Old and busted: Judging adults from their high-school yearbooks. New hotness: Judging adults by their elementary-school craft projects. Trump adviser Stephen Miller gets remembered by his third-grade teacher, Nikki Fiske, in a Hollywood Reporter article that might prove just how desperate some editors are for content these days.
Twenty-five years ago, we discover, Stephen Miller was eight years old and did eight-year-old things:
Do you remember that character in Peanuts, the one called Pig Pen, with the dust cloud and crumbs flying all around him? That was Stephen Miller at 8. I was always trying to get him to clean up his desk — he always had stuff mashed up in there. He was a strange dude. I remember he would take a bottle of glue — we didn’t have glue sticks in those days — and he would pour the glue on his arm, let it dry, peel it off and then eat it.
I remember being concerned about him — not academically. He was OK with that, though I could never read his handwriting. But he had such strange personal habits. He was a loner and isolated and off by himself all the time.
And … so what? If Miller was still eating library paste, then this might have some relevance to 2018. Lots of kids have strange personal habits at eight, only to grow into productive members of society. As much as we love our kids and grandkids, we’re all aware of the need to civilize them and teach them how to behave and relate.
But it gets better. The teacher admits that her take on Little Stevie was bad enough even at that time that it needed to be redacted. Emphasis mine:
At the end of the year, I wrote all my concerns — and I had a lot of them — in his school record. When the school principal had a conference with Stephen’s parents, the parents were horrified. So the principal took some white-out and blanked out all my comments. I wish I could remember what I wrote, but this was 25 years ago. I’ve taught a lot of third-graders since then. Of course, Stephen wasn’t political then — it wasn’t until later that he started to make waves.
This might say more about Fiske than Miller. How often do principals feel the need to white-out teachers’ comments from school records? My guess is that Mr. & Mrs. Miller were horrified by Fiske’s attitude toward Little Stevie more than they were with Stevie himself, and that the principal shared that reaction. Didn’t that cross the minds of the editors at the Hollywood Reporter when they reviewed this submission? That Fiske might be looking for a little revenge?
Ms. Fiske is apparently still teaching, but one has to wonder how long that will last. This seems like an outrageous violation of trust, especially since this reminiscence serves no purpose at all. I mean that literally; the Hollywood Reporter doesn’t put this in any context at all. There’s no library-paste or loner hook to anything Miller has done as a White House advisor, no “Pig Pen” stories about personal hygiene to justify telling these stories and publishing them. In fact, there’s nothing at all about Miller in the article other than Fiske’s four-paragraph story of him from 1993.
Ms. Fiske should be ashamed of herself, and the parents of her students past and present should be demanding to know the policies of the school and whether Ms. Fiske will be publicly humiliating their children, too. Shame on the Hollywood Reporter most of all for giving Fiske a platform for this pointless and heartless drivel. Maybe Fiske doesn’t know any better, but they certainly do. When journalists wonder why their readers don’t trust them, they can look to this as one of many, many examples.
From now own, how about we just measure people by the work they do as adults? Or do we next need to start interviewing day-care workers and fellow enrollees when vetting people for public service?
Update: Our friend Adam Baldwin was all over this earlier, and did a little research on the question of releasing such information:
Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District (SM-MUSD) Board Policy 4219.23: Unauthorized Release Of Confidential/Privileged Information: pic.twitter.com/0Q4vjS9i2u
— Adam Baldwin (@AdamBaldwin) October 10, 2018
Update: I have reached out to the current principal of the school to ask about this policy and its application here. If I receive a response, I’ll add it in an update.
Update, 10/11/18: I have received a response from the Community & Public Relations Officer of the Santa Monica – Malibu Unified School District regarding Fiske’s status:
The Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District is looking into this matter and has placed the teacher on home assignment pending the completion of the review.
That’s certainly an appropriate response from the school district. Has the Hollywood Reporter done anything similar with the editor who green-lighted this trainwreck? This is much more on THR than on Fiske.