Peninsular Thinking

A conversation about Bremerton, Port Orchard, Poulsbo, Silverdale, Bainbridge Island, Kingston, Manchester, Seabeck, Southworth, Suquamish, Belfair, Keyport, Olalla, Bangor, Hansville, Indianola, Port Gamble, Allyn, Port Ludlow, Gig Harbor and every once in a while something about the good folks who don't have the good fortune to live here.
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Walking the Bud Hawk walk

March 12th, 2014 by Steven Gardner

The Central Kitsap School Board has not scheduled a conversation on the question of renaming Brownsville Elementary School after John D. “Bud” Hawk. It will likely be on the agenda for the March 26 meeting, but I have heard from a couple of sources that some will be at Wednesday’s meeting this week to air their thoughts. In preparation for that conversation, in an attempt to understand views on both sides of the question I asked the district to see all the responses to the online survey the district conducted about the question, particularly the spaces where people could weigh in with comments.

I should say up front that all three of my children went to Brownsville. One was there a few months, another a year and the other all seven elementary school years. Given that, we do have a sense of gratitude for the work that goes on inside the school. But I get paid to keep my feelings about an issue to myself, so if I had an opinion I wouldn’t tell you what it is. Besides, we don’t live in that area anymore and my youngest goes to Silver Ridge, so I don’t have a dog, or a bear, in that discussion.

So I leave it to the survey respondents to make the arguments. Here are a few samples:

John “Bud” Hawk was a great man who accomplished more in his lifetime than most people I know. He has also been recognized and memorialized in many ways as a tribute of thanks for his many years of service. For me personally, I feel strongly that Brownsville Elementary should remain, and a portion of the school should be named after Bud. Brownsville is a school with a wonderful family vibe and supportive community. Many of our families attended Brownsville as children and now watch their own children roam the halls of a school they love, one that has been called Brownsville for almost 60 years. In a time where everything moves so fast, information is shared so quickly, names and trends come and go at a rate most of us don’t remember them. I feel that offering some consistency, an anchor of sorts to our youth is crucial. Let Brownsville be that constant, that place where our children will look back and smile, that tangible memory that lets them know that not all things disappear … that some, very special places are kept as they are because of the powerful and positive impact they’ve had on so many.

—————

When my family moved here our three grade school sons were among the largest number of students ever to attend Brownsville at one time. Within months Esquire Hills and Cottonwood opened, reducing the head count to one third. Through it all Bud Hawk kept his cool, maintained order, got to know the children and even cooked Thanksgiving turkeys for the Thanksgiving feast. He was phenomenal under tremendous pressure. He dealt with parents, students and teachers in a way each was heard and respected. For all that Bud did before he came to Brownsville and for his exemplary leadership as principal, John “Bud” Hawk deserves to be remembered in a lasting way. Please don’t flub this. Please name the entire school after a man whose shoes can never be filled by another person. Let this be his legacy.

—————

He was an eyewitness to some of the most horrible things man can do his fellow man. And his reaction to that was to embrace the nurturing of children. He was motivated to make education his career because he knew it was important to help children., that the key to a peaceful world was happy children. His understanding of what was really important in life and his insight into how to change the world is at the heart of knowledge. And the heart of knowledge in any school is the library. I think the library should be named after him.

—————

I attended Brownsville Elementary in the 1970s and remember Mr. Hawk fondly. Of all my school principals, he is the one I remember the most. What he did for our country in WWII is certainly deserving of renaming the elementary school where he dedicated many years of his professional life in his honor.

Nearly everyone supported naming at least a part of the school after Hawk, so it seems clear there is large support for honoring Hawk somehow.

Now, allow me to put on my best pinstriped suit to play advocate for the devil.

Many who opposed renaming the school spoke of how it could harm Brownsville’s “storied history” and “legacy.” Those are kind of big words to attach to an elementary school. What historic moment happened at Brownsville? What legacy at Brownsville is so unique that it couldn’t be found at other schools?

I was especially struck by the people who said renaming the school would be harmful to the memories of people who went there, to which I ask, “Why?” Would your memories be any less beautiful if the school you once attended wasn’t called Brownsville anymore? Did new people move into the house you grew up in? Did that make you sad? Did you get over it? How do the people who went to East High School feel about their old campus being turned into something else? How do Seabeck and Tracyton alums feel today? If they change the name of your school, it doesn’t change your memories.

On the flipside, let me still represent the devil in arguing the other case. A few brought up that the school is actually in Gilberton, some saying that calling it “Brownsville” was a compromise to appease people who really did live in Brownsville and were disappointed the school was not located there. I haven’t verified that. Despite all that, even though Brownsville Elementary School is in Gilberton, that argument ended a long time ago. The school has been there for years with that name, and renaming it Hawk isn’t going to right an old wrong.

Let me tell you a little of my history. Forty years ago I graduated from an elementary school named after a street. That much I knew then. What I didn’t know was the street was named after a former whiskey maker and rancher who helped settle the San Gabriel Valley in Southern California. That’s something I found out about an hour ago, thanks to Wikipedia. The school’s website didn’t have any info on it. Nor did the high school named after John A. Rowland. I still don’t know who my junior high school was named after. This request is coming at a time when the emotions about and the memories of Bud Hawk are fresh. Years from now as more people pass through the class-picture-lined halls of the school there is the threat that the passion to remember the school’s namesake will diminish.

Naming a school after a hero is the most a school district can do, but it’s not nearly enough for what John D. “Bud” Hawk did. There have been principals, few of them maybe, who can match his impact on students. But as CK’s Superintendent Hazel Bauman said at a previous board meeting, there are not that many principals who were previous Congressional Medal of Honor recipients. When I read Hawk’s World War II story I was legitimately flabbergasted. Ed Friedrich, explained Hawk’s wartime exploits well in the story he wrote when Hawk died.

“On Aug. 20, 1944, German tanks and infantry attacked Hawk’s position near Chamois, France. He fought off the foot soldiers with his light machine gun before an artillery shell destroyed it and wounded him in the right thigh. He found a bazooka and, with another man, stalked the tanks and forced them to retreat into the woods. He regrouped two machine gun squads and made one working gun out of two damaged ones.

“Hawk’s group was joined by two tank destroyers, but they couldn’t see where to shoot. So he climbed to the top of a knoll with bullets flying around him to show them where to aim. The destroyer crews couldn’t hear his directions, so he ran back and forth several times to correct their range until two of the tanks were knocked out and a third was driven off. He continued to direct the destroyers against the enemy in the woods until the Germans, 500 strong, surrendered. He would receive four Purple Hearts.”

Then he came home and became a teacher and a principal. Or as the survey respondent quoted above said, “He was an eyewitness to some of the most horrible things man can do his fellow man. And his reaction to that was to embrace the nurturing of children.”

Whatever decision the district makes, this conversation should spark one commitment out of anyone interested in the question. No matter what decision is made about the renaming of the school, the students who go to school there should know well the story of what John D. “Bud” Hawk did in war, and then what he did in peace. For all the distinction and symbolism there is in naming a school or a part within the school after a hero, the greatest way to honor someone is to emulate someone. Whatever the district decides to do, the decision should be made answering the question that as students walk the halls Bud Hawk walked, what decision will more influence them to walk the life he walked, too.


Kitsap area firefighters raise more than $46,000 in annual stairclimb

March 11th, 2014 by Rachel Anne Seymour
CKFR's Lindsay Muller at the Scott Firefighter Stairclimb in Seattle on Sunday, March 9.

CKFR’s Lindsay Muller at the Scott Firefighter Stairclimb in Seattle on Sunday, March 9. Contributed photo

Firefighters from Kitsap County and across the country, ran, jogged and sometimes leaned against walls on their way up 69 flights and 1,311 steps in full firefighting gear, including oxygen tanks and breathing equipment, Sunday during Seattle’s annual Scott Firefighter Stairclimb, a fundraiser for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.

CKFR firefighter’s eight-man team has raised more money than any other Kitsap area team with $16,036.13, beating its $12,000 goal.

CKFR also has placed in the top 10 fundraising teams per capita.

“Now we really set the bar too high,” joked firefighter Ryan Orseth, CKFR team captain.

Orseth himself made an impressive fundraising push. He was $403.95 short of making the list for the top 10 individual fundraisers. He raised a total of $5,201.05.

Although firefighters are done racing stairs in downtown Seattle’s Columbia Center, the second tallest building west of the Mississippi, they can accept donations until the end of the month.

So far, 1,800 firefighters from more than 300 departments have raised about $1.55 million.

Last year, the event raised $1.44 million with the help of 1,500 firefighters from 282 departments.

While every Kitsap area fire district and department participated in the event, not everyone is as closely connected with the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society as the North Kitsap Fire and Rescue is.

The district lost one of its own firefighters to leukemia on March 8, 1997, according to NKFR spokesperson Michele Laboda.

Tom Kenyon died at age 33, leaving behind his wife and six-month-old daughter, who is now a high school senior.

The stairclimb has always been close to and sometimes on the anniversary of Kenyon’s death, Laboda said.

This year, NKFR’s four-man team has raised $2,128, just a few hundred shy of it’s $2,500 goal.

Besides the gratification of fundraising for a noble cause, there also is a little pride in how quickly individuals and teams climb the stairs.

Each team can have any number of participants, but team times are calculated from the top three fastest times.

CKFR’s team time was 1 hour, 5 minutes and 30 seconds, while the North Mason Fire Authority had the fastest time for Kitsap area districts, finishing in 49:09.

The average firefighter takes 20 to 30 minutes to run up 69 flights of stairs, according to the event website.

Only firefighters are allowed to climb in the event.

This year’s fastest time was 11:03 by 32-year-old Missoula, Mont., firefighter Andrew Drobeck.

CKFR is looking at improving fundraising, not speed, next year.

Orseth said he would like to see CKFR on the top 10 fundraisers list.

This year’s top fundraisers ranged from $22,318 to $68,976.99.

To compete, Orseth suggested pooling Kitsap County’s resources to create a countywide team.

And he has already started campaigning for next year’s climbers, asking CKFR commissioners to consider joining the team.

They declined with laughter.

“There’s paramedics on scene,” Orseth said.

“You’re good.”

 

Local team results

Bainbridge Island Fire
Time – 58:12
Team members – 7
Raised – $4,835.96
Goal – not listed

Bremerton Fire
Time – 55:34
Team members – 7
Raised – $3,678.12
Goal – not listed

Central Kitsap Fire and Rescue
Time – 1:05:30
Team members – 8
Raised – $16,076.13
Goal – $12,000

North Kitsap Fire and Rescue
Time – 1:19:47
Team members – 4
Raised – $2,128
Goal – $2,500

North Mason Regional Fire Authority
Time – 49:09
Team members – 4
Raised – $2,045
Goal – $5,000

Poulsbo Fire
Time – 54:03
Team members – 8
Raised – $6,269.60
Goal – $10,000

South Kitsap Fire and Rescue
Time – 50:12
Team members – 14
Raised – $11,348
Goal – $25,000


Memorial to girls planned on Baby Doll Road Wednesday

March 11th, 2014 by Chris Henry

Family and friends of two teenage girls killed in a single car collision Dec. 16 on Baby Doll Road will gather at the site Wednesday, as Kitsap County installs memorial signs commemorating the crash victims.
Rebekah Faye Barrett, 18, of South Kitsap, and Shanaia Rose Bennett, 17, of Gig Harbor, died on the scene, after the Toyota Camry Barrett was driving skidded of the road and slammed into a tree. A third girl, 17, survived the crash.
Witnesses reported that Barrett had been racing with a 1997 Toyota pickup, driven by her boyfriend Robert A. Rundquist. Rundquist, 20, of South Kitsap faces two counts of vehicular homicide in Kitsap County Superior Court. His trial is set for May.
The signs, purchased with donations through the county’s memorial sign program, will urge safe driving.
“If either one of those signs saves one life, it will be worth it,” said Rhonda Barrett, Rebekah’s mother.
Anyone is welcome to attend the memorial from noon to 1 p.m. on Baby Doll Road. The road will be closed during the event.


Dr. Who: the video

March 5th, 2014 by Chris Henry

Here’s our video of a replica of the TARDIS (Time and Relative Dimension in Space), made by Fred and Jordan Rabinovitz in their South Kitsap garage. The TARDIS, of course, is the spaceship (in the form of a British police call box) that allows the Doctor to travel through time and space.


Dr. Who? In which I learn what I’ve been missing

March 3rd, 2014 by Chris Henry

Yes, I have been living under a rock.
So when the Kitsap Sun got an email from Fred Rabinovitz of Port Orchard saying he and his son had built a TARDIS in their garage, the newsworthiness of the announcement whizzed right past me … defying the laws of space and time … much like the TARDIS itself.
When I was asked to write about Rabinovitz’s TARDIS, I had no idea how lucky I was. My first clue was photographer Meegan Reid, who clawed the assignment away from Larry Steagall and who gushed with excitement when we arrived at Rabinovitz’s garage.
Screen shot 2014-03-03 at 5.31.06 PM
Meegan is by nature pretty low key. I don’t think I’ve seen her this worked up over anything … except maybe those whales in Dyes Inlet. To myself, I’m like, “Nice blue box. But what’s the big deal?”
To Whovians everywhere, I apologize for my ignorance.
The TARDIS, of course, is the time-space travel machine that figures centrally in the long-running BBC television series “Dr. Who.” From the outside, it appears an ordinary British police call box. Inside … ah, that’s another story.
The Doctor in “Dr. Who” has had multiple incarnations since the show launched in 1963 — each played by different actors, with different (mostly female) sidekicks and villainous otherworldly enemies.
I’m not going to say how many Doctors there have been for fear of stepping into Whovian trivia quicksand. I do know the Doctor is an alien Time Lord (apparently with two hearts) and a shape shifter … unlike the TARDIS (for Time and Relative Dimension in Space), which got stuck as a police call box early on in the series.
That’s not to say the TARDIS is a static prop.
Over the course of the series — both the “classic” earlier version and the reincarnation that began in 2005 — the TARDIS has been so much more than a vehicle through space and time. It (she?) has a personality and oft independent will, as the Doctor does battle over the millennia with various hordes of rubbery monsters. All of this is served up with that dry British wit that seems to poke fun at the show’s inherent hokiness.
What’s not to love?
Jordan Rabinovitz, 17, is the resident Whovian – reminiscent of the 11th Doctor in a natty vest and bow tie — proud as a hen on a new clutch of eggs as he opens the door to the TARDIS.
Screen shot 2014-03-03 at 5.34.28 PM
Inside, Fred Rabinovitz, an engineer by trade, has done wonders with a metal recycling bin, some holiday rope lights and a DJ’s music mixing console he got off eBay. There’s even a black-and-white television that displays a grainy image of the hypnotizing introduction to the show.
Screen shot 2014-03-03 at 5.30.06 PM
Jordan pushes a button and the TARDIS emits a noise suggestive of futuristic travel. His secret? A key scraped along a piano wire. It’s thoroughly convincing. Take note, BBC.
The Rabinovitz TARDIS has had its own dramatic career, appearing in the family’s extravagant Christmas light display and as a prop in a video for a Spanish assignment.
Jordan is a relative newcomer to the fandom — which like the TARDIS is bigger on the inside that it appears from the outside. He started watching in December 2012.
“I had heard a little bit about it. I decided I may as well watch the first episode (from the 2005 reboot), and it just got me intrigued,” Jordan said. “Episode by episode, the emotional attachment set in.”
By June he had his dad hard at work on the TARDIS.
“I would build it, and he would come out and say, ‘That’s not right.’” Fred said. “I’d say, ‘It’s good enough.’ And he’d say, ‘No, it’s not.’”
“It’s a work in progress,” Fred said. “We’re always adding to it.”
Jordan Rabinovitz has watched many of the Dr. Who episodes — including those of the classics he can locate — and he can rattle off trivia rapid fire. He even has a replica of the crazy-long scarf worn by an earlier doctor and a sonic screwdriver.
Screen shot 2014-03-03 at 5.30.45 PM
Jordan, a senior at Crosspointe Christian Academy, often comes home from a long day and closes himself in the TARDIS. Listening to the take-off noise or music from the console, he is indeed transported.
“It’s a getaway. It’s imaginative. It lets the creative juices flow,” Jordan said. “I have achieved time travel, but only when I’m in it.”
In case there was any question, let’s make one thing perfectly clear: “I’m a huge fan, not obsessive,” Jordan said. “There’s a line; you don’t cross it. Some have, and I’m sorry for them.”
As to the question, “Is it bigger on the inside?” Just wait ‘til you see their next model.


An ‘Elise and Joey’ fundraiser update

March 3rd, 2014 by Steven Gardner

On Sunday night dozens of Elise Fulton’s closest friends met at a South Kitsap church to raise funds for Elise and her son Joey to get a trip to Disneyland. The event was sparked by Elise’s wish that before she died that she and Joey, who is 2, would get some time together in the Magic Kingdom.

Elise, as we wrote in a story last week, has leukemia and doctors had recently told her she had no more than a few months left. Her final wish, in fact, was that Joey get to go to Disneyland and additionally to gather with relatives he’d yet to meet.

Phil Daubenspeck, associate pastor of the South Kitsap Family Worship Center said Sunday night’s event raised $18,500, more than enough to get Joey and his accompanying family to Southern California and to Montana for the chance to meet relatives.

Elise’s mother, Linda Fulton, said Elise in recent weeks became aware that she might not be around long enough to make the trip with Joey, but she wanted to make sure he got to go.

Elise was too ill to make it to Sunday’s event. She and her mom witnessed it via Skype. On Monday afternoon Linda Fulton said Elise was hanging in there. Cancer, and chemotherapy, has a way of making someone fragile, less able to battle off infections and the like.

For anyone still wishing to contribute, donations can be made at the Family Worship Center website at http://www.fwclive.com/#!elise–joey-miracle-fund/c1o7c, or to the “Elise & Joey Miracle Fund” at any Wells Fargo Bank. Account No.: 3773077320.


Poulsbo Fire Department handling more than fires, medical calls

February 26th, 2014 by Rachel Anne Seymour
Poulsbo Fire Department's "C Shift" built a ramp during their own time for a family in need. Contributed photo

Poulsbo Fire Department’s “C Shift” built a ramp during their own time for a family in need. Contributed photo

As the Poulsbo Fire Department responded to a medical call last month, the crew tripped over a makeshift wheelchair ramp.

The ramp — made from a lawn mower loading plank on top of two pieces of two-by-eight lumber — left the four-man crew nervous about the family’s safety. A mother, who uses a wheelchair, recently moved in with her daughter, who also is caring for her husband.

“The family seemed a little overwhelmed,” Lt. Chris Rahl said.

After a quick conversation the group — firefighters Chris Rahl, Steve Behal and Chris Cribbs, along with paramedic Ed McLaughlin — asked the family if they could build a new ramp.

And on Feb. 12, a day that all four men were off duty, the crew made a morning supply run for lumber and built the ramp in place during the afternoon.

The new eight-foot long, non-skid ramp only took a few hours to build and was a relatively simple project, Rahl said.

And funding the project was simple.

The department has a community assistance fund that comes from fundraisers and donations, Rahl said. The fund also is used to pay for hotel rooms when a home is severely damaged by a fire, North Kitsap Fishline’s holiday meals and other community aid.

But the department doesn’t take requests, Rahl said.

When firefighters and paramedics see a need, like a new ramp, they take action.

While the fire department has built ramps in the past, the recent ramp is the first one in five or six years, according to Rahl.

Usually, you won’t hear Poulsbo’s firefighters talking much about their community assistance. They are humble and aren’t after recognition, according to spokesperson Jody Matson.

“They just did it to help.”


Sharing Silverdale’s history in photographs

February 25th, 2014 by Rachel Anne Seymour
Read about the history of Silverdale in a recently published book by the Kitsap County Historical Society.

Read about the history of Silverdale in a recently published book by the Kitsap County Historical Society.

The Kitsap County Historical Society published its third book in three years earlier this month. “Silverdale” is the second book in the historical society’s “Images of America” series.

The 128-page book, which took more than a year to complete, features hundreds of photographs of historic Silverdale and its development on the shores of Dyes Inlet from 1857 through the 1980s.

Readers can flip through the pages to see aerials of Silverdale from the 1930s and 1946, showing the growth and change because of World War II. The book also features photographs of Bucklin Hill Road as a narrow dirt road, as well as Silverdale families throughout history.

The first book of the “Images of America” series — “Port Orchard” — was published two years ago, along with the third edition of “Kitsap County, A History: A Story of Kitsap County and Its Pioneers” that was originally published in 1977.

While the historical society would like to publish a book about Bremerton some day, writer Claudia Hunt is ready for a break.

“We’re exhausted,” said Hunt, a historical society board of trustee. Hunt, along with her brother, Randy Hunt, and Carolyn Neal wrote “Silverdale”. The Hunt siblings also wrote “Port Orchard”.

All three books can be bought through Kitsap County Historical Society, on Amazon or local bookstores.


Empty bellies and student discipline

February 25th, 2014 by Chris Henry

The link between discipline in schools and student achievement has gotten considerable attention over the past year in Olympia. The Legislature last year passed a bill, effective in September, requiring that districts take steps to reduce expulsions and bring kids who have been expelled back into the fold, whenever possible.

A bill introduced this session (SHB 2536) connects the dots between misbehavior and hunger. The bill, which passed the House last week 67-31, would require districts with high numbers of low-income students to implement so-called “breakfast after the bell” programs.

In most districts, breakfast is available before school starts (not after the first bell). Although available to all students, breakfast before the bell is meant to ensure that children financially eligible for free- and reduced-cost meals have a shot at what nutritionists call the most important meal of the day. But low-income kids can feel stigmatized by the arrangement, say child advocates backing the bill. Sometimes transportation is an issue … as if there weren’t already enough reasons to skip breakfast.

The bill cites evidence that school breakfast is associated with “improved outcomes” for students, including fewer discipline incidents, better attendance and improved performance on standardized tests. Washington State ranks forty-first in the nation for participation in school breakfast programs, according to the text of the bill.

The bill, now with the Senate, calls for a four-year, phased-in process for providing breakfast after the bell in “high needs” schools. Beginning in the 2016-2017 school year, all high needs elementary schools in the state would be required to offer some form of breakfast after the bell; the requirement would extend to all high needs schools the following years.

Schools could use whatever model best suits their student population and logistical requirements. Models proposed in the bill include, but are not limited to, breakfast in the classroom, “grab and go” breakfast, or a breakfast after first period.

An amended to the bill would allow high needs schools to obtain waivers from the requirement if they could show that their direct costs for the program, including food service staff, would exceed available revenues.

Funding would come from federal school nutrition sources and the cost to the state would be “minimal,” according to Sara Levin, of the United Way of King County, which would help with start up costs in that county, and Katie Mosehauer of Washington Appleseed, a public policy organization aimed at social justice. The Breakfast After the Bell program will cost an estimated $9.6 million per year when fully implemented.

Rep. Kathy Haigh, D-Shelton, doubts the bill will make it through the Senate, at least in this version. Haigh, who chairs the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Education, said even proponents of the bill feel there are issues inadequately addressed, including cost. There are other concerns around the logistical challenge of allowing food in classrooms and ensuring the nutritional quality of what students are eating.

Nonetheless, said Haigh, passing a law to promote wider access to breakfast in schools is something the Legislature should pursue. “We’ve got to keep working on this,” she said.


Racial terms and the books that are filled with them

February 21st, 2014 by Steven Gardner

During the coverage of the use of the racially charged word at Poulsbo Elementary School, a few commenters raised the issue of whether schools should stop having students read some pieces of literature.

“Do you mean to say that you doubt the value of a Martin Luther King Jr in the world? Or of a Samuel Clemons and a Huckleberry Finn?”

“We’d best burn all copies of Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn to spare the children and their parents future further discomfort.
Better throw in To Kill A Mockingbird for good measure.”

Or if he reads Arthur Conan Doyle’s “Adventures of Sherlock Holmes”.
Or Mark Twain’s “Huckleberry Finn”.
Or even Alex Haley’s “Roots” – come to that.

The next one is especially prescient:

“Enroll your children in Charter or Private School immediately! Common Core propaganda “teaching” will warp your child’s cognitive skills and retard his/her intellect. Seriously!”

It’s prescient because our latest issue comes from just such a private school, Crosspoint Academy in the Chico area. It seems parents there are capable of noticing these issues, too.

Roland and Naomi Truitt said their son, who is in eighth grade, brought home the book The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. The Truitts are black and said their son is the only black student in his class. There was little notice beforehand about the book, they said. There had been an email from the teacher telling parents the students would be reading the book and instructions for how to download a copy, but not discussion of some of the language in the book they thought warranted ample conversation before engaging in the Mark Twain classic. The Truitt’s sought a conversation with the school’s administrator, Nick Sweeney, which they did receive. They asked if other books that accomplish the same purposes could be considered. They asked that if Tom Sawyer were to be the book read, that someone who is trained in culturally sensitive history be allowed into the classroom to discuss the book’s language with the school children. In the end, they said, nothing really changed. They’re not certain the teacher is equipped to adequately address the sensitive issue, or what kind of conversation there was ahead of time.

Sweeney, for his part, has not returned two requests I made to him on Thursday to talk about the issue. I can’t say for sure that he won’t talk about the it, but in an an email he sent to the Truitts following a conversation he had with Robert Boddie, who was requesting a conversation, he said the school does not “disclose information about any actions to outside press, lawyers, agents or others,” so his silence so far is in line with that statement. We don’t have Crosspoint’s side of story.

Our readers who mentioned other books that contain the n-word are drawing upon recent history. Tom Sawyer has been controversial, but not nearly as much as The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. In Tom Sawyer the main villain is a Native American who is repeatedly referred to in insensitive terms. Tom and Huck also use the n-word four times. In Huck Finn the n-word appears 218 times, according to Auburn University English Professor Alan Gribben.

In 2003 a student at Renton High School asked that Huck Finn be banned, even though the class where it was assigned spent two weeks discussing the language, the context and laid out ground rules for the class before anyone even opened the book.

For Gribben, all that controversy over the words “formed a barrier to these works for teachers, students, and general readers” he wrote in the introduction of the version of the Tom and Huck he had published. “We may applaud Twain’s ability as a prominent American literary realist to record the speech of a particular region during a specific historical era, but abusive racial insults that bear distinct connotations of permanent inferiority nonetheless repulse modern-day readers. Twain’s two books do not deserve ever to join that list of literary ‘classics’ he once humorously defined as those ‘which people praise and don’t read,’ yet the long-lofty status of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn has come under question in recent decades.”

The books are a satire of the racism of the time, yet their use as standard reading in schools was diminishing, because of the language. Gribben wanted people who might shy away because of the language to know the books, so he replaced the n-word with “slave” and he modified the phrase used form the villain in Tom Sawyer and a few other phrases.

Gribben’s other justification for doing this was because Twain used to read his daily writings to an audience outside his house and would take note of language the listeners liked or didn’t. He’d make changes because of it. Gribben is suggesting Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain was his pen name, I probably don’t have to tell you.) might have made the change himself had he ever read the stories from Tom and Huck to an audience that cared.

Critics saw Gribben’s move as wrongheaded. In a story published by the BBC, Cindy Lovell, executive director of The Mark Twain Boyhood Home and Museum in Hannibal, Missouri, said, “The book is an anti-racist book and to change the language changes the power of the book.” We’re supposed to be uncomfortable with the language, she said. “He wrote to make us squirm and to poke us with a sharp stick. That was the purpose.”

There are other parallels. For a while there was a slate of companies that would edit out of movies content people found objectionable. It gave some people access to stories they would otherwise have not seen. But sometimes storytelling is designed to make people uncomfortable, perhaps through language or imagery they don’t make a point to encounter. Literature is supposed to not just entertain us, it supposed to enlighten us, and sometimes it might have to make us angry or embarrassed to get a point across. That might be what those people who had their movies edited missed.

For the Truitts, they really want all three of their children to continue with the private education their kids are getting. The Truitts both work, he at the shipyard and she owns a business. They are Christian and want their children to go to school around other Christian children so they will be “equipped to defend their beliefs when they’re out in the world,” Roland said. They are Republicans who place a high value on personal responsibility, for not relying on government. They have been happy with how Crosspoint officials have been willing to work with them on other issues, such as the possibility of having one of their three children skip a grade. College is an expectation for their children, not a wish. And they think the Crosspoint education supports their efforts to raise their children well, educationally and spiritually.

On the issue of Tom Sawyer, though, they wonder if there is a blind spot.

“I hope that we’re able to work this out,” Naomi Truitt said. “As a family we don’t whitewash past history, but we have discussions about it. That’s all we’re asking for, is a conversation.”


Super Bowl XLIX

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