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March 02, 2006

Unprofessional Conduct

I tread softly when it comes to politics in my classroom – the venom is saved for this blog.

My students know – generally – what my politics are, because as a social studies teacher I sometimes discuss current events along with history. But when I give opinions, I always label them as such, and I try to offer a rough balance in the discussion (including being the “devil’s advocate” for the side I disagree with if there isn’t a kid who can do it).

I cannot ever imagine doing this.

An Overland High School teacher who criticized President Bush, capitalism and U.S. foreign policy during his geography class was placed on administrative leave Wednesday afternoon after a student who recorded the session went public with the tape.

In the 20-minute recording, made on an MP3 player, teacher Jay Bennish described capitalism as a system "at odds with human rights." He also said there were "eerie similarities" between what Bush said during his Jan. 28 State of the Union address and "things that Adolf Hitler used to say."

The United States was "probably the single most violent nation on planet Earth," Bennish also said on the tape.

Bennish, who has been part of Overland's social studies faculty since 2000, did not return calls seeking comment Wednesday. Cherry Creek School District officials are investigating the incident, but no disciplinary action has been taken, district spokeswoman Tustin Amole said.

Bennish was placed on leave "to take some of the pressure off of him" during the investigation, which could wrap up in a week, Amole said.

I’ve got to tell you – at my school this guy would need a couple weeks off to get relief from the crap the rest of his colleagues would give him. We’re about 75% conservative, and even our socially liberal gay colleague is a Navy vet with somewhat hawkish views on foreign and military affairs. Personally, I’d be inclined to fire him for his abuse of his position, and I believe my colleagues would agree. Our objection would be his obvious ignorance and his polemical presentation, not the position he took.

Michelle Malkin has a transcript of the rant (audio here) that certainly would support terminating Bennish for cause.

Bennish: [tape begins with class already underway. Bennish completing an unintelligble statement about Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez.] Why do we have troops in Colombia fighting in their civil war for over 30 years. Most Americans don't even know this. For over 30 years, America has had soldiers fighting in Colombia in a civil war. Why are we fumigating coca crops in Bolivia and Peru if we're not trying to control other parts of the world. Who buys cocaine? Not Bolivians. Not Peruvians. Americans! Ok. Why are we destroying the farmers' lives when we're the ones that consume that good.

Can you imagine? What is the world's number one single cause of death by a drug? What drug is responsible for the most deaths in the world? Cigarettes! Who is the world's largest producer of cigarettes and tobacco? The United States!

What part of our country grows all our tobacco? Anyone know what states in particular? Mostly what's called North Carolina. Alright. That's where all the cigarette capitals are. That's where a lot of them are located from. Now if we have the right to fly to Bolivia or Peru and drop chemical weapons on top of farmers' fields because we're afraid they might be growing coca and that could be turned into cocaine and sold to us, well then don't the Peruvians and the Iranians and the Chinese have the right to invade America and drop chemical weapons over North Carolina to destroy the tobacco plants that are killing millions and millions of people in their countries every year and causing them billions of dollars in health care costs?

Make sure you get these definitions down.

Capitalism: If you don't understand the economic system of capitalism, you don't understand the world in which we live. Ok. Economic system in which all or most of the means of production, etc., are owned privately and operated in a somewhat competitive environment for the purpose of producing PROFIT! Of course, you can shorten these definitions down. Make sure you get the gist of it. Do you see how when, you know, when you're looking at this definition, where does it say anything about capitalism is an economic system that will provide everyone in the world with the basic needs that they need? Is that a part of this system? Do you see how this economic system is at odds with humanity? At odds with caring and compassion? It's at odds with human rights.

Anytime you have a system that is designed to procure profit, when profit is the bottom motive -- money -- that means money is going to become more important potentially than what? Safety, human lives, etc.

Why did we invade Iraq?! How do we know that the invasion of Iraq for weapons of mass destruction-- even if weapons had been found, how would you have known, how could you prove--that that was not a real reason for us to go there.

There are dozens upon dozens of countries that have weapons of mass destruction. Iraq is one of dozens. There are plenty of countries that are controlled by dictators, where people have no freedom, where they have weapons of mass destruction and they could be potentially threatening to America. We're not invading any of those countries!

0345.

[Pause.]

I'll give you guys another minute or two to get some of these [definitions] down. I agree with Joey. Try to condense these a little bit. I took these straight out of the dictionary.

Anyone in here watch any of Mr. Bush's [State of the Union] speech last night? I'm gonna talk a little about some of things he had to say.

0452

...One of things that I'll bring up now, since some of you are still writing, is, you know, Condoleezza Rice said this the other day and George Bush reiterated it last night. And the implication was that the solution to the violence in the Middle East is democratization. And the implication through his language was that democracies don't go to war. Democracies aren't violent. Democracies won't want weapons of mass destruction. This is called blind, naive faith in democracy!

0530.

Who is probably the single most violent nation on planet Earth?!

Unidentified brainwashed student interjects: We are.

The United States of America! And we're a democracy. Quote-unquote.

Who has the most weapons of mass destruction in the world? The United States.

Who's continuing to develop new weapons of mass destruction as we speak?!
The United States.

So, why does Mr. Bush think that other countries that are democracies won't wanna be like us? Why does he think they'll just wanna be at peace with each other?! What makes him think that when the Palestinians get their own state that they won't wanna preemptively invade Israel to eliminate a potential threat to their security just like we supposedly did in Iraq?! Do you see the dangerous precedent that we have set by illegally invading another country and violating their sovereignty in the name of protecting us against a potential future--sorry--attack? [Unintelligible.]

0625.

Why doesn't Mexico invade Guatemala? Maybe they're scared of being attacked. Ok. Why doesn't North Korea invade South Korea?! They might be afraid of being attacked. Or maybe Iran and North Korea and Saudi Arabia and what else did he add to the list last night - and Zimbabwe - maybe they're all gonna team up and try and invade us because they're afraid we might invade them. I mean, where does this cycle of violence end? You know?

This whole "do as I say, not as I do" thing. That doesn't work. What was so important about President Bush's speech last night--and it doesn't matter if it was President Clinton still it would just as important) is that it's not just a speech to America. But who? The whole world! It's very obvious that if you listen to his language, if you listen to his body language, and if you paid attention to what he was saying, he wasn't always just talking to us. He was talking to the whole planet. Addressing the whole planet!

He started off his speech talking about how America should be the country that dominates the world. That we have been blessed essentially by God to have the most civilized, most advanced, best system and that it is our duty as Americans to use the military to go out into the world and make the whole world like us.

0759.

Sounds a lot like the things that Adolf Hitler use to say.

We're the only ones who are right. Everyone else is backwards. And it's our job to conquer the world and make sure they live just like we want them to.

Now, I'm not saying that Bush and Hitler are exactly the same. Obviously, they are not. Ok. But there are some eerie similarities to the tones that they use. Very, very "ethnocentric." We're right. You're all wrong.

I just keep waiting. You know, at some point I think America and Mexico might go to war again. You know. Anytime Mexico plays the USA in a soccer match. What can be heard chanting all game long?

0841

Do all Mexicans dislike the United States? No. Do all Americans dislike Mexico? No. But there's a lot of resentment--not just in Mexico, but across the whole world--towards America right now.

We told--Condoleezza Rice said--that now that Hamas got elected to lead the Palestianians that they have to renounce their desire to eliminate Israel. And then Condoleezza Rice also went on to say that you can't be for peace and support armed struggle at the same time. You can't do that. Either you're for peace or war. But you can't be for both.

What is the problem with her saying this? That's the same thing we say. That is exactly the same thing this current administration says. We're gonna make the world safe by invading and killing and making war. So, if we can be for peace and for war, well, why can't the Palestinians be for peace and for war?!

0950.

*Student Sean Allen, who is taping Bennish's rant, speaks up:*

Allen: Isn't there a difference of, of, having Hamas being like, we wanna attack Israelis because they're Israelis, and having us say we want to attack people who are known terrorists? Isn't there a difference between saying we're going to attack innocents and we're going to attack people who are not innocent?

1007

Bennish: I think that's a good point. But you have to remember who's doing the defining of a terrorist. And what is a terrorist?

Allen: Well, when people attack us on our own soil and are actually attempting to take American lives and want to take American lives, whereas, Israelies in this situation, aren't saying we want to blow up Palestine...

Bennish: How did Israel and the modern Israeli state even come into existence in the first place?

Allen: We gave it to them.

Bennish: Sort of. Why? After the Israel-Zionist movement conducted what? Terrorist acts. They assassinated the British prime minster in Palestine. They blew up buildings. They stole military equipment. Assassinated hundreds of people. Car bombings, you name it. That's how the modern state of Israel was made. Was through violence and terrorism. Eventually we did allow them to have the land. Why? Not because we really care, but because we wanted a strategic ally. We saw a way to us to get a hook into the Middle East.

If we create a modern nation of Israel, then, and we make them dependent on us for military aid and financial aid, then we can control a part of the Middle East. We will have a country in the Middle East that will be indebted to us.

Allen: But is it ok to say it's just to attack Israel? If it's ok to attack known terrorists, it's ok to attack Israel?

Bennish: If you were Palestinians, who are the real terrorists? The Israelis, who fire missiles that they purchased from the United States government into Palestinian neighborhoods and refugees and maybe kill a terrorist, but also kill innocent women and children. And when you shoot a missile into Pakistan to quote-unquote kill a known terrorist, and we just killed 75 people that have nothing to do with al Qaeda, as far as they're concerned, we're the terrorists. We've attacked them on their soil with the intention of killing their innocent people.

Allen: But we did not have the intention of killing innocent people. We had the intention of killing an al Qaeda terrorist.

Bennish: Do you know that?

Allen: So, you're saying the United States has the intention to kill innocent people?

Now my basis for supporting a termination is NOT his politics. Rather, the problem comes down to the one-sided preaching of a particular ideology at students -- and one which contains repeated and obvious misrepresentations of historical facts. He was not educating his students, he was misinforming and indoctrinating them. What I do not object to is his detour into current events and government -- assuming the social studies standards in Colorado are similar to those in texas, there is a component of the standards that requires all social studies teachers to include relevant current issues and events in the course. The State of the Union address was therefore an appropriate topic -- his methods were the problem.

On the other hand, there are a couple of interesting little wrinkles here that struck me. The one is the use of the MP3 recorder. That would be forbidden at my school, under the policy forbidding the use of cell phones, CD players, radios and MP3s during the day. I wonder if the kid faces any sanctions for having brought and used the device to record the class.

The second involves Dad going to the media with the recording. I almost always oppose parents doing this, absent an immediate and serious threat to the physical well-being of the students. I suspect that this situation could have been resolved quickly without going to Mike Rosen, by a phone call to the principal or the superintendent. Heck, a call to a couple of school board members would have even been appropriate. Stay in the chain of command, folks, and try to resolve the situation there. Calling the press, especially as the first step, is like calling a lawyer – the result may be what you want, but it sets a bad precedent.

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» Church and State links with: Anti-Bush Teacher Outdone By Student



|| Greg, 09:24 PM || Permalink || Comments (12) || Comments || TrackBacks (1) ||

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» Church and State links with: Anti-Bush Teacher Outdone By Student, on March 03, 2006, 02:47 AM
Excerpt: under the First Amendment, the government (teachers) cannot establish a religion in schools. Bennish did just that. He established the religion of humanism ...

Comments on Unprofessional Conduct

There is a funny post about this over at HoT:

http://hammeroftruth.com/2006/03/02/teacher-suspended-for-insulting-hitler/

|| Posted by Retarded Lemming, March 2, 2006 11:45 PM ||

Sean Hannity had Sean Allen, the student who taped Bennish on his radio program. Allen said that the teacher did this on a regular basis. This 20 minute rant was not all that unusual.

While I would agree that the use of electronic devices is probably not a good idea for students, in this case would anyone believe this actually happened had we not heard the tape?

We've got lefty loons like Cindy Sheehan saying the most outrageous things. And when confronted, they usually deny saying them. Without a recording, it would be impossible to hold them accountable.

|| Posted by Mike's America, March 3, 2006 12:57 AM ||

75% conservative? Dude, where do you teach? My application's on the way there ...

|| Posted by rightwingprof, March 3, 2006 07:48 AM ||

What bugs me in the first place about all this is Bennish was teaching GEOGRAPHY. What the hell does any of this have to do with teaching GEOGRAPHY? A lot of people are already crying that this is censorship ala Wade Churchill all over again. In both cases, the messge delivered was totally inappropriate for the audience intended. If this had been done in some political science class, I could almost understand it. But, the kids had no reason to be subjected to a political lecture in a geography class. Bennish is just nuts, he needs more than a suspension. And, after treatment and time off, he needs to re-think whether or not he can teach geography or not. If he can't stick with the subject matter, he needs to pursue a different career. I feel pretty confident that's the route he'll be taking regardless.

Nice board, enjoyed the visit.

|| Posted by Moon, March 3, 2006 08:08 AM ||

Yes, where do you teach? I'd love to get a job in your district! Seriously, I don't think that taping one's classes is a problem -- it's a common way of going over notes taken to make sure one didn't miss anything. This guy Bennish went waaay over the line. I don't care what his ideology was. And I agree, there were several false "facts" that I caught, and he wasn't giving students any opposing point of view. Your point about going to the media is well taken. My husband agrees that it should have remained within the school system. However, perhaps now some attention will be paid to what has been a problem in many schools for many years. I look forward to it being addressed.

|| Posted by Pam, March 3, 2006 08:43 AM ||

"Stay in the chain of command, folks, and try to resolve the situation there."

Agreed in general. In our district, it's usually parents jumping the chain and calling a board member (who's usually family or a friend or business associate, etc.) or the superintendant (who's a genial, easily manipulated dimwit), instead of approaching the teacher, the principal, etc.

And then there are the teachers who head off legitimate complaints by going to a board member who just happens to be a family member, etc.

I'd like to know the back story on this incident, but I suspect that will never come out. It could be that a toxic administrative swamp caused the parent to side-step the chain of command—I know I might be tempted to do so here in our lil district where the entire administration is riddled with people who are too stupid to be teachers (save for perhaps two sterling mid-level admins who were once good principals but have now been promoted to their level of incompetence... *sigh*).

Tempted, though I'd still try the proper procedures first.

|| Posted by David, March 3, 2006 08:43 AM ||

What his students and parents think of him:

http://www.ratemyteachers.com/schools/colorado/aurora/overland_high_school/jay__bennish

http://www.ratemyteachers.com/schools/colorado/aurora/overland_high_school/jay__bennish/parent_ratings

|| Posted by MPH, March 3, 2006 10:01 AM ||

His class was considered "people geography. Those of you expecting him to be giving the capital of virginia need to do some homework. He lectures on things such as oil and it's impact on the middle east. His class was also a voluntary sign-up for honor students with his cirriculum available. The only reason he was pulled is because parents made a fuss.

Whether you agree with him or not, I remember watching GWB's address. I remember him speaking about how it was our DUTY to use our military to overtake other countries and re-make them in our image. I remember being highly disturbed.

|| Posted by Bryan, March 3, 2006 11:55 AM ||

I listened to the audio of TEACHER CAUGHT IN BUSH RANT, with great interest. Also, with sadness.

My name is Michael Class. I live in the Seattle area with my wife and two children. I am a retired "dot-com" executive turned author, photographer, and publisher.

I was appalled at how some teachers presented American history to my children. My son and daughter learned that Thomas Jefferson had slaves—before they learned that he wrote the document articulating our rights and duties as free people. European settlers killed Native Americans with blankets infected with smallpox, they found out. That allegation upstaged the stories of courage, perseverance, and curiosity that defined the pioneers. My children knew that more than a hundred thousand people died when the atomic bomb was dropped on Japan, but they were not made to understand the moral context and the enormous scale of the conflict called World War II in which the atomic bomb story fit.

With a curriculum seemingly designed to instill guilt and shame, I wondered, how will my kids ever discover the lessons of history that inspire greatness and noble aspirations? Will they ever believe that they can make a difference? Will they have any heroes left at all? Then, I wondered: What would the heroes of America’s past say to the children of today?

I wrote, photographed, and published a book designed to set the record straight, to properly prepare our children for the future. My book is called Anthony and the Magic Picture Frame.

If you know where I can reach 10th-grader Sean Allen, I will gladly send him a FREE copy of my book.

My book specifically rebuts the positions taken by teacher Jay Bennish - because I have heard his arguments so many times before. My book tells the truth about capitalism, the War on Terror, and places them in historical perspective.

In the book, my real-life son, twelve-year-old Anthony, time-travels into the great events of the 20th century. Digital photographic “magic” places Anthony in the cockpit of the Spirit of St. Louis with Charles Lindbergh, on the moon with Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, in the laboratories of Thomas Edison and Jonas Salk, and on Normandy beach on D-Day. It looks as though Anthony really did meet Thomas Edison, Jonas Salk, FDR, Lou Gehrig, Charles Lindbergh, and Audie Murphy. And it’s all historically accurate: Even Anthony’s conversations with America’s heroes are based on things they really said.

While writing and photographing the book, I spoke with relatives of famous scientists and inventors, Holocaust survivors, award-winning biographers, and others who could help me ensure that the facts of the book were both accurate and vivid.

But the book goes beyond a simple recitation of historical facts: the book presents the moral lessons of American history. The chapter about Lindbergh’s flight is really about choosing one’s destiny. The story of Lou Gehrig is one of a virtuous life. The chapter about Thomas Edison is really about business. The story of Apollo 11 is about wonder, taking risks, and courage. The story of Dr. Jonas Salk and the cure for polio is really about dedicating one’s life to a higher purpose. When Anthony “meets” his immigrant great-grandfather at Ellis Island in 1907, it’s really a story about what it means to be an American. Anthony’s observation of D-Day and the liberation of the death camps during the Holocaust is a testament to the reality of evil and the need to fight it.

The book is meant to challenge the young reader. Many adults will find the book challenging, too. Anthony COMPARES the people and events of the past with the people and events of his own time. Anthony discusses the nature of good and evil, right and wrong, war and peace, what it means to be an American, honor and discipline, success and achievement, courage and destiny, marriage and family, God and purpose. Anthony’s observations prompt serious discussion of timeless moral questions. Anthony challenges the reader to think critically - to see the modern world in the light of the lessons of the past.

We can't afford to raise a generation of Americans who do not value their country, their heritage, and their place in the world. As Abraham Lincoln said: America is the "last best hope of earth."

Thank you.

Michael S. Class
Author / Photographer / Publisher

Anthony and the Magic Picture Frame: An American History Book for Right-Thinking Parents and Their Children

-----------------------

E-Mail: class@MagicPictureFrame.com
Web site: www.MagicPictureFrame.com

|| Posted by Michael Class, March 3, 2006 12:56 PM ||

I can't agree with you Greg. I would go directly to the media, and not waste time with any school administration.

Way too often they close ranks and punish the student. Look at zero intelligence...er...zero tolerance regulations. Look at the NYC schools doping kids with Ritalin & threatening parents with Child Services then the complain (NY Post expose' about two years ago).

No way. If what is being said in your classroom cannot stand being exposed to the public, then why would you say it in the first place?

Tristan

|| Posted by Tristan Phillips, March 3, 2006 02:10 PM ||

Bryan: Not sure which State of the Union speech you were watching. Are you sure you didn't tune into a routine on the Daily Show by mistake?

If helping nation's around the world combat disease, poverty and terrorism is disturbing to you, you may wish to consider a course of therapy.

But I guess if you are the product of a "people geography" course you probably do think that the United States is the focus of evil in the world.

You might want to convert to Islam.

|| Posted by Mike's America, March 3, 2006 10:38 PM ||

I don't, Mike, as someone who teaches in the social studies field, I don't have a problem with the content of the course as Bryan outlines it. The "human geography" 9as it is more commonly called) approach to geography includes "names and places", but simply goes beyond that to study what factors influence settlement patterns, economic development, and culture. Such a class should not be a propaganda class.

|| Posted by Rhymes With Right, March 4, 2006 08:21 AM ||
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