As someone in the information business, one of my hobbies is studying phony information - specifically, urban legends.
It once was a lot more fun. Back in the old days, before the Internet, before fax machines, most urban legends percolated slowly by word of mouth or by snail-mail chain letters.
Gossip-mongering sped up when the fax machine arrived. But it went global with the creation of the World Wide Web.
Now, the old saying really is true: A lie literally can travel around the word faster than the truth can get its boots on.
The latest wasn't so much a lie as it was a misunderstanding, but it caused a little heartburn nonetheless.
James Dobson's Focus on the Family organization recently sent out a warning to its members that on "April 25, several schools across the nation will be observing Day of Silence.' DOS is a nationwide push to promote the homosexual lifestyle in public schools. ... By remaining silent, the intent of the pro-homosexual students is to disrupt the classes while promoting the homosexual lifestyle," Dobson says.
Can't have that, see, so the folks on Dobson's mailing list hit the "forward" buttons on their e-mail and we were off to the races.
Some of those folks were locals, because Dobson's Web site includes a list of schools where the "Day of Silence" supposedly will be observed: One of the schools listed was Lakeside High School.
Columbia County School Board Chairman Regina Buccafusco says the e-mails "really caused a stir," especially with Principal Jeff Carney.
Now, technically, this thing isn't an urban legend, because there is truth to it.
The problem? The participating school is Lakeside High School - but in Dekalb County. Our Lakeside High isn't involved.
This is just one more reason to be happy with the name Grovetown High School. There isn't another one of those in the country - much less the same state.
Don't dis Harlem
Speaking of Grovetown High, the sparks flew Tuesday night even before Superintendent Charles Nagle unveiled the new high school's rezoning plan at the school board meeting.
For several weeks, one of the moms whose child is expected to be rezoned from Greenbrier to Harlem has spoken out at the board meetings in strong opposition to the plan. She's even collected signatures from residents of her neighborhood who she says agree with the opposition.
Patricia Kissinger argues that because the Harlem schools' overall test scores are lower than the test scores for the Greenbrier schools, her children and those of the parents on her petition shouldn't be moved from Greenbrier to Harlem.
Kissinger has delivered roughly the same speech several times to the board, and was poised to do so again Tuesday during the public comment portion of the board meeting.
But trustees have their own brief comment period that takes place first. And trustee Roxanne Whitaker, a Harlem High graduate, apparently had heard enough of what she considers Harlem-bashing.
Before Kissinger had an opportunity to deliver her comments again, Whitaker unloaded - among other things, rejecting as "pitiful" the idea of narrowly evaluating schools only by standardized test scores.
Kissinger seemed to feel that Whitaker's comments were intended to silence her. But it should go without saying that while citizens absolutely have the right to speak out - and that more of them, like Kissinger, should be applauded for doing so - public officials don't have to keep their mouths shut, either.
Frankly it's about time some of these folks displayed a little passion. After all: If Harlem's own board member doesn't stick up for them, who will?
Barry L. Paschal is publisher of The Columbia County News-Times. E-mail comments to barry.paschal at newstimesonline.com.
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