Pictured above is Catherine Vogt, a clever (and brave) 14-year-old 8th grader in the suburbs of Chicago. She's holding in her right hand the "McCain Girl" t-shirt she wore to school, and in her left hand the diary she kept of comments made by students (and teachers) at her school. You will probably hear about this on the national news tonight, but for now I'll extract comments from two columns written by John Kass for the Chicago Tribune. First, from Thursday's initial report:
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… overwhelmingly supported Barack Obama for president…
So just before the election, Catherine consulted with her history teacher, then bravely wore a unique T-shirt to school…
"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…"
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?'...
Other entries in her notebook involved suggestions by classmates that she be "burned with her shirt on" for "being a filthy-rich Republican."
…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."
The next day… 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.
…[she] turned her journal into a report for her history teacher, earning Catherine extra credit… 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.