If teenagers expect adults to take them seriously, they have to make convincing arguments based in reason and logic. These are qualities we parents hope that public education helps them to develop. Somehow this simple pedagogical principle does not appear to apply to the students in Ken Ipe's "social justice" class at Dr. Charles Best Secondary.
As part of a class project, a group of his students decided to launch a crusade against the Paramount Gentlemen's Club in New Westminster. The club, which features stripping and other forms of dancing, has been operating at its Columbia Street premises for almost 20 years. Over that time, it has had no run-ins with the police, who are stationed a block away; it does not serve alcohol; and it has been a law-abiding business.
In other words, the club is doing nothing illegal, and the nature of its business is old news. So, what possessed this self-anointed morality squad to leap into action?-ignorance and sanctimony, not something we expect our schools to foster.
According to student Ryan Lepper, the campaign is necessary because, he says, the Paramount objectifies women by presenting them as objects that can be bought and sold: "We [students] don't believe it is [the women's choice]. We believe it is a desperate attempt to get money, or a lot of them have been forced into it."
As a journalist and an inquiring reader I would like to know how Lepper backs up his feminist clichés:
. Did he call the Paramount to set up interviews with any of the strippers?
. Did he uncover evidence that women are forced to work there?
. Does he have any basis for making judgments about the women's financial state?
The answer to all of the above is "no" because Lepper refused to entertain the idea that women could willingly choose to be strippers and make their own decisions. A moralist armed with the certitude of his belief sees no need for research.
Paramount owner Steven Mountford has every reason to be livid because if anyone is a victim in this scenario it is he.
Yet, the behaviour of Lepper and the other callow youths is not the worst aspect of this fiasco. That honour belongs to their teacher Ken Ipe. Instead of helping these students demonstrate their feelings toward the Paramount in a rational, respectful and responsible manner, he has acted as an enabler in this campaign. As he told The NOW: "I think that strip clubs are a reminder that blatant sexism is alive and well in the culture."
Clearly, Ipe is just as uninformed and sanctimonious as his students are. Note the "I think," and the gratuitous "blatant sexism," as if "sexism" by itself weren't a strong enough epithet. If Ipe understood the concept of social justice, he would have tempered his students' passion by having them target a specific, empirical aspect of the Paramount's business, and bring their concerns to the attention of Mountford.
For example, the students are upset that the Paramount's minimum age is 18 because some of their high school friends partake of its feminine charms. Leaving aside the obvious fact that what other people do is none of their business, Ipe might have had his students petition Mountford to raise the age of admission. However, given the broad brush with which the Paramount has been demonized, any specific expressions of public concerns must be rejected as self-serving.
This indefensible, prejudiced crusade against the Paramount makes his students look ridiculous, damages the reputation of Dr. Charles Best Secondary and mocks the very purpose of public education.
. Greg Felton is a journalist, author and teacher living in Port Coquitlam.