Tuesday, June 15, 2010
The actions of two teachers at the Dennis-Yarmouth Regional High School on Cape Cod, Massachusetts, have come under considerable criticism. There are likely first amendment issues here protecting the speech of the teachers, and perhaps helping to insulate them somewhat from possible disciplinary action (along with their union), but I would guess that there will be some people who are sympathetic to their anti-war position who would nonetheless question the appropriateness of holding up signs at an assembly recognizing graduating seniors who are entering military service.
My first reaction to this is that the actions of the teachers were in poor taste. The teachers of course have a right to their views, although as a legal matter, it is not clear to me the extent to which they can use the school (especially such an assembly) as a forum to air their political views.
Ms. Verani states in the video above, "It was not against them at a personal level," demonstrating that she is tone deaf on this matter -- only six students are being honored at an assembly, and it is then and there that she chooses to exercise her right to dissent, and that shouldn't be considered personal? I love Michael Corleone's line from The Godfather as much as anybody -- "It's not personal, Sonny, it's strictly business," -- but this is at least a little bit personal. The teachers are either directly or indirectly criticizing the career choice decisions of six students in a public forum.
A good teacher can spur on a classroom debate among students and act as an effective moderator, without the students being able to discern the underlying views of the teacher during the debate. Realistically, however, over the course of an entire school year, a truly strident teacher may make his or her views all too clear on a particular subject. It is not beyond the realm of possibility that activist teachers would intentionally try to discourage military service during one-on-one discussions with students, based on their hope that if not enough people sign up, the U.S. must eventually stand down. Of course, when dealing with teenagers, telling them they should not do something might have quite the opposite effect.
Incidents such as this will add to the increasingly unsympathetic view that many people have toward unionized public school teachers.
The best part of this story is the huge applause and standing ovation the honored students received from their classmates, as is clear in the video.
If this woman can't see that her actions were, at best, displayed in an improper forum, and can't see how someone would damn well take it personally...well, unfortunately, she probably can't be fired for being a dimwit, but I can dream.
It's a constant source of black humor - liberals are always bashing conservatives for being insensitive about this or that, and are always displaying an appalling lack of sensitivity themselves. Frequently, it'll be simultaneous, which just adds to the viewing pleasure.
In my crazy dream world, where students are both smart/already educated enough to take these kind of teachers head on, as well as insulated enough to not suffer terrible scholastic ramifications (yes, a dream world)... I'd love to see students in her class start referring to her with, "yes, Ms. Dipsh#t".... No, Ms. Dipsh#t".... and just mouthing off big time right in class.
Then, when they are punished, (as even the lamest teacher would be rightly entitled to do) they say, "Hey, I'm just 'teaching others about free speech' etc. etc.
And if the punishment sticks, take it to court. All proceedings to be called off immediately, and heartfelt apologies from the students forthcoming, if and only if the teachers agree to publicly and prominently apologize to the students, families, and every one else present at the ceremony where they chose to display their nonsense.
In other words, jam the teachers own ideals down their throats, and force them to live in the kind of world they themselves appear to beleive in. (Alinsky would be proud.) One where anyone's free speech, at any time and any place, is more important than simple courtesy, grace, and appropriateness.
Franky, these teachers are no different than the Fred Phelps 'God Hates F#gs' scum, and if they can excersize their "free speech" whenever they please, so to can their students, even in the teachers own classroom.
"We must take back the education system from the Left."
Or, remove the opportunities they have to bring politics into the classroom. The teachers I had may have had political views, but I have not a clue what they were. Their job was to teach us maths, English, Latin, French, history, geography, biology, etc - not politics.
Add classes on politics, sociology, anthropology, gender studies and other contentious topics to the curriculum, and you are asking for trouble.
The cure is to keep the curriculum focussed on hard, knowledge-based subjects. (Admittedly there may be some controversy in history, but it can still be taught on a fairly factual basis.)