Bellaire School District should change its mascot from an American Indian to a Snow Monkey. It was my mother's idea when she taught elementary school in West Bellaire, and she was greeted with laughter.
I am re-proposing it now. I'm dead serious too. We are all caught up in this farce called "school spirit," and "identity." It centers around a sense of entitlement that is killing not only this district, but districts all over Ohio, and all over the United States. We feel justified making people pay for some wrong done to us, and it skews our moral standards. On the other side of the coin, we feel justified belittling and attacking everyone who has supposedly decreased moral standards who refuse to vote for the levy, and fail to address or understand their positions.
For starters, permit me to get on everyone's wrong side on both sides. I disagree with everyone. I disagree that people should reject the levy for whatever wrong committed them. I disagree that we should vote for the levy based on having a great town and a great football team, and a great school. First of all, we don't. A small few people in this district benefit from the rest, and fail to see the mountain they sit on and defend. They are every bit as entitled and are part of the problem in getting a levy passed. I'm going to pull the one-upman statement, and say that if anyone should be loyal to Bellaire, I should. My ancestors settled here as soon as the Indians were chased out of the state. They probably helped kill them and chase them out. My family has owned property in the Bellaire school district probably since before it was formed, and my grandfather and parents both taught here.
I'm not "loyal" to Bellaire though. I am loyal to the human race. Bellaire should be too, just like Alphie was loyal to the whole world. Alphie was more like us than any Big Red Indian was. We didn't chase him out, we embraced him as a friend. Let's dwell on that a little. Choosing an American Indian for an icon exemplifies all of the reasons why we cannot pass a school levy. Before 1803, there was no "Ohio." Europeans felt "entitled" to the land and chased the people who lived here off of it, and now we parade around, acting like savages in an incredibly bigoted way, emasse, rejoicing in the spoils of the war of a football game, pretending to be Indians. We haven't been "Big Reds for but a second in history, and act as if it would kill us to give the identy up. But it is time to do what's right, and separate ourselves from that culture. If our district truly supports everyone, we should be more like a snow monkey excaped from a zoo, befriending people who leave out food in their back yards, and accepting everyone who comes and goes as equals.
I honestly don't care how that fits in with a football game. We should embrace the spirit of freedom for everyone. It is time for our identity and spirit to change. I did not graduate from Bellaire High School. I went there, and played in the marching band, and it was fun. Three of my children attended school in Bellaire, but only one graduated from Bellaire. Only one of my siblings graduated from Bellaire. I even enjoyed seeing my high school principal dance around the gym like the ancient, outdated, ignorant exemplification of an Indian and act stupid, in my teenage naievity.
But I dearly respected my private school teachers much more. They taught me how to raise money for charity; how to help clean up my community; and how to interact with people from all over the world as equals. They engaged me in class discussions, and taught me to think for myself in a way that I have never experienced within public school walls. I believe education should be an opportunity for everyone, and so I believe that we should vote for the school levy this week. But I have very different reasons for believing so than just about everyone else in the district. I think the levy would have a better chance of passing if the district adopted a focus on academic achievement over sports; and on community service over a very warped idea of what community spirit is. I'm not sure people so entrenched in a sports culture will even understand this letter, let alone take it seriously.
Don't get me wrong, I played field hockey and varsity basketball in high school, and I think those experiences are valuable, but I cannot say that a sports coach was "my best teacher." The glass cases in the halls should have a majority of other kinds of achievements to reflect the philosophy of what we are paying for. Weekly school assemblies and the mental mass-student focus should fire up inspiration for something other than a sports game; something good and wholesome, and all-inclusively engaging, like cleaning up the river and creek beds, or building another "Amazing Playground," or a Habitat home. There is so much positive energy that could be put to good use. It is time to stop teaching fighting and entitlement, and time to start teaching community.
Forget all of the arguments about misspent money and misleading statements from the Ohio Lottery forward. I'll be the first to agree! I'm pretty sure everyone reading this is going to think I'm crazy, but this town needs to let go of the idea that we're somehow a unique small Ohio river town, and make ourselves unique. We need to change it all up, and we are going to have to start by educating all of the children who come our direction, on a very basic level. I'd rather see the principal dress like a snow monkey. Go Alphie!
Gwendolyn Y. Giffen