Monday, March 06, 2006

Conservatives go after teacher for his political views

Audio Here

Before I get into this, let me say that I'm fully aware of the necessity of NOT indoctrinating your students and kids with your political beliefs. It's been my experience that the most powerful visionaries in society, regardless of place on the political spectrum, become strong through the development of their own political ideology through strong questioning rather than mimicry of others' perspectives.

So I am not at all satisfied with a teaching culture that places teachers above students, responsible for transmitting "correct" knowledge to their charges, and I commend efforts to change that culture.

What we have in this story however is a group of conservatives who are not taking issue with indoctrination, but with indoctrination of views they disagree with. In this particular case, students have been very supportive of the teacher and say that they have learned a lot. Critics don't seem to care--they think that this man should be silenced because of his viewpoints not his lack of teaching ability.

Look at Michelle Malkin's take on the story, for example. She doesn't critique the points. She doesn't address the fact the student doesn't produce evidence to support his claims, or even display much knowledge on the history of the situation. She's basically mad that the teacher did his job by providing counter-evidence to the students' questions. She's not mad that the teacher was talking too much and not letting the students interject. Quite the opposite, she actually mocks the other student who speaks on the tape. You can't just hate on people because they disagree with you. You have to engage their points.

Furthermore, the student Allen, who is now some kind of hero to many on the right, is breaking the law. Personally, I don't care about that. I don't think he should be charged of any serious crime, and I realize there is a wealth of perspectives on the right. However, I do think the people who use the "if you don't break the law, you have nothing to worry about" line of argument need to check themselves at this point. By any definition I know of, this kid is a criminal, who taped a section of a person's workday without their permission and then turned it over to folks who have allowed their hatred for the points being made overcome their ability to evalate the situation.

So if you want to criticize this teacher for having a bad day, and being too teacher-centered, fine. If you don't agree with his politics, fine, engage him with the tools of a marketplace of ideas. But how ironic is it that Malkin and friends are claiming to be in favor of a free expression classroom while calling this teacher "Unhinged" and "needing medical help" simply for disagreeing or asking questions they don't want to hear?

They show a complete and utter lack of understanding of what makes a good teacher--it's not conservative or liberal viewpoints, but the ability to encourage students to ask critical questions and challenge the social conventions of their surrounding, liberal or conservative.

As a teacher, I argue points that I utterly disagree with all the time to help my students learn. They need to be able to discern between a credible argument and a poorly support one regardless of political bent.

Obviously, Malkin didn't get this care from her teachers when she was learning. I don't think she's "unhinged" or "needing medical help", but a mild injection of empathy sure wouldn't hurt.


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