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Life Skills Support Teacher

Even Faculty Suffers for Being Free Thinking

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Recently, a popular and award winning science professor at Oregon State University was sacked just prior to finals week. No administrative explanation was given to the faculty member upon and since his dismissal. His teaching and publishing record was excellent save for one tiny details that rankled his department chair-- he openly questioned the science surrounding global warming. It was widely speculated among former associates that this was the reason for the dismissal, as the department chair was a leading advocate for man-made global warming theory and not surprisingly, attracted big research grants to investigate that theory.

So apparently at Oregon State University, good faculty can be sacrificed in favor of keeping up appearances with corporate or foundation donors who fund research.

All parents thinking about college for their children need to carefully vet the record of any school under consideration for how they treat dissenting views of faculty members as well as students.

Life Skills Support Teacher

Many Freedoms Are Being Compromised, Not Just Speech

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Frank: The limitations placed on student voices in the classroom can be generalized to the rest of society. Legitimate dissent or criticism in this marketplace of ideas can be mischaracterized in the harshest of terms by those who believe they are being unjustly targeted. They will resort to the most unscrupulous tactics to silence the opposition, even threaten with legal action in certain cases. In the matter of higher education professors-- rank, tenure, and the ability to attract major research dollars insulate many from accountability in their treatment of students.

As the title of this post asserts, this spills over into other areas of our lives. I find the effort to control the internet very chilling. Now we have airborne drones flying over us and looking out for what exactly?

Orwell saw it coming!

Executive Director, Student Press Law Center

Student rights: the missing link in civic ed

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Mark, please keep this discussion going, it's essential. Education is the only industry in America where "the customer is always wrong."
We will never effectively inculcate civics as long as constitutional rights are taught as an abstract concept in history books but not lived as a reality. Take the recent example of the student delegate to the Allentown, Pa., School Board, who was told after giving a truthful speech about ineffective teaching and lack of discipline that the assistant principal would have to vet her future speeches, because her comments were hurting the school's image. Or the student in Lenoir City, Tenn., who was prevented from publishing an editorial column decrying the inculcation of Christianity by her public school, on the grounds (the superintendent's words) that it might provoke "passionate conversation."
The censorship climate in public schools breeds cynicism and disconnect; it is a recipe for civic dis-engagement. You cannot get students engaged in the democratic process when they've seen that the democratic process does not work -- that their school board invariably sides with administrators over students regardless of the facts, and that there are no consequences when administrators violate the law and lie. The pendulum has swung much too far toward heavy-handed authoritarian control, and it is time for legislatures (and if not them, courts) to establish a reasonable middle ground.

Life Skills Support Teacher

Quote: I think that a teacher

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Quote:

I think that a teacher using the classroom as a bully pulpit for a particular political point of view is unconscionable, unethical, and unprofessional.

It happens all the time, especially at Catholic universities. For example, if you exhibit too much support for Israel's involvement with disputed West Bank territory, you get chopped off at the knees.

Life Skills Support Teacher

Quote: Before I told them

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Quote:

Before I told them who I voted for, after our election (held on the 'real' election day), I asked for a show of hands as to whom they thought I voted for.

Why was this important for them to guess your political orientation? I'm sure I could predict with near 100% certainty as to whom you voted for, since NEA members typically vote as a bloc and unilaterally for one party only.

Emeritus Classroom Teacher (grades 2/3 - 7/8) in South Brunswick, NJ

Elections

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It is true that the impulse to share one's political views -- especially in today's political climate -- is almost irresistible

My experience is on the elementary level -- where we teach about American democracy and the electoral process. From 1992 to 2008 my class (fourth or fifth or sixth grade, depending on the year...) ran our schoolwide Presidential election.

The kids learned about registering to vote and then registered voters in our school; they learned about signing the register by sitting at desks and signing voters in; they learned about voting by voting themselves and then instructing others on what to do; and each year they had to come up with a solution to the issue of -- how can we make the process work for voters who haven't learned to read yet?

(Their choice was always to put pictures as well as names on the ballot boxes.)

[Those were not the only Civics topics we addressed, but I need to stick to the point.....]

The last three elections were orchestrated by my fourth grade classes. We did discuss politics -- always on the terms they understood it -- and there was a lot of 'question and answer.' The kids often asked me who I was going to vote for. I always told them I would tell them after the election.

The 2008 election was particularly challenging for me. (Not as challenging as the 2012 election would be if I were doing it this year, though!) Before I told them who I voted for, after our election (held on the 'real' election day), I asked for a show of hands as to whom they thought I voted for.

Twelve were sure I voted for McCain; twelve were certain I voted for Obama. Three said they had no idea. I felt I had done my job well!

Co-Ed PassageWorks Institute

Here's an IDEA

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Mark: I always enjoy your blogs... thanks for this one! Do you know about IDEA?

IDEA, Institute for Democratic Education in America, is a national 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization whose mission is to ensure that all young people can engage meaningfully with their education and gain the tools to build a just, democratic, and sustainable world. @goodIDEAfolks
http://www.democraticeducation.org/

Cheers, Mark @mwilding

Teacher and Educational Journalist

Response to M.A. Hauck

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I think that a teacher using the classroom as a bully pulpit for a particular political point of view is unconscionable, unethical, and unprofessional. The art of teaching history is to expose students to varied perspectives and help them develop their own. Exposing biases of any sort in text materials should also be part of the teaching process.

I think time should also be spent helping students see the way in which the media manipulate the facts, whether the media is Fox news or MSNBC.

At the same time, there is no such thing as a value free classroom. The very act of including students in decision making and legitimizing their critiquing of one's own teaching, school policies and procedures, and district, state, and national policies, is a value laden act that some teachers and administrators may find threatening. And again, as your warning implies, this questioning needs to come from the students, not be an indoctrination based on the teacher's biases.

Thanks for your responses M.A.

Mark

Life Skills Support Teacher

The Worst Example of Political Bias in the Classroom

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The recent incident at a school in North Carolina, where social studies teacher Tanya Dixon-Neely ripped a student for criticizing the present POTUS during a classroom discussion by claiming that the student could be "arrested" for sharing his opinion. She also compounded her absurd claims by stating very adamantly that criticizers of George W. Bush were actually "arrested" during his time in office. However, the most egregious example of her bias was her warning that criticisms of Obama would "not be tolerated in my classroom!"

Life Skills Support Teacher

POTUS Election Year

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This is a time that I dread the most, because too many teachers and staff can't resist placing their own preferences or biases on display. Schools don't do enough to make the environment ideologically neutral. Politics are like religion, at least that's how I was raised. They should be kept private. It shouldn't be the business of your students or your immediate colleagues what your political preferences are. Instruction in the democratic process can be conducted in this way but it requires a disciplined teacher without a personal agenda. I am fully aware that many teachers feel it is their duty to indoctrinate students in a certain mode of thinking. This is especially true at the post-secondary level. My advice to parents is to scrutinize all materials given to their children, especially in social studies, history, economics, science, and language arts, to suss out questionable viewpoints or conclusions that may strain ideological boundaries.

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