Tuesday, October 2, 2007

The Law and the Classroom, part 2

Back in May, I wrote about a woman who had been dismissed from her teaching job because, when asked what she thought about war protesters, she replied, "I honk for peace." She was taking that case to the Supreme Court.

Today, I read an article headlined "Supreme Court denies hearing for fired 'Honk for Peace' teacher."

Yes, indeed, they are denying a hearing. "Mayer, who now teaches sixth grade in Florida, was distraught.

"I don't know why anybody would want to be a teacher if you can be fired for saying four little words," she said Monday. 'I'm supposed to teach the Constitution to my students. I'm supposed to tell them that the Constitution guarantees free speech. How am I going to justify that?'"

The thing that makes me sad about this is, yes, teachers do have a captive audience and yes, students should be protected from some kinds of speech; but at the same time, there's something powerful and important about hearing opinions different from your own. That is what opens MY mind, anyway, to an expanded view of the world. It is beneficial to me when I venture beyond my comfort zone of assumptions.

Besides which, for Pete's sake, "I honk for peace" is about as mild a statement as I can imagine. She didn't say, "and you should too," much less that this war is a shame and a shambles. I still find it hard to fathom that a parent would complain that a teacher prefers peace to war.

And it's terribly distressing that the direction of our educational system is towards a strict separation between the prescribed curriculum and anything else. What could be more deadening to a creative and exciting learning environment.

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