I love Oklahoma, but I'm not from here. I am from Fort Smith, Arkansas where I graduated from Southside High School where our mascot was a Rebel and our fight song was Dixie. What I'm about to write won't make me popular back home and it might even cause divisions within my own family, but I can't remain silent anymore.
Last summer after the deadly church shootings in Charleston, SC the Fort Smith Public Schools Board of Education in closed session voted to discontinue the use of the Rebel mascot starting with the 2016-2017 school year and discontinuing the use of Dixie as the fight song for the 2015-2016 school year. It was a decision that sparked controversy. Some have argued that the mascot needs to stay the Rebel out of school pride and southern pride. Some have argued that the issue they have is that school board did the vote in closed session without public input. I have stayed away from this issue mainly because I don't live in Fort Smith anymore and I wanted to focus my time and writing towards issues that have been facing Oklahoma educators. However this impacts all educators. While I personally don't find the Rebel mascot offensive nor the fight song offensive, I know those that do, when I was a student there I knew students that did. What I find to be truly offensive is how others have chosen to address the issue and their use of tactics to do so.
I have heard arguments both for and against the decision, and I have witnessed most of them being civil. However the hatred and egocentric, and might I say childish attacks need to stop. They need to stop right now. For the love and this is big, when it comes to educating children there is no room for hatred and egocentrism.
You can get your point across without resorting to slander and name calling. What lessons do these teach children? How do we as educators tell child not to act this way when they see adults in authority and position of influence in their community using this kind of behavior? This teaches kids nothing.
I am all about school pride. I am all about building a climate and culture where students are engaged and excited to learn. I am not dumb and I know that the school mascot is central in building that community. One argument that I have heard is that changing a mascot will take away the school's tradition of excellence, and for the love that can't be far from the truth. Southside High School will continue to have a tradition of excellence. Why is that? Because they have educators of excellence, the true tradition of excellence. They have educators that day in and day out do what is best for kids. What makes a school excellent is not the mascot that it holds, but it is the real people inside the building. It is the educators, administrators, cooks, food service workers, custodians, secretaries, volunteers, and of course the students that make a school excellent. Southside graduates have become educators, doctors, lawyers, businessmen and businesswomen, stay at moms and dads, workforce laborers, members of the armed forces, and so much more. Those that educated myself, my mother, my brothers, my friends, and countless others did not do so because we were Rebels, but they did so because they cared. I don't teach my students because they are Tigers, I teach them because I love them and because I care. Regardless of a change in mascot, children will still be educated and more importantly children will still be loved.
We must never forget our history and we must never forget how we got to where we are now, but the best is yet to come. Great teachers will continue to teach and will continue to impact lives, students will continue to excel in academic, fine arts, and athletics, and the world will keep on turning. It is time for this community to move forward, it is time for relationships to be restored. Great things will still happen, because great people, not a cartoon character, are in that building everyday.