The Jordan School Board, like a good parent, teacher or coach faced with rowdy, aggressive children, listened to a small group of parents and members of the ultra-conservative Eagle Forum who wanted to rant about a high school's drama production.
Then, to its credit, the board did not apologize for Bingham High School's reportedly well-done presentation of the play "Dead Man Walking," but did adjust its policy to get more parent input before plays are chosen in the future.
There was no need for any more drastic action, and no apology is needed. The protests about the play, largely engineered by Eagle Forum leaders who had not seen it, were mostly an insignificant tempest in an artificial teapot. They complained months after the play had completed its run before appreciative audiences and the students had gone back to their usual studies. Only one school patron had objected to the play before the Eagle Forum jumped in.
An Eagle Forum press release complained that the play was laced with profanity, sexual language, racial slurs, political bias and "inappropriate use of biblical teachings," as though only the Eagle Forum is qualified to judge how people should view the Bible. In fact the language in the original play had been changed with the author's permission so as not to make students and parents uncomfortable.
The play is based on a book written by a nun, Sister Helen Prejean, about a man on death row who is counseled by a nun before his execution a true story.
The nun in the story abhors capital punishment, and the sometimes violent, truthful depiction of that practice might, it's true, cause some students to think about how they do or should feel about the state taking a human life under the legal system. And that type of critical thinking is what the Eagle Forum is against and what education should be all about.
The prevailing attitude in Utah is that executing people convicted of crimes is right and just. But there are other viewpoints, rational and justified, that teens who will soon be adults might consider.
The board's decision to require parental consent before students can be involved in a play, to ask parents to serve on a committee to help select plays and to require drama teachers to inform the district's curriculum department about chosen plays seems appropriate.
However, there is a danger that the new policy could end up limiting student productions to namby-pamby musicals with little substance. The arts should get people thinking about life in new ways. And that includes students.