The Rockford Public Schools, as longtime readers of Chronicles know, have seen more than their fair share of troubles.  With the end, in June 2002, of the 13-year-long desegregation suit and its accompanying rule by the federal courts, and the hiring of Dennis Thompson as superintendent in 2004, however, the school board has begun to get the district’s financial house in order—although next year’s $300 million budget for just under 28,000 students can hardly be called a model of fiscal restraint.  Still, the district is now running a budget surplus and chipping away at decades of accumulated debt.  This November, voters will be asked to renew a hefty tax levy, passed in 2002, to keep the district moving in the right direction.

Which makes now a rather bad time for bad press, from the district’s standpoint.  So the headline of Rockford Register Star political editor Chuck Sweeny’s June 20 column, “What’s the Hidden Meaning in Da Warrior Code?” must have caused some consternation down at district headquarters.

The closing of Rockford’s West High School in the late 1980’s prompted the desegregation lawsuit, and, in the fallout, the school was ultimately reopened as West Middle School.  This year, West held a “rites of passage” ceremony—one of those pseudograduations that parents have come to demand and that those teachers and administrators who are more concerned with building up “self-esteem” than with actually educating are all-too-eager to stage.  At the ceremony, every child was issued a certificate, which is where Chuck’s story descends into the bizarre:

The document repeated “Rites of Passage,” followed by this:


“That’s what I think of the New Earth are all about [sic].  I think they are here to change it, they are here to change it through their giftedness, then they will change it through their power, their ability to destroy, and tear down.”  It ends with the date, “May 30, 2006,” and “Leslie Smith . . . Principal.”

. . . [W]e read this paragraph over and over, trying to glean hidden meaning.  Was there a secret instruction intended by the use of the words “destroy” and “tear down?”  Were there words missing in the first sentence?  What is the New Earth?  Hmmm.  Had Mary Magdalene been posing as a West student?

The rest of Chuck’s column details his Tom Hanks-like attempts to find out what the quotation means.  Along the way, he gathers some choice remarks from the school district’s attorney, Steve Katz:

“That document is indecipherable.  It’s impossible to understand what that thing says.  As soon as he saw it, the superintendent was alarmed. . . . The first thing that strikes you is what the hell does this mean?  There’s no way you can understand it,” Katz said.


Superintendent Dennis Thompson spoke with Smith and was “satisfied that there’s nothing dark, menacing or worrisome intended.  It supposedly was represented as a quote from another source, and words got dropped in the transposition [sic].  That begs the question, who proofread it?” Katz said.

No, actually, it raises more important questions: What did the original quotation say, and where did it come from?  A little Googling around, and I quickly discovered the answer to the first question:

That’s what I think these Children of the New Earth are all about.  I think they are here to change our world because our world needs changing.  And if we don’t let them change it through their giftedness, then they’ll change it through their power, their ability to destroy and tear down.

Since the complete quotation is hardly less disturbing than the mangled version (though perhaps slightly less violent), Superintendent Thompson might want a fuller explanation from Principal Smith.  Many—indeed, most—of the parents of the eighth-graders at West would likely find this passage worrisome, particularly once they find out more about the author, G.W. Hardin.

The text is from Hardin’s book Indigo Rising: Awakening the Powers of the Children of the New Earth.  A p.r. webpage can be found at  There, Hardin offers excerpts from the book, under the heading “Seven rules for ritual in rites of passage”:

1. Help the boy or girl find an Elder or Wise Man/Woman in whom there can be trust. . . . These Elders should have experience in the sacred or the spiritual, and they should be able to put that experience to use through ritual.


2. Include your spouse in the planning stages.  If you are a single mother, strongly consider bringing in a male who knows and loves your daughter to help with the planning.  Single fathers, strongly consider bringing in a mother figure.  In such cases, you may wish to have a series of rituals rather than a single major ritual, spanning a couple of years . . . 

This is clearly New Age religion, at best; thus, it’s not surprising to read, on Hardin’s bio page for Indigo Rising, that:

NEW YORK TIMES bestselling author, G.W. Hardin is the author of THE DAYS OF WONDER and co-author of two other books: THE MESSENGERS, which hit bestselling lists all over the country for three months, and ON THE WINGS OF HEAVEN, a true story of angelic messages for humanity.  As a successful software engineer with one of the top computer companies in the world, Hardin thought he had it made . . . until he contracted an incurable disease in 1983, which ended his high-tech career.  For four years he scavenged the medical world for help before being diagnosed with a disease which would ravage his skin for the rest of his life.  Or so modern medicine thought. . . . Hardin subjected himself to hypnosis where the therapist simply asked for the cause of the disease, thus prompting his first angelic experience.  It was the angel who told him his purpose in life and how he had evaded that purpose.  And on completion of the angelic visit, the author was completely cured.

The “Indigo Children” are not Hardin’s creation; as with the angel craze, he’s simply jumping on a bandwagon that had reached such popular outlets as ABC’s Good Morning America by November 2005 and has roots as far back as the writings of Edgar Cayce.  Even more disturbing than Hardin’s New Age beliefs, however, is the not-so-subtle sexual cast of his “Seven rules for ritual in rites of passage,” considering that Principal Smith was introducing this text to eighth-graders.  Again, a glance at Hardin’s bio reveals more than we might wish to know:

He has been a featured speaker at professional gatherings and at colleges and universities, lecturing on topics ranging from the “Seven Gifts of Heaven for Humanity” to “The Role of Angels in the Modern World” to “The Sacred Power of Being Gay.”

And here’s one of those “angelic messages for humanity” from Hardin’s book On the Wings of Heaven:

As long as humankind has walked the earth, there have been people who are gay—perfect, whole and complete just the way they are.  You see, the more a religion gets accepted, the more self-righteous it becomes in good-versus-evil.  When outside forces begin to let up, pressure begins building from within for conformity, beginning with the smallest number of members who act differently or think differently from the majority.  The religion’s actions become no better than those of its earlier persecutors.  However, their persecution is now done in the name of God or Jesus or the Bible.

And there’s much more out there, such as Hardin’s disturbing interview in the May 2000 issue of the defunct homosexual publication OutSpoken ( with lesbian activist Patricia Nell Warren about her work with “queer (GLBT) teens.”

No matter what one’s religious beliefs or views on homosexuality, it should be clear to everyone involved that Principal Smith had no business distributing this passage to eighth-grade students in a public school.  School-board member Mike Williams agrees—though, he told me, he also suspects that the mangling of the quotation on the certificate was intentional.  “I think the grammatical errors were not actually so, but truly meant to mask the real message.  I agree . . . that parents would be very upset if they know the context of this encrypted quotation.”  Williams has provided the full quotation and information on G.W. Hardin to the other members of the school board and the district administration.  So far, the response has been muted.  In a district this size, board members are far too disconnected from students and parents.

Whether anything will come of Williams’ concern is uncertain.  Leslie Smith has made a point of working with troubled black youth, especially boys, even going so far as to become a foster father for one.  (Smith is black himself.)  And, as Chuck Sweeny noted in his column,

Smith had already been re-assigned to a new job when the Rites of Passage ceremony took place.  He won’t be back at West Middle School.  His new posting is dean of students at Guilford High School.

Given the influence that Smith would have on impressionable high-school students, Superintendent Thompson might want to reconsider that posting.  At the very least, he will undoubtedly want to discuss the writings of G.W. Hardin at length with Principal Smith, to determine how closely they reflect Smith’s own vision of youth today.  A misstep now might be very costly for the school district come Election Day.