Controversy, Shmontroversy

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Some of you may have read about the recent controversy surrounding the April Fool’s issue of The Tiger Times, which is the student newspaper at Elsinore High School, a school that used to be a lot of fun but isn’t anymore for the simple fact that we can’t get away with anything anymore. We have to start learning.

I happen to be the copy editor for that fine publication, so for this particular column, I know what I’m talking about. Things were up in the air for a while as to whether we would be allowed to put out another issue, or if they were going to solve the problem by just expelling us all and firing the adviser and trashing the computers and setting fire to the publishers’ office. They finally found a new adviser and told all of us, “Naughty, naughty” and we were then free to put out a couple more issues, but only under the following restrictions:

  • We could not state, directly or indirectly, subtly or outright, in any news, feature, sports, or editorial story, that Mr. Price, the principal, is actually Norm from “Cheers.”

  • We could not publish anything until it had all been read and approved by Mr. Price, Mr. Davis, a member of the school board, the ASB President, assemblyperson Steve Clute, columnist Dave Barry, my friend Aaron, everyone’s mothers, General Norman Schwartzkopf, and any high-ranking official in the Catholic church, such as Mother Theresa or one of the Kennedys.

  • Except for retractions and heart-wrenching, sobbing apologies, we could not mention the April Fool’s issue, because if you ignore a problem, it will go away.

    That last one caused a problem because we had already conducted a survey of a large number of EHS students to see what they thought of that issue. Since we couldn’t print the results in The Tiger Times, here they are in my column. I am not making any of these results up.

    Of the 179 polls returned:

  • 48 percent had only good things to say about the issue

  • 32.5 percent felt the issue had some bad parts, but overall was OK

  • 18.5 percent felt the issue was obscene and distasteful.

    Some of the comments the students wrote were rather amusing. One person wrote, “I thought it was the stupidest paper I ever read.” We really did not take that one too seriously, since he or she misspelled the word “stupidest.” Four people said they didn’t read it, several said they didn’t care, and two people (we’re guessing they were freshman males, passing time while waiting for their voices to change) said it wasn’t obscene enough. We intend to alleviate that problem next year.

    There were many more interesting comments, ranging from the obscene to the merely illiterate, but I think you get the picture.

    And there you have it. The results of our poll. I think we can conclude from this that:

    1. The students of Elsinore High School generally liked the April Fool’s issue.
    2. Some of them should be in counseling and English class a little more often.

    Speaking of the school newspaper, I was going through my old tape recordings a few weeks ago when I came across a hot news story that for some reason was never published. It involved the altering of the large marquee in front of Elsinore High School — the one that heralds the coming of such noteworthy school functions as “Cafeteria Workers Appreciation Week” (celebrated by having everyone buy a burrito from them whilst stifling the urge to say, “Eewwwwwww!”).

    Apparently, according to my notes, someone got a hold of some of the letters used to put messages on the marquee, snuck into the school with a ladder about 5:00 one morning (he was seen by a custodian who thought he was supposed to be there), and changed the marquee to read:

    “WELCOME TO TIGER TOWN!
    IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH”

    Principal Dennis Price was absolutely livid, and the message was removed before second period. He was threatening suspension and a stiff fine for the scoundrel, who was never caught. Price made it sound like whoever it was must have been a juvenile delinquent on the brink of first-degree manslaughter, but I seriously doubt that any delinquent at Elsinore High School — and believe me, there are many — would have the literary background to take a quote from Orwell’s “1984” and place it so brazenly on the school marquee. I think one of the English teachers did it.

    I never even submitted this column. My editor had not been terribly pleased with my work lately anyway, and I had been near the center of the April Fool's controversy mentioned here, and I just didn't want to push my luck.

    Dennis Price, then Elsinore High School's principal, was one of the more weaselly human beings I've met. At one point in my life I thought he must have had the school's best interest at heart, but I can recall abandoning that notion later on. After the school year in question here, he was transferred to the continuation school and lived out the remainder of his days there, as far as I know. He really did look like Norm from "Cheers." His replacement, Dr. Ed Brand, was perhaps even weasellier, if such a thing is possible, and just as Norm-like.

    As for the "Ignorance is Strength" incident, that was me. I did it, and I have a photo of it somewhere (though I can't find it anymore), and I was really proud of it. See, all of my delinquency in high school was limited to white-collar crimes like that. I don't know if that's better or worse than spray-painting something, but it's different, anyway.


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