Often we cry foul in a society we believe undermines our values. We dismiss the cultural products–like television shows–of supposed enemies of what is good and true.
The following stories aired back-to-back on a recent Wednesday evening:
On “Ed,” a high school senior’s parents sued the physical education teacher for assigning grades based on Fitness Test results. The student received a “D” in gym class, despite genuine efforts in running, climbing and other activities.
The grade destroyed the student’s chances of receiving a top-notch academic scholarship he needed and otherwise deserved.
But as the trial proceeded, Ed–the lawyer for the defendant/gym teacher–discovered the case was the reverse of a situation six years earlier. Then, an athletically talented senior received an “F” in English, disqualifying him from the basketball team and obliterating his excellent chance at an athletic scholarship.
The defendant/gym teacher had coached the basketball player and witnessed his disqualification. He argued that “no-pass/no-play” rules should apply equally to everyone.
On “The West Wing,” several dozen Chinese citizens claiming to be evangelical Christians escaping religious persecution were found hiding in a ship’s cargo off the coast of California.
President Bartlet and his staff were faced with the choice of sending the illegal immigrants back to their home country or providing a land of refuge and religious freedom. Either choice carried political overtones even as it considered human rights.
Ed pled with vested parties to find middle ground and make an exception. He argued for occasionally breaking the rule in order to provide hope for academics and athletes alike.
The school principal vowed to develop policies allowing challenged students who work hard the chance to receive at least a “B” in P.E. Athletes failing academic courses would not be barred from playing in cases where their level of commitment and effort was evident, and where they worked with peer tutors throughout the semester.
President Bartlet declined to choose between strict immigration laws and intentional political damage. Instead, he quietly asked the National Guard to look the other way as the Chinese citizens were allowed to escape in the night. He chose the embarrassment of apparent ineptitude by allowing the military to be overpowered by sick and feeble refugees.
Often we cry foul in a society we believe undermines our values. We dismiss the cultural products–like television shows–of supposed enemies of what is good and true. But we can take a lesson from Wednesday night television.
Rini Cobbey is a freelance writer in Dallas, Texas. She holds an M.A. in popular culture.