Friday, February 26, 2010

What's up at Bowie HS?

Well, today, we had a different sort of experience at one of Austin's high schools. Hart, Bobby and I set up our table at Bowie HS as we had scheduled to do through the school's on-site coordinator. We've tabled there in the same spot just outside the school cafeteria, either once a year or once a semester for the past 6 or 7 years. And, as often happens at Bowie, our table drew the attention of JROTC students who stayed and talked with us for a while. I really like this because it gives a chance for them to talk with military veterans who may have a different viewpoint of war than their JROTC instructors. Bobby and Hart have both been in Iraq, with the US Marines and Army, respectively. The JROTC students today had good questions and comments for Hart and Bobby, who responded with good questions and comments, too.

But, just as the first lunch period was ending, Bowie's principal came over to our table and told us we had to leave. Why? He said a parent had contacted him with concerns about our "anti-war and anti-military" views. The principal took some of our literature to look at, which we encouraged him to do. It's essentially the same literature we've been distributing (trying to keep it updated so the info is accurate, of course) for most of our years of tabling, and we'd vetted it with Bowie's previous principal a number of years ago. I suggested we meet with him after packing up our things, but he said he was too busy. I tried to make an appointment with him when we were back in the administrative office, but the woman I spoke with said she'd have to get back with me.

It was such a surprise and disappointment to be told to leave like we were. We were not violating any school policy, and we'd gone through the proper channels as always.

Over the years, we've been welcomed by school staff in the AISD district. Even those who disagree with our views tend to honor our right to present the information we do so that students have a wider choice of options to consider for themselves when it comes to issues as serious as war, peace and military service. Also, school staffpersons realize, I think, that we are volunteers who adjust our work schedules to be able to visit schools during the day. Bobby drove from San Antonio this morning just to do this.

We are clearly anti-war -- and pro-peace. Our "peace wheel of fortune" is a peace education tool, showing some of the nonviolent methods that people have used over time to achieve liberty and justice. We are critical of the military as a system because we have seen firsthand how it harms people -- both the soldier and the civilian. We are pro-human, and every person in the military is human. The veterans in our group are able to talk to students about the military with direct experience. Some of us have different views about whether or not any country needs a military force. We want high school students to think more deeply about these things for themselves. Let's not be afraid of discussion. These are crucial issues for their age group.

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