December 09, 2013

One Of Those Times I Agree With The Teacher, Not The Student

I wanted to be upset over this story. I mean, the headline made it sound like it was a really outrageous abuse of power by the teacher – requiring a student to write that which she did not believe. That isn’t what happened, though.

Abigail Cornejo is a Sophomore at Palatine High School in a small town in Illinois who merely wanted to write a paper on the controversial topic of abortion. But her English teacher had something else in mind and told Conejo she couldn’t write on the topic — and if she did, she would have to write from the pro-abortion perspective.

“My English class is doing a controversial issue research paper,” Abigail told LifeNews. “My English teacher, Mr. David Valentino originally told the class we may not do abortion, euthanasia, or legalization of marijuana. I asked why we couldn’t do infanticide, abortion and he replied with, ‘I’ve read too many papers on it. I don’t care anymore.’”

There it is – the teacher excluded the topic of abortion. I might not agree with that decision or the reason for it, but it is perfectly acceptable for a teacher to put some parameters and limitations on an assignment.

But that wasn’t good enough for the student.

She continued: “The next day, for my controversial topic I wrote down abortion and he refused to approve my topic. I asked, ‘Why not? You don’t even have a good reason.” He replied in his I’m higher than you and you have to listen to me voice, ‘It’s an ethical debate. I don’t have to have a reason you aren’t doing abortion.’ We quickly argued about it being an ethical debate and then I told him I’m still going to do abortion and his reply was, “‘If you write a paper on abortion I will not read it and you will get an F. This is an essential writing assignment and if you get an F you will fail this class and have to retake it in the summer or next year. It’s your choice I hope you make the right decision.’”

At this point, Abigail was being a brat. She knew what the parameters of the assignment were, she knew that the topic she wanted to write on was excluded from the permissible topic, and she continued to press the issue. Personally, I would been calling the parents right then, explaining that the student was out of line. Good parents would have backed the teacher on the issue of his authority to set the parameters of the assignment.

Ultimately, the exasperated teacher told the student that she could write on the topic of abortion if – and only if – she wrote from the perspective she opposed. I can’t say I would have done that – but I can’t say that it is an inappropriate pedagogical tool, since it would require the student to look at a controversial issue from a point of view that she does not ordinarily give much weight to. The goal, I think, was to get the student to drop her demand to do a topic that was expressly not permitted under the terms of the assignment – which, in the end, she did. Not that this stopped the student’s bratty behavior, as is evident by her words in the article. She’s clearly still a brat who thinks she is in charge of the class rather than the teacher – and her parents apparently have seen fit to coddle and encourage her bratty behavior.

Mind you, I would not have excluded the topic of abortion from the acceptable topics. Indeed, I gave such an assignment during my days teaching English – and the student who earned the highest grade was one who wrote a superb paper from a pro-choice perspective which earned the highest grade in the class despite taking a position that I found morally reprehensible. But as both an English and Social Studies teacher (on both the high school and college levels) I have imposed limits on topic or rejected proposed topics submitted by students. That is my prerogative as a teacher, and is equally the prerogative David Valentino. That any adult would think differently is shocking.

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In 1968 I was taking English Lit working on my BS. A fellow classmate said he had the English prof figured out, he was anti-war and all you had to do was write something opposing the war and you would get an A. I wrote on photography and got a C he wrote a paper opposing the war and got his A.

|| Posted by GoneWithTheWind, December 10, 2013 12:47 PM ||

But I really do not see that as the case here -- what we've got is a teacher excluding a topic completely from the assignment and a student brattily insisting that she gets to change the assignment to suit her desires.

|| Posted by Rhymes With Right, December 10, 2013 03:53 PM ||

I had my fair share of teachers and profs limit their assignments. In fact, I managed to change the mind of one prof on the exclusion of a subject simply because I was arguing from a point of view that she had never had presented to her before. She was curious to read my arguement and let me write the paper.

|| Posted by DL Sly, December 10, 2013 04:32 PM ||

This article is incorrect, being a physical witness I can say important details are being left out. SHE COULD WRITE ABOUT ABORTION ONLY IF SHE CHOSE THE TEACHERS POINT OF VIEW.

|| Posted by FIghtForLife, December 12, 2013 01:26 AM ||

I don't know who's opinion this is but it is absurd. Since when is fighting for your rights against an oppressor who is violating censorship laws to impose their opinion unto you being bratty? Her parents made the right choice in backing her up. The amount of abuse students face from (immoral) teachers such as this is ridiculous.

|| Posted by DavidValentinoWillBeFired, December 12, 2013 01:33 AM ||

The article comes from a pro-life source and concedes that the topic of abortion was 100% off limits.

The student was a brat and continued to push despite being repeatedly told she was required to comply with the terms of the assignment or fail.

Again, according to the pro-life source of the article, the teacher conceded that he would allow the student to write about abortion -- but he imposed a legitimate condition upon her if she was to be permitted to write about the topic of abortion. In case you can't figure it out, his goal was to prod her into choosing a different topic, thereby complying with the original assignment -- which she did, being able to write on a topic of her choosing and from the point of view that she supported.

Which leads me back to my original position -- Abigail Cornejo is a brat and a whiner, and her parents' decision to back her shows them to have poor parenting skills.

And by the way -- I've spent some three decades involved with pro-life causes, and even co-founded the pro-life group at Illinois State University back in the 1980s. My issue is not with the student's position on the issue, but with her flagrant disrespect of the teacher's authority to place reasonable conditions on an assignment by excluding certain topics from it.

|| Posted by Rhymes With Right, December 12, 2013 04:21 PM ||

By the way -- posting multiple comments under multiple names to make it look like multiple folks support your position is known as trolling. Your use of the email was a dead giveaway that you were trolling my site and detracts from the credibility of your comments.

But, little troll, should you decide to come back out from under your bridge, perhaps you can answer some questions.

1) Did the assignment initially exclude the topic of abortion?

2) Having been informed that the topic of abortion was excluded from the assignment, did Abigail on the following day still insist that she was writing her paper on the topic of abortion?

3) Did Abigail then on the third day make another attempt to get abortion approved as a topic?

4) Was Abigail at any time told that her only topic choice was the pro-abortion position, OR was she told that if she insisted on writing on that forbidden topic she could only write it from the position she opposed?

5) When Abigail selected a topic that was within the parameters of the assignment, was there an attempt to force her to write from a position she opposed?

6) Did Mr. Valentino at any point state what his position was on abortion, or did he merely say (as Abigail said in the article) that he did not care to read any more papers on that topic?

Surely if you are a "physical witness" to what happened, you should be able to answer these questions.

But be careful -- if you contradict the information from the pro-life source that I cited, you are calling Abigail a liar since she is the one being quoted on what happened.

|| Posted by Rhymes With Right, December 12, 2013 04:35 PM ||

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|| Posted by xryfvngavk, July 8, 2016 07:11 PM ||
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