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Public High School Teacher Suspended for Left-Wing Political Rants:

Via Drudge, I learn that a high school teacher in Denver has been suspended pending an investigation into remarks he made during class that were recorded by one of his students. According to the Denver Post,

teacher Jay Bennish described capitalism as a system "at odds with human rights." He also said there were "eerie similarities" between what Bush said during his Jan. 28 State of the Union address and "things that Adolf Hitler used to say.

Can Bennish constitutionally be penalized for presenting one-sided political rants to his class? Yes, I believe he can, and, to the extent he was departing from the assigned curriculum, or violating school policy in presenting only one side of an issue, likely should.

It so happens I've recently written about a similar issue [in a forthcoming book review in the Northwestern University Law Review], whether public schools in the 1950s had the authority to exclude Communist teachers from teaching social studies.

An important background assumption is that the very existence of public schools means that the government will to some degree be inculcating values into minor students. Simply by choosing curriculum, textbooks, and engaging in other functions inherent in the education process, the government will inevitably be making value-laden choices that will dictate what students learn about various social, moral, and political issues.... It is hard to disagree with Redish's conclusion that since public schools will inevitably inculcate values, the government has a right to ensure that the teachers it employs are "with the program." But perhaps one lesson of the McCarthy era controversy over employment of Communist public school teachers is that government-run schools create inherent First Amendment problems. Any solution that leaves the government in charge of dictating curriculum, much less directly teaching values, seems second-best from a First Amendment perspective given that, as Redish acknowledges, "the public school educational system is an authoritarian operation." The government's subsidy of certain points of views by teaching them in public schools serves as the equivalent of an implicit tax on competing perspectives, a method for government to get around the prohibition on directly taxing ideas that the government wishes to discourage. To preserve a fair, non-statist, marketplace of ideas, the government, if it must fund education, should simply provide vouchers and let parents decide which values they wish their children to be exposed to. Redish argues that "there is little doubt that a democratic society cannot function effectively absent an effective system of public education," but he does not explain why such a system must be run by, as opposed to simply funded by, the government.

I go on to argue that so long as we live in a second-best world with public schools, government authorities have the right to dictate to teachers what to teach, and to punish those teachers who refuse to comply. I conclude, however, that teachers should only be excluded or punished based on what they actually say in class, not based on their background beliefs:

the implications of allowing school authorities to choose teachers based on how their personal beliefs may affect their teaching are too troubling: May libertarians be forbidden from teaching history courses, because they may be tempted to undermine the statist assumptions so often embedded in public school social studies and history curricula? Can fundamentalist Christians and Jews be prohibited from teaching biology, on the grounds that they may try to undermine the teaching of evolution? Can committed Catholics be prohibited from teaching "health" classes on the grounds that the may try to avoid discussing contraception and abortion, as required by the curriculum? Can conservative Christians be banned from teaching in general, because their views on the morality of homosexuality may lead them to discriminate against gay students?

In short, a public school teacher shouldn't be punished for his background beliefs, though arugably it's constitutional to deny someone a teaching job based on those beliefs (no Klan members teaching a race relations course). But a teacher can be punished for what he says in class.

UPDATE: I've listened to the recording of the class, and this guy is a serious left-wing cliche machine (including some comments on the Drug War I agree with!). If I didn't know better, I'd think it was a satire.

Roger (mail):
Why do you think it is acceptable to discriminate against Klan members in that way?
3.2.2006 3:58pm
Tyrone Slothrop (mail) (www):
This sort of issue was litigated recently in the context of intelligent design, by Rodney LeVake, Faribault, Minnesota, science teacher who wanted to depart from the curriculum to teach his own views about ID.

He lost.
3.2.2006 4:07pm
Justin (mail):
I think DB is essentially correct, though I question the wisdom of too broad of a stroke here - isn't this WHY we have the tenure program, to allow teachers to say things that might otherwise be blasphamy?

I assume Jay Bennish isn't the only teacher these students have, and I assume that some of the teachers have said pro-capitalism, pro-US President stuff (yay!), so to think the students here will be brainwashed may be a little naive overreaction.

I had a fairly-close-to-communist teacher in high school who I battled with on a regular basis, and learned a ton from, but I still didn't adopt his viewpoints (I was already pretty liberal when I started his class, and am probably equally liberal now). It would have made me and many other students poorer had he not been allowed flexibility in his teaching methods (caveat: I went to a private high school).
3.2.2006 4:08pm
DavidBernstein (mail):
Acceptable or constitutional? It's arguably constitutional because the school has the right to hire the best person for the job, and may think that a Klan member won't be the best person to teach race relations.
3.2.2006 4:09pm
James Dillon (mail):
Is "race relations" an independent subject in public high schools? I would think that an examination of that issue would most likely come up in a history or civics course, and I can't see why a person's membership in the Klan should prevent him from being hired to teach that course if he is otherwise the most qualified candidate in terms of education and experience. Of course, he may make statements in class that would constitute grounds for dismissal, but I see no constitutional reason why he should be denied employment on the basis of his political beliefs alone.
3.2.2006 4:13pm
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):

I assume Jay Bennish isn't the only teacher these students have, and I assume that some of the teachers have said pro-capitalism, pro-US President stuff (yay!), so to think the students here will be brainwashed may be a little naive overreaction.
The notion that there are "pro-capitalism, pro-US President" teachers engaging in similarly biased presentations is a logical assumption. I'm just not sure that it is true. In any case, the right solution isn't too have two teachers doing a bad job of teaching. The average of two bad teachers (one left, one right) isn't good teaching.
3.2.2006 4:21pm
CJColucci (mail):
Did we not know this already?
3.2.2006 4:23pm
Beau (mail) (www):
I heard the audiotape of the lecture in question, and it wasn't so offensive. In fact, the teacher qualified his comparison by stating that Bush and Hitler differed in several respects. His point, however, was that forced dissemination of western democracy was a bit "ethnocentric". I think "nationalistic" might have been a better word, but the point is basically the same. Our way: good. The middle-east's way: bad. Therefore we must "liberate" them and teach them to be like us.

Of course, what Bush is doing is easily really distinguishable from what Hitler did. We're fighting for the liberation of an oppressed people, at least nominally. Even if we're "forcing" democracy on them, they could democratically retain their own identity. Look at Palestine. Hitler, on the other hand, was fighting to exterminate an oppressed people. The difference between irradiating an entire race of people on the one hand and forcing them to choose their own government on the other is pretty fundamental. Does the teacher really have to make this point though? It should go without saying.

That said, we are voluntarily making war on a country that did not attack us first. Further, we are doing this because we want their people to adopt some version of our form of government. On some level, however slight, this is not so dissimilar from National Socialism. Is assimilating a person really that different from disposing of him entirely? Maybe, but the extent the similarities between our motivation to wage the current war and the Nazi's motivation to begin WWII is probably a good point for high school students to debate.

I'm not in favor of sanctioning the teacher.
3.2.2006 4:34pm
Beau (mail) (www):
I said "irradiating" but I meant "eradicating". Yet another object lesson in the evils of spell check. Sorry.
3.2.2006 4:37pm
HLSbertarian:
Justin said: "I had a fairly-close-to-communist teacher in high school who I battled with on a regular basis, and learned a ton from, but I still didn't adopt his viewpoints (I was already pretty liberal when I started his class, and am probably equally liberal now). It would have made me and many other students poorer had he not been allowed flexibility in his teaching methods (caveat: I went to a private high school)."

I'm glad your experience was positive, but it's not so for many others. I had a Communist teacher for American History in high school. The mood was adversarial, but interesting at first. Then I got my first test back. The question was something like, "What was a negative effect of the expansion of capital and large-scale farming in the Colonial South?" I failed to pick out the correct answer, which was something like, "Some people started having more money than others."

I stayed after class to discuss the test. Her first defense was taht she was merely teaching in accordance with the textbook's point of view. Upon being pressed further, she told me that she didn't appreciate my "capitalist pig" arguments and suggested that I adopt her own appreciation for "the Marxist writers."

I dropped the class, and seeing as how it was the only AP-level section being taught, I missed a good 100 years of American history. Some teachers simply aren't any good at walking the line between "enriching" a student's experience with alternate viewpoints and ruining it.

In a "second-best world," as Prof. Bernstein notes, where public schools already impose countless state-chosen value judgments, there is nothing wrong with exercising some control over this type of teaching.

PS: I've only skimmed this particular news story, so I withold judgment for now on these facts. I look forward to actually hearing the tape.
3.2.2006 4:42pm
Steve:
Acceptable or constitutional? It's arguably constitutional because the school has the right to hire the best person for the job, and may think that a Klan member won't be the best person to teach race relations.

If a public school refuses to hire someone that they would have hired but for their membership in an organization, however odious that organization may be, doesn't that infringe freedom of assembly? I am honestly curious.
3.2.2006 4:47pm
MNKurnmudge (mail):
Isn't that precisely the reason- vulenrability of younger students to "indoctrination"- that public K-12 (not applicable to colleges) schools can constitutionally discriminate in its teacher selection based on citizenship, while Texas can't apply the same standard to notaries public?

I had a virtually Communist chemistry teacher in high school and learned almost no chemistry. In contrast, the Russian teacher in the same school was about as left-wing as you could get, but was a pretty good and fairly even-handed teacher.
3.2.2006 4:49pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
The guy was hired with taxpayers' money to teach geography.
Presuming he's capable of teaching geography, every moment he spends on this crap is a minute he is not teaching what he contracted to teach.
That's a problem immediately.

In addition, the taxpayers, through their agents, the administration, have the right to insist on what is taught. If they are unhappy, they get new agents.

In the meantime, this guy should be exposed.

I would be interested in knowing what went on in previous classes that caused the kid to bring a recorder. Is he prescient, knowing that today, of all days, is the only day we'll get a rant like this? Or is there a history?
3.2.2006 4:50pm
Carolina:
I also listened to part of the audio, and found the tone/volume at least as objectionable as the content. There was a hysterical note to the presentation that I found disturbing for a teacher lecturing his students.
3.2.2006 4:55pm
Sha_kri:
"Can Bennish constitutionally be penalized for presenting one-sided political rants to his class? Yes, I believe he can..."

Maybe someone should inform the Liberal Arts Colleges as Universities about this point.
3.2.2006 5:07pm
Goober (mail):
So may I infer Prof. Bernstein won't be authoring a followup to his book entitled You Can't Say That! The Growing Threat to Civil Liberties from Public School Sensitivity Laws?
3.2.2006 5:10pm
HLSbertarian:
Sha_kri said: "'Can Bennish constitutionally be penalized for presenting one-sided political rants to his class? Yes, I believe he can...'

Maybe someone should inform the Liberal Arts Colleges as Universities about this point."


Why? Are they getting nationalized?
3.2.2006 5:20pm
Mikeyes (mail):
This is obviously an non-lawyer's question, but how do you reconcile opposing decisions by local school boards on speech (say, one fires a teacher for making point A and another school board in the same state fires another teacher for saying just the opposite) when the free speech issue is either state wide or federal due to the various constitutions? Or is this a silly question?

I understand that as an employee of the state (in this case a school district) you have fewer free speech rights on the job, but does this make legal sense (I suspect it does) or is it good policy?

As an aside, do the teacher's contracts usually cover this issue?
3.2.2006 5:22pm
AV:
I listened to the tape, a news clip, and a recording of a phone call to a radio show by a former student of Mr. Bennish. It seems like he does have a history of, uhm, making one-sided assertions in class. But to his credit, he doesn't seem to penalize the students for having opposing views. In the recording of his lecture, one student openly challenged him, and he was not hostile towards the student, although he was still insistent on his point of view. The student who phoned in to the radio show was also opposed to his teacher's point of view, but he still got an A nevertheless.

I guess my objection to Mr. Bennish' "lecture" will probably be based on the fact that it was not teaching the kids geography, which was what the class was about. He also had a terrible teaching method, in that he was telling his students what to think, rather than guide them to think for themselves. If he were just sticking to facts, that would have been one thing. But to simply present the kids with just his interpretation of events without a balancing counterpoint, I think that's just bad teaching.
3.2.2006 5:27pm
Greedy Clerk (mail):
arugably it's constitutional to deny someone a teaching job based on those beliefs (no Klan members teaching a race relations course)

I don't think this is arguable at all. It would clearly be unconstitutional in my opinion to deny such a job solely on that basis. You would need to show that the school had reason to believe that the teacher's views would enter their teaching, but if it was soley on the basis of their membership in an organization -- i.e. solely on the basis of their exercising their freedom association -- that would certainly be unconstitutional. It's a fine distinction to be sure, and a distiction that would not come up in the real world, often if ever. Regardless, on the facts as presented, i.e. someone being denied a position solely on the basis of exercise of a clear constitutional right, it would be without any question unconstitutional and actionable under either section 1983 or Bivens, whatever the case may be.

3.2.2006 5:33pm
justanotherguy (mail):
The politicizing of the classroom is an inevitable outcome of the forced indoctrination of minors by the state

However I note as a parent of teenagers that recently graduated middle class high schools that the proselytizing can be minimized by market competition in the AP classes. The teachers have a standard curriculum to teach and since there is a nation-wide test with the results reported back to the school, the competition to have the most 5's or then highest average (or at least not the lowest average and not get to teach it again) keeps the teachers to actually teaching the topic.

Now how to apply competition to the rest of the classes?
3.2.2006 5:39pm
Christopher Cooke (mail):
Public school teachers shouldn't preach, they should stick to their curriculum, as they have a captive audience for their views. Middle school and high school students frequently are presented with only one teacher for one subject. They are also younger and sometimes less able to disagree with their teachers' views. The best teachers try to rein in their own views, but still manage to stimulate debate by being provocative or coming at issues from new angles. My comments do not apply to college, graduate or professional school teachers, as the students typically have more choices as to teachers, and are better able to fend for themselves in any debate.
3.2.2006 5:52pm
Frank Drackmann (mail):
I had a 11th grade "government" teacher in 1980 who taught us that then candidate Reagan was the "biggest racist in american politics". Every day was a one man standup routine, and the fact that he was a black muslim made it more entertaining. He didn't appreciate the rebel flag we left on his desk though.
3.2.2006 5:56pm
Mark A. B. (mail):

In particular:
The US is not the leading grower of tobacco or producer of cigarettes, not by a long shot. According to WHO, the US is only the 4th leading grower of tobacco, well behind China, India , and Brazil. China is also the world's largest cigarette producer, and 2/3 of the cigarette workers in the world are in China, India, and Indonesia.

On WMDs, he was wrong on his facts as well. The country with the largest stockpile of known nuclear weapons is not the United States, it is Russia. Russia also has a larger undestroyed chemical weapons stockpile than the US does as of the latest data in 2005.

Sources are the Natural Resources Defense Council, http://www.nrdc.org/ and WHO.
3.2.2006 6:20pm
Opus (mail):
After having prepared and watched oral arguments while clerking on both ciruit and district courts, I appreciate very much the propaedeutic value of a questioner, and hence a teacher, whose personal views on a specific case or subject are kept to themselves during the questioning.
3.2.2006 6:29pm
The Drill SGT (mail):
I listened to the tape. Link

I think that his rant is not on point for a HS geography class. I would not want that sort of off-topic one-sided indoctrination in a college Poly sci class much less HS. At least in college, you chose the class and instructor.

I don't think the community is obligated to pay to have their children preached to in this fashion.


fire his ass
3.2.2006 7:04pm
Kovarsky (mail):
Opus,

No offense, but that was one of the more self-congratulatory observations I've ever seen on this post. Good for you, learning stuff while clerking.

Of course his "opining" on Bush is bad teaching in a geogrpahy class. But if that is your rationale, you would be an equally bad teacher for sounding like Wolfowitz there. If an adisciplinary comment is bad teaching, then the political valence of that comment shouldn't matter - but here it seems to.

And that's the rub. I have no problem with the idea that these guys should stay on-topic, but if they get off-topic, I can't really see in the above thread a compelling argument for why bush-unfavorable off-topic people should be treated more harshly than bush-favorable ones.

I'm also a little distraught about how the "inevitability" of value laden choices in public education is turning into a blank check. Of course there are value-laden choices. Teachers compete for positions on the bases of credentials that could reflect racism, elitism, and sexism; putting "government" on the curriculum requires studying beard before studying marx; here in Texas schools teach spanish before they teach other romance languages; we read thomas hardy's return of the native but we dont read ayn rand. The list goes on and on, and the common denominator is that when you have finite resources for public education, you end up having to make choices that are in the end political.

But it does not follow from that set of facts that a schools are ALWAYS permitted to advance a particular political viewpoint. That proposition is particularly important in light of the recent intelligent design controversy, which revealed that almsot any disagreement is capable of being cast as "political."

Most good teachers won't editorialize too strongly either way, and I think it fair that a school react to the fact of editorializing - but not differentially based on the viewpoint of the editorial. At some level most "fact" propositions involve value judgments (albeing ones that enjoy a lot of consensus), but there has to be some logical stopping point beyond which the government is not free to editorialize at will. Whatever information exists beyond that threshold will still involve "value judgments" in ever sense of the word, but the hard part is making the prudent determination of where that threshold should nonetheless reside. And one certainly can't justify drawing that line in a particular place on no greater grounds than that "there is an inevitable value judgment involved," because that's true of almost everything.
3.2.2006 7:11pm
Tom Holsinger (mail):
My wife teaches high school and found this email from a friend of mine, about the incident under discussion, so hilarious she took it to work to show to her friends:
"... When I was out in the high schools of Colorado recruiting for the college for which I taught, at various times and places I encountered Birchers teaching history, SWPers teaching history, lots and lots of Creationists teaching science (small rural communities it seemed more likely than not), math teachers teaching kids the calculations to cast horoscopes, and all sorts of other nutbaggery that wouldn't necessarily look as nutty to you guys as it did to a humanities type who knew his stuff. I met one high school drama teacher, in a little town on the Eastern plains, who was getting married to his third graduating senior in twenty years (they couldn't fire him because he had more community support than any principal or Board ever did. Hell, at the rate he was going his kids were going to be a majority of the population after a while. And yeah, I recruited two of his offspring for our program and they were both among our best students ...) The fact is that high schools are tightly regulated and almost never policed, classic situation for selective enforcement until some outsider makes a noise.

This is one hair-tearing-out problem that happens when the kids hit college. High school teachers do not coordinate with each other at all, as far as I can tell; college faculty mostly do (with some very annoying exceptions, but they're exceptions). Kids coming out of high school have learned to forget everything fast, because remembering stuff from your Opus Dei 10th-grade world history teacher is bad news when you hit your 12th-grade Trotskyist government teacher. (or vice versa, since both guys taught both classes. Not a made-up example, btw. And those two guys actually sort of coordinated and did try to allow opposing viewpoints in their classrooms, which put them far ahead of many others) ..."
3.2.2006 7:14pm
Kate1999 (mail):
Lesson -- "You Can't Say That!"
3.2.2006 7:20pm
eddie (mail):
What if this teacher instead said that teaching any history or geography was pointless since the rapture is nearly upon us? Bad taching method, bad "facts", or is up to the discretion of the outrage of the citizens of the community?

And what using governmental money for clearly religious indoctrination purposes, see, e.g. vouchers or school prayer or . . .

If I merely claimed that my form of communism was a religion would I be protected? Could the government exclude me from faith-based moneys?

What I find most interesting in this is that the quote concerned capitalism (which to my understanding is a word not to be found in any of the documents christened by our founding fathers) and which statement itself was not even challenged for its validity.

Say what you want, but reducing worth (and by analogy, those things that are really worth protecting) to a fungible concept like capital, not only have we abandoned any hope for religous integrity (faith, grace, the good as merely an amount) but we have certainly debased concepts of freedom and equality.

And what is tragic is that this government, which was conceived as emanating from incalculable "human" rights and values has become the servant of capitalism.

The new freedom that is being protected with all the might of our military and judicial system is freedom to do business in any way possible, because eventually the Olympian values and wealth that have been "created" by the titans of our society will trickle down upon the masses. If we do not give the titans super rights and super protection, how will this miraculous manna fall to those who need it.
3.2.2006 7:22pm
Kovarsky (mail):
By the way, I don't even know what Trotsky connotes anymore, which is really strange.
3.2.2006 7:36pm
Greedy Clerk (mail):
He didn't appreciate the rebel flag we left on his desk though.

Glad to see you are proud that you left a sign of slavery on a black man's desk with whom you disagreed. (Note: we have all done dumb things when we were young, but this guy is still proud of it in his 40's, 25 years after the fact.) Sort of reminds me of when the right-wing blogs were running a 10 worst Americans ever meme, and every few posts someone would comment "Martin Luther King Jr." or something. Funny that rabid racism always finds its way into these discussions. . . . Again, way to go in showing that N----- that he shouldn't be speakin' out too much aginst Ronald Rigin.

3.2.2006 8:00pm
Marcus1 (mail) (www):
I didn't have any overtly partisan teachers when I was in high school. Sure, some were known to be conservative, but they didn't preach. If they had preached, liberally, conservatively, religiously, or whatever, I would have complained. It's an abuse of their position.

In my mind, a teacher is like a reporter or a judge. They should not be promoting an agenda. I see no constitutional problem with requiring teachers to be balanced and unbiased in their presentation. Children have a right to an unbiased education.

This guy was dismissing the valid arguments of his students to carry on with his own screed. It's completely inappropriate. If I were a student, I would have fought hard for a new teacher.
3.2.2006 8:01pm
Lawstsoul:
The clip appears to start at mid-rant. I wonder what got him started.
3.2.2006 8:03pm
froz (mail):
I'm not sure what I should be more disturbed by. David's habit of constantly mining the far right sites like Drudge and LGF, or his commenters thinking the rebel flag is a proper response to anything.

We've all had teachers that are extreme examples of whatever. That does not mean we are simpletons who robotically folllow along.
3.2.2006 8:07pm
JohnAnnArbor:
Sort of reminds me of when the right-wing blogs were running a 10 worst Americans ever meme, and every few posts someone would comment "Martin Luther King Jr." or something.

I remember that claim. It was pretty clear that the few examples that did happen were leftist commenters doing it so that people like you could yell "racist"!

Funny that rabid racism always finds its way into these discussions. . . .

If you're looking for rabid racism, see any leftist discussion of Clarence Thomas, Michelle Malkin, Thomas Sowell,....
3.2.2006 8:25pm
Visitor Again:
I've read that what constitutes the subject matter of geography has changed greatly over the past few decades since I took it. It's no longer just about where rivers, lakes, oceans, mountains, countries, cities and towns are. I believe it's taught with a great deal of political, social and economic content.

That aside, I can't get excited over this. High school students don't live in a cocoon and they don't need protection from their teachers' views. Students get their information, ideas and values from a huge array of sources, including parents, relatives and friends, and a teacher plays a small role in influencing them. Exposure to teachers' views prepares them for entry into the real world, where there is likely to be an equal or even higher incidence of quirky views than among the teaching ranks.

If a teacher unfairly grades on the basis of agreement or disagreement with his views, that's a different matter. This particular teacher did not do that. If a teacher fails to get his subject matter across, as measured by results on the standard tests students must take, get rid of him. But otherwise, I see nothing horrible about a teacher expressing his views in class, even if they are views I detest. I've met teachers I consider fascists who I wouldn't have minded teaching my children because they were bright and got the subject matter across very well. My children had enough exposure to the world of ideas that they wouldn't have been unduly influenced by a teacher. I suspect that's the case with nearly all children.
3.2.2006 8:27pm
David Berke:
I would state as a general proposition, that any teacher or professor using his position as an educator to sound off on his political position, rather than teaching the curriculum, is not doing his job and may deserve termination on those grounds alone.

However, I admit to some concern on the grounds that the curriculum may be set to promote specific political or philosophical beliefs, rather than simply educating. However, people interject themselves and their beliefs whenever designing something, and accordingly I'm not sure that there is a simple solution. On the one hand, simple rants are not particularly useful. On the other hand, the rational disagreement with some statement or value expressed within the curriculum, meaningfully discussed, is almost necessary. Without disagreement and exploration, the curricula is likely to descend into mere dogma, and fail to serve any useful purpose.

FWIW - In my experience at high school, I remember one or two older teachers blatantly leaning to the right and giving lesser grades to those who expressed other opinions. I also remember quite a few younger teachers blatantly leaning to the left, to my dismay. There's been a lot of discussion of the second on this blog, but surprisingly little reference to the first.
3.2.2006 8:29pm
The Drill SGT (mail):
Funny,

I don't remember any politicization by the teachers in my California HS (Grad 67). Not even from the USMC LTC(Ret) that taught honors English, unless it was because he had us memorize classic poems and oratory (Hamlet, Julius Caesar, Gettysburg Address, Declaration of Independence, etc.) Nothing long, but always memorable. I still remember them and treasure the experience. He was a tough old SOB.

My mother and brother are (were) both screaming leftist public school teachers and I know things have changed, I think for the worse.
3.2.2006 8:53pm
Perseus (mail):
isn't this WHY we have the tenure program, to allow teachers to say things that might otherwise be blasphamy [sic]?

One of the main justifications for providing professors with tenure is to protect them against reprisals for saying or publishing something unpopular. Since teachers do not publish scholarly research, that justification doesn't really apply.

As I understand it, teacher tenure came about to protect teachers from "tyrannical" administrators, who are generally more interested in having their whims indulged than in enforcing political dogma.
3.2.2006 9:01pm
therut:
I have to say when I went to school there was no blantant political slant or teaching. Even in college or medical school. NONE. I guess I was lucky compared to what I hear childrn and young adults put up with today. Hard to believe I know but it is true.
3.2.2006 9:18pm
Kovarsky (mail):
I think it's weird that something is a "political rant" only if it is both a political rant and out of step with the political orthodoxy.
3.2.2006 11:41pm
Smithy (mail) (www):
Sorry, but this this is simply not acceptable. Not while we're at war. We can't afford to have prevayors of left-wing tripe propagandizing our children right now. These "teachers" should not only be fired but be jailed as well.
3.3.2006 12:18am
Lev:
It seems to me that teachers should teach the material they were hired to teach, and stifle themselves until school is out otherwise. The same for public k-12 teachers and public college teachers. And if they can't do that, then they should choose another line of work.

So far as I can remember, the only "off topic rant" I ever had was when a Canadian chemistry professor spent a class going off on the sellout of the British empire. No one ever figured out what that was about, and it only happened once.
3.3.2006 12:31am
Justin (mail):
Everytime I think Smithy is serious, he then makes me think he's satire again.
3.3.2006 1:06am
Bruce Hayden (mail) (www):
I should note that the teacher wasn't teaching in Denver, but rather the Cherry Creek school district, SE of Denver, one of the richest in the state. Indeed, that district is the only one in the state that has field hockey teams - all the rest of the schools competing in that sport are private prep schools.

If he is ultimately fired, it will because he violated a fairly explicit school district policy that prohibits precisely the type of overly politicized speech he was engaging in. Listening to his attorney tonight, it appears his defense is primarily 1st Amdt. (via the 14th), plus the state equivalent (Article II, Section 10 - I note that Article Section 30b is still officially part of the Constitution, despite Evans v. Romer). My guess though that this Freedom of Speech defense isn't going to work, as apparently 1st Amdt. is pretty weak in employment cases.
3.3.2006 1:14am
therut:
I have to admit I learned something today. This guy teaches what is called "Radical Geography" interesting. I googled and low and behold there are really lefties that have made geography into and ani-US, anti-capitalist,environmentalist,anti-war etc field of study. Is there anything that has not been perverted yet by lefty ideology. I guess not but I do not want my children taught this rubbish in public schools.
3.3.2006 2:21am
derzornhistology:
Having listened to Bennish's remarks, I must say that I am flabbergasted that so many posters here find this stuff innocuous. Having had a right wing ethics teacher at my private high school back in Toronto, I cannot be non-chalant about this. My teacher did not grade dissenters disfavorably, but he did alienate several students - a factor which shouldn't be ignored in the case of this Colorado student.

Furthermore, given that Bennish made a number of factually incorrect statements interposed by dubious syllogisms, he can also be accused of poor epistemologic rigor. On the tape, Bennish frequently tells his students that he wants them to probe deeper in their understanding of world affairs. Could he not at least explain Hume or Sextus Empiricus' arguments on cause and effect - equipping his students to evaluate their sources, before proceeding with his diatribe? At least my right-wing ethics teacher was willing to teach us how to analyze arguments and evaluate the strength of causal linkages before ranting away...
3.3.2006 7:05am
felix (mail) (www):
Think what if the clan will change its name... it is still going to be the same guy, the same job, will there be a ground for denile?
3.3.2006 8:34am
Smithy (mail) (www):
Everytime I think Smithy is serious, he then makes me think he's satire again.

You're one to talk, Justin. I feel like you're channelling Michael Moore most of the time here. The sad thing is that your ridiculous left-wing talking points are the same myths that are widely disseminated by MSM.
3.3.2006 9:25am
Justin (mail):
So you're saying Michael Moore is part of the MainStream? Cool!
3.3.2006 10:33am
TDPerkins (mail):
"Glad to see you are proud that you left a sign of slavery on a black man's desk with whom you disagreed."

The guy was a member of the Nation of Islam. I can see the humor. Get him in whiteface long enough, and that black man would join the Klan.

Yours, TDP, ml, msl, &pfpp
3.3.2006 10:34am
TDPerkins (mail):
Froz wrote:

"David's habit of constantly mining the far right sites like Drudge and LGF, or his commenters thinking the rebel flag is a proper response to anything."


Regarding the rebel flag on the Black Moslem's desk, the only meaningful difference between the Klan and the NOI is the albedo of the adjectives.

Drudge is a politically dead center moderate site. I don't know how often LGF is cited approvingly by David B., but I have no reason to think DU or Daily Kos isn't cited positively about as often as LGF.

If you can produce statistics showing otherwise, then you might have a point.

Yours, TDP, ml, msl, &pfpp
3.3.2006 10:48am
Keith (mail):
Interesting discussions. Years ago, when I was in Middle and High School, then college. The instructors/professors who always really impressed me were those who could really make you think, while maintaining their objectivity. Admittedly a tough line to walk.

The best, my 6th Grade teacher, Mrs. Duff who flat out said she would not tell us her political opinions. And she was very strict, but fair. During the whole year she only had to send one young boy to the office once! Everybody respected her.

In my freshman year at college, I had a 1st Quarter Calculus Prof who was admittedly very liberal, but she did not interject that and she could flat out teach. Same with a Poli Sci Prof who was probably, never could totally figure him out, somewhat liberal, but again taught exceptionally well.

Then in Grad School in Int'l Affairs (1990-1991), I had one Prof who literally said he "...was disappointed when communism failed in Eastern Europe." Needless to say, I was tempted to jump over the table after him, but restrained myself.

As a political consertive/libertarian I have to say I have met more sheer close-mindedness from the far left than the right. Not to say that are not idiots on both sides.
3.3.2006 12:13pm
Smithy (mail) (www):
Drudge is a politically dead center moderate site.

Agreed. Unfortunately, to liberals anyone who doesn't toe the Dean/Moore party line at all times is a member of the far right.
3.3.2006 12:22pm
JosephSlater (mail):
Drudge is a right-wing hack with no credibility, and Justin completely owns Smithy, who remains, as always, a parody. Smithy's usefulness is to remind some of the more thoughtful conservatives where the bizarre and dangerous logical conclusions of some of their more totalitarian impulses lead.
3.3.2006 5:04pm
Noah Klein (mail):
"May libertarians be forbidden from teaching history courses, because they may be tempted to undermine the statist assumptions so often embedded in public school social studies and history curricula?"

I hope not. The best teacher I ever had was a libertarian who consistently portrayed the "Elite" view of politics. He consistently attacked my "statist" beliefs and really made think and confirm my beliefs. He also taught me history and in both history and politics, my teacher though strongly libertarian, presented all the facts with regards to those two subjects.

Having praised my teacher for providing even-handed presentation of the subjects he taught, I don't think it is necessary for a teacher to present a even-handed view of their subject. The best teachers do, but unfortunately they are too few and to require even-handness is unrealistic.

Before I read this thread, I was going to say that Bennish should be fired for going off-topic and not for content of his diatribe. However, many posters reminded me that geography is not merely an accounting of the world's nations and their boundaries, but also attempts to inform students about other countries' outlook and culture. Thus, I do not think that the teacher went off-topic anymore. Often he would tell his class that he was trying to make them look at the subject from other people's perspective.

The reason I still think he should be censured in some fashion is because of his consistent use of factually incorrect information. A earlier poster has already demonstrated the falsehood of the cigarette and the WMD claims made by Mr. Bennish. He also was incorrect when he said that the U.S. attacked Afghanistan and Sudan before al-Qaeda stuck the U.S. We all know of the first WTC attack in 1993. Furthermore, the Afghanistan and Sudan bombing were in response to the Embassy bombings in Africa. There are a number of other "facts" he presents that are wrong and if he is going to lecture as he did to his class he should at least use material he is more familiar with to make his points than the information he used. I don't think he should be fired, because students seem to really like him, but some type of censure is necessary.

Noah
3.3.2006 5:29pm
Progressive Grill (mail):
This issue is not what Bennish said. It is about the fact that some students out there are being told to surreptitiously record their left-leaning teacher's lectures, especially when the teachers are talking politics or giving their opinions on current events.

To give credence to the recording made by this student is to take a nosedive down the slippery slope of chilling speech and the free exchange of ideas in the American classroom. I'm willing to let my right wing law professor espouse his occasional anti-Hillary pro-Big Business-screw- the-little-guys opinions, and the right wingers out there need to learn to accept that some teachers have different views from theirs.

Finally, it not the teacher but it should be the student who should be punished for invading the classroom in such a way. To put Bennish on the hot seat is to skirt the issue, which is that Right wingers have found it upon themselves to invade the sanctity of the classroom and to record class room discussions led by liberal instructors, from colleges and now to high schools.

If I had to sit through anti-homosexual General Assembly in high school and be told that "anuses are made for things to go out, not to go in," little thin-skull-from-Denver-Johnny-with-the-ipod can sit through a provocative discussion about current events and his teacher's though provoking opinions.

Furthermore I don't think we should pay any attention at all to the recording of Bennish's mere 20 minute lecture unless we are willing to open the doors to record ALL school teachers without giving them notice that their lectures are being recorded.

Until then, let the guy teach.
3.3.2006 7:05pm
M Ryan (mail):
I find it amazingly predictable that the news reports show that Mr. Bennish's attorney is the same attorney representing (CU professor and fake Native-American) Ward Churchill of the "little Eichmann's" fame.
3.3.2006 8:48pm
Frank Drackmann (mail):
Since my High School was named after Jefferson Davis, the rebel flag was quite appropriate.
3.3.2006 10:13pm
Justin (mail):
yes Frank, *that* justifies your little cross-burning-lite.
3.3.2006 11:56pm
ashok (www):
I'm with Progressive Grill and Visitor Again, and I'd like to add a new wrinkle:

The appeals above to the "taxpayers" and the "community" are clever dodges of this point: Should parents and kids dictate what a teacher teaches?

The overwhelming answer by all Americans is yes, almost all the time. We want gov't off our backs, and we want full control over education.

Which, of course, means that we're uneducable. It is impossible to think independently when all you want to learn is facts and be sheltered from opinions one doesn't like. The point of being educated is to have informed opinions, not a monopoly on truth. To demand teachers do what we tell them to do is exactly like the Soviets putting a gun to their scientists' heads and getting them to produce research. It is a form of violence being done here (even though this left-winger sounds like a complete idiot to me) - the tyranny of the majority - against more traditional institutions, like respecting those who know more. The greatest tradition we have been handed down is learning to know more while understanding full well we don't know everything. The greatest tradition we have is humility before the Truth.

It should always be problematic to remove a teacher, because there should be respect for teachers, teachers being those who have a greater grasp on Truth and are willing to share it.
3.5.2006 5:38am
Noah Klein (mail):
ashok,

I believe you make many excellent points. I agree that we need to have more respect for teachers and that we should allow them to introduce controversial subjects and ideas to force students to think creatively.

You end by saying "there should be respect for teachers, teachers being those who have a greater grasp on Truth and are willing to share it." This is very true. Teachers due to the great amount of study and work have learned not only a good deal about a subject, but also the best method to teach that subject. Yet if a teacher in a lecture speaks blatant falsehoods, shouldn't he/she be reprimanded? This is why I think this case differs from other cases where a community or administration tries to fire a teacher for teaching. In this case, the teacher used utter falsehoods to butress his points. These children are now going to accept those false facts as true and judge the world based on them. I, like you, have have no problem with a communist or fascist teaching. I think their ideologies are stupid, but whatever. I do have a problem with the communist denying the murders of Russia and China or the fascist denying the Holocaust or American lynching. Isn't this what was wrong with Bennish's lecture and not the subject matter.

Noah
3.5.2006 6:42pm