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Old 03-08-2006, 01:12 PM   #1
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Teacher suspended over Bush-bashing

I know we've kind of discussed this in the past, but there's a new case: Jay Bennish, the high school teacher who has been suspended pending investigation into his Bush-bashing during classroom lecture. Apparently, the school district has extended the investigation because Bennish has been appearing on various talk shows defending himself.

Personally, I think they should give the guy one chance to shape up, and if he doesn't, fire him.

I believe in freedom of speech, but in the classroom, he's supposed to be teaching the students the subject the taxpayers are paying him to teach. From everything I've heard, he was teaching a geography class. Unless the definition of geography has changed since I was in high school, it has absolutely nothing to do with why this professor thinks Bush is on the same level as Adolf Hitler.

Apparently, the teacher's defense is that he was really presenting both sides of the debate and encouraging his students to engage in critical thinking...but that just doesn't hold water for me. According to the article, this teacher was, at times, devoting over half of his class time to Bush bashing, rather than geography. Let's face it: anyone else devoting over half of their work time to other pursuits would be fired, no matter the excuses they gave. Even if he was presenting both sides & encouraging critical thinking, that still isn't geography.

Whatever happened to teaching geography in a geography class and politics in a political science/government class? I'd have absolutely no problem with this if Jay Bennish were teaching debate or poli sci...but unless there's something big that everyone's missing (in other words, if geography=politics), this guy should be reprimanded, at the very least.


And I'd take the same position if Bennish had been bashing liberals. Geography class just isn't the place for it.


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Old 03-08-2006, 01:19 PM   #2
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Does this really need discussion? The guy is a moron and should be fired without getting his benefits.

**** him.


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Old 03-08-2006, 02:38 PM   #3
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Does this really need discussion?
We had a discussion on the topic a while back, in which many here defended the 'right' of college professors to spout political views in class...so I'm interested as to what people think about this guy.


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Old 03-08-2006, 04:35 PM   #4
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College is different.

Students are free to come and go, switch professors, etc.


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Old 03-08-2006, 05:06 PM   #5
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This, in my opinion, confirms my fear that fascism is on the rise in the US. Otherwise, they would have allowed the teacher to speak out against Bush.

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Old 03-08-2006, 05:17 PM   #6
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Clearly this guy has proven to be unfit to teach a geography class.

The only question I have, however, is why we only hear about radical liberal teachers/professors. Every philosophy has its radicals, and surely there's loony neo-con teachers out there as well making pro-Bush rants.

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Originally Posted by Alkonium
This, in my opinion, confirms my fear that fascism is on the rise in the US. Otherwise, they would have allowed the teacher to speak out against Bush.
So you think a teacher should be able to use their position of trust to impose their opinions on a captive audience? The average high school student is very ignorant and generally unintelligent, and if they hear their teacher ranting about whatever, they just might take it as if what the teacher is saying is fact rather than opinion.

There's a pretty clear difference between the silencing of dissent and keeping personal politics out of the curriculum in a PUBLIC school.
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Old 03-08-2006, 05:20 PM   #7
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Well, I suppose it's not really oppression if they did it for both sides, but so far, it looks like Bush is trying to silence his opponents. Looking at it though, I do see how Geography class could be political.

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Old 03-08-2006, 05:51 PM   #8
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This has always been against the rules for teachers from high school and down. I don't care if he said Bush was the reincarnation of Jesus or Bush was a a******, he disobeyed the rules and should, at minimum, be investigated. And I would expect the same thing to happen if he talked about any president.



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Old 03-08-2006, 06:40 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by Alkonium
Well, I suppose it's not really oppression if they did it for both sides, but so far, it looks like Bush is trying to silence his opponents. Looking at it though, I do see how Geography class could be political.
Show me how George Bush is moving to silence this guy...everything I've seen indicates the suspension & investigation is taking place at the school & district levels.


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Old 03-08-2006, 06:42 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by rccar328
Show me how George Bush is moving to silence this guy...everything I've seen indicates the suspension & investigation is taking place at the school & district levels.
That's something I was going to point out - but you beat me to it...
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Old 03-08-2006, 10:04 PM   #11
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LOL, I guess half the teachers in Montréal should be fired then

Seriously though, I don't think there's anything wrong with spending a few moments to talk about politics in a classroom even unrelated to the specific course.
In my french classes during the first few minutes of each course, we'd spend some time talking about any news we've heard.

Of course, it should not take most of the time, but talking a bit is still quite nice and certainly makes the teacher a bit closer to the kids, if said kids are allowed to talk.

I've also seen the exagerated version of this behavior. My current Western Civilization teacher spends too much time seriously bashing the US for no apparent reason. I don't want to hear about how evil the US is, we're talking about the bloody Greeks and the Romans...

Anyway, we'll see what the investigation shows. I don't think it's that bad unless it was done all the time.

On another note, my father once had a math teacher in Vietnam who spent all of his time talking about how great Adolf Hitler was He was fired because his students had poor grades.


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Old 03-09-2006, 12:51 AM   #12
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Originally Posted by lukeiamyourdad
LOL, I guess half the teachers in Montréal should be fired then

Seriously though, I don't think there's anything wrong with spending a few moments to talk about politics in a classroom even unrelated to the specific course.
In my french classes during the first few minutes of each course, we'd spend some time talking about any news we've heard.

Of course, it should not take most of the time, but talking a bit is still quite nice and certainly makes the teacher a bit closer to the kids, if said kids are allowed to talk.
I'd say a little discussion is definitely a good thing (as long as it's facilitated by the teacher, but the teacher doesn't take an active role)...but from the evidence I've seen/heard, this wasn't a discussion, it was a rant by the teacher...and it took 21 minutes out of a 40-minute class.


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Old 03-09-2006, 04:51 AM   #13
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Kinda reminds me of a Geography teacher I had at school, who essentially taught us that right-wing means greedy and selfish, whilst left-wing means kind and sharing. He also said that the Labour party was further to the left than the Lib Dems, who were supposedly a centrist party. This was only three or four years ago.


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Old 03-09-2006, 05:27 AM   #14
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This, in my opinion, confirms my fear that fascism is on the rise in the US. Otherwise, they would have allowed the teacher to speak out against Bush.
The problem here, as far as I see it, is that he spent too much time doing so. Sure, if your class is getting its work done, you can devote some time during a period to have a debate. However, devoting half of class time to Bush-discussions should not be allowed.

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Kinda reminds me of a Geography teacher I had at school, who essentially taught us that right-wing means greedy and selfish, whilst left-wing means kind and sharing. He also said that the Labour party was further to the left than the Lib Dems, who were supposedly a centrist party. This was only three or four years ago.
My little brother had a World Geography teacher who, quote, "spent the whole year telling us why communism sucked".

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Old 03-09-2006, 07:54 AM   #15
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Originally Posted by rccar328
I believe in freedom of speech, but in the classroom, he's supposed to be teaching the students the subject the taxpayers are paying him to teach. From everything I've heard, he was teaching a geography class. Unless the definition of geography has changed since I was in high school, it has absolutely nothing to do with why this professor thinks Bush is on the same level as Adolf Hitler.
I thought teaching both sides was a good thing?
(For a fun game: replace geography with biology and bush with intelligent design).

Geography has always been as much about social and economic situations as grographical ones... they really should rename it.

The best teachers are oftem the ones who get most involved in their work, and present the most challenging and thought provoking ideas... those are the ones you remember... not the ones who go through the sylabus letter for letter. But obviously there needs to be common sense limits.

I'm never a fan of firing people for (almost) anything without at least giving them a warning and a chance to shape up.

Quote:
He also said that the Labour party was further to the left than the Lib Dems, who were supposedly a centrist party. This was only three or four years ago.
Its not his fault, he's just about 5 years out of date.
Before labour reshaped itself by dumping all its old policies and stealling all the tory ones.



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Old 03-09-2006, 11:45 AM   #16
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Originally Posted by toms
I thought teaching both sides was a good thing?
(For a fun game: replace geography with biology and bush with intelligent design).

Geography has always been as much about social and economic situations as grographical ones... they really should rename it.

The best teachers are oftem the ones who get most involved in their work, and present the most challenging and thought provoking ideas... those are the ones you remember... not the ones who go through the sylabus letter for letter. But obviously there needs to be common sense limits.

I'm never a fan of firing people for (almost) anything without at least giving them a warning and a chance to shape up.
Teaching both sides is a good thing...if politics is the thing he's supposed to be teaching in the first place. But even if he was trying to teach 'social and economic situations', there are numerous unbiassed ways to teach, without resorting to political preaching.

I'll reiterate that if this guy taught debate or political science (or even government), and could show a lesson plan or something that indicated that his ranting was part of a planned lesson, I'd be fine with it. But if he had that evidence, it'd be out there by now.

The thing that get me, and that I'd really appreciate if the press would clarify is this: is this in any way related to what Bennish was supposed to be teaching? Part of the problem is that while it's pretty clear what geography is, apparently the teaching of the subject can get tied up in the politics of certain issues. However, does that warrant devoting over half of a class to a political rant? Having heard large portions of the rant, I think Bennish would be hard-pressed to justify its being related to a geography lesson, whether he 'presented both sides' or not.


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Old 03-10-2006, 08:48 AM   #17
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Well, our "geography" lessons always included elements of politics, economics, social science and other factors that you can use to break up the map.
Effects of economies on crops grown in a region etc...

In a way it was more like covering the topics in an atlas than purely geography.

Heck, i remember one geography assignment was to go up and down the high street making a note of what shops were where and how the type of shop changed in different areas.. what that has to do with terminal morraines i have no idea!

(but we spent hte whole afternoon in hmv listening to cds anyway... )



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Old 03-10-2006, 12:20 PM   #18
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Well, if it was a legitimate part of the class, I wish they'd use that as a defense, instead of this "I was presenting both sides" garbage. It doesn't matter if he was presenting both sides if it has nothing to do with the subject matter...but if it was part of the class, then he's okay.


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Old 03-13-2006, 11:07 AM   #19
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*tries hard to resist the bait of mentioning the "presenting both sides" issue relating to ID in biology classes* *faints from strain* *thud*

Quote:
Last December Peter Panse was suspended from his teaching job for apparently recommending that some of his advanced students consider taking figure drawing courses that included nude figure drawings.

In his discussions with students Mr. Panse mentioned several options for advancing their figure drawing skills; the local community college, a nearby frame shop that sponsors art classes, and the prestigious New York Academy of Art. He also described pre-college figure drawing programs at several other New York City art schools, and a highly successful art college prep program called the Mill Street Loft.

Panse was suspended from his teaching job pending hearings. Depending on the outcome of these hearings, he may be permanently fired, ending a 25-year teaching career. Panse is a National Board Certified Teacher (in Adolescent and Young Adult Art), the highest level of certification that a teacher can achieve in America. He is also one of only two National Board Certified Teachers in his New York District, and “is a trained Facilitator for helping teachers explore and pursue the requirements needed to achieve National Board Certification.
http://drawn.ca/2006/03/11/art-teach...awing-classes/

See, its always the good, interesting teachers who get in trouble. I know this because I've watched lots of american TV series set in schools and there is always an episode where the good, inspiring teacher gets fired for encouragin his kids to challenge authority

Why do they never just say "oi, we know you mean well, but we aren't sure that is suitable. Please stop from now on."? Instead its always "we know you have a long history as a good teacher, but we are going to suspend/fire you just cos you've done one thing we aren't sure about".



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Old 03-13-2006, 11:40 AM   #20
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IF his classes pass their exams, the teacher could start each class with a Heil Hitler for all I care. IF his classes don't pass their exams, then he could start all his classes with Ode an die Freude, and he should still be kicked out.

Quote:
Originally Posted by toms
Instead its always "we know you have a long history as a good teacher, but we are going to suspend/fire you just cos you've done one thing we aren't sure about".
You don't get it, Toms... It's "we know you have a long history as a good better teacher than we could ever hope to be, but therefore we are going to suspend/fire you"

The world is full of people wearing shoes that are too small for their own good.

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The only question I have, however, is why we only hear about radical liberal teachers/professors. Every philosophy has its radicals, and surely there's loony neo-con teachers out there as well making pro-Bush rants.
Yeah, the loony Crapservatives out there are called Creationists and Anti-abortionist activists. And they aren't fired, because the school boards that hire them are elected by stupid hillbillies who don't know squat about biology (or ethics), and want the teachers to preach GOD'S PLANTM.


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Old 03-13-2006, 02:24 PM   #21
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Originally Posted by ShadowTemplar
Yeah, the loony Crapservatives out there are called Creationists and Anti-abortionist activists. And they aren't fired, because the school boards that hire them are elected by stupid hillbillies who don't know squat about biology (or ethics), and want the teachers to preach GOD'S PLANTM.
Or maybe they actually teach the subject matter instead of preaching politics...

You have any evidence to back this up, or are you just spouting nonsense again?


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Old 03-14-2006, 08:22 AM   #22
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Exhibit A, mister.


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Old 03-14-2006, 01:42 PM   #23
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An intersting column on this topic: link

Some key passages:
Quote:
The teacher's lawyer talks about First Amendment rights to free speech but free speech has never meant speech free of consequences. Even aside from laws against libel or extortion, you can insult your boss or your spouse only at your own risk.
Quote:
While the public occasionally hears about weird rantings by some teacher or professor, what seldom gets any media attention is the far more pervasive classroom brainwashing by people whose views may not be so extreme, but are no less irrelevant to what they are being paid to teach. Some say teachers should give "both sides" — but they should give neither side if it is off the subject.

Academic freedom is the freedom to do academic things — teach chemistry or accounting the way you think chemistry or accounting should be taught. It is also freedom to engage in the political activities of other citizens — on their own time, outside the classroom — without being fired.

Nowhere else do people think that it is OK to engage in politics instead of doing the job for which they are being paid. When you hire a plumber to fix a leak, you don't want to find your home being flooded while he whiles away the hours talking about Congressional elections or foreign policy.
Quote:
All across the country, from the elementary schools to the universities, students report being propagandized. That the propaganda is almost invariably from the political left is secondary. The fact that it is political propaganda instead of the subject matter of the class is what is crucial.

Teachers are paid to do a job...and that job doesn't include political brainwashing. Anyone else from any other profession (with the exception of politicians & commentators) would be fired if they spent over half of their worktime spouting off about politics instead of doing what they were paid to do...but for some reason when it comes to education, we taint the debate with issues like academic freedom or freedom of speech, when, really, these issues have nothing to do with the issue at hand: a teacher who spouts off politically instead of teaching his/her subject matter is not doing his job.

As for judging by whether the students pass their exams, that depends on the exam. If a teacher is not covering all of their subject matter over the school year because they're spending so much time preaching politics, and then changes their exams to make up for it, then the exam is a meaningless measure of whether the teacher is doing his job. As for standardized tests, a really good teacher can teach to the test and have time left over for political rants, rather than spending that extra time taking students beyond the test and really developing their knowledge (I use the term "good" loosely here - a truly "good" teacher wouldn't be wasting time spouting off politically).


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Old 03-14-2006, 01:52 PM   #24
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rccar328
If a teacher is not covering all of their subject matter over the school year because they're spending so much time preaching politics, and then changes their exams to make up for it,
In any pre-college level schooling system that I have had experience with, teachers are GIVEN a course curriculum that they are expected to teach. They don't have the ability to alter it to fit their agenda. So if they can teach the entire curriculum and their students are passing and understanding, I don't think I really care if they're discussing sports, politics, or whatever.

Your analogy of other professions isn't taking into consideration what happens if you spend a great deal of time discussing politics but still get all of your work done. My guess? A promotion if you're doing your work really well.



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Old 03-15-2006, 08:12 AM   #25
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Originally Posted by ShadowTemplar
The world is full of people wearing shoes that are too small for their own good.
thats because every rises up until they reach the level where they can no longer cope... then they stop there.

-

It IS probably true that the teaching profession attracts more liberals than conservatives, as liberals tend to be more likely to go into altruistic jobs whereas conservatives tend to go into more high paid jobs.

But obviously in more conservative areas there will be a much higher concentration of conservatives, and in more liberal areas there will be a higher level of liberals. And i'd guess that those that are in the minority in either area will be more likely to run into trouble due to conflicting views.

Teaching creationism is no different than bashing bush (or promoting bush for that matter). Its still pushing your personal viewpoint on others. And proportionally there are just as many conservatives doing it as liberals... its just that as a conservative you probably don't read about it much, or don't notice it as a problem when you do.

There is always going to be some element of your personal beliefs in anything you do, but you probably should strive to keep it to a minimum.



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Old 04-12-2006, 02:14 PM   #26
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Originally Posted by Alkonium
This, in my opinion, confirms my fear that fascism is on the rise in the US. Otherwise, they would have allowed the teacher to speak out against Bush.

There are a myriad of laws baring government employees for spouting their political beliefs. The American people do not pay them for their oppinions, they pay them for their job. Their job is to educate in a fair and balanced way, without bias, without religion...the facts.

Also, IMO comparing Bush to Hitler is wrong, it denegrates the struggle of so many people, namely Jews. I also hate it when people say "MLK is rolling in his grave!", I've heard it so many times and again, it's just pithy and disrespectful.


In essence, I doubt you would feel the same had the teacher put Bush on a pedestle.
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