Monday, May 14, 2007

Honk if you've been canned

Something is fishy about this.
When the student asked the question about taking part in demonstrations, (Debbie) Mayer said, she replied that there were peace marches in Bloomington (Indiana), that she blew her horn whenever she saw a "Honk for Peace" sign, and that people should seek peaceful solutions before going to war.

A student complained to her father, who complained to the principal, who canceled the school's annual "Peace Month" observance and told Mayer never to discuss the war or her political views in class.

Mayer, who had been hired after the semester started and had received a good job evaluation before the incident, was dismissed at the end of the school year. The school said it was for poor performance, but the appeals court assumed that she had been fired for her comments and said the school had acted legally.

Hmmmmmm. I just don't see a teacher losing their job by simply saying "I honk for peace". Something tells me that the administration might have seen the potential for trouble down the road.

My main focus of interest was the issue of the protection of the 1st Amendment in the classroom. Obviously school is not a place to jump on your soapbox and try to create a little militia to go "Pinky and the Brain" on everyone. But according to the Federal Appeals courts, the teacher's right to free speech is "the commodity she sells to an employer in exchange for her salary." Although I understand that, we are employees by the way, when a kid asks the question, "Mr. Brown, are you against the war?", are you supposed to remain completely neutral on all opinions? Is saying "Yes" or "No" actual grounds for termination of employment, especially if we are trying to teach the next generation of critical thinkers?

"Teachers hire out their own speech and must provide the service for which employers are willing to pay," a three-judge panel of the Seventh U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said Jan. 24. "The Constitution does not entitle teachers to present personal views to captive audiences against the instructions of elected officials."

While I understand that statement that free speech doesn't mean that you can abuse the position as teacher, I think that last sentence creates a very slippery slope. At the very least it makes teacher's look over their shoulder yet again at every little thing that is said to kids. I'm not saying that I'm personally going to "live in fear" for the rest of my career (as CTA chief counsel Beverly Tucker stated), but what happens when the argument of "devil's advocate" comes up, or any other myriad of controversial issues. Is it wrong to say that the Bush Administration has mis-directed the war to a class that is learning about political issues? Evidence clearly shows that he has, and history shows that we let students know when these events occur (Reagan in Lebanon, Carter in Iran, Clinton in Somalia). Is this stating a political opinion, or presenting information?

I guess we'll just have to find out.

Thanks to the San Francisco Chronicle, which has a massive liberal bias and makes you wonder if Debbie Mayer would have been fired if she used an article out of the paper for discussion.

Wait! That means that I better never use Fox News as a source, as it has a massively conservative bias and it could get me fired if I use a report here in progressive Mendocino County.

*looks over shoulder*
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