December 20, 2003

Day 30: 30 Days Lesson Plan, Pt 3

The Students

If you're a student who's been reading along
My message should be perfectly clear
But since you bothered, lean over here
and I'll shout it in your ear

Throughout your life there'll be people
who try to cramp your style
When it comes to your individuality
You should go the extra mile

It's worth fighting for and preserving
And it's the only one you get
You should count yourself lucky
It hasn't been taken from you yet

Your individuality, I mean
your unique defining style
Your voice, your purpose, your attitude
And the things that make you smile

Know yourself
Express yourself
Stand up for your self
Be yourself

People will try to take it away
Try to control what you do and say
Bullies will try to shape your persona
Make it clear to them that they ain't gonna

Sashwat's album was nothing fantastic
But it's great that he bothered to make it
And it's not really his problem to solve
If there are some folks who can't take it

Kudos to Sash for getting something of his own done
Anyone who's 10 or more should know it was all in fun
Here's hoping your career of radical expression has only just begun

December 19, 2003

Day 29: 30 Days Lesson Plan, Part 2

The Adminstrators

Don't think in terms of power,
Compliance, or control
Be a leader, not a ruler
It's a much better role

If you don't respect the students
then they won't respect you back
And you shouldn't be a baby
if they give you some flack

You can have a good relationship
With even the offenders
But it's not going to come
By being an irrational suspender

Adopt policies based on sensibility
Instead of based on lawsuit liability
Ditch the Cover Your Ass mentality
And just deal openly with reality

Just because you can be harsh
Doesn't mean I'd recommend it
You cannot dictate -- you must earn --
The right to be considered legit

December 18, 2003

Day 28: 30 Days Lesson Plan, Part 1

The Parents

Here's a message to the parents
Of Brookfield and elsewhere
You need to be lookin' out
For your child's welfare

In the case of the schools, that can mean resistance
To things like forced drugging, and zero tolerance

It means not buying into their "We Need Order" claims
And not lettin' 'em off the hook for having positive aims
School is a system, and you force your kids to go there
The least you could do is be vigilant and aware

You're ultimately the bosses of those who run the school
Don't let administrators play you like a fool
Stand up every single time for the rights of your child
And your own rights as a parent to decide what's too wild

School as surrogate parent is a problem set to happen
Think about it: who should decide what a given kid is rappin'?
Or writing, or thinking, or drawing, or doing after school?
If you answered "the principal", you got it wrong,
And if I was impolite, I'd call you a fool

Where I come from, it's parents that have the final say
On what music their kid can listen to or play
And if my mom had felt someone stepping on those toes
She would have stood up loudly, and loudly said "No!"

Maybe it's a "different time"
Maybe school shootings turned black into white
Maybe you should just lie down
And sign over your kids' rights without a fight

I doubt it though, and I hope you don't
And I'll keep fighting, even if you won't
Because bureaucrats should not be raising kids
And you shouldn't have allowed what Cerutti did

Sashwat's not the first, he's just part of a trend
You might want to give some thought to how such a trend might end
A trend to suspend for every little thing that might offend
You might have every thinking student not allowed to attend

Will it prevent school shootings? Or stop school violence?
What's the violence-prevention logic in enforcing silence?

I don't know-- I'm asking
Maybe someone has the answer
Hell, maybe zero tolerance policies
Are just shy of a cure for cancer

But you ought to give it some thought
Because it's not a small matter
And though this may not be the best rap
It's more than just idle chatter

December 17, 2003

Day 27: Why Bother

30 days
30 raps
Now that's some crazy crap
It's extreme
I'll admit it
But you probably won't forget it

Sometimes you just have to take a stand
Tell those in command to talk to the hand
Resist the resistance and do as you'd planned

The powerful, no matter where they are
Need to be challenged, more than most (by far)
Scrutinized, critiqued, and held to account
A greater than ordinary amount

Which brings us to glorious freedom of speech
Which brings those things into our reach
We can talk about our leaders, and keep them in check
We can highlight things for the public to inspect

At least we can as adults, to some extent
But kids are left wondering where the Bill of Rights went
It's taught in schools, but it's not obeyed there
'N they're all like, "I've got rights? When? Where?"

They're out here (most of them)-- coming in a few years
Just grit your teeth and wait, and have no fear
You're just living out a fake, forced reality
Where you can be punished for having personality

It's a sad state of affairs, but it doesn't last forever
Someday you will own your life -- better late than never!

December 16, 2003

Day 26: 15 Minutes

One could say I'm beating a dead horse
Or that stupid punishments are a matter of course
Or, "We have to strike out to prevent acts of force"

Like Columbine, or September 11
If you don't live in fear
Then you won't get to heaven

We must do anything
To quell our worry
We need a simple solution
'Cuz we're in a hurry
Make sure the message fits
Inside a media flurry
Give it to us crystal clear
Even though it's all blurry

But it's simply not simple
It doesn't boil down that easy
Thought requires thinking
Sorry if that makes you queasy

Fifteen minutes is not enough time
To resolve the issues of our time
Think about an issue 'til you hear the chime
Then stop and change the subject on a dime

One could say that my point is growing hoarse
Or that short, sharp, shock is a matter of course
And that every ghost threat should be met with full force

Like suspending kids for tiny stupid little things
And hardly comprehending
What that might bring

We must try anything
To quell our worry
Please make it crystal clear
Even though it's all blurry

But there's a complication
Up in the heezy
Thought requires thinking
Sorry if that makes you queasy

Fifteen minutes is not enough time
To resolve the issues of our time
Think about an issue 'til you hear the chime
Then stop and change the subject on a dime

December 15, 2003

Day 25: La Résistance

Students should try to be stronger
And not submit any longer
That doesn't mean you have to get violent
It just means you shouldn't be silent

And even if they bust you for expression
At least you'll get a chance to learn the lesson
That ultimately you can make the choice
To do what you want to with your voice

They can press pause but they can't press stop
Your life's a pyramid, and you're at the top
I know it doesn't always seem that way
"As long as you're in my house, you'll do as I say!"

Just remember that it's only temporary
And that it's o.k. to be non-ordinary
And as you seek, so shall you find
You are the owner of your own mind

December 14, 2003

Day 24: Ceruttiatch

I don't know much about Brookfield Central
But I know zero tolerance policies are mental
And that it's silly to suspend a kid for a rap
It's not even a good way to make him shut his yap

If you want
It's easy to get
Just come direct

You reap
what you've sown
by calling the cops up
on the phone

The students are
Normal agitation has been

I can see that
From here
In which case it must be
Astoundingly clear

I don't know much about Brookfield High
For all I know you're actually a pretty cool guy
But I know what I know, and it doesn't look pretty
To use the rap lingo: it looks shiznitty

December 13, 2003

Day 23: Oh Principal, My Principal

Oh principal, my principal
Not the first, not the last
Ever since you came to school
I wish I had no class

I mean
I wish I didn't have to be here
Under the same roof as you
Because when it comes to running the school
It seems you don't know what to do

You've alienated the students
That was your first mistake
Now you scapegoat one that's creative
Because he wouldn't give you a break

In his rap, and you thought you could stop it
As if you can control speech
I think what you'll find
Is that there's more of that kind
And what's in our mind
Is out of your reach

The lesson you'll learn
Is that you just made it worse
Free speech is an irrevocable curse

Sashwat's album was further spread
By the decision you made inside your head
He's more famous, you're less respected
All due to the choice you selected

"But I had no choice,"
I can hear you whine
And if that helps you get by, fine

But it's clearly not true
And you're not excused
by the false logic
so many before you have used

December 12, 2003

Day 22: (Don't) Use The Force

Might makes right
Even to this day
And you better do
Just what the Man say

And by The Man, I mean
The principal, of course
He's struttin' 'round the school
Like Luke with The Force

He's got the force alright
But he ain't got the respect
And he better watch his back
'Cuz he's gonna get wrecked

Don't worry Mr. Mark
It's just a sayin'
Please don't suspend me--
I'm just playin'

Beating down's much easier
With words anyway
I guess that's why you're so worried
About what the kids say

Sticks and stones might break your bones
But words really burn your butt

Think very hard about priorities
Maybe you'll realize what's what

December 11, 2003

Day 21: Superintendent Matt Gibson

I once met a lawyer who was easy to beat
I shot a big smile and swept him off his feet
He had a real good case -- an administrative mishap
Having to do with a suspension for rap

It was freedom of speech
That was brutally clear
But I'm still here grinning from ear to ear


I've got the power of intimidation
Few will fuck with the administration
I bring the pain
I name the game
I spread the blame
And have no shame

The school must be right
the parents must not fight
And black's not black
If I say it's white

I once met a student who was easy to beat
I threatened expulsion and he had to be sweet
He had a winning case -- an angry principal mishap
Having to do with a suspension for rap

It was freedom of speech
That was brutally clear
But I'm still here grinning from ear to ear

I've got the power of intimidation
Few will fuck with the administration
I bring the pain
I name the game
I spread the blame
And have no shame

The school must be right
the parents must not fight
And black's not black
If I say it's white

December 10, 2003

Day 20: Dear Mr. Cerutti

The threats aren't literal
They're literary
If I was less P.C.
I'd call you a fairy
I'll go with wuss
If you can't take a jab
or maybe can't resist
the bait of power to grab

These aren't threats
I'm not touchin' ya
I'm out here in Cali
Just bum-rushing ya
Of a job you shouldn't have
Maybe you can find
some different power to grab

There's jobs in prisons
You could watch over the yard
Or maybe be a mall security guard

They get to call the cops a lot
I hear that's your thing
So freshen up your resume
and give the mall a ring

December 09, 2003

Day 19: Master/Slave Drive

Singh a song
Singh out loud
Singh out strong

Shut up
Or I'll suspend you again
Also, go to the head doctor
And get checked from end to end

Because you make me nervous with your critical talk
And I'll be watching where you walk
And what you do
And who you're handin' CDs to

Hey Sashwat
I heard what you think
You better sign this thing that says
You have to see the shrink

You rabble rouser
You spread dissent
And for that you must repent

That's why I'm here
I'm the one to make it happen
Cuz in my school there'll be
No student rappin'

And contraband
Like lyrics and music
Will make me reveal
My magic trick:

You disappear,
I look firm,
and you're kneeling down
Begging to return

And if you don't like it
You've got no choice
Inside these walls
I control your voice

Take it or leave it
Or leave school altogether
'Cuz I'm only your friend
In friendly weather

December 08, 2003

Day 18: Literary Device

It's just a literary device
so think twice
before you suspend
the next kid

'Cuz the next one
might fight back harder
than this one did

The next attorney might be
As smart as Bert
Instead of Ernie

December 07, 2003

Day 17: Em Cee

Mark Cerutti is
A grade-A playa hater
Apparently he's also
An anti-masturbator

That'd be fine if that was it
but it's what he does with it
That's got the student body
Worked up into a fit

Suspendin', suspendin'
He's making up rules and he's bendin'
the line
of what's wrong
Twice in one month he
punished for a song

"Ooh, he said my name!
I gotta bust that kid
Even though I'm not certain
What's wrong in what he did."

"Ooh, they turned their backs!
Why, that makes me feel wack
And now I hear a joking cheer
That means punishment is near."

Suspendin', suspendin'
He's making up rules and he's bendin'
the line
of what's wrong
Twice in one month he
punished for a song

December 06, 2003

Day 16: Zero Tolerance, Pt. 4

Police in the school
Is a high impact tool
And unless you are a fool
You will use it with discretion

Let's not abuse the lesson
That came from
That magic word
Justifying the absurd


Zero tolerance
Makes me wince
Because it so often represents
Overreactive nonsense

Zero tolerance
Makes me wince
It's ineffective defense
And an offense to sense

Zero tolerance
Makes us dense

You can read a hundred stories
And they all sound the same
They'd be funny if they weren't
Such a crying shame

You can say it's no big deal
or pretend that it's not real
Everyone's entitled to the way they feel

But you'll be fooling just yourself
Putting reason on the shelf
And giving cause to question
your mental health

"Zero tolerance" must come to an end
We must think before we suspend
One size fits all is never true
That's why I wrote this song for you

(repeat chorus)

December 05, 2003

Day 15: Chaff v. Wheat

Sash was compared to Eminem
And the Columbine killers
I don't know for sure
Which comparison was iller

Oh wait -- yes I do
It was the latter one
Because the CD
Was just Sash havin' fun

Not a plot or a plan
It was plain to see
To compare him to Dylan is a travesty

(I don't mean Bobby D. --
I mean Dylan K.)

Sash likes to speak his mind
Or so the people say

That's all the CD was
And they overreacted
It was a bad call
And it should be retracted.

"But what's the big deal?"
I hear y' all sayin'
So I'll repeat it:

So have his parents tell him not to swear so much
And that "faggot" hurts people even if you're jokin'
And that things you say about your mom
Should be weighed heavily before spoken

(In other words
Just fix the things
That were actually broken.)

But the problem wasn't that he spoke out
Felt bad about the principal, decided to shout
And he didn't really make a threat
(Some folks still don't understand that yet.)

And if our leaders can't handle critique
(In this case, it's the principal of whom I speak),

Then they shouldn't be in that position
Because if you're gonna lead
You've got to expect
That there's gonna be bitchin'

It comes with the job
It's called dissent
And those who suppress it
Have cause to repent

Because even students
Should have the right
To pick an argument
Instead of a fight

Bloggers speak out about Sashwat's Suspension

A number of "bloggers" (folks who operate web logs, or "blogs" -- popular public online journals) took note of Sashwat's suspension, and I'm overdue in making note of them.

Kimberly Swygert decries the fact that when school officials nowadays say "We have to treat every incident very seriously," what they mean is that they can't use any personal judgment or common sense. In this case, it means they couldn't consider the fact that Sashwat is an honors student who meant no harm, in determining whether what he did was threatening.


Indian blogger Om Malik says of Sashwat, "Damn - we got our own 50 Cent in the making."


Joanne Jacobs, whose blog entry was combined with a number of others to create her "School Principals Gone Wild" piece for FoxNews, says this:

The boy's lawyer now says he was expressing his opinion that his school is run like a "police state." No kidding.


Sajit Gandhi of DESIBLOGS posted, "I don't think making a CD is on par with bringing a gun to school, arson, or any sort of violent crimes. I think it is more of an exercise in free speech than anything else."


Blogger Ryan MacMichael heard about Sashwat's situation, and repeated what so many of us who are already out of school have said:

If the sensitivity about kids' creative output was as high ten years ago as it is now, I would have been kicked out of school and charged with threatening students, teachers, and administrators.

He then goes on to add some very wise comments:

This goes far beyond being cautious. You can't just take words by themselves... you have to look at the individual, their history, their demeanor. The things I said (and sometimes still say) aren't indicative of what I'm going to do. If that was the case, every mystery or horror writer would need to be put in jail because their characters were doing something violent.


Suman Palit makes this observation on his blog:

Every teenage button that is pushable, is not just being pushed. It's getting hammered into the bone by these idiots. They are raising a generation of angry, radicalized youth. A generation that is unlikely to trust the educational establishment to teach their own kids.

He then goes on to say tongue-in-cheek that he hopes Sashwat gets a record deal out of all this, and closes with a refrain very similar to Ryan's above:

A final thought occurs to me.. if I were a high school teen here in the US, this blog would probably get me committed to Guantanamo for several lifetimes.


And last but not least, Glenn Reynolds of the super-blog InstaPundit simply called the Journal-Sentinel story that started this all, "more news from the educational quagmire".


Sadly, Glenn's comment might be the most astute. If there is no lesson learned, and no progress made, and nothing productive accomplished via Sashwat's suspension, then it really does just end up being "more news from the educational quagmire".

December 04, 2003

Day 14: Zero Tolerance, Pt. 3

Zero tolerance
Zero common sense
Zero evidence
Of a threat
Or a crime
But still kids
End up doing time

Through suspensions
Or detentions,
or transfers

Ask a school why:
They answer.

"We had to do it, even though it wasn't real danger."
It turns out Columbine
Was a policy deranger

December 03, 2003

Day 13: History Repeats Itself (Unless It Doesn't)

(This one's more of a poem than a rap -- which is fitting, given the subject matter. It's about this incident.)

When I was young
About Sashwat's age
I put a bunch of words
Down on the page

In the form of a poem
About a teacher
(Unwittingly, I was looking
for a way to reach her.)

It was pretty mean
Because I was really mad
About a number of unfair
Practices she had

I got suspended
A big mistake
Because I'm not an easy
Person to break

As soon as I got home
I picked up the phone book
And for the school boss's bosses
I did look--

State Department of Ed.
And I gave 'em a call
Told 'em how my punishment
was doled out in the hall

Before I even had a chance to state my case
(i.e., of due process there was no trace)

So anyway,
to make a long story short
They reversed the decision
of The Principal's Court

And the lesson learned?
Depends on your perspective
It certainly didn't serve as
A means of corrective
It was more of a provoker
And in my eyes,
the school became the joker

They prolly thought they were
Denied a chance
to correct the character
Of young, rebellious Lance

And they were, thankfully
Given their idea of correction--
The ill-minded concept
Of punishing expression

December 02, 2003

Day 12: Cerutti Un-Freestyle

"Volleyball you are so great
You make me want to masturbate"

That's what the kids said
to get suspended
And their athletic careers
Temporarily ended

Because we can't have
Kids saying that word
Or turning their back on me
Or flipping me the bird

Too much expression
Freaks me out
If I hear a room of teenagers shout,

I can't help it, it's too late
By then I'm already over the edge
and irate

How dare they
Use a rally that way
On my watch
That's the kinda stuff I squash

Watch what you say
And don't be gettin' in my way
'Cuz if you do
I'll make sure you rue the day

December 01, 2003

Day 11: Cerutti Freestyle

My name's Mark Cerutti
And I like to suspend

Kids that rouse the rabble
I promptly bend
In a manner of speaking
I kick out the squeakiest
Wheels that are squeaking

I grease 'em up
And slide 'em out the front door
Suspend 'em for a few days, maybe more
Then I threaten 'em
With an expulsion hearing
Yeah, I'm a badass
And they're all fearing
Me --
Mr. Ce-ru-tti

I've come to enjoy
This veil of fear
I'm your new principal
And that's why I'm here