Another discovery in the archives of LIFE magazine, courtesy of the brilliant people at Google Books. In addition to the "too precious" images of Jackie Kennedy as a child, the April 26 1963 issue has a fascinating story that (in my humblest of opinions) would make an excellent screenplay.
The article, "Hell Breaks Loose in Paradise" – sleepy small-town Paradise, California, that is- begins with a bit of low-down, teen James Bond espionage. A student in Virginia Franklin's high school class has brought a fairly innocent looking book to her social studies class. In fact, the book is not at all what it appears; a cassette recorder has been hidden inside in order to record the teacher's words. Accusing Franklin of attempting to subvert young, impressionable minds with her leftist philosophy, members of the American Legion post of Paradise, the John Birch Society and a few unhappy townspeople decided to recruit the teenage to entrap the instructor and obtain damning evidence. Besides instilling liberal values, she was accused of being a Communist and handing out "sex materials" to the students.
Franklin encouraged her students to debate issues, to read differing viewpoints from a wide variety of resources, from the liberal to the extremes of the right wing. In fact, Mrs. Franklin had won an award from the Freedoms Foundation as an outstanding member of the American credo.
The student was attempting to record evidence that the Franklin was anti-religious by suggesting an opening prayer to a mock Senate debate in the classroom. The attempt, however, failed. Upon learning of the attempted entrapment, Franklin was distressed for the student, that the student had not tried to express his opinions instead of resorting such tactics.
Among the questions this article raises: how much trust should be given to teachers in matter of ideology? Should students be exposed to open political debate?
The article goes on to give details about the next phase of the war in Paradise – replacing the school board members at the next local election. This, in turn, would allow members to remove the instructor, the principal and any other teacher they considered "un-American." This ideological battle would involve the entire town and the voters would be asked to decide the issue- and all its implications- with their votes.
Whenever I read articles like this, I am impressed with the general level of civility that once came with public debate back then. So much and so little seems to have changed in the American forum. For the full story and the result of the election, click HERE. I would love to hear what you thought of the article too.