Dennis Prager had an article on his web site about a speech he believes “If every school principal gave this speech at the beginning of the next school year, America would be a better place.”
I doubt it. As a matter of fact one has to wonder what Prager’s idea of a “better place” would be? Sounds to me it’s a place where everyone looks the same, acts the same and thinks the same. You will excuse me but that’s a horrible idea.
Anyway, here’s Prager’s speech, with commentary.
To the students and faculty of our high school:
I am your new principal, and honored to be so. There is no greater calling than to teach young people.
I would like to apprise you of some important changes coming to our school. I am making these changes because I am convinced that most of the ideas that have dominated public education in America have worked against you, against your teachers and against our country.
Really? And what evidence do you have to justify this statement? I’m not saying you are wrong, but you are making a totally unsupported assertion. Do you have any evidence to support what you are saying?
First, this school will no longer honor race or ethnicity. I could not care less if your racial makeup is black, brown, red, yellow or white. I could not care less if your origins are African, Latin American, Asian or European, or if your ancestors arrived here on the Mayflower or on slave ships.
The only identity I care about, the only one this school will recognize, is your individual identity -- your character, your scholarship, your humanity. And the only national identity this school will care about is American. This is an American public school, and American public schools were created to make better Americans.
Define “better American.” Who decides who is a “better American?” Do you decide? The segregationist racists in the 1960s, wearing their sheets and hoods, considered themselves “better Americans” than blacks and what they called outside agitators.
If you wish to affirm an ethnic, racial or religious identity through school, you will have to go elsewhere. We will end all ethnicity-, race- and non-American nationality-based celebrations. They undermine the motto of America, one of its three central values -- e pluribus unum, "from many, one." And this school will be guided by America's values.
You are misinterpreting the meaning of “e pluribus unum.” The motto does not require the homogenization of everyone. It doesn’t require everyone to look the same, act the same and think the same. The motto simply means that while we are different, there are certain fundamental goals, freedom, democracy and equality, which we can all agree upon.
Again you use a term, “American values,” which you do not define. I defined what I consider to be three "American values" above which do not require us to submerge our individuality nor require us to not celebrate our unique heritages. Personally I don’t feel threatened by a Cinco de Mayo or an Eid ul-Fitr celebration.
This includes all after-school clubs. I will not authorize clubs that divide students based on any identities. This includes race, language, religion, sexual orientation or whatever else may become in vogue in a society divided by political correctness.
Your clubs will be based on interests and passions, not blood, ethnic, racial or other physically defined ties. Those clubs just cultivate narcissism -- an unhealthy preoccupation with the self -- while the purpose of education is to get you to think beyond yourself. So we will have clubs that transport you to the wonders and glories of art, music, astronomy, languages you do not already speak, carpentry and more. If the only extracurricular activities you can imagine being interesting in are those based on ethnic, racial or sexual identity, that means that little outside of yourself really interests you.
Who cares? Why do you find this an issue? Do you deny that certain ethnic groups have special problems or interests? What would be wrong with groups that want to explore their unique cultural history? You seem to look upon diversity as a weakness. It’s not. It’s a strength.
Second, I am uninterested in whether English is your native language. My only interest in terms of language is that you leave this school speaking and writing English as fluently as possible. The English language has united America's citizens for over 200 years, and it will unite us at this school. It is one of the indispensable reasons this country of immigrants has always come to be one country. And if you leave this school without excellent English language skills, I would be remiss in my duty to ensure that you will be prepared to successfully compete in the American job market. We will learn other languages here -- it is deplorable that most Americans only speak English -- but if you want classes taught in your native language rather than in English, this is not your school.
Actually, I happen to agree with this 100%. A proficiency in English, speaking it, reading it and writing it, is an absolute necessity for many reasons.
Third, because I regard learning as a sacred endeavor, everything in this school will reflect learning's elevated status. This means, among other things, that you and your teachers will dress accordingly. Many people in our society dress more formally for Hollywood events than for church or school. These people have their priorities backward. Therefore, there will be a formal dress code at this school.
Granted there should be some minimal dress code but it should be precisely that, minimal. Even work dress codes are slowly fading away. Safety and comfort contribute more to creativity and productivity than so-called formal dress. Besides, whose definition of “elevated status” are you using?
Here’s an idea for you. When I was in high school we had a uniform. It was khaki trousers and shirt with shoulder patches, brown belt and tie for lower classmen and blue belt and tie for seniors. Honor students wore pins on their chest over the wings which were the school emblem and seniors wore wings on their collars. The uniform was worn on special occasions such as assemblies, but never less than once a month. This accomplished what I think you’re aiming for here without making it a daily chore which had no meaning whatsoever. It wouldn’t take a “formal uniform,” just special dress code days of some sort.
Fourth, no obscene language will be tolerated anywhere on this school's property -- whether in class, in the hallways or at athletic events. If you can't speak without using the f-word, you can't speak. By obscene language I mean the words banned by the Federal Communications Commission, plus epithets such as "Nigger," even when used by one black student to address another black, or "bitch," even when addressed by a girl to a girlfriend. It is my intent that by the time you leave this school, you will be among the few your age to instinctively distinguish between the elevated and the degraded, the holy and the obscene.
I agree with you here. Obscenities, even when used in a so-called friendly manner, are indications of disrespect and the single most important thing we need to teach students is to respect each other and themselves.
Fifth, we will end all self-esteem programs. In this school, self-esteem will be attained in only one way -- the way people attained it until decided otherwise a generation ago -- by earning it. One immediate consequence is that there will be one valedictorian, not eight.
I agree with you here as well. What is important is to appreciate ourselves for what we are and what we can contribute rather than to foster some imaginary inflated illusion that’s going to come crashing down sooner or later.
Sixth, and last, I am reorienting the school toward academics and away from politics and propaganda. No more time will devoted to scaring you about smoking and caffeine, or terrifying you about sexual harassment or global warming. No more semesters will be devoted to condom wearing and teaching you to regard sexual relations as only or primarily a health issue. There will be no more attempts to convince you that you are a victim because you are not white, or not male, or not heterosexual or not Christian. We will have failed if any one of you graduates this school and does not consider him or herself inordinately lucky -- to be alive and to be an American.
Then you would be ignoring a critical part of what young adults must understand. Do you deny that smoking is bad for everyone? I smoked for 40 years. Take my word for it that it’s a REALLY bad idea. Global Warming is a scientific reality. By not informing students about it you are doing them a great disservice. Do you deny that racism, sexism, homophobia and religious discrimination exist? If you do, then you are either a fool or a liar.
I agree we all should be thankful that we’re alive and living in the USA. However that doesn’t mean we should be complacent or ignore the fact that many Americans are homeless, go hungry and don’t have access to adequate health care. Until every American has the basic necessities of life, America is still a work in progress. You seem to think it’s a finished product.
I might also point out that much of our affluence is built upon the poverty of others elsewhere in the world. Do you consider fairness an "American value?" If so, isn't this something that should concern us?
Now, please stand and join me in the Pledge of Allegiance to the flag of our country. As many of you do not know the words, your teachers will hand them out to you.
I can do that but you will excuse me if I exercise my right of free speech and omit the words “under God.” I consider these words to be unconstitutional and I stand by the Constitution. Do you stand by the Constitution?