Sunday, February 08, 2009

Using SC Elementary Schools for Politics

Most South Carolinians wouldn't know a right whale even if one landed on their front lawn. The right whale is rightly identified with the whaling industries of Massachusetts (hint: it's the right whale to kill--that's where the name comes from). You will remember the tremendous impact the whaling industry has had on South Carolina history, right? Yeah, right!

So, why would a teacher in Sumter push her students into a campaign to name it the "State Marine Mammal"? Politics. To quote the P & C article [see Dolphin May Sink Right Whale for State Symbol]:

"Getting the whale named makes it a state symbol, a gesture that isn't any more than symbolic. The kids thought this rare, special animal was worth special attention by the state and were following the process. Sen. Phil Leventis, D-Sumter, sponsored the bill.

"'I think if we make the right whale our state marine mammal, it may make more people want to help it,' Granger [a fifth-grader] said."

Gee, I wonder where Granger and his classmates got the idea that they should try to influence the political agenda of South Carolina? I wonder if the teacher even told the class about the Ports Authority's right-whale problems at a time when the SPA is fighting the disappearance of its Maersk business. To quote again,

"The elementary school students' bill, however, never mentions threats to the whales or how they relate to container ship traffic.

"'This is just straight from the heart from these kids,' said Lynn Eldridge, the teacher working with them on the project. 'These are kids who worked so hard for so long, and they really believed in the Legislature. ... They're walking around with incredulous looks on their faces.'"

Well, maybe they've learned a valuable lesson that Ms. Eldridge didn't expect. It helps to know both sides of an argument: for every political action there is an equal and opposite reaction.

Let's hear it for the dolphin. At least we know what it looks like.


Anonymous said...

Wasn't it a right whale that made a wrong turn into Charleston Harbor about 100 years ago. If that is correct, then what a wonderful metaphor. The locals chased the poor creature all up one river and down the other until the confused and exhausted creature was finally beached, killed, skinned and its bones bleached in the sun. Now the right whale, if that's what it was, hangs from the ceiling at the Charleston Museum. Pat Conroy once suggested that is a proper description of what Charlestonians once did to outsiders and probably would still like to do to tourists. Alas, we might want to consider this as an appropriate fate for some of the public education officials CCSD has imported or who have wandered into region.

Babbie said...

You are correct, evidently, about the Museum's whale skeleton's being a right whale. That just reinforces my case--everyone knows about the skeleton, but how many South Carolinians know it's a right whale?
Certainly not yours truly.

Clisby said...

It wouldn't surprise me if plenty of school kids who have toured the museum know it - mine both did. A whale skeleton makes a big impression on a 7-year-old.