Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Arizona: Teachers' political bias issue heats up

Bill would stop educators from taking sides in class

Troy Hyde's ears perked up in a college class when his professor called President Bush an idiot, and he said he was stunned when another professor said suicide bombers are reasonable people. "I thought, 'Holy cow. I can't believe this guy just said that,' " Hyde recalled.

To muzzle instructors who champion political views in classrooms, a Republican state legislator has proposed a law that would punish public school teachers and professors for not being impartial in the classroom. If the idea were to become law, teachers said they might shy away from teaching controversial issues out of fear of being misunderstood and punished.

Senate Majority Leader Thayer Verschoor, R-Gilbert, wrote the bill that has drawn a stream of criticism and support since it received preliminary approval in a Senate committee this month. "In theory, it wouldn't affect me at all," said Joe Thomas, a high school government teacher. "But . . . what could a student take from my room and take what I say out of context? He-said/she-said becomes a teacher on a soapbox."

Verschoor said his bill would protect students who are afraid to clash with instructors. "This is absolutely about academic freedom. It allows students to practice their First Amendment right without fear of a poor grade because of it or any retaliation because they disagree with the instructor," Verschoor said during a recent Senate committee hearing.

Hyde, a junior business administration major at Arizona State University, said that if students want good grades, they have to absorb what their professors teach, which can include professors' opinions. Hyde said Verschoor's bill is important. "You might have your own opinions, but don't use a public university where people and taxpayers are paying you to teach," said Hyde, chairman of the Arizona College Republicans. "Don't use (the classroom) as your soapbox and think you're put there to teach me why you think the president is an idiot. That's not your job."

Teachers said that if the bill became law, they would think twice about controversial lessons because they would not want to risk being misunderstood. For example:

Thomas, who teaches history and government at Skyline High School in Mesa, wondered how the proposed law would affect his lesson about President Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal. Thomas said some students could argue he does not talk enough about business-oriented aspects of the plan. Others might think he should talk more about the job-oriented aspects.

Rep. Jackie Thrasher, D-Glendale, who is a music teacher at Lookout Mountain Elementary School in Phoenix, said she might second-guess herself before playing Tchaikovsky's music in class. The composer was gay, and a student who knows that might not want to hear his music, she said.

A teacher who assigns a high school history class to write a persuasive essay about why the U.S. military should or should not be in Iraq could be seen as promoting one view or another because Verschoor's bill is so broad, said John Wright, president of the Arizona Education Association.

Verschoor said his bill would target a teacher who said, for example, that Bush is the best president ever and former President Clinton was the worst. "If a teacher in a class . . . wants to talk about the war in Iraq, they are more than welcome, but they can not advocate their opinions," Verschoor said during the hearing.

Over the past few years, activist David Horowitz, president of Students for Academic Freedom, has led a movement to stop indoctrination in classrooms. He said teachers and professors should not use their positions to impress opinions onto students.

Hyde said Arizona College Republicans support that "equal playing field" on campus. "Inside the classroom, it's a place for learning and not partisan politics," Hyde said. "That goes for either side. . . . We see the indoctrination on either side."

Verschoor told those who attended the hearing that his bill is about "allowing more freedom in the classroom and more free discussion back and forth."

Teachers said they do not see indoctrination in classrooms. "If this is going on, we would've addressed it years ago," said Thomas, who also is on the Arizona Education Association board of directors. "This is a case where you have a solution in search of a problem." All teachers come to the classroom with their own set of experiences, Thrasher said, and politicians cannot and should not take those away.

One of Thrasher's former students, Vaughn Hillyard, a 15-year-old sophomore at Thunderbird High School in Phoenix, said he and his classmates like to ask their teachers about their political beliefs. Most of his teachers will not say what they think, he added, but some do. "It's nice to know where they're coming from, so we have it in the back of our heads" when the class is discussing controversial issues, such as the Iraq war, he said. Hillyard said that he does not like the idea of Verschoor's bill but said that teachers who talk about their opinions too often are out of line. The proposed law would highlight a "new era of censorship," said Alessandra Soler Meetze, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona. Politicians are not censoring education by pulling books off shelves, she said; instead, they are stifling classroom discussion about controversial topics. "It certainly does raise significant free-speech concerns for teachers," she said.

Verschoor said that his bill does not stifle free speech and that teachers still would be allowed to discuss their political beliefs outside the classroom.


Britain: Do primary schools let boys down?

By the age of seven more than a quarter of boys need special help with their education, the latest figures show. Is there something inherently wrong with a large chunk of one of the sexes - or are primary schools simply letting boys down?

It has long been known [to everyone except the feminists -- who are influential in education] that male and female brains are different - that they mature at different rates and develop in different ways. You only need to look at the way very young boys and girls play to see that often they like different things and approach things in different ways. Experts say girls' brains are more wired up for communicating and reading emotions, while boys like moving, doing and solving practical problems.

Principal of the School of Emotional Literacy Dr Elizabeth Morris says: "Boys like doing things for a purpose and having things that are concrete and relevant to deal with. "Girls will be happier with discussion, relationship building, team activities and reading." She adds: "The teaching profession in primaries is dominated by women who, with the best will in the world, will tend to deliver a larger proportion of the curriculum in teaching styles that make most sense to them - and therefore favour the girls."

Girls tend to be auditory and visual learners whereas boys are more kinaesthetic learners. This means that while girls like to listen and watch, boys like to learn by doing and taking part in discussions in small groups. So teachers need to be aware of the ways in which their pupils find it most natural to learn, says head teacher at the Churchill School in Folkestone, Jennie Carter. "If someone's picking at the carpet when the TV's on - they are not likely to be a visual learner."

To ensure that all pupils are being given an equal chance to learn, teachers at the school ask pupils to rate how clearly they understand what has just been taught to them. If the pupils who say they have not quite grasped things are the ones she knows to be visual learners - then she might show them a picture to help them grasp what's being taught, for example. As a result of this and other measures, of the 43% of children who get extra help at the school, 93% reach the required level in national tests.

Good school behaviour in the early years is often about sitting still, not fidgeting and waiting your turn to answer the teacher's question. "Given that boys in particular need to rough and tumble play as part of their development - and that this is happening less with parents now because they are not around so much - we may be seeing boys trying unconsciously to do what is right for their bodies by being physical," says Dr Morris. "But they have it misunderstood and classified as an emotional behaviour disorder because it doesn't conform to school needs."

Some experts suggest that teachers are deliberately getting pupils labelled as having special needs with reading, for example, because it is an easy way of getting a difficult child out of the classroom for a while. Mrs Carter says if there is a lack of support for members of staff this misuse of SEN labels is likely to happen. She recalls one bright pupil with Asperger's syndrome (ASD). "Some days he would not want to be with people so we would let him lie on the floor under the white board and let him get on with his work. "He did really well and got into a grammar school but they couldn't cope when he got there." Thankfully, the grammar school sent a teacher back to the primary school to draw up a provision map to deal with the different situations he was likely to encounter....

Maybe schools' obsession with conformity is the root of the problem - perhaps our teachers are unconsciously trying to make boys behave more like girls? Dr Morris: "Boys are great - they are full of fun and life. I hate how we take that energy and try to contain it rather than finding channels and opportunities to work with them in ways that fit for them." She says that boys often end up being stereotyped which just creates a self-fulfilling cycle, but she adds that once those working with children are able to see what is going on developmentally or neurologically they see the children quite differently.



For greatest efficiency, lowest cost and maximum choice, ALL schools should be privately owned and run -- with government-paid vouchers for the poor and minimal regulation.

The NEA and similar unions worldwide believe that children should be thoroughly indoctrinated with Green/Left, feminist/homosexual ideology but the "3 R's" are something that kids should just be allowed to "discover"

For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For times when is playing up, there are mirrors of this site here and here.


No comments: