Open Letter to Maine Republican Party
May 12, 2010
Dear Mr. Webster and Ms. Lee-McNally:
Your party has absolutely gone too far.
First, it was decrying President Obama as a non-American. Our nation has a history of racism, so it’s easy to see how some Americans could believe such a falsity.
Second, it was the forming of a radical new branch of Washington-marching, angrily-protesting conservatives. That’s fine; let them use their freedom of speech. Let them polarize the party that they so desperately need to unify.
Third, it was filibustering and advocating against any progressive legislation in Congress. Despite its cumbersomeness, such acts are entirely protected by Senate rules and, if the liberals were in their position, they might be doing the same thing.
I can deal with all that. The Republican Party may be concocting more lies and spinning more stories than ever before, but let them dig their own grave.
What I take issue with are the actions of the Maine Republicans, specifically, the Knox County delegation, this past weekend at the Republican State Convention.
Politics goes too far when a respected teacher’s classroom is invaded and sabotaged, and that is exactly what the Knox County Republicans did, and what many of your Maine Republicans are attempting to justify.
I am an unapologetic graduate of Paul Clifford’s eighth grade English class at King Middle School. I participated in the “Four Freedoms” expedition, and I made a poster decrying war quite similar to the one with which the Republicans took issue.
I am not brainwashed, I am not a puppet, I am not anti-American or anti-religious, and I am certainly not stupid. Paul Clifford’s class taught me to think critically, to deductively reason and, if anything, to appreciate America for all the freedoms with which I am ensured on a daily basis.
Clearly, the Knox County Republicans – who took a cherished, pro-Labor poster from Clifford’s room and who now are making slanderous and uninformed claims about Clifford – have a different agenda.
Let me be the first to say that the actions by these particular Republicans are wholly despicable and cast shame on your once-respectable party. The individuals who felt the liberty to remove a personal belonging from a room not theirs and then make ignorant claims about the room’s content should be truly ashamed.
I am glad to see that King Middle School is handling this situation so calmly and transparently – as they do everything. Contrary to Republican claims, no students are brainwashed by anti-American or anti-religious propaganda in Clifford’s class. They are taught to examine their own beliefs and determine whether or not the four freedoms are still ensured in America, all the while participating in unbiased classroom discussion. Some students, such as the one whose poster has received considerable attention, rightfully feel that war infringes upon one’s freedom from fear.
Furthermore, if there is anything that can be acclaimed about King’s learning style is its transparency. Not only do parents conference with teachers at least twice a year, but King holds a unique and nationally-recognized annual “Festival of Learning.” This Festival showcases the work of King students and is open to everyone.
At King, parents work collaboratively with teachers and are often sought out for input. Students are never told what to think, and are never discouraged from pursuing their beliefs. The posters and content of Clifford’s room are highly representative of student work and Clifford’s conviction that all students should be enabled to think critically. Maybe you should meet Mr. Clifford sometime. I can assuredly say that he would quickly dispel any persisting myths about his classroom.
Listen. I know my age renders me susceptible to cries that I’m brainwashed and too young to know better. I get that. However, in an appeal to reasonability, I am anything but brainwashed and too young. I served on the Portland School Committee for a year, I started my school’s debate team to foster critical thinking and conflicting opinions, I consider myself particularly well-read and politically-literate, and I am headed to Harvard University this fall.
You don’t need to take my words seriously, but just know this: the radicals in your party are driving its respectability and decency into the ground. Your party is fully allowed to exercise its freedom of speech as much as it wants. However, when it comes to desecrating a classroom based off false political motivation, your party is crossing the line in a big way.
Therefore, I urge you to strongly and publically condemn the actions of the Knox County Republicans this past weekend. Your failure to do so will show the entire state what the Republican Party truly believes: that free-thinking is bad, that damaging classrooms is permissible, and that lying is acceptable.