Michigan high school cancels & un-cancels Rick Santorum speech

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Published by: Robert Laurie on Wednesday April 10th, 2013

By ROBERT LAURIE - ...and it just happens to be Robert Laurie's Alma Mater 

I'm going to be blunt here. I'm not a Rick Santorum fan. To me, he was the least desirable of the 2012 Republican field.  I attended one of his campaign stops here in Southeast Michigan on assignment, and he proved himself to be everything I feel is wrong with the GOP.   He places the legislation of morality above the Constitution, state-sponsored religion above individual freedom, and big-government above state sovereignty. 

In short, he's everything the GOP needs to leave behind.

With all of that on the table, I offer the following:

Today, a high school in Michigan cancelled an appearance by Rick Santorum, ostensibly because teachers there are outraged over his views regarding gay marriage.  The school in question is Grosse Pointe South High School, and - back in 1989 - it's where I earned my diploma.

If you've ever heard of Grosse Pointe, odds are you associate it with money. Back in the 80's it became synonymous with a wealthy, privileged, upbringing.  Picture every waspy villain from an 80's ski movie, and you're picturing the stereotype associated with Grosse Pointe South High School. The community was even featured prominently in the uber-80's Preppy Handbook.

The truth is somewhat different. Yeah, there are a lot of rich kids there. No one is arguing that it’s not a nice place. But, the underside of that is the same as it is everywhere else.  There's a lot of middle class suburbia happening there too. Plenty of the area's residents are struggling to maintain their lives and not everyone is living up to the millionaire stereotype. Those that work hard to stay do so because they want to send their kids to high-quality schools.   

Anyone enrolled in that school system was well-aware of the left-wing leanings of the staff.  I vividly remember being chewed out by an English teacher who was aghast at my defiant Reaganism. Like almost all schools, the overwhelming majority of Grosse Pointe South's teachers are virulently left-wing, and are spurred on by their union.

Santorum had been invited to speak by South's Young Americans for Freedom chapter. Conservative students worked to raise the money required to bring him in, and the April 24th event was deemed important enough that it had become an all-school assembly.  This means that every student would be required to attend.

Then they pulled the plug.

Bowing to pressure from the desperately open-minded Democrats on staff, Santorum's speech was cancelled.

Bear in mind that this is a school with a long history of support for political speakers. Back in 1968, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. spoke there - just three weeks before his death. The appearance was heavily protested, but the school stood firm in its belief that all points of view should be heard.  That attitude persisted, at least, until the year of my graduation.

So what happened?

The knee-jerk leftist attitude is to silence those who dare to oppose. Couple that with modern education’s frantic fears of the almighty lawsuit, and you have a situation that lends itself to the stifling of the first Amendment.

Now, after a firestorm of attention spurred on by Fox News, the school has reversed its position.  Santorum will be allowed to speak, though parents will be informed of the appearance and attendance will be voluntary.  If a parent wants their kids to be protected from whatever horror Santorum may visit upon their children, they will simply sign a slip of paper, and the kid will head for study hall.

They’ve made the right decision, but their initial reaction to stomp on free speech is disturbing. Back in 2009, when Barack Obama issued a natonwide statement to be played, manditorily, to school kids across the country, the reaction was decidedly different. If you didn’t want your child to be fed the President’s message, you were portrayed as some kind of tinfoil-hat Luddite who feared exposure to the real world.

However much liberals – or even Constitutionalists like me – may not like his viewpoint, Santorum is a player on the national stage.  Currently, he’s in the process of relaunching a viable political career. He deserves the right to speak, just as the kids who invited him, and paid his fee, deserve the right to hear his message. 

Modern education needs to move away from the concept that certain opinions – in this case the widespread opposition to gay marriage – are taboo.  Their instinct should be to embrace the ideological diversity they claim to champion.

Rather than revoking the first Amendment based on our predispositions, let's let poeople have their say. Then we can make a call.

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