A video showing William Baer, the father of a government school child, being arrested at a school board meeting, has been making the rounds on social media. He was protesting the inclusion of a sexually graphic book in his daughter's high school curriculum. Baer was particularly outraged because the school had failed to send out a letter warning parents about the obscenity. Apparently that's something the government does as a concession to people who don't want their kids reading about pooling semen. He went over his time and was taken away by police.
It appears from the video that the officer (a lieutenant!) was on standby in case of an incident. Not coincidentally, the father had called for a meeting with the principal the previous week. Baer was pretty sanguine about it: “You are going to arrest me because I violated the two-minute rule? I guess you are going to have to arrest me. This is ridiculous." Then looking at the man seated next to him, "This is your civics lesson.”
One of the most astounding things about the video is that everyone sits stock still and won't look while the man is being arrested. No one stands up and objects, if only at the indignity being thrust on all present of the government trying to pretend nothing is happening. The chair could have called for a pause while the arrest took place, acknowledging both the event and its gravity before moving on. Instead the government asks everyone present to be complicit, and they are.
Perhaps it shouldn't surprise me. No people in this country is more sheep-like than the people of New England.
I was fine not writing about this. After all, there have been so many arrests and protests at school boards recently over the adoption/enforcement of Common Core. What's one more arrest? But then I saw one too many comments like the following one, and I felt that blogger's urge.
While I agree with his point of view, you have [to] respect the laws/rules of a government related meeting. This was at a school board meeting, right? What if all parents spoke out of turn? They wouldn't have these meetings anymore and then you'd really be complaining about "free speech" and you've probably never even gone to one those meetings.These words, when strung together in that order, do say a true thing: if no one follows a meeting's format, it will be extremely difficult, perhaps impossible, to run said meeting. Here's the dumbness: who makes the rules at a government school meeting? Wait, don't tell me. Government schools, right?
Sometimes who have to be willing to be a little rude. As I mentioned above, the dad was really sanguine. He was willing to be arrested. He's playing within the rules set. That's the price he has to pay to have his say. And we're asses if we're not outraged that the game's been rigged that way.
According to benswann.com, Baer called the principal and asked for a meeting, with two or three days' leeway. The principal put him off until "after the weekend", which would have meant Baer would not be able to meet the principal before the school board meeting. The first school board meeting, let's be clear, to occur after the board's failure to warn parents about the obscene book became public.
This was the meeting at which to object, or it would be too late. And they arrested one of the men. The man who was speaking at the beginning of the video above was also discussing the book, which was not on the agenda of the meeting, even though many parents had voiced their trouble with the school board's failure beforehand. Do you think resistance to the book and the school board was enthusiastic after the arrest?
All this to say, this meeting was rigged. These meetings are rigged. Bureaucracies are rigged. They make the rules. They only respond when you break their rules. Or show them to be ridiculous by taking them to the extreme. They do not change their behavior for policy-followers. There are only two ways to change a bureaucracy. One is from the top down, and that is very difficult, and those men are usually outsiders anyway. Which leads to the main way bureaucracies are changed: from the fringe. And to do that you must either be outside the system or have an external referent. You know, a truth beyond the truth of the system. A truth where politeness might not be the ultimate virtue.
If someone were to say that Baer has no right to be outraged, and that the state ought to teach its values to its citizens, well...a battle royale of rhetoric would be on, but I wouldn't be offended.
What offends me is people who say that they sympathize, that's he's right, that they agree, but...but we can't break the rules!
What if all parents spoke out of turn?
Come on. Do what's right. If Baer was right, then he was right to get arrested. And look what a nice man he is! He didn't even flip over a chair on his way out.