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Of witch-hunts and Stepford children April 2, 2007

Posted by Jeff in "Reality has a well-known liberal bias", Drama in Wilton, Legit, Theater.
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Wilton High School - “Voices In Conflict”

When the New York Times published an article about Wilton High School’s cancellation of Voices In Conflict, a student drama project to have consisted of letters from American soldiers in Iraq, the first letter the Times published in response read as follows:

Wilton, Conn., where I lived in the 1960s, was the inspiration for Stepford, the fictional town I later wrote about in The Stepford Wives.

I’m not surprised, therefore, to learn that Wilton High School has a Stepford principal, one who would keep his halls and classrooms squeaky-clean of any “inflammatory” material that might hurt some Wilton families.

It’s heartening, though, to know that not all the Wilton High students have been Stepfordized. The ones who created and rehearsed the banished play Voices in Conflict are obviously thoughtful young people with minds of their own.

I salute them.

Ira Levin

Let’s not forget, too, that the WHS advanced drama class’s previous production was … The Crucible by longtime Roxbury resident Arthur Miller, in which the audience was reminded that

The witch-hunt was a perverse manifestation of the panic which set in among all classes when the balance began to turn toward greater individual freedom.

I have always considered myself to have grown up in Georgetown, but in fact the state of Connecticut recognized us as residents of the town of Wilton.

When we moved there in 1956, the big news was about plans to widen Route 7, the main thoroughfare from Danbury to Norwalk, because of increased traffic. As I was catching up last week on the website of the Bulletin, Wilton’s newspaper, the big news was about … plans to widen Route 7 to accommodate increased traffic. Now understand, this is not a further widening on top of the original project. The original project, which was desperately needed in 1956, never happened – Route 7 in Wilton is the same width it was over fifty years ago, despite that the population in Wilton and the surrounding towns has almost tripled.

This is the atmosphere in which the students of Bonnie Dickinson‘s advanced drama class have been raised, and in which they have put together their work. Here is a letter Principal Tim Canty and Superintendent Gary Richards sent to the parents of WHS students, explaining why they don’t want Voices In Conflict performed the way the students have written it.

When I did my first post on the Voices In Conflict controversy last week I hadn’t yet read the student’s play, which had just been taken down from their website for vague reasons. I have since read the play in both an early and so-called “current” version, and I can only stand in awe of what they’ve accomplished, and the degree to which the progressive blogosphere, and in fact the media as a whole, have risen to their cause.

The controversy has been covered on CNN, “Good Morning America” and on local stations. The editorial page of the Washington Post has chimed in, as have commentators from halfway across the world.

Paul Rieckhoff, president of the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America and one of the veterans quoted in Voices In Conflict, has come to their defense on Huffington Post and has vowed to be there when (and if) the play is performed.

Music Theater International – founded by no less than Frank Loesser – has given the students their Courage in Theater Award (someone quipped that if MTI sent the plaque to the Wilton school district someone would probably put it up on the wall without reading it.)

But what has moved me the most – second only to the student’s words themselves – is this account from saramerica on myleftnutmeg.com of what the WHS advanced drama students are being put through on their own turf (and read the comments for a bit more of the same):

Last night I spoke with Bonnie Dickinson, the teacher who created the Voices in Conflict project at Wilton High. All I can say is it’s too bad there aren’t more teachers out there with this woman’s creativity and courage.

She’s put her job on the line in the defense of intellectual freedom – as she said to me last night, “When this all blows over and people stop writing me 40 e-mails a day offering their support, I’m still going to be at this school teaching.”

I can’t imagine it will be such a great atmosphere for her either. I met with four of the students from Ms. Dickinson’s class today, and these kids are being seriously hassled in the hallways of enlightened Wilton High. They’re being called “faggots” and told that they should be “hanged for treason” and have been brainwashed by their “liberal pig parents”. Ms. Dickinson is being referred to as a FemNazi.

The irony is that the play was a collaborative effort by all the students in the class, and it is, apparently a class that is politically diverse, with conservative Republicans as well as “liberal pigs”. The four students I spoke to embraced the diversity in the class, because they felt it helped them to produce a more balanced script.

What it all boils down to is that Principal Canty caved into pressure from ONE parent of ONE student. According to Ms. Dickinson, Barbara Alessi got wind of the script and said that she wanted her daughter Gabby to take the class and not only that, they would be able to provide material for the script because her son, 2nd Lt. Zach Alessi-Friedlander is currently serving in Iraq …

As James Presson [father of one of the students] said to me, “This play was important to the school. Now it’s important to the nation. We’re just trying to show what the troops are saying. The only reason to be against this is if you don’t have respect for the troops own words.”

“RIP Freedom of Speech”I began this post with two blasts from the Heavy-Handed Ray Of Irony, and I end it with a third: These are the words of 2nd Lt. Zach Alessi-Friedlander.

This story is not over.

UPDATE: Will Voices In Conflict be performed off-campus? But why does VIC have to be “disassociated from the Wilton schools? Does that mean the students won’t get credit? And why can’t they do it in school, anyway?

Everything you need to know about the Voices In Conflict controversy.

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