Texas high-school principal fires award-winning, nationally famous journalism teacher to rein in critical student newspaper reporting

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2018/05/25/campus-free-speech.html


@orenwolf, since it’s public information, can I post this goosestepper’s email address here?

This is his official school page:


ETA: jmburdett@prosper-isd.net

Thanks Ken!


It sounds like John Burdett is a textbook example of a little Hitler


As so often seems to be the case, one of the biggest roadblocks to education is school administrators.

Also, for a guy obsessed with making sure all the news about him is happy, I reckon John Burdett, principal of Prosper High School, is furious about all the news depicting him as a censoring Nazi douchepin.


It’s directly on their website, so I figure that’s basically obvious information and not an issue. Thanks for checking!


Oooo! He’s on Twitter!


Or rather, is currently on Twitter and is almost certainly going to lock or delete his account before long.


These students have gotten a valuable lesson on how journalism REALLY works. The publisher calls the shots, and if you don’t do what they want you to you will be fired. Better to learn that in high school than after springing for a journalism degree.


Given their green eagle regalia, I figure that’s near Denton (home of UNT).

My knee-jerk reaction was that this was going to be about Arlington.


To paraphrase Thomas Jefferson, “were it left to me to decide whether we should have a school principal without school newspapers or school newspapers without a school principal, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.”


Prosper High is about 24 miles from UNT. (I figured it was closer to the middle of the Metroplex, but geography has never been my skillset.)

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‘You can publish the news as long as it’s happy news.’ That is the definition of fake news.

You’re the puppet!
Fake news is whatever the authorities say it is.


It would be AWESOME if one of the Dallas papers tapped these students to write editorials about their school for a citywide newspaper…


It sounds like the students at the school have an opportunity to create an underground newspaper and cause some real trouble for the administration.


“You have a principal that is upset that the teacher is not teaching how to produce fake news,” Hiestand said. “He is telling the kids, ‘You can publish the news as long as it’s happy news.’ That is the definition of fake news.”

No, happy news is not the definition of fake news, not if the happy news is true.

It can be lame evasive contemptible non-journalistic party-line status-quo “they live, we sleep” pablum – but it’s only fake news if it’s not true.


That was my thought. Just host the uncensored report somewhere else and social media out the URL


Critical thinking in Texas? Are you crazy?


If the party line is for strict happiness despite what might be going on with the student body and community, there may be a lie by omission–that, over time, presents a distorted view of reality. The argument could be made to go either way: if the only articles being published are controversial while ignoring school achievements, etc. that likewise presents a skewed view of reality. The individual news items might not be fake, but there would be a misrepresentation either way.


I was in HS in early 80’s, southern MN. At play practice while waiting around for a scene or something, I wrote a pretty mean satire spoofing one of the school’s “gangs” as a gag with some of my friends who happened to be on the paper. Two days later it showed up in the school paper and caused a small riot where an entire bank of lockers were knocked over. Since it was published under a pen-name, nobody could prove it was me, but it was HS…they knew. I was menaced by them for awhile, then it blew over, end result was very minor vandalism to my car (wrecked hubcap - this is what a southern MN “gang” was back then).

Lesson learned - journalists are fundamentally looking for something that can fill a page with words.

EDIT: Oh, and to make it relevant, principal called me in, asked if I wrote it, I admitted it, he said that was “unfortunate” and that was it. Guessing there was more oversight after that.


Our school district (again, Arlington) actually created a rule targeting 'zines. The intro. to journalism class would edit a single issue of the school newspaper in the spring (with assistance from the paper staff, who did it the rest of the year). I think* what happened at one high school is that they (the students) dispensed with the school paper masthead and put out more of a literary journal (poetry, fiction). This was in addition to a ‘zine regularly published by students outside of, but who attended, that same high school (with the involvement of some of the same individuals)**. The next school year there was a specific rule in the code of conduct handbook (which I don’t recall being distributed in previous nor subsequent years) prohibiting distribution of periodicals and apparently this was in response to the students’ actions.

Our response was to put out our own 'zine in which we defaced the figures on the cover of the handbook (devil horns, Nazi armbands etc.). I’m sure that stymied 'em…

*(In any case, a 'zine printed on actual newsprint, published by students at that school, came out in the spring.)
**Having looked them up I now see that one of them is a professor of communications; another is a sustainability advocate.


Happy news to me is the last item on the evening news; always uplifting and not in the least affecting the outcome of the rest of the horrible daily events!