Jay Bennish and the Rights of Students and Teachers

Jay Bennish, the Colorado high school who was suspended after a student taped him comparing President Bush to Adolf Hitler in a classroom discussion, is planning a federal lawsuit to get his job back. Katherine Blake reports for Denver’s CBS4:

The high school geography teacher placed on paid leave for comments he made during a class lecture about President Bush plans to file a lawsuit Friday to get back to work. Jay Bennish’s comments were recorded by a student who said he tapes lectures to help with notes.

“Now I’m not saying that Bush and Hitler are exactly the same, obviously they’re not, OK,” Jay Bennish was heard saying on a recording of his class lecture on the day after Bush’s State of the Union Address. “But there are eerie similarities to the tones that they use.”

Bennish’s lawyer said the teacher’s goal is to provoke students to think for themselves. The attorney said Bennish sees himself as a patriotic American and just wants to get back to teaching. “He’s terribly upset about the fact that he can’t teach right now,” David Lane, Bennish’s attorney said Thursday night. “He’s so upset that I am now his lawyer and we are going to Federal court tomorrow.” Lane argued that the Cherry Creek School District has no right to place Bennish on paid administrative leave from Overland High School. “No action should be taken against someone who is exercising their rights under the First Amendment,” Lane said.

Sean Allen, the student who recorded the lecture, brought Bennish’s comments to the attention of an online columnist and radio talk show hosts. “He is not teacher geography,” Allen said during a radio talk show on Wednesday evening. “About 80 percent of the time, he’s teaching his biased political opinions and giving them to our class as a fact.”

Allen didn’t attend class Thursday after getting negative feedback to his actions from fellow students. At the school Thursday, dozens of students walked out in support of Bennish. Other students said they thought Allen did the right thing and that Bennish should “teach, not preach.”

That’s the sad thing: Allen is the one being harassed rather than the teacher. CBS4 on yesterday’s walkout:

Hundreds of students at Overland High School walked out of class Thursday morning in support and protest of a teacher who was at the center of a controversy over comments he made about President Bush during a geography class.

[…]

The students left class for about an hour and lined the streets near the school Thursday morning. Many students said they were frustrated and angry about how Bennish had been criticized on talk radio. “I think he inspires so many students and he’s a great teacher,” one student said during the rally. “I mean he makes people do there work and he makes people care about things.” “It’s not about missing a day of school but rather our future,” said Stephanie Edge, a student in support of Bennish. “I don’t think that education should be censored.”

While I applaud teachers’ efforts to “get students to think,” a classroom–especially a geography classroom, let alone at the high school level–is not a forum for foisting one’s political view on a captive audience. This goes well beyond academic freedom, which presumes that an instructor is a subject matter expert expressing his possibly controversial views on that subject.

Michelle Malkin has the audio file of Bennish’s rant as well as a complete transcript. She links Expose the Left‘s video of Allen’s appearance on “Hannity and Colmes.” Here’s a version from YouTube:

Malkin points, approvingly, to Thomas Lifson who gushes,

The public has a clear interest in making certain that schools perform their desired function. Shouldn’t we pass laws allowing public school students the right to record any classroom session paid for with public funds?

The MP3 revolution is upon us. iPods are ubiquitous. For as little as fifteen bucks a tiny device clicks in and turns the iPod into a digital recorder. Suitable for uploading to the web by any kid in America.

Think of the historic opportunity we have to improve education by decentralized monitoring of classroom conduct. I am certain sanctimonious arguments are made to respect the privacy and intimacy of he teacher-student bond. The learning process depends on trust. Laymen just don’t understand the complexities.

Spare me. These are public employees, union members more than independent professionals, and they are hired to teach geography not spew political hyperbole. We need to monitor them. They shouldn’t say anything in the classroom on our dime that they aren’t willing to see heard on the internet.

While students should not be subject to the Bennishes of the world, this goes way too far, in my judgment. The chilling effect on teachers would be simply palpable. They should not have every sentence, every joke, every off-the-cuff remark subjected to worldwide scrutiny. This would be more outrageous than the occasional venomous lecture from an enthusiastic but out-of-control teacher.

Indeed, while I disagree with the students shunning Allen for bringing this incident to light, I would much have preferred that he took the tape and his concerns to his principal or his parents rather than to the media. My strong guess is that, even in a relatively liberal community, the principal or the school board would have dealt with this one appropriately.

As to what is appropriate in this case, I don’t have all the facts. CBS4 is holding a poll asking “Should teacher Jay Bennish be fired for comments he made about President Bush?” If this is the first time he has been admonished about using the classroom as a bully pulpit, I would say No. It may indeed be the case that, aside from this, “he inspires so many students and he’s a great teacher.” If so, he should be given another shot at his job, albeit with better direction as to his role and some appropriate monitoring.

Update: Done properly, a comparison of Bush to Hitler might indeed be instructive. At the college level–which is admittedly a different enviroment with different strictures–I often played Devil’s Advocate on controversial issues. It can be an effective teaching tool. I often used, “Were the Sons of Liberty terrorists?” as a discussion topic in American government, for example.

As to students recording classroom material and the “public employee” argument, I simply disagree. I did not allow it when I was teaching, for a variety of reasons. Mostly, I wanted to have frank class discussion and getting students to participate in a give-and-take is difficult. The added pressure of knowing they are being recorded is unhelpful in that regard.

Update 2: To the extent it even applies to high school teachers, who tend not to have genuine expertise in a subject matter, this definition of Academic Freedom from the American Association of University Professors (gleaned from a long ago post) might be useful in this discussion:

1. Teachers are entitled to full freedom in research and in the publication of the results, subject to the adequate performance of their other academic duties; but research for pecuniary return should be based upon an understanding with the authorities of the institution.

2. Teachers are entitled to freedom in the classroom in discussing their subject, but they should be careful not to introduce into their teaching controversial matter which has no relation to their subject.[2] Limitations of academic freedom because of religious or other aims of the institution should be clearly stated in writing at the time of the appointment.[3]

3. College and university teachers are citizens, members of a learned profession, and officers of an educational institution. When they speak or write as citizens, they should be free from institutional censorship or discipline, but their special position in the community imposes special obligations. As scholars and educational officers, they should remember that the public may judge their profession and their institution by their utterances. Hence they should at all times be accurate, should exercise appropriate restraint, should show respect for the opinions of others, and should make every effort to indicate that they are not speaking for the institution.

Clearly, Bennish was operating far outside these bounds.

________

Related:

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Columbia Prez: Professors Should Not Use Podium as Ideological Platform
University of Colorado President Resigns Amid Scandals
Should Ward Churchill be Fired?
California Professor Flunks (Awful) Pro-U.S. Essay
Professor Suspended for Showing Class Fahrenheit 911
Benedict College Fires Professors For Bucking “Effort” Grading
ACADEMIC FREEDOM’S JUST ANOTHER WORD FOR NOTHIN’ LEFT TO LOSE II
ACADEMIC FREEDOM’S JUST ANOTHER WORD FOR NOTHIN’ LEFT TO LOSE
ACADEMIC FREEDOM?

FILED UNDER: Education, Law and the Courts, , , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. just me says:

    I have no problems with the kid recording the lecture. Especially in light that it is a public school. I think students should have the right to record any lectures they choose to record.

    I am not sure that going to the media was the wisest first step in this situation. I agree going to the principal or school board may have been the more mature way to handle it, although I am not so sure anything would have happened absent the media attention that was brought, because the student chose the media as his first round of attack.

    I really don’t think teachers should be able to get up in front of the class, and spout opinion all over the place, especially in a setting where those with differing opinions may feel they will be retaliated against, if they speak up-in any other topic, the kid who is afraid to speak up gets the bye-for instance take religious issues in the schools-we are often told that the one student who isn’t comfortable should be considered, but not so when it comes to this kind of stuff.

    I also kept hearing the “but he did tell both sides” defense from the students who supported him-but in my head I am wondering just how you tell the other side of the statement of fact that Bush is comparable to Hitler. I am not buying it-he may have occassionally given the other side, but I suspect it was given in such a way as to still attack the position rather than honestly present it.

  2. Anderson says:

    Inappropriate conduct by the teacher, but a firing offense? I have to hope he’d been warned before.

    Anyone who wants teachers taped in the classroom should be willing to have a webcam on them during the entire business day, including screenshots of what they’re doing on their computers.

  3. just me says:

    When I was in college students recorded lectures all the time-mostly because it was easier than taking notes.

    Can’t say that it kept me from participating in class any. I never really thought much about the recording aspect.

    So I still disagree with you on the issue of recording lectures. And I wonder how you would handle somebody who couldn’t take notes as an accomodation for disabilities-where those classes less particapatory? Were students less likely to join discussions?

    I also think recordings can be fair-there was a proffessor at our college who was harrassing in his classes towards nursing students and Christians. Recordings didn’t shut him up, but then complaints to the university never went very far either.

  4. LJD says:

    Teachers are monitored every minute of every day, by their students. Would it be implausible for a student having difficulty to use a tape recorder for enhanced learning?

    I think this is the tip of the iceberg for a much more widespread problem. If there is written policy about balanced presentation, and he knowingly violated it, he should be terminated.

    Kids are way too illiterate to be spending the school day with this kind of crap. It’s bad enough that our government is paralyaed with paritsan bickering, that polarity has reared it’s ugly head in every aspect of adult lives. We don’t need kids speding their development becoming little activists for ‘the cause’.

    I think they should make an example of this teacher. He might have more appreciation for this country if he spent a few years working as a ditch digger.

  5. LJD says:

    Anderson-

    My business day does not include influencing the impressionable minds of children.

    This guy should be fired just for being a bad teacher. His facts are actually propaganda: ‘The U.S. has killed millions by using chemical weapons on coca crops’?

    Besides, we can’t kill him… LOL

  6. Bachbone says:

    This mantra, “I’m only teaching you ‘to think,'” is right out of the NEA/AFT/AAUP handbook. It might fly if equal treatment were given to all viewpoints, rather than just the left’s, and if the topic of the day had some relevance to the subject supposedly being taught. Mr. Bennish’s troubles began when he spouted only his personal political tripe in a geography class. Rest assured that he will not be fired. It costs too much in legal fees for the school district to do that. About the worst that will happen to him will be a transfer to another school building where he can inflict his views on different students. After, of course, banning iPods from his classes.

  7. G A Phillips says:

    A perfect reason for school vouchers, bush should make this dude the poster-boy.

  8. just me says:

    Anderson there already are jobs that involve being filmed.

    Most stores have cameras in them-they are there of course to prevent loss prevention, but the reality is that employees have those cameras watching them as well.

    Many cops drive with cameras in their cars.

    I just don’t think the wrongness here is the kid recording the teacher. I think there are legitimate reasons to record a teacher or a class, and I don’t think a teacher has anymore an absolute right to not be recorded than a cashier at Winn Dixie does.

  9. ICallMasICM says:

    No troll-Americans defending this guy? What’re you all asleep in your parents basements?

  10. DJ Elliott says:

    “…during a geography class.”
    Since when is political comparisons, presidents, dictators, and speeches part of a geography class.
    No wonder students do not know where different countries are, etc.
    After all, the teacher is too busy giving political rants rather than doing his job.
    Time and place for everything. That was neither.
    An instructor is in CONTROL of a classroom and when you abuse that control to argue your political agenda, you are not teaching.
    It is called propaganda.

  11. M. Murcek says:

    Taxpayer funded work product is the property of the American taxpayer. Unless it’s um, maybe classified? And the NYT thinks not even then…

    If this guy said it on the taxpayer’s dime, there’s no reason to think he should have had any expectation it would not be recorded or disseminated.

  12. Gawaine says:

    Regarding the “should have taken it to the parents” comment – My understanding is that he took it to his parents, and that his father called the principal. Some small site out there found out, and it blew up from there.

  13. Bithead says:

    DJ Elliot stole my thunder, here; What in the blinking hell does what he was bloviating about ahve to do with geography?

  14. Jack Ehrlich says:

    This idiot teacher thinks his right to free speech has been abridged. His attorney also thinks his rights have been violated. He was hired to teach a curriculum that does not include his political opinion. This guy claims to be a Rasta. Rasta’s smoke pot. This man needs to be drug tested before someones 17 year old daughter turns up pregnant and this louse is the father. He sould not only be fired, he should lose his teaching credentials. He made his choice.

  15. bryan says:

    I’ve known several professors who were pushed out of their jobs at a large american seminary because students recorded their lectures and then used selective quotations from those lectures as evidence that the professors were “liberal.” Aside from the aspect of illicitly tape recording someone for purpose of “exposing” their wicked deeds (the thought police), these actions served to create an atmosphere of fear and mistrust between professors and students.

    Whether you agree or disagree with someone, that is NOT an atmosphere that is going to aid in the educational endeavor.

  16. McGehee says:

    I’ve known several professors who were pushed out of their jobs at a large american seminary because students recorded their lectures and then used selective quotations from those lectures as evidence that the professors were “liberal.”

    The proper response to such antics is to insist on a complete gavel-to-gavel copy of the tape in question. If it can’t be provided, the complaint goes in the round file.

    But it’s ridiculous to argue that parents shouldn’t be able to hear what teachers are telling their students in class. Defenders of public schools claim they’re not trying to freeze parents out of the educational process, are they lying? [/rhetorical question]

  17. I listened to the audio of TEACHER CAUGHT IN BUSH RANT, with great interest. Also, with sadness.

    My name is Michael Class. I live in the Seattle area with my wife and two children. I am a retired “dot-com” executive turned author, photographer, and publisher.

    I was appalled at how some teachers presented American history to my children. My son and daughter learned that Thomas Jefferson had slaves—before they learned that he wrote the document articulating our rights and duties as free people. European settlers killed Native Americans with blankets infected with smallpox, they found out. That allegation upstaged the stories of courage, perseverance, and curiosity that defined the pioneers. My children knew that more than a hundred thousand people died when the atomic bomb was dropped on Japan, but they were not made to understand the moral context and the enormous scale of the conflict called World War II in which the atomic bomb story fit.

    With a curriculum seemingly designed to instill guilt and shame, I wondered, how will my kids ever discover the lessons of history that inspire greatness and noble aspirations? Will they ever believe that they can make a difference? Will they have any heroes left at all? Then, I wondered: What would the heroes of AmericaÂ’s past say to the children of today?

    I wrote, photographed, and published a book designed to set the record straight, to properly prepare our children for the future. My book is called Anthony and the Magic Picture Frame.

    If you know where I can reach 10th-grader Sean Allen, I will gladly send him a FREE copy of my book.

    My book specifically rebuts the positions taken by teacher Jay Bennish – because I have heard his arguments so many times before. My book tells the truth about capitalism, the War on Terror, and places them in historical perspective.

    In the book, my real-life son, twelve-year-old Anthony, time-travels into the great events of the 20th century. Digital photographic “magic” places Anthony in the cockpit of the Spirit of St. Louis with Charles Lindbergh, on the moon with Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, in the laboratories of Thomas Edison and Jonas Salk, and on Normandy beach on D-Day. It looks as though Anthony really did meet Thomas Edison, Jonas Salk, FDR, Lou Gehrig, Charles Lindbergh, and Audie Murphy. And it’s all historically accurate: Even Anthony’s conversations with America’s heroes are based on things they really said.

    While writing and photographing the book, I spoke with relatives of famous scientists and inventors, Holocaust survivors, award-winning biographers, and others who could help me ensure that the facts of the book were both accurate and vivid.

    But the book goes beyond a simple recitation of historical facts: the book presents the moral lessons of American history. The chapter about Lindbergh’s flight is really about choosing one’s destiny. The story of Lou Gehrig is one of a virtuous life. The chapter about Thomas Edison is really about business. The story of Apollo 11 is about wonder, taking risks, and courage. The story of Dr. Jonas Salk and the cure for polio is really about dedicating one’s life to a higher purpose. When Anthony “meets” his immigrant great-grandfather at Ellis Island in 1907, it’s really a story about what it means to be an American. Anthony’s observation of D-Day and the liberation of the death camps during the Holocaust is a testament to the reality of evil and the need to fight it.

    The book is meant to challenge the young reader. Many adults will find the book challenging, too. Anthony COMPARES the people and events of the past with the people and events of his own time. Anthony discusses the nature of good and evil, right and wrong, war and peace, what it means to be an American, honor and discipline, success and achievement, courage and destiny, marriage and family, God and purpose. AnthonyÂ’s observations prompt serious discussion of timeless moral questions. Anthony challenges the reader to think critically – to see the modern world in the light of the lessons of the past.

    We can’t afford to raise a generation of Americans who do not value their country, their heritage, and their place in the world. As Abraham Lincoln said: America is the “last best hope of earth.”

    Thank you.

    Michael S. Class
    Author / Photographer / Publisher

    Anthony and the Magic Picture Frame: An American History Book for Right-Thinking Parents and Their Children

    ———————–

    E-Mail: class@MagicPictureFrame.com
    Web site: http://www.MagicPictureFrame.com

  18. Henry Cate says:

    “While students should not be subject to the Bennishes of the world, ….

    “My strong guess is that, even in a relatively liberal community, the principal or the school board would have dealt with this one appropriately.”

    I’m not sure what you think is the appropriate response here. Given what we’ve heard I think the teacher should be fired. Normally when people get hired to do a specific job and they decide they want to do something else, it is reasonable for the employer to fire the worker.

    If I start a job at McDonalds and I decide I want to read a book, or preach religion, McDonalds would be justified in firing me. I broke the agreement under which I was hired.

    In contrast, we find that in recent years teachers who do horrible things often suffer little to no consequences. Why? Because the laws and unions favor the teachers, not the students. Already this teacher is suing to get his job back. And he’ll probably win. And in a year he’ll probably be saying many of the same things again

  19. MPH says:
  20. Sam says:

    I have not heard the tapes, nor have I read the transcripts so I have not completely formed an opinion yet. However, I am reading a lot of complaints about the subject matter not being appropriate for a Geography class…Geography is not just locating places, countries, and regions on a map; it is also the study of cultures and political institutions of those regions. So it seems that it is feasible for the subject to come up in a geography class. Is it appropriate…as I said I have not read the transcripts nor heard the audio yet so I am going to defer and say it depends on how it was done. But it does seem that most people are objecting to the subject matter (being Bush compared to Hitler in the political realm). Those comparisons have been made and using it for a controversial topic is appropriate in an academic setting…even if it is high school.

  21. Julie says:

    In line with what Sam wrote, when I was going through school, geography did tend to be simply about the physical nature of the earth. However, I’ve realized as my children are beginning to go into the upper school environment, that in many schools now it is about exactly what he said – it is also about the cultural and political institutions that shape the region, etc. My children are learning so much more than I did – it’s not just memorizing things now, it’s understanding (i.e. on a small scale, it’s easier to remember and understand why a particular part of the world is physically laid out like it is if you understand how it got to be that way – through wars stemming from cultural diversities, etc.) I expect my children to be critical thinkers from a young age, and I’m glad they are beginning with this at a younger age in the schools.

    Maybe some of Mr. Bennish’s ideas would be more appropriate for a college level course, however, it is hard to take one small portion of one small session from an entire year of classroom ideas and know exactly what a teacher is teaching. Is that really fair? Do we know that at another date he wasn’t praising Pres. Bush for his stance on other issues? From this small portion of his class we would assume that’s not the case, however we honestly don’t know….. innocent until proven guilty. Personally, I would not like for someone to take twenty minutes of what I was discussing, out of the thousands of hours of discussions that I have during any given year, and decide it must be how I absolutely imperatively think about one particular subject. What if at that time I was playing devil’s advocate, reciting something I heard on the media, etc.? We can all reasonably discern that doing this could possibly cause us to be misrepresented on that subject.

    I think that if a teacher is doing a good job of presenting both sides of an issue, he is doing his job properly – and is doing what I would expect from a teacher in America. After all, it is only brainwashing if one side of an issue is all that is being presented. If we, as a nation, are raising intelligent young people, it will not hurt them to be presented with all of the ideas and let them figure out what they think as individuals. Isn’t that the job of our schools in the first place? I sure hope it isn’t to tell one side of the story and expect them to take it as it’s told. I’d be worried about what our country stands for if that should be the case. I’m sure most intelligent people would agree that when they are presented with both sides of an issue, and they take some time to evaluate and ponder what has been presented, they generally end up being stronger in their convictions. Alternately, truly intelligent people will realize that they aren’t always right, and may find that some preconceived notions need to be re-evaluated.

    As far as losing his job goes, if, after deep investigation of his entire year of teaching, it is discovered that he hasn’t been presenting both sides of the issue fairly, it would be correct for some action to be taken. Being fired before even being warned and advised? I wouldn’t like that to happen to me. I say, give him a warning and advise explicitly of the expectations. Then, watch him closely, and let him either shoot himself in the foot or become a better teacher.

    BTW – We live in a very conservative environment, academically and socially, so I don’t want anyone spouting off that I am being too liberal. But, who ever said that being conservative means you stop thinking about, and deeply contemplating, the issues?

  22. pj says:

    Hear, hear! Good for you Mr. Bennish. I have said that Mr. Bush is the new Hitler for 7 years only to have it fall on deaf ears. I am glad to find that there are, in fact, people listening and thinking. I was beginning to think we [Americans] had become a land of “sheep.” Thank you for engaging our youth. Thank you for presenting an “alternate” viewpoint. Thank you for making a courageous statement that inspired thought. Thank you for being what an “American” ought to be.
    Oh, and one more thing, the reaction that your statement brought about only goes to prove your statement. The actions taken against you reek of Nazi Germany. I guess freedom of speech only applies if you agree with Mr. Bush’s ideology.

  23. CP says:

    According to the Student in interviews he first went to the School admin and they did not act on it so he went to the local media who picked it up and spread it around. So to say he was wrong in passing up the school first is where you are wrong.
    Either way whatever happens to the student and teacher is good for America as this happens everyday in schools and colleges across the country and the students have no say in the matter if they disagree. The worst part is for the students that do not know any better take the bush hating slams as fact and spread it around.

  24. Felix says:

    Right, me as a foreigner (german) am probably not one to comment on this – but: as I always understood the Americans, they always where very proud of their right of free speech. Now you get a teacher presented that exactly did so. Please tell me, what is wrong with that? It’s impossible you could think right of free speech is only appropriate if the opinion spread is conservative. In fact Jay Bennish speaks out what a lot of people around the world thinks about the United States. I’m sorry for that, but take it as a chance to rebuild a new image about yourself around the world.

    I’d say let your president know, that he is on the wrong way with his politics of violence. Elect a better president next time, that really represents your fears and problems and helps them solve. And then one day people around the world are going to proud to have American friends. I never stopped being hopeful about the good in the American soul. But for some while I could not find a lot of it in real, which makes me very sad. I know Americans for more than twenty years now – and I am very glad to be their friend. But I also could get a view to their hopeless emotions, to the loneliness they felt. And it broke my heard knowing, they would not need to accept their destiny, they could fight it and win back a better world.

    Well – I still hope.

  25. Anne says:

    I have read portions of what was taped by Sean Allen. Well, the poor teacher is being judged unfairly with his views just because one student is so far extreme right on his views? I thought America is a democratic country? The teacher has a good lawyer and will win this case. The student? Well, I believe, he is just a lousy kid who can not discern far greater subject matters in wide ranging perspectives. He wants publicity by the mere fact that he is a frequent guest of Hannity & Colmes. It is such a big laugh that this Sean Allen found a pal in Sean Hannity (a show host who does not know how to argue in point!).

  26. Jack Brown says:
  27. Marge Rivello says:

    I applaud Jay Bennish. A teacher that makes students think, what a concept! I just wish there were more like him!

  28. Sarah Carol says:

    Now that I’ve listened to all of it, I think that both the school and the teacher overreacted on this little event. I mean, adults are always complaining that we kids never listen to anything they tell us, anyway. So, why get their panties in a twist over this teeny incident? It’s nothing that most teens haven’t heard from their own parents, or other relations, or even from their friends. I realize that there is a time and a place for everything, but let’s not make a mountain out of a molehill, here! It’s extremely absurd to waste our time, brain space, and maybe even money on something that we’d end up hearing from those closer to us than our teachers? He should’ve stated, ‘But, that’s only my opninion, and you know what they say about opinions’,and left it at that. It’s outrageous that Sean was taken soooooo seriously. Anyone student with half a brain and an ounce of integrity would’ve blown it off. Maybe, Sean isn’t doing so well in Mr. Bennish’s class? Maybe Sean has a grudge to settle? Hmmmmm . . . one would wonder, both why & how, these silly little remarks were allowed to get all blown out of proportion. Grow up Sean, and except that you suck at Geography. Not everyone can be a Viking. Some are nothing more than Chicken Littles. DARN!
    ~Sarah Carol~

  29. Well, well, well.

    Mr. Bennish’s supporters have opened Pandora’s Box.

    If, as you’ve all said, that the New Geography extends beyond map reading and country naming and foraged ahead into areas including “the cultural and political institutions that shape the region, etc,” then you must, in addition to Bennish’s left-wing ranting, also open the door to the study of religion, as it’s actually taught and practiced.

    The same key that opens the door for Jay Bennish to opine politically also unlocks the door for whichever religious bent feels that it ought to be included in a curriculum such as this. Let’s be fair, religion is a cultural institution that shapes many a region around the world.

    So, when you’re patting Jay on the back, realize that you’re greenlighting in-class dialogue regarding religion.

    Welcome to unfettered free speech in the American High School Classroom.

    I have to believe that the Joe-Friday-just-the-facts-ma’am philosophy of basic educational theory would yield less shame when it comes America’s standing in the ranks of academic achievement.

    Leave the political and religious sniping out of it altogether.

    (Oh, and by the way ~Sarah Carol~ [the tildas are just adorable in your name] when you’re scolding someone for their apparant lack of scholastic skill, it’s usually wise to word your reprimand using proper English, thus giving the appearance that you aren’t an idiot. The fact that you, apparently, don’t know the difference between ‘accept’ and ‘except’ suggests to me that maybe your teachers should spend less time hyperbolizing about politics, and more time teaching the basics, not only in Geography, but English as well.)

  30. kpivnik says:

    Just a suggestions here. Why don’t a few of you conservatives go into teaching to balance the point of view that you are complaining about?

  31. kpvinik:

    Teachers with a conservative political orientation are not the answer to what is going on in the classroom today.

    What is called for, especially in light of what has happened with Jay Bennish, is the removal of political posturing, and unsubstantiated villification of the US from schools which are beneficiaries of public tax money.

    In this case, Bennish is teaching Georgraphy, not critical thinking, and not political theory. Insofar as his charge as an instructor in this field goes, he’s failed, even with the rhetoric which he is airing to his students. If his argument, “America is the most violent country in the world” had any validity at all, why did he, as a scholar, and specialist in this field, not bother to cite references in regard to this claim? Is America the most violent per capita? By square mile? Statistically when considering volume of violence related deaths during a specifc period of time? How is this claim qualified?

    After listening to the recording, and reviewing the transcripts of the recording, there is no qualification at all. Bennish made an unsubstantiated, clearly provovative and incendiary claim (just as he did with US production, sale and export of tobacco – China is exponentially more prolific in that regard).

    Despite his claim to engage students in critical, independent thought, Bennish’s tirade was nothing more than a thinly veiled expression of his own political leanings. There is little room to argue that he has championed a value system, one which, apparently, is of more importance than the subject which he has been hired to teach.

    Conservative and liberal values, if taught dispassionately as they relate to the social, political and cultural structures of a region for purposes of current or historical significance are not the problem. When the presentation of those values clearly suggests the moral superiority of one over the other, the discussion in a classroom setting such as this, needs to cease.

    It is not the job of public education to lead students to make judgement calls based on value systems which are being spoon-fed to them by people like Bennish. Educating children in value systems in the purview of parents. (If someone wants their kids to be taught from a certain political or philosophical perspective, there are plenty of private schools that will do just that.)

    What this amounts to, irregard to the claims of any instructor that the material is innocuous, is state-sanctioned indoctrination. Teachers who earn their keep on the taxpayer dime have no business even suggesting that one current political mindset (or personality) is morally superior to another.

    At the end of the day, kpivnik, it’s no more desirable to have a right-wing apologist installed in a classroom to balance out the equation than it is for Jay Bennish to be their selling his ideological wares.

    If Bennish (and other instructors who are similarly predisposed) would actually do the job for which he was hired, perhaps there wouldn’t be such an embarrassing number of American students who don’t know, for instance, the difference between a country and a continent.

    And really, if that’s a distinction that a kid can’t make after a geography class, then he’s really got no business holding strong opinions about a location which he can’t even point to on a map.

  32. nicole says:

    If Bennish were giving his unrelated views on what a wonderful president he thought Bush to be he would still be teaching in that very classroom today. However, because his views differed from what we are all being told by the propaganda of our own government and media he is being punished. Views against our society are always considered propaganda, however views in favor are considered certainty.