The right wing blogs are aflutter about the story of Jay Bennish, the Colorado history teacher who indoctrinated poor conservative student Sean Allen, who was so traumatized by his experience that he needed to be comforted by Sean Hannity and Neil Cavuto. Given his rotation around the Faux News Channel discussing the dangers of propaganda, Mr. Allen may have a case against his school district. His 9th grade English teacher certainly failed to cover irony.
Look, there is no doubt that Bennish was failing (in that clip) to teach traditional geography, and that his approach was over the line. The audio tape does sound much more like a political diatribe than a lecture or discussion. It’s unhinged, even.
Once again, though, the media is following the Rush Limbaugh playbook. Let’s not have a debate about the role of indoctrination in schools–from both left and right perspectives. Let’s not talk about social studies text books that are censored to appease conservatives, the impact of the push for patriotism in schools, or the systematic stifling of dissent. Instead, let’s make the debate about one extreme teacher, suggesting that American schools are hotbeds of liberal socialism. That way, we can inflame the right and have ‘meaningful’ discourse about a non-existent problem.
Education should do something more than encourage rote memorization about facts. It should stir the minds of students, force them to confront new ideas, and make them better prepared to debate the issues facing the world. If anything, there are far too many teachers who fail to engage students in controversial dialogue than too many who try to indoctrinate them. It’s unfortunate that Mr. Bennish didn’t seem to use dialogue, but even in this extreme case, didn’t his students probably learn more arguing against him than if they had spent the period filling out a worksheet with the capitals of South American countries?
But, hey, what do I know? I’m just a teacher.
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.
Bring a recorder in any time, Mr. Lifson. You might learn something.
Update: Actually, these guys are kind of amusing. I think the article “Strange Times at Santa Monica High” aptly summarizes the depth of thought of those opposing left-wing indoctrination in our schools. Good stuff.
Many American students study under welfare-state-supporting, gun-grabbing, Constitution-ignoring leftists who suppress dissent.