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Teachers who know too much

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#1 Drew

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Posted 08 June 2004 - 09:17 PM

Here's an interesting story . . .

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I was a high-school English teacher for three years, and recently ran screaming back to the arms of the private sector. I personally had no bad experiences with the NEA, but I'll say this: thinking that the NEA is the only thing wrong with American education is like thinking Bin Laden is the only thing wrong with Islamic extremism. Teachers are expected to "open kids' minds" and "teach them to think for themselves," yet at the same time we don't dare say or do anything that might possibly offend the parents. Kids with criminal records have a "right" to an education, but teachers don't have the right to know that their students are dangerous. Special-ed kids cannot be disciplined at all. Failures cannot be held accountable for their failure, because that might damage the kids' self-esteem.

. . . I taught "Merchant of Venice" to seniors one year; in it there's a line where one character is insulting another, by saying something along the lines of "He damns the ears of all who hear him, by calling him 'fool.'" One of the kids asked me what that meant, so I explained that one of the lesser-known verses of the Book of Matthew has Jesus saying that anyone who calls another a fool will be damned. (I recited chapter and verse, though I can't remember it now.) I went on to talk about the very funny use Voltaire made of that in his essay "The Jesuit Berthier" (an angel tells a priest to stop giving his stupid, boring sermons, because instead of winning souls for God he's endangering the souls of all who hear him, because they all call him a fool), and explained also that this is why cartoony villians in movies developed the habit of using "Fool!" as their default insult; for people familiar with the Bible, the fact that the villian always says "Fool!" is just one more proof that this is an evil, evil dude.

"So anyway," I said to the class, "back in Shakespeare's day, when people were far more familiar with the Bible than they are now, instead of insulting someone by saying 'You are a fool,' you'd say 'You are a--well, I can't SAY what you are because then I'd go to hell.' That's what he's doing in the play."

Next day I get called into the principal's office; some parents were FURIOUS that I had told their kids that Jesus said anyone who says 'fool,' will go to Hell.

"But he did," I pointed out.

"It doesn't matter, Jennifer. You can't insult kids' religions."

"Well, the kid asked me what that line from the play meant! What was I supposed to do?"

"Just tell him you don't know."

And the follow-up:

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I don't teach anymore. Last June was the end of my three-year teaching career. My contract was non-renewed for various reasons circled on a form-letter, including "insufficient respect for student-body diversity" and "does not motivate students to participate in the learning process." . . .

. . . I too was surprised by the lack of uproar about Shylock, but I suspect it may have been because there was a bit of--not so much anti-Jewish sentiment, as anti-non-Catholic sentiment--at the school. Almost every member of the student body was a Roman Catholic of Portuguese descent; in the point-by-point rebuttal I wrote after losing my job, I mentioned the "diversity" charge and wrote "If I didn't respect it, that's only because it wasn't there."

Sadly this apparently isn't an uncommon occurence.
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#2 ZipperInt

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Posted 08 June 2004 - 09:22 PM

Pathetic. These kind of teachers should be more commonplace, not fired because of some asinine parents and politically correct rules.
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#3 Guest-2112st-Guest

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Posted 08 June 2004 - 09:36 PM

Sadly, I'm not surprised.  :sarcasm:

Two stories from my neck of the woods (New York City area):

1) A few years ago, in the New York City area, there was a white teacher who had a class of primarily black students. She was reading to them a children's book entitled "Knappy Hair." I believe it had to do with a black child coming into her own in a black culture. The author was black.

When parents learned that this teacher was reading this book to them, they were furious. Even after the author of the book came to the teacher's defense, some parents complained that a white teacher shouldn't be teaching things about black culture to black kids.

The teacher quit shortly afterward.


2) In the Newark, New Jersey area, the lack of available teachers was so bad that recruiters were sent to India-that's right, India-to hire teachers. For those who don't know, Newark is a city with a rather rough history. It's not the kind of place you'd want to walk around at night.

I can imagine the culture shock these Indian teachers would encounter-especially 9 and 10-year olds telling them to "f**k off, motherf***er".

Now, kids as young as 8 and 9 don't hesitate to talk that way to adults. The kids on my school bus talk to me that way, as well as to their teachers. And it's not just isolated to this school.

If this is the future of America, be afraid. Be VERY afraid.

:pout:

Saul

Edited by 2112st, 08 June 2004 - 09:41 PM.


#4 Cheile

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Posted 08 June 2004 - 09:48 PM

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Special-ed kids cannot be disciplined at all.

i'd like to know where it says this (edit for clarification - when this rule took effect).  i've seen special-ed kids get disciplined (i.e. detention, extra homework)

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"It doesn't matter, Jennifer. You can't insult kids' religions."

"Well, the kid asked me what that line from the play meant! What was I supposed to do?"

"Just tell him you don't know."

oh yea and then have the parents call up claiming the teacher should be fired because they don't know how to teach! :wacko:

Edited by Cheile, 08 June 2004 - 09:49 PM.

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#5 Guest-2112st-Guest

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Posted 08 June 2004 - 09:49 PM

I like this part, from Drew's link:

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Next day I get called into the principal's office; some parents were FURIOUS that I had told their kids that Jesus said anyone who says 'fool,' will go to Hell.

"But he did," I pointed out.

"It doesn't matter, Jennifer. You can't insult kids' religions."

"Well, the kid asked me what that line from the play meant! What was I supposed to do?"

"Just tell him you don't know."

The late Carl Sagan would be rolling in his grave now.  :sarcasm:

Pick up his book THE DEMON HAUNTED WORLD: SCIENCE AS A CANDLE IN THE DARK, and read what he had to say about the quality of education in the U.S. This book is a MUST read, by the way. It's one of the most important books I've ever read.

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#6 Nick

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Posted 08 June 2004 - 10:01 PM

I think this particular case has more to do with a teacher's lack of tact than "too much knowledge."

I agree that sometimes public education gets too bogged down in being afraid to do anything that isn't politically correct, but I don't think this is what happened here.

It sounds to me that "Jennifer" wasn't "too knowledgeable", but being tactless. This is much the same way a teacher has to be very careful when discussing religion, race, sex, etc.  She didn't have to tell the kids "I don't know", but she could've put it a bit more delicately.  For example:

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"So anyway," I said to the class, "back in Shakespeare's day, when people were far more familiar with the Bible than they are now . . .

That's an indelicate statement if I've ever heard one.  I can see how a devoutly christian student would take offense to this . . . "back in Shakespeare's day" a lot more people were illiterate . . . I can see how this can make someone feel the teacher is telling them they don't know very much about their own religion.  I'd be a little put off myself--but mostly because she just sounds really snotty here.

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Wow, wow, wow. Today, for the first time, I learned that someone I don't even know has linked to my Web page, and then I get home and found THIS! My poor boyfriend will just have to deal with the fact that I'll be positively OOZING smugness all night.

Methinks he's already been dealing with that for some time now . . .

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I actually did have an administrator advise me once that I would "get more respect from the boys if you made yourself less pretty." Since the administrator in question was considerably less than pulchritudinous herself, I merely shrugged it off.

:rolleyes: I'm not even gunna touch that one, except for pointing out that it makes her sound even more vain . . . and tossing around words like "pulchritudinous" just makes you sound even more arrogant and pretentious.

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My contract was non-renewed for various reasons circled on a form-letter, including "insufficient respect for student-body diversity" and "does not motivate students to participate in the learning process." (I'm paraphrasing a bit here; I have the actual form stashed away somewhere but don't feel like digging it out.)

You can't even motivate yourself to look for a form.  I can't imagine why the students were bored with you.

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Almost every member of the student body was a Roman Catholic of Portuguese descent; in the point-by-point rebuttal I wrote after losing my job, I mentioned the "diversity" charge and wrote "If I didn't respect it, that's only because it wasn't there."

I'll admit, I was pissed off and non-sober. Bad combination. Add to that the knowledge that I no longer had a damn thing left to lose, and the result was pretty scathing.

Sounds very unprofessional to me.  "They're all a bunch of Portuguese Catholics, there's no diversity to respect!"  And that she wrote her rebuttal while drunk doesn't make her sound any better at all.

She goes on to complain about how teachers are expected to continue taking courses to "keep their knowledge of subject current."  Some gems:

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I could justify that by making two points: first, if doctors make mistakes people will die, and second, medicine truly does evolve over time, and doctors today have tools available that they wouldn't have had twenty years ago.

Compare that to literature: as a little girl I learned that Nathaniel Hawthorne wrote The Scarlet Letter, a book using an adulterous woman to demonstrate the hypocrisy of Puritan values. When I got to college Hawthorne was *still* the author of the Scarlet Letter, which still dealt with the themes of hypocrisy and such; Hawthorne will likely remain the author of the book, which will continue to discuss hypocrisy, long after I am dead.

One of the whole reasons the classics are still read and taught and important is that they're relevant.  Our changing world and current events shape our perceptions of these works, new criticisms are published all of the time, and various classic works fall in and out of favor . . . Literature isn't some frozen slab of stone, never changing, new authors write new books which eventually become classics as well.  Of *course* you have to stay current!  If she really had a passion for literature, one would expect her to continue studying it!!

I agree with her on some points--she mentions that the adminstration chided her for giving a D-minus student a zero on a paper that was copied word-for-word off of the internet because it would keep him from graduating and that was too harsh . . . mmmkay, kick that administrator firmly in the kneecaps . . . but some of her complaints I just find appalling and frankly, I'm not that surprised she didn't make tenure. (FWIW, she wasn't truely "fired" as her school district hires on an "at-will" basis for the first three years, afterwards they must be tenured or let go.)

-Nick

#7 Guest-2112st-Guest

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Posted 08 June 2004 - 10:08 PM

Cheile, on Jun 9 2004, 02:46 AM, said:

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Special-ed kids cannot be disciplined at all.

i'd like to know where it says this (edit for clarification - when this rule took effect).  i've seen special-ed kids get disciplined (i.e. detention, extra homework)

LMFAO-well, let me tell you: at the school I go to, these kids are LOADED up with sugar EVERY OTHER DAY when they come on my bus. These kids I have are BAD. And loaded up with sugar, they bounce off the walls.

One time, a teacher brought  one kid out to the bus and was about to offer him candy. I got very annoyed and said, "Excuse me! I don't want hyperactive kids on my bus!! Please don't give him that candy!!"

The teacher then asked me to give him the candy when he got off; I nodded half-heartedly. When he got off, I didn't give it to him. I figured-I'm not going to contribute to this nonsense.  :glare:

Another time, some teacher decided to give them sweets as a reward for a class assignment. The teachers were about to give them the candy as they got onto the bus. I said again, "No candy please! I don't want them eating candy on my bus!"

After some "negotiations", the bus aide agreed to give them the candy as they got off. One kid got EXTREMELY angry that he couldn't get candy right then and there, and literally went apesh!t. I had to wait a good 10-15 minutes before the teachers calmed him down.  :sarcasm:

I turned to one teacher, and said, "These kids are too hyper. I don't need hyperactive kids on my bus. I'm driving a 17,000 pound vehicle here. I don't need them going crazy on my bus."

She replied, "But this was another teacher's idea-it was a reward for doing a class assingment!"

I looked straight into her eyes and said, "I don't care. These kids SHOULDN'T be eating candy."

And the security guard backed me up, saying the same thing. The security guard had more brains than the teachers. :sarcasm:

Believe me-I've been doing this job for longer than I care to admit-and I've seen some REAL screwballs in charge of looking after these kids.

:angry:

Saul

(edited for clarity)

Edited by 2112st, 08 June 2004 - 10:16 PM.


#8 Lord of the Sword

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Posted 08 June 2004 - 10:24 PM

This, sadly, doesn't surprise me at all.

I have an Aunt who is a teacher. She teaches remedial reading. She got injured while at work because she broke up a fight between two students. Initially the school board, and the principle, were against her; saying that she shouldn't have gotten involved in trying to break up the fight. This was in opposition to her getting disability for awhile. She actually had to go to court so that she could get disability.

My other Aunt has a friend, who IMO is an unfit mother, whose son was only given like a 2 day suspension for cursing a teacher out. Back when I was that age if I cursed out the teacher the way this kid did, my mother would've put me in the hospital.

The PC attitude of this country, as a whole, is extremely frightening. You have parents who scream bloody murder as soon as somebody even looks at their child wrong, because GOD knows their child is perfect. Yet, at the same time, they expect everyone and their mother to look after their child and take responsibility for them.

You have teachers' that can't teach, because what the students might learn might offend the parents...

Got to love the "Right Not to be offended."

When I have children I think I'll enroll them in a private school. You know a school that will actually teach the child.
"Sometimes you get the point of the sword, sometimes the edge, sometimes the flat of the blade (even if you're the Lord of the Sword) and sometimes you're the guy wielding it. But any day without the Sword or its Lord is one that could've been better  " ~Orpheus.

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#9 Guest-2112st-Guest

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Posted 08 June 2004 - 10:55 PM

LORD of the SWORD, on Jun 9 2004, 03:22 AM, said:

This, sadly, doesn't surprise me at all.

I have an Aunt who is a teacher. She teaches remedial reading. She got injured while at work because she broke up a fight between two students. Initially the school board, and the principle, were against her; saying that she shouldn't have gotten involved in trying to break up the fight. This was in opposition to her getting disability for awhile. She actually had to go to court so that she could get disability.

My other Aunt has a friend, who IMO is an unfit mother, whose son was only given like a 2 day suspension for cursing a teacher out. Back when I was that age if I cursed out the teacher the way this kid did, my mother would've put me in the hospital.

The PC attitude of this country, as a whole, is extremely frightening. You have parents who scream bloody murder as soon as somebody even looks at their child wrong, because GOD knows their child is perfect. Yet, at the same time, they expect everyone and their mother to look after their child and take responsibility for them.

You have teachers' that can't teach, because what the students might learn might offend the parents...

Got to love the "Right Not to be offended."

When I have children I think I'll enroll them in a private school. You know a school that will actually teach the child.
I'm avoiding having kids altogether; a messy educational system being one in an ENDLESS list of reasons.

:(

#10 Anakam

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Posted 08 June 2004 - 11:20 PM

I believe :wacko: sums up a large portion of this rather nicely.

BTW, I'm struggling not to get started on the social promotion thing (while taking Ed class I developed a couple of specific interests, and that was one of them... you could probably say it's my pet peeve interest ;) ).
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#11 ZipperInt

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Posted 08 June 2004 - 11:42 PM

Social promotion - what's that?
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#12 Norville

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Posted 09 June 2004 - 12:45 AM

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I'm avoiding having kids altogether; a messy educational system being one in an ENDLESS list of reasons.

Amen, man, amen. :crazy:
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#13 Rov Judicata

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Posted 09 June 2004 - 12:48 AM

ZipperInt, on Jun 8 2004, 09:40 PM, said:

Social promotion - what's that?
Assuming that wasn't meant as ironic, it's the practice of promoting kids to the next grade even if they haven't earned it so that they stay with their friends and don't feel bad about themselves. It's a great way to teach kids that actions don't have consequences.

On the specific topic of this thread however: I would advise against taking these at face value. As plausible as these sound, they are strictly anecdotal and one-sided. There's no way for us to get the other side of the story, so to speak. I also think Nick did a great job of demonstrating how complex these situations can be..

Edited by Javert Rovinski, 09 June 2004 - 12:49 AM.

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#14 Bad Wolf

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Posted 09 June 2004 - 01:03 AM

Well assuming the account is true, I find responses like Nick's appalling.  Yes, let's bend over BACKWARDS to excuse the school for firing someone for having the temerity to actually answer a question instead of (as suggested) lying and saying "I don't know".  Yup that's EXACTLY what kids need.

:glare:  :wacko:  :glare:
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#15 Lord of the Sword

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Posted 09 June 2004 - 01:15 AM

Javert Rovinski, on Jun 9 2004, 12:46 AM, said:

On the specific topic of this thread however: I would advise against taking these at face value. As plausible as these sound, they are strictly anecdotal and one-sided. There's no way for us to get the other side of the story, so to speak.
Could that be because the other side really has no case? LOL

I mean we're talking about school systems that have banned students from celebrating halloween...all because a few students don't celebrate it and they don't want those students to feel shunned. (not sure if this particular school does that or not)

I'm sorry, but the educational system in this country has, IMO, pretty much been flushed down the toliet...all for the sake of not offending parents.
"Sometimes you get the point of the sword, sometimes the edge, sometimes the flat of the blade (even if you're the Lord of the Sword) and sometimes you're the guy wielding it. But any day without the Sword or its Lord is one that could've been better  " ~Orpheus.

The Left is inclusive, and tolerant, unless you happen to think and believe different than they do~ Lord of the Sword

Looks like the Liberal Elite of Exisle have finally managed to silence the last remaining Conservative voice on the board.

“The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots & tyrants. It is it’s natural manure.” ~Thomas Jefferson

#16 Lord of the Sword

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Posted 09 June 2004 - 01:28 AM

Quote

It sounds to me that "Jennifer" wasn't "too knowledgeable", but being tactless. This is much the same way a teacher has to be very careful when discussing religion, race, sex, etc. She didn't have to tell the kids "I don't know", but she could've put it a bit more delicately. For example:

"So anyway," I said to the class, "back in Shakespeare's day, when people were far more familiar with the Bible than they are now . . .

That's an indelicate statement if I've ever heard one. I can see how a devoutly christian student would take offense to this . . . "back in Shakespeare's day" a lot more people were illiterate . . . I can see how this can make someone feel the teacher is telling them they don't know very much about their own religion.

Since when is truth an indelicate statement? As for a student feeling the teacher is telling them they don't know much about religion....that's a stretch, even for me. Besides, since the students asked what it meant, obviously they *didn't* know.

Quote

One of the whole reasons the classics are still read and taught and important is that they're relevant. Our changing world and current events shape our perceptions of these works, new criticisms are published all of the time, and various classic works fall in and out of favor . . .

Guess Shakespeare was out of favor with that school then, huh. Perhaps these students would be more comfortable with "The Cat in the Hat"?  :sarcasm:

Quote

I'm not that surprised she didn't make tenure. (FWIW, she wasn't truely "fired" as her school district hires on an "at-will" basis for the first three years, afterwards they must be tenured or let go.)

Actually, neither am I. I mean, a teacher that actually teaches....Heaven forbid. Nope, the school board can't have that, can they?  :sarcasm:
"Sometimes you get the point of the sword, sometimes the edge, sometimes the flat of the blade (even if you're the Lord of the Sword) and sometimes you're the guy wielding it. But any day without the Sword or its Lord is one that could've been better  " ~Orpheus.

The Left is inclusive, and tolerant, unless you happen to think and believe different than they do~ Lord of the Sword

Looks like the Liberal Elite of Exisle have finally managed to silence the last remaining Conservative voice on the board.

“The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots & tyrants. It is it’s natural manure.” ~Thomas Jefferson

#17 Bad Wolf

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Posted 09 June 2004 - 01:32 AM

Well said LOTS!    :cool:
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#18 White Tiger

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Posted 09 June 2004 - 02:02 AM

Una...what does "temerity" Mean? and are U just showing off?;)
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#19 Bad Wolf

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Posted 09 June 2004 - 02:16 AM

White Tiger, on Jun 9 2004, 12:00 AM, said:

Una...what does "temerity" Mean? and are U just showing off?;)
temerity=guts, gall, chutzpah, balls...

How DARE they do this.  What TEMERITY.

You get the idea...;)

As for showing off?  Well, no.  That's just my vocabulary.   :blush:
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#20 White Tiger

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Posted 09 June 2004 - 03:37 AM

My Vocabulary on a good day is
"Hey You.."
and
"Come here.."
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