Context versus (CowPuckey)


Students sent home for wearing the American flag on Cinco de Mayo!  Is this another sign of the terrible decline of the USofA?  The short answer is “No,” but the long version is “Yes.”

It’s a solid “No” because this is just one of those things that happens and the people involved are going to sort it out. But the uproar and follow-through on this local controversy from Morgan Hill, California, is just one of the daily examples of (CowPuckey) making its way through our various forms of media like adrenaline running through already hot blood.  That’s what could prove to be our undoing.

We can all develop skills to counter the (CowPuckey) that we encounter in our daily media diet easily enough, and these can help us to ignore stories that we have no reason to do anything but ignore. But that doesn’t help us out when a story actually is important and requires our attention. To make sense of these stories, there is nothing like context to help us all sort it out.

The story of the kids who were sent home on Cinco de Mayo is definitely not a story we need to worry about, but I’ll use it as an example just because it’s hot right now.

The basic story has been reported many times over in the national media and does not bear any more repeating. On the surface, most of what has been said fails the “Too stupid to be true” test right away. There’s obviously a lot more than what many of us have heard.

In order to find some context, I turned to the people who have to live with this situation. The Morgan Hill Times is available online and has done an excellent job of giving voice to the people who found themselves caught up in this story. I like this quote best:

This could have been a very easy teaching moment. Instead this is a legal moment. This was a poor management decision and someone needs to pay for it,” John Zent said.

Pithy and to the point, but we still don’t have any light shed on the subject at hand. Why was this admittedly poor decision made? The article quotes another resident of the community:

Some called for the Live Oak administration’s removal, yet others did defend what transpired that day and also brought to light the history of a racial divide – Hispanics versus whites – at Live Oak.

“We have racial discrimination still? This is 2010,” said Teresa Rita Corona, 18, who graduated from Live Oak. She said the tension has been there since her mother went to Live Oak and that it needs to be resolved.

“Hopefully they heard the fire in us,” Corona said after the meeting. She agreed with the decision made by administrators May 5. She said safety has always been an issue at that school.

Let’s just say that you’re the principal in a school that has had, by at least one account, a long history of kids getting in each others’ faces over racial issues. You look at your calendar and see one of those days coming up – the 5th of May. So you tell the kids that they are not supposed to have displays on that day (which they did) and you won’t tolerate racism in your school.

The principal knew that he has one primary responsibility above all others – maintain safety and order in the school so that the teachers and students can go about the business of learning. He saw a threat to that, a threat that he’s probably seen boil over many times before. And he clearly over-reacted to squash that threat immediately.

Bad decisions are often made for good reasons, after all.

This is one of those moments when I join Rick Sanchez in pulling out the Miami Card. Those of us who saw our city burn on more than one occasion know that the sight of a single flag – either Old Glory or la Estrella Solidad of Cuba – can get a major incident going when people are itching for a fight.

We all need to figure out what to do in situations like this because they can happen anywhere these daze. I can tell you that the one thing that should never be done is to turn up the noize and the TV lights.

If you want to get worked up about this or any other situation, I strongly suggest that you take a page from the people who have to live with what’s gone down. At least one of them has a clear mind and a rather strong voice, and I’m going to give him the last word:

This could have been a very easy teaching moment. Instead this is a legal moment.