March 7, 2006

Free Speech or just a butthead?

I am sure you have heard by now the controversy surrounding the geography teacher in Colorado who went off on a rant against the President following the State of the Union Address. The issue at hand is he did it in his geography class. A student recorded 20 minutes of the hate-filled diatribe.

The teacher compared Bush to Hitler and claimed the Chinese and the Columbians had the right to bomb North Carolina because that state grows "killer tobacco". According to the student, this shouting lecture was not unusual, nor was the bias contained.

The teacher appeared on the Today Show this morning to offer his defense. He claimed it is his duty as a teacher to offer opposing points of view. He maintained that political discussion is applicable to a geography class because the President's speech affects people all over the world. He maintains he offered a disclaimer that the students should think on the issues themselves and that he may not be right. He is determined his right of free speech and his duties as a teacher are being infringed. For Matt lauer, the clear evidence is that the student shopped the tape to various conservative radio talk shows, as if that made the student some kind of pariah.

I have stated on these pages many times my belief that education is a life-long process. I also believe that discussion of the issues and extraneous subjects do have a place in the classroom, especially in high school. When I was in high school we listened to the recordings of Lenny Bruce in advanced speech class. That lead to a several day long discussion of censorship, free speech and comedy. I do believe a teacher should lead and facilitate those periphial discussions, not lecture the students.

In a college history class we watched films of the march on Selma. A general discussion on race and civil rights was held afterward. We had several Black students in the class and their viewpoint was very interesting for a white boy from an all-white county. We were able to discuss the issue from the white and black point of view. The professor forced us to consider the point of view of the white people in Alabama at the time. While we could not agree, we at least tried to see their viewpoint. That is facilitating a discussion. Lecturing and shouting in an angry voice that Bush is no better than Hitler because we want to force our viewpoint upon the world is teaching hate.

I am all for free speech. The Colorado teacher has every right to his viewpoint. The small consolation and disclaimer at the end of his lecture was not enough. Young minds are easily molded. The Spartans, the Nazis, Mao, Stalin, and the modern Wahabbist teachers know this. The imprint of socialism imprinted by this teacher will have a lasting influence. Of course I seriously wonder something. Imagine this had been a teacher of biology teaching creationism as another viewpoint. Would Matt Lauer and the leftists in this country be defending the teacher's right of free speech? Would they be claiming he was only offering an alternate viewpoint? i think we know the answer to THAT.

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