Letter to the Editor

D. Heaphy

Dear Inklings:

I write in response to the February 13th article and editorial on our school’s attitude towards community college.  According to the editorial, Inkling’s goal was to reveal that Staples students make assumptions about community colleges that are incorrect or unfair.  If so, this was a laudable goal.  But in an effort to reveal the unvarnished opinions of the Staples High School community the front page article included several anonymous statements that were unnecessarily cruel in their attitude, content, and form of address towards students who attend community colleges.

We ought to consider that many Staples students are planning to attend Community College.  This group of students is larger than we might think- guidance counselors tell me Norwalk Community College is always in the top ten most common destinations for S.H.S. graduates.  I am sure the reasons for our graduates to attend N.C.C. vary from a choice of career, economic needs, academic struggles, indecision about the future, or for a lack of readiness to attend a four year school.

No student who fits the descriptions above is worthy of scorn or derision.  These students have the same rights as any other student in the building.  That includes a right to social and emotional security.  The anonymous quotes printed in the article (above the fold on the front page by the way) were a direct assault on this right for all of our student body planning to head to community college.  They did not deserve that and the paper should not have used its power to amplify such harmful statements.

I wanted to write on this point because I feel that many of our students who consider community college may already feel ostracized in this building.  In a school where four-year college is considered a birthright, it is tough to say you are taking another route.  Just think about how many Michigan, Indiana, or Wisconsin sweatshirts you see in this Connecticut school.  How many Norwalk Community College hoodies do you see?  This despite it being a much more popular destination then is popularly thought.  Consider other reasons, you might not also want to advertise that you can’t afford a 4-year school immediately, are not ready for college yet, or sure- have a low GPA.  But just because those who want to head to community college are quiet about it- does not mean that they are not excited, proud, or hopeful about the experience.  These students have dreams the same as any other- we should not provide a microphone to voices that would mock their dreams.

In the real world, the right to free speech includes the right to offend.  This is not the real world.  In here, you have a right to social and emotional security because we run under the theory that if students feel secure- they will be better able to think, focus, and develop their skills.  In effect, we try (and are not always successful) to stop you from saying horrible things to one another so that your minds can do something better than worry- they can LEARN.  We also do it because people who are afraid tend to silence themselves.  We want ALL STUDENTS- not just those going to four year schools- to have the chance to express themselves.

I applaud the paper for being a forum for debate and controversy.  But if the paper seeks to do this it should be a productive dialogue.  The anonymous quotes that began this article were not thought-out opinions- they were insults- plain and simple.  Do we expect any community college bound students to respond with anything beyond anger?    Insults do not lead to productive discussions.  You have your entire adult lives to listen to insults and close-mindedness.  Here, we do not have to give voice to insults- here we can do something better- open up real, respectful, and high-quality debate.

-D. Heaphy