Advice from An Oppressive Dictator?

Every school morning starts off with a “quote of the day”, usually from someone held in high regard by many on the subject of how to live one’s life. However, the quote read after the pledge last Friday sent quite a different message. It read:

“Ideas are more powerful than guns. We would not let our enemies have guns, why should we let them have ideas?”

The quote in and of itself was out of the ordinary, and that was before people knew to whom it was attributed.

“Before I even knew it was Joseph Stalin, I was surprised,” ISA sophomore World History teacher Mr. Sprott said.

Stalin, who originally said the phrase, was the dictator of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics from 1929 to his death in 1953. He was notorious for his forced collectivization which led to widespread famine, his system of involuntary labor camps, and killings which resulted in the deaths of millions of people. (Joseph Stalin- History.com)

Some who heard the Stalin quote reacted with bewilderment.

“It concerns me a little that we’re using a quote from the dictator of Russia who killed more people than Hitler,” sophomore STEM English teacher Ms. Muire said.

Mr. Dehart, the AP/GT English III at ISA said he wondered if there was an “intended irony” behind the quote, questioning if it might have been a joke. More than one teacher said they looked out into the hallway for other teachers to confirms that they had all heard the announcement correctly.

Dalia Martinez, an employee in the front office, identified the student who chose and read the quote as Eddie Gonzalez, a student in the JROTC Alpha Company. Martinez said that the daily quotes were usually approved by Colonel Ramirez, as the students who read the daily quotes are always in JROTC.

According to Sergeant Hector Reyes, Colonel Ramirez was absent on Friday. Reyes said Friday was a busy morning and he had not approved the quote before Gonzalez read it to the school.

When interviewed, Gonzalez said he was only aware of what the quote really said as he was reading it for the whole school, having only read it one time, and that even though he was aware of who Stalin was he thought he had “turned good.”

Martinez said that no one in the office or elsewhere questioned Gonzalez about the quote after he read it.

Though the consensus was that the quote itself was not good advice, many people agreed that, if presented differently and with an opportunity for discussion, the quote could have been used positively.

Ms. Muire said that with context the quote could have been and “excellent conversation starter.”

Mr. Dehart brought up that in school teachers and students present ideas that spark debate but need context. However, he also mentioned that the daily quote is presented in such a way that they are suggested as words by which to live.

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