Shadle Park Teacher Brad Read Placed on Leave For Passing Out Lyrics to “Commencement Day” by Blue Scholars

You have to wonder about those students at Shadle Park High School.

The Blue Scholars

Their popular English teacher Brad Read was placed on leave the other day for passing out the lyrics to a rap song, and the students have not come out publicly in his defense.  Apparently some parents complained about the song that contained foul language.  Here are a sample of the lyrics by Seattle hip-hop artists Blue Scholars:

With the grade point average hanging over head,
Brother sister please don’t believe the bullshit they said.
Fuck the pledge of allegiance and arrogant teachers
But peace to the people who don’t ever preach in the front of a classroom
All day long, planting seeds of revolution,
We dedicate this song.
It goes one for the student who refuses to submit
And two for the teachers who are underpaid as shit
It’s the next generation of miseducated youth
Who demonstrate the truth and manage to make it through

If you want to check out the Blue Scholars video, click here.  Looking at the lyrics you can kind of see that the problem may have less about the word “fuck” and more about the the irreverence of the song.  The latest word on the subject was that the teacher Brad Read was on leave pending an ” investigation.”  See article in the Spokesman-Review.  What is there to investigate?  He passed out some lyrics – give him an oral warning and put him back to work.  Why are the students at Shadle Park High School putting up with this baloney?  Are they content to have to deal with a substitute while the school administrators meet to make sure that the students are exposed to only the blandest, most non-controversial curriculum?  Isn’t it an insult to the students’ intelligence for the school to think that Shadle Park kids need to be sheltered from the words “fuck” and “bullshit”?  I blogged earlier this year about students of the past demonstrating with black armbands.  (See post.)  Maybe armbands aren’t the way for the students of today. But what about starting a Facebook page in the defense of this aptly-named English teacher?

I guess it is a school’s job to build character. And I suppose one virtue the school is supposed to instill is courage. It doesn’t show a lot of courage for school officials to overreact and put a teacher on leave simply because one person complains about something that might be controversial. Couldn’t this have been handled short of putting teacher Brad Read on paid leave? It does not show a lot of courage for Shadle Park to kowtow to the person or people who complained. It is a waste of the school district’s money to be paying a substitute and having a teacher sit at home. I would kind of like to know the name of this school official who freaked out about these lyrics. He or she should be named in the paper. So far all I have seen in the paper is the name of the spokesperson for Shadle Park High School.

(Note from 9/24/10: To see the outcome of this case, see the recent post here.)

11 Responses to “Shadle Park Teacher Brad Read Placed on Leave For Passing Out Lyrics to “Commencement Day” by Blue Scholars”

  • Marfie:

    I am not sure why the Spokesman Review did not just print the lyrics including the words fuck and bullshit. It would be 100 times less disturbing to me than reading the articles they ran on the Duncan case last year.

  • Brian H:

    “We train young men to drop fire on people. But their commanders won’t allow them to write “fuck” on their airplanes because it’s obscene” –Apocalypse Now

  • I know the suspended teacher very well from a variety of contexts. He is one of the most intelligent, creative, passionate, inspiring and important teachers in the area. He needs to be returned to the classroom immediately with his students, though his temporary absence is once again giving his students a true education — about authority, about censorship, about social control, about “approved” curriculums, and about courage.

    His commitment to community, truth, democracy, peace, and education (in its truest and best meanings) is evident in how he lives his life. I would walk the road to truth with this man any day of the week. Whether it was his bold and rich voice on a local community radio program he hosted a few years ago or his strong leadership and clear analysis in campaigns for economic community justice and democracy, he is giving to his students what life has been given him to give in return — a free and open mind. What better gift for students.

    All this hoopla over “Commencement Day”? //…

    The profanity means nothing. We live in a profane society where profanity abounds. Profanity is the first word these youngsters will hear if they get off a bus at military boot camp, the last word they will hear before their legs are blown off by a roadside bomb, and the words that will echo through their minds for a lifetime after they kill an Afghan civilian. It is the words they will hear at the football games and in the frat/sorority houses they will attend at WSU or U of W. They are the words that they will hear (or have already heard) yelled at them by local police and sheriff’s deputies as they are cuffed or thrown to the ground (or worse), whether they are guilty or not.

    The true profanity is what too often passes for education and critical thought in our schools and our public discourse. The real profanity is the stultifying, monotonous, fast food education that is too often sold as “preparing our kids for the modern world”. If that is the case, why is our drop out rate in Spokane so high (one in three students)?

    The threat is not the profanity in this song. The threat is the message in the song. The threat is the truth. The threat is youth who learn to think their way out of the box of the trap and the nightmare that all of us are now living — a failed economy, a two party ruling class consensus which represents virtually none of us, a country fighting disgraceful and illegal wars in various corners of the world, a society where record numbers line up for welfare.

    I offer the following by way of tribute to this teacher, my friend, whose goal is to strip the mask of ignorance from the eyes of his students and to open their minds to think for themselves, and to all those who like him dream and act on behalf of a better world.


    David Brookbank

    • Steve Graham:

      loved these links David, can;’t believe I didn’t see your blog before. Thanks for commenting, and keep us informed if you hear any news.

  • Rachel:

    I am the parent of a 9th grader currently attending classes in a District 81 high school. I support efforts by teachers that foster critical thinking, and those that invite students to look ‘behind the curtain’ at the mechanisms and motivation behind their schooling. It would be a travesty if this incident kept Mr. Read–by every account I’ve read a passionate, inspiring educator–out of the classroom.

    The stated reason for putting Mr. Read on leave is his use of approved supplemental materials in the classroom. Show me any group of teachers where the majority does not use ‘unapproved supplemental materials’–you’d be hard pressed to find such a group. If all teachers submitted all supplemental materials for review, district staff on Bernard would be doing nothing but reviewing those materials all day. Pity the students whose teachers don’t supplement, relying instead on a moribund curriculum and textbooks-by-committee.

    The presumed trigger for parental complaints was the profanity in the song. Te lyrics were distributed to a senior English class. These are ‘kids’ who will be of voting age–legal adults–within the next 12 months. I would bet good money that every student in that class had encountered ‘fuck’, ‘shit’ and ‘bullshit’ previously, and that a gross majority of the class used the words. Any “but think of the children!” response seems overwrought. And of course, there already is profanity in the curriculum–one of the suggested books for my son’s summer English assignment was “Catcher in the Rye.”

    It bothers me that one or two parental complaints (over a curriculum matter) are enough to warrant pulling a teacher from the classroom. Would other SPHS parents have even know this had happened without the media coverage?

    • Steve Graham:

      Thanks for visiting my blog Rachel. Yes, I can’t believe that teachers really need to seek pre-approval for every poem they hand out to the class. Can’t believe the admin is wasting their time with this pettiness. I have a son who is now 19, but i couldn’t care less if poem was handed out in any grade.

  • Mark Skubinna:

    My daughter had Mr. Read in math at GPrep in the late 1990’s. In her estimation, he was the most challenging, interesting teacher she had. Although she was a freshman or sophomore, he treated them as adults and above all else, thinking humans.

    District 81 needs to retain this teacher, and more like him. Very few teachers engage the students in a way they can relate to. Tom Armitage at North Central is another example of a teacher that makes a difference. Time for the District to grow up, quit worrying only about levies, and really make a difference in the students lives, thus reducing the insane drop out rate (or push out rate, as nicely stated by former LC student Paul Mencke in the Review recently).

    Mark Skubinna

  • DJ:

    I had Mr. Read as a teacher when I attended G-Prep. He was one of the most inspiring teachers- he always respected us as students and made us think outside of the box. He taught through his own example. He showed us how to be inspired and to stand up for what you believe in. One of the greatest lessons I took from him was that we all need to respect each other and we must show compassion for the less fortunate. He taught with passion and I always walked away from his class knowing that just because we’re young doesn’t mean that we don’t have a voice- get involved.

    It’s an absolute disgrace that a teacher as revered and respected as Mr. Read was placed on leave for doing what most teachers fail to do- challenge a student’s mind. He truly made a difference in a number of my fellow classmates’ lives and I hope that District 81 keeps him around, so that other young adults can be inspired and learn from him.

  • I had Mr. Read for pre-calculus in 2000. He is a great teacher, and this is bullshit.

  • Tom:

    Also had Mr. Read in the late 90s at Prep. My folks just sent me this article, and I was not surprised at all. He was always in trouble at Prep for pushing the envelope. Mark’s point about retaining him is dead on. My first thought after reading about this was that I should try and get Mr. Read to move out of Spokane and teach somewhere that he’s appreciated. Like the Bay Area. Amazing man.

  • Many many pieces:

    What more can you say other than the socially/intellectually/culturally incompetent in this inhospitable place win and denotative people like get shamed and nearly fired for others personal feelings and poor view on life where everyone can just exploit personal feelings to get what they want.

    No philosophy, No deep thinking, no humanistic take on life.
    Only fallacies and emotions taken as fact over any sort of rational thinking.

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Steve Graham is a criminal defense lawyer, and he splits his time between Spokane and Seattle, Washington. Visit his website by clicking:
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