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Protesters at schools? Bring ‘em on

Submitted by on Wednesday, 10 March 2010 No Comment

Where does “protest” end and “publicity stunt” begin?

With PETA and its propensity to station costumed characters in high-traffic public places – always making sure the media are aware of the big news- it’s hard to say.

A Washington Post blogger draws the line at a protest People for Ethical Treatment of Animals planned for today at DC grade school. The organization planned to have an “elephant” with a wounded head hand out activity books to kids as they left the school in hopes of explaining PETA’s long-running complaints about Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus.

“Anybody who knows anything about education knows that publicity stunts with high shock value levels aren’t the right way to teach young kids anything,” Valerie Strauss wrote.

I’m not so sure about “shock” value. Granted, a elephant mascot would get my young kid’s attention. But would it “shock” him? I doubt it. Besides, since when have schools avoided “shock value?” The Every 15 Minutes, which features smashed cars and mock grim reapers, is standard fair at high schools across the country.

I can understand why some parents would object, though.

First, there’s the logistics hassle. Anyone who doesn’t understand the chaotic nature of drop-off and pick-up time hasn’t been around a school in recent years. An end-of-the-day protest is slightly less disruptive, but not by much.

There’s also the conversational hassle – the burden on parents to explain, perhaps even research, an issue they hadn’t planned on talking about with their kids at that particular juncture.

But unless it’s protesters displaying graphic images – and even a photographer who took many fetus images says those shouldn’t be directed at  young children – then, sorry folks. Protests are a long-standing American tradition. They might be inconvenient to explain, but they’re not going to go away. At least, I hope not.

We’re a little different in our house. We’ve watched protests on YouTube. I’ve had to explain Afghanistan, though not yet in the context of protests. When I worked in an office, we drove daily past a man whose truck was covered with posters railing against the local police, judges and virtually everyone else. He was a whack job – that part I left out – but that didn’t revoke his right to do what he was doing.

And that’s the message I would hope my kids would get out of a protest, even if it’s held for “shock value.” They’re too young to understand everything any protest group is saying. But they’re old enough to start learning about their rights as Americans.

Copyright 2010 Debra Legg. All rights reserved.

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