Tolerance fails T-shirt test


"There can be only one!"

Read Friday's follow-up to this John Kass column

John Kass
November 13, 2008

As the media keeps gushing on about how America has finally adopted tolerance as the great virtue, and that we're all united now, let's consider the Brave Catherine Vogt Experiment.

Catherine Vogt, 14, is an Illinois 8th grader, the daughter of a liberal mom and a conservative dad. She wanted to conduct an experiment in political tolerance and diversity of opinion at her school in the liberal suburb of Oak Park.

She noticed that fellow students at Gwendolyn Brooks Middle School overwhelmingly supported Barack Obama for president. His campaign kept preaching "inclusion," and she decided to see how included she could be.

So just before the election, Catherine consulted with her history teacher, then bravely wore a unique T-shirt to school and recorded the comments of teachers and students in her journal. The T-shirt bore the simple yet quite subversive words drawn with a red marker:

"McCain Girl."

"I was just really curious how they'd react to something that different, because a lot of people at my school wore Obama shirts and they are big Obama supporters," Catherine told us. "I just really wanted to see what their reaction would be."

Immediately, Catherine learned she was stupid for wearing a shirt with Republican John McCain's name. Not merely stupid. Very stupid.

"People were upset. But they started saying things, calling me very stupid, telling me my shirt was stupid and I shouldn't be wearing it," Catherine said.

Then it got worse.

"One person told me to go die. It was a lot of dying. A lot of comments about how I should be killed," Catherine said, of the tolerance in Oak Park.

But students weren't the only ones surprised that she wore a shirt supporting McCain.

"In one class, I had one teacher say she will not judge me for my choice, but that she was surprised that I supported McCain," Catherine said.

If Catherine was shocked by such passive-aggressive threats from instructors, just wait until she goes to college.

"Later, that teacher found out about the experiment and said she was embarrassed because she knew I was writing down what she said," Catherine said.

One student suggested that she be put up on a cross for her political beliefs.

"He said, 'You should be crucifixed.' It was kind of funny because, I was like, don't you mean 'crucified?' " Catherine said.

Other entries in her notebook involved suggestions by classmates that she be "burned with her shirt on" for "being a filthy-rich Republican."

Some said that because she supported McCain, by extension she supported a plan by deranged skinheads to kill Obama before the election. And I thought such politicized logic was confined to American newsrooms. Yet Catherine refused to argue with her peers. She didn't want to jeopardize her experiment.

"I couldn't show people really what it was for. I really kind of wanted to laugh because they had no idea what I was doing," she said.

Only a few times did anyone say anything remotely positive about her McCain shirt. One girl pulled her aside in a corner, out of earshot of other students, and whispered, "I really like your shirt."

That's when you know America is truly supportive of diversity of opinion, when children must whisper for fear of being ostracized, heckled and crucifixed.

The next day, in part 2 of The Brave Catherine Vogt Experiment, she wore another T-shirt, this one with "Obama Girl" written in blue. And an amazing thing happened.

Catherine wasn't very stupid anymore. She grew brains.

"People liked my shirt. They said things like my brain had come back, and I had put the right shirt on today," Catherine said.

Some students accused her of playing both sides.

"A lot of people liked it. But some people told me I was a flip-flopper," she said. "They said, 'You can't make up your mind. You can't wear a McCain shirt one day and an Obama shirt the next day.' "

But she sure did, and she turned her journal into a report for her history teacher, earning Catherine extra credit. We asked the teacher, Norma Cassin-Pountney, whether it was ironic that Catherine would be subject to such intolerance from pro-Obama supporters in a community that prides itself on its liberal outlook.

"That's what we discussed," Cassin-Pountney said about the debate in the classroom when the experiment was revealed. "I said, here you are, promoting this person [Obama] that believes we are all equal and included, and look what you've done? The students were kind of like, 'Oh, yeah.' I think they got it."

Catherine never told us which candidate she would have voted for if she weren't an 8th grader. But she said she learned what it was like to be in the minority.

"Just being on the outside, how it felt, it was not fun at all," she said.

Don't ever feel as if you must conform, Catherine. Being on the outside isn't so bad. Trust me.
It's all going pear-shaped really. It's like the tides are turning for the worst, and really, if Obama knows of these issues, he should address the nantion and tell that's not what he's all about, and if he does, see how many supporters he has by the end of the 4 years.


still nobody's bitch
What exactly do you propose President-Elect Obama say to the nation when he addresses us about some comments made by children in junior high?


"There can be only one!"
The tides have turned for America, and indeed for the world, but it's fueling hate. Just look at some of the comments by this girls fellow pupils. Indeed, they are 'just' High School kids, but Children are our tomorrow.
It's just a tasted of what the nation [not as a whole] thinks. 'If you support Obama, you're great' 'If you support McCain, you are stupid.'
Obama should not address the nation over comment over two T-Shirts some 14 year old girl won, but he should go out of his way to promote peace amongst his own people, that it's fine for some people to be against his views, and some people to be for them.


Registered Member
Post election drama happens at the end of every election.

This will burn over when he is inaugurated.

Note these are also kids. Not adults. Kids are very cruel and immature at such an age...

It was an interesting experiments but I hardly see it really relevant how Obama is worse for our country than McCain.


Registered Member
Oh, you Americans and your antics. :p

Seriously, though, that's an extremely depressing article. :( So much for sexual, racial, and political tolerance in the States.

O Canada!
My home and native land!
True patriot love,
in all our son's command!

With glowing hearts,
we would have voted for Obama too.
It was all I ever heard about,
on the radio!

Not that McCain was
really so evil...
We just like Barack
a bit better.

O Canada!
We stand on guard for thee.


I take the "So much for sexual, racial, and political tolerance in the States," comment back.

I was reading out of context --> I thought it was a college, or a high school.
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Son of Liberty
What exactly do you propose President-Elect Obama say to the nation when he addresses us about some comments made by children in junior high?
I just found that spot ironic. My little brother who is in 8th grade caught major flak for coming from a family who voted McCain. He had said that some of the kids were pretty ruthless (I'm sure he wasnt the most mature either, lmao he's no angel) but none the less... even these Middle Schoolers whos opinions are generally not even recognized have all been pretty attentive in the previous election.

Good thing for the future I suppose if political awareness is some what prevelant in high school and lower. I just wish that someone could take the time to explain the politics a little more age friendly to them, where they stand they arent necessarily making their own decisions.... they are primarily just huge reflections of their parents political stance. Which is cool dont get me wrong, but if these kids are gonna turn this topic into one they can argue, I'd prefer it if they could establish their own opinions.


Certified Shitlord
What exactly do you propose President-Elect Obama say to the nation when he addresses us about some comments made by children in junior high?
Apparently the same thing Obama supporters cried about when McCain supporters bashed Obama. I distinctly remember a thread on this forum where a few people said that McCain should be responsible for his followers and telling them to ease up. So what, now it doesn't matter because they're Barack supporters?

Also, If you read the whole article, you would have noticed a teacher or two in that story. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I'm pretty sure children don't teach one another.

Bottom line is that stupid shit like this will always happen. We'll never be a country united, it's a fantasy, a pipe dream. Tolerance is all we can hope for and even tolerance itself conjures up ideas of "passive prejudice" since all it really means is to "deal with someone" or to "put up with them". Everyone will never love and/or get along with everyone else, it's as true as death itself.


Lion Rampant
Tolerance is a basis tenet of the Democratic ethos. That doesn't mean that everyone lives up to that ideal. I would presume, however, that the majority of the girl's classmates shrugged their shoulders and left her alone.

And yes, Obama repeatedly entreated his supporters to be civil toward their Republican counterparts. That may be one reason behind the fact that there were lots of stuffed monkeys on display at McCain-Palin ralies, but no skeletons being toted around at any of Barack Obama's. I would also mention that in Obama's Election Night victory speech, a cheer arose from the crowd in Grant Park at his mention of Senator McCain, while a short time earlier in Arizona during McCain's surprisingly gracious concession speech the name of Barack Obama was loudly booed.

Anecdotes like the story that Dino has posted mean next to nothing against the overall picture and are used, often as not, to deflect the truth rather than to illuminate it.
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