may come to different conclusions if they do, indeed, examine these questions. Yet, these are just the sorts of things that serious people should discuss seriously.

Just to cite one example, the parent of a Northwest Allen minority student has talked to me in the past about the differential treatment she thought her daughter and other minority students received in NWACS.

Which leads to another point. I haven't read a copy of the "book." So, I don't know the entire context nor everything that may have been written on any of the subjects that Frank Gray, who has read it, listed in his column today.

However, I think it was clear from the short description of the contents that Kelly Soderlund wrote in the
Journal-Gazette on Friday about Carroll (The Book) that Mr. Fraser was writing about the administration discipling black students unfairly. Ms. Soderlund quoted from the book's text:
“Contrary to what many may believe (because it is true), the school handbook does not mention anything about disciplining blacks over whites. Carroll’s definition of due process: innocent until proven guilty, unless you’re black.”
Frank Gray made more clear the fact that Mr. Fraser was pointing to what he perceived as an unjust treatment of minority students. That didn't keep some people in the blogosphere from jumping to the conclusion that any mention of minorities by someone calling himself a Republican must be negative. This seemed to result in a mental short-circuit which exposed just how qualified and relative their support of rights such as "Free Speech" really is.

Some examples:
This from Craig's comment to a post at the Left of Centrist weblog.
This story has been floating around the Ft. Wayne GOP blogs for a couple of days now. They all failed to mention the kid wrote some stuff about minorities. I think educators have a vested interest in curbing any kind of behavior that might lead to interracial tension within the school. A school isn't the public square.

I'm not saying race shouldn't be discussed in school, of course it should. But teachers and administrators are responsible for keeping the peace.
Craig has his own weblog, Reverent and Free where he wrote this charmer about Saturday morning's TAR meeting:
No word on whether or not any of those pesky black people that seem to bother Mr. Fraser so much were invited to the event.

Rumor has it the door prize was toilet paper imprinted with the 4th Amendment. A good time was had by all.
Poor Marie over at Hoosier Democrats. She first states she has an open mind but then goes on to label Mr. Fraser a "culprit" who has produced "victims." Despite the educational attempts by Mr. Sylvester, she knows that the school will "...air [sic] on the side of the victims."
She obviously diverges from the view expressed in Frank Gray's column this morning that the Carroll High School "adminstration has responded like some character out of a Dickens novel."

Frank's view is also not in sync with that of John Good, who has his own weblog
Left in Aboite, but made this comment in response to the post at the Left of Centrist weblog:
How ironic that NACS mirrored the standard GOP practice of silencing the opposition by any means possible.
Again, the people of Fort Wayne are lucky to have Frank Gray writing for them.

Photo left to right: State Representative Matt Bell, former school board member Kevin Howell, County Councilman Mike Cunegin, State Senator Tom Wyss at the January 21st TAR meeting.

Comments made on my blog (Left of Centrist) in no way reflected my thoughts on the issue. While Frank Gray seems to be lashing out at members of the blogosphere, he failed to mention that I actually support Mr. Fraser, inspite of the fact he is a Republican. In my thoughts, free speech has nothing to do with political leanings and everything to do with the Constitution. Also, I don't believe John Good's comment on my blog was negative toward Mr. Fraser either, but rather pointed out, rightly so, that the school was silencing the opposition, just as GOP House members tried to keep Rep. Conyers silent on the Downing Street Documents.

If Mr. Gray is going to go on the attack perhaps he should have let people know that not everyone was equating the minorties mentioned in Mr. Fraser's booklet with Right Wing stereotyping. I actually quoted Mr. Fraser directly about how minorities are treated as being guilty before innocent by the school administration.

Shame on Frank Gray for not telling the whole story.
Sorry, Mitch, I misread your post. I suppose I should have been directing my comments at you instead of Frank Gray.
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