Rutland High School is a school like any other across the country. Students arrive at school expecting to learn from their teachers. They expect to be given the knowledge to aid their thinking and nurture their own conclusions.

What students do not expect is to be told how to think by their school. This idea is reflective of the school as a whole. The mission statement of Rutland City Public Schools is to “cultivate a passionate, diverse, resilient community of critical thinkers.” But how can students learn to find their passion when they are told what to be passionate about? How can students engage in diverse thought when one single thought is thrust forward? How can students think critically when they are told what to think?

Flying the flag of any political group, movement or organization on school grounds violates the very hallmark of what is considered a good education: an education free from bias and prejudice toward one perspective or another. An education should encourage learners to form their own thoughts and perspectives, not provide the thought and perspective. In order to foster healthy debate and by extension, critical thinking, a school should not show or indicate support to the right or left, conservatives or liberals, Democrats or Republicans, one political group over another and one thought in favor of its opposition.

Flying the flag of any political movement, regardless of partisanship or agenda, is not only harmful to the goal of education in RCPS, but will also alienate students and faculty and inhibit their constitutionally-guaranteed right to free speech and individual thought. Students or faculty who disagree with any aspect of any flag the school potentially flies that represents a political view, thought or partisanship will feel as if they cannot have their voice heard in an environment that professes a particular idea over another. Those who may have previously used their voices will find their voices silenced knowing they are not welcomed or desired, contradicting the very ideas that make our democracy strong.

To keep learning and growing as a community, we must be open-minded to listening and debating individual thoughts and ideas. A single flag representing one opinion diminishes learning opportunities for any political mindset. Besides suppressing free speech and debate, flying the flag of any political persuasion will force students and faculty to question the value and worth of any opinions or ideas that do not align with the flag hanging above them. It is not only unfair but also unjust to give students a learning environment where they cannot think and speak free from the burden of politics being forced upon them.

Simply put, political flags do not represent the unity of all Americans the same way the American flag does. Utilizing a taxpayer-funded flagpole for a particular political agenda is an excellent way to sow the seeds of disunity and discord, neither of which are conducive to a healthy learning environment. By raising a political flag on public property, our collective voice is being taken away and presented as support for that group, organization or cause.

School must strive to be a place where students can remain free from the pressure of being told how to think and what causes or agendas to support. While good schools should expose students to new ideas, it is not their place to pressure students to arrive at a particular conclusion. Students must be allowed to form their own conclusions and opinions.

Every effort must be made to keep Rutland High School a bastion of unbiased education where students feel comfortable expressing diverse political opinions and engaging in balanced debate. An education free from political bias gives students, employees and taxpayers in Rutland the education, self-determination, freedom of expression and freedom of choice that they deserve.

Trevor MacKay and Maya Sobel are members of Rutland High School’s Class of 2020.

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(7) comments

Hmrogers

The black lives matter movement is not a political agenda. It’s about human decency and recognizing the black community’s struggles with racism, mistreatment, and brutality from white people engrained in this country’s history and its present. RHS did the right thing raising that flag and I am a proud alum.

Hmrogers

Another comment from a friend without an who requested that I post:
Mr. MacKay and Ms. Sobel are missing the point in their letter, “Rutland High School and Politics”.

Flying the Black Lives Matter flag does not “provide” either “thought” or “perspective”. It is a symbolic gesture of recognition that people of color in the United States are systematically at a disadvantage from their white counterparts by virtue of being black. The authors incorrectly assume that flying the Black Lives Matter flag in some way elevates people of color, or that by flying the Black Lives Matter flag other (marginalized?) people’s experiences are occluded.

The Black Lives Matter movement is not political in its origin; rather, it is ideological. The authors’ Black/White, Right/Wrong, Left/Right argument is exactly the binary that support of flying the BLM flag seeks to overcome.

Flying the flag is the actualization of free speech that is not hateful. I am unaware of any current “debate” about people of color having a long history of marginalization in the United States. There is nothing biased in acknowledging the brutal history and current status of People of Color in this country. To fly the flag in no way diminishes the status of white people. Mr. MacKay and Ms. Sobel’s argument is a cloaked attempt to maintain and perpetuate white supremacy. Their response is not well researched, and is rooted in fear and misunderstanding.

Kudos to the courageous who support this symbolic reckoning. Fly the flag.

ELey

Thank you for you two young ladies for having the gumption to speak up about something that is clearly wrong with what Rutland High School decided to do.

I couldn't agree more with you two ladies that flying the black lives matter Flags actually creates more division then it does unity.

Actual discussions of history and the part that black people played in The History of the United States as well as Vermont would be much more beneficial.

We are failing not only our students but our community when we cave into a political agenda that does nothing to help anyone..

There is no question sick people feel differently about the black lives matter movement and the division that has created in the United States of America.

Rutland High School needs to rethink what it is doing to the school.

Colinunser


To the writers of the article: nice work engaging in this conversation. It sounds like your thinking has really been challenged here, which is great. Stay involved and—most importantly—keep an open mind. In the end you may be surprised at how much you learned through this after all.

You’ve spent some time writing this letter and are probably wanting to engage on the points you’ve made therein. My question for you comes before those discussions: what about this moment has caused you to get involved? There are so many things happening here and around the world but this right here is where you’ve jumped in. What are the reasons for that? Do you notice any patterns in the types of issues that get you thinking, talking to your close friends + family, and/or that make you feel compelled to push back? I’ve definitely noticed patterns in what commenters here seem to hone in on and it speaks to the need for things like the BLM flag at the HS.

I am clearly making some assumptions here. Perhaps you two write a lot of newspaper commentaries and I’ve missed them, or perhaps you get involved in a lot of other areas. I write the questions anyway because surely the above is relevant for some of your classmates or others who are coming through to read the commentary, if not for the two of you.

To all of the young people: do this hard work! We're depending on it.

thewarrior

Trevor and Maya, thank you for speaking out against this assault on all other races, especially the white race, which Rutland High School has forgotten. RHS has insulted 99% of the taxpayers that fund this school and they have put the middle finger up to the people that fund them. How dare they bow to the pressure of a activist organization that should never have been permitted into the school to begin with to push their political agenda on innocent children. This is a violent racist group and to fly the BLM flag shows the ignorance of the education system of Vermont. It is an embarrassment to our Country to fly that disgusting flag on the same pole as the American flag. This flag should be banned from flying on all gov't and school property and I hope you change your mind before you cause a divide in this county that is never going to be undone. There is no place for racism on school property but if you welcome and flaunt it on a school flag pole, you have yourself to blame for the divide it is going to cause in the community.

ELey

Not everybody agrees with the agenda of promoting black lives matter..

Having high school children, with no real understanding of the world around them, support a group that when it marches it chants of killing policeman is not acceptable..

There are people of color in Rutland that feel this movement promote racism.

They actually feel that this movement and teaching school kids to support this movement does absolutely nothing to support them in this state.
https://www.facebook.com/realCandaceOwens/videos/169215830661148/


AvtHillbilly

First thanks goes to the two young ladies for their post. I totally agree Rutland or any other high school shouldn't get involved in any political movements.
I believe all lives matter but when an officer of the law says "Stop it's the police freeze put your weapon down" that's what they mean skin color doesn't matter that officers life matter he is doing his job how can make a political movement out of someone doing their job should they all be shot dead in the line of duty look at the stats more whites get shot than blacks.

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