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Tim Canty: “A farce of ethics bordering on the surreal” April 9, 2007

Posted by Jeff in "Reality has a well-known liberal bias", Drama in Wilton, Legit, Theater.
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An editorial by a Wilton High School alumnus from the College Hill Independent, a magazine published by Brown and RISD students:

These days, you’d be hard-pressed to solicit a good opinion of Tim Canty. Imagine a high school principal effectively quashing debate about the world’s biggest news story in the interest of political fairness. His reasoning? Specious enough to earn him epithets like “fraud” and “hack”. Improbable, I know, but this is not a hypothetical worst-case scenario. This is the true story of Canty and the plot to sink Wilton High School-a farce of ethics bordering on the surreal […]

[WHS principal Tim] Canty’s rhetoric stinks, reeks of bureaucratese-he expresses concern over whether the class’s rehearsal schedule would allow for the play to provide “a legitimate instructional experience for our students.” (Perhaps such an experience is provided by the military recruiters who routinely show up on campus?) Truth is, Canty was under the yoke of a single belligerent mother with a son serving in Iraq. This woman threatened to bring the wrath of local veterans down on the school and Canty, fearing one sort of public relations disaster, inadvertently created a much greater public relations disaster.

But he didn’t act alone. Wilton Public Schools Superintendent Gary Richards came to Canty’s defense in a nearly unintelligible letter to the Times. “Schools have a unique obligation to their audiences,” Richards argued, adding that the monologues in Voices “sensationalize” the accounts of the war on which they are based. By this logic, we might infer that the soldiers who gave the accounts were “sensationalizing” the war. It is difficult to grant this point with a straight face.

After Canty’s first rejection of the play, Bonnie Dickinson, the theater teacher who oversaw the production, castrated the script, removing virtually all inflammatory content-better to stage half the story than no story at all. Only the most hawkish ideologue could have pointed to an “anti-war bias” in Voices in Conflict Redux, but Canty once again said “No” and further outlawed the performance or videotaping of the play anywhere, even off-campus.

The ban on Voices in Conflict is disgraceful not because it stifles criticism of the American military, but because it enforces ignorance of the war and insists on treating Iraq as an open secret rather than a talking point. Contrast Canty’s policy with that of former Wilton High Principal Debbie Low when I was a senior back in the spring of 2003. Low convened an assembly where members of the school’s debate team discussed the efficacy of the nascent war; robust arguments were made on both sides […]

I should add that he [Canty] recently denied a science teacher the right to screen An Inconvenient Truth and bring in a panel of environmental experts on different sides of the global warming debate. It is one thing to balk at partisan grandstanding in the lecture hall or seminar room; it is another to deny the very existence of partisanship. The only thing worse than an activist pedagogue is a mute one.

— KTS

(There are two people on their masthead with those initials, so it’s either Kevin Sieff or Kevin Sparks).

Good piece, although, having read both versions of VIC, I would hesitate to say that the second version is “castrated”. (Both versions are available here.)

This is the first I’d heard that Canty had banned An Inconvenient Truth. So much for any claim of political neutrality on Canty’s part. What’s he planning on banning next, The Crucible? Oh wait, it’s too late for that — maybe he can just cut it out of the yearbook …

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