Home Columns Letters to the Editor, 10.20.21

Letters to the Editor, 10.20.21

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Censoring Free Speech?

To the Editor: 

Peter Langella wrote a letter to the editor that appeared in the most recent issue of The Bridge (Sept. 22–Oct.15). In his letter he chastises The Bridge for publishing DeWitt Shank’s commentary, “Critical of Critical Race Theory.” 

I am writing in response to Mr. Langella’s last statement, “Systemic racism is real, and your paper shouldn’t give voice to anyone who says otherwise.” In doing so, I cite an article that appeared Aug. 27, 2021, in Whole Foods Magazine. It was penned by Jonny Bowden, PhD, an acclaimed author of numerous books on nutrition.

“My Jewish father was an old country lawyer who believed deeply in fairness and justice for all people, so I was curious what he thought about the Nazis.

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“It was spring of 1977, and the American Nazi Party had announced their intention to hold a July 4th rally in the town of Skokie, a predominantly Jewish community in Illinois. Not surprisingly, the town of Skokie had sought an injunction to ban the rally, and the Nazis had, ironically, sought the help of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) to fight the injunction.

“The subject at the dinner table was this: Should the American Civil Liberties Union protect the free-speech rights of the Nazis? Remember, we’re of Jewish heritage, so it’s hard to look at the philosophical issues involved because there’s so much emotion attached to the subject matter. Nonetheless, I’ll never forget my father’s response: “They have to defend them,” he said of the ACLU’s decision to fight the ban on behalf of the Nazi Party. “Free speech isn’t just for people you agree with.” 

It isn’t. Free speech is about vigorously defending the rights of people with whom you disagree. “Censorship almost always creates more damage than whatever’s being censored would’ve caused,” my father told me.

In closing, it must be said that censorship of speech and of the press is the hallmark of dictators, tyrants, despots, repressive regimes, and totalitarian governments. Censorship has no place in a healthy democratic society.

Thomas Mulholland, Montpelier

Legacy of the TA

To the Editor:

I taught at U-32 Junior and High School from 1976 to 1979…. Mary Mello’s article reminded me of the many unique and wonderful aspects of U-32. In any case, I believe what made U-32 so unique and such a positive environment for students and staff was the emphasis placed on developing long lasting, positive relationships with each and every student via the Teacher Advisor system. 

U-32 was one of the few schools that regularly scheduled individual meeting times for the TA and each of their students. It was almost impossible for a student not to be well known by at least one adult in the school. While the TA system was the heart and soul of the school, there were many other aspects that made U-32 unique, including the open and non-silent library led by Marie Schumaker. 

I am convinced that some of the best conversations I had with students were … in the student/staff smoking lounge. And, if a student was missing from class, I generally had a good idea of where they were hanging out. The cafeteria where students and staff ate together. Again, many positive interactions happened at a shared table. 

One last thing that made U-32 unique were the annual junior high school and senior high school bicycle trips. The junior high bike trip was an overnight to Lake Elmore, and Bruce Richards, Food Services manager, would bring dinner and breakfast. The senior high trip was a week-long journey starting at school and riding to either Cape Cod or Long Island. All kinds of kids went on these trips, from those who had very fancy and expensive racing bikes to those who hardly knew how to ride. Yet, on each trip as staff and students worked to set up camp, prepare meals, and marvel at how it felt to ride almost 90 miles on the first day and then days of more moderate mileage, a sense of accomplishment and belonging emerged. And what is better than that? 

When I think back on my years at U-32, I am honored that I was part of a school that so intentionally and skillfully built a culture that nurtured belonging and accomplishment. 

Jon Udis, Middlesex