Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Politics and Geography [Updated]

[Update below]

Some of you may have caught this story about a teacher here in CO that's come under fire for comments he made in a world geography class. The Denver Post's coverage is here and the audio of the comments in question is here.

I'm torn on this subject, really. While I agree with the teacher's political views, and find a great deal of merit in the points he makes, the fact remains that this was a geography class, not a U.S. government class or a world politics class. School administrators have responded by saying that the commentary fails to honor mandates for "balance" in curriculum, and despite my sympathy for and agreement with what he's saying, I can't pretend that there's any kind of opposing view presented.

See, here's the thing. We don't get to scream at the creationists for trying to inject religion into science classes and then just shrug our shoulders when a teacher tries to inject politics (and unabashedly leftist politics at that) into a geography class, for if we do, we jump headlong into hypocrisy and lose our credibility on the ID front and any other area in which we yell and scream about the "Rethugs" and their reckless application of double-standards.

Have a listen to the audio and see what you think.

March 7 Update:

The Freepers got their hands on a copy of the syllabus (thanks to Raven's View for the find).
In a discussion at another forum, I'd complained about the lack of the syllabus in local media coverage and hoped to have a look, thinking it would pretty much settle the issue for me if political topics were an element of the curriculum.

Well, what do you know? They ARE!

Course Objectives
1. Students know how to use and construct maps, globes, and other geographic tools to locate and derive information about people, places, and environments

2. Students know the physical and human characteristics of places, and use this knowledge to define and study regions and their patterns of change

3. Students understand how physical processes shape Earth’s surface patterns and systems

4. Students understand how economic, political, cultural, and social processes interact to shape patterns of human populations, interdependence, cooperation, and conflict

5. Students understand the effects of interactions between human and physical systems and the changes in meaning, use, distribution, and importance of resources

6. Students apply knowledge of people, places, and environments to understand the past and present and to plan for the future

I find it delightfully ironic that they'd post a copy, since it pretty much demolishes their argument that Bennish's comments were totally off-topic for the class. Not surprisingly, they're gleefully responding with "I don't see the Bush = Hitler thing listed anywhere". You can expect more of the usual moronic hysterics in the comments, but this gem really jumped out at me:

The alarms should start going off when you reach "Critical Thinking." This is a code word that has everything to do with criticism, specifically of the status quo, and very little to do with actual thinking. It basically means placing a filter on everything you encounter intellectually (see "critical reading," the next entry down) that assumes that there is an oppressor/oppressed class dynamic that is inseparable from the ostensible message. When you hear somebody insisting "you're only saying that because..." you gotcha one right there.

Placing a filter on everything you encounter intellectually? Yes, Sparky, as possessors of, you know, brains, that's PRECISELY what we're supposed to do. Can you believe this guy? I don't know who told him that students (or anyone else for that matter) should just accept, in toto, whatever they're told, whenever they hear it, but I suppose this attitude really shouldn't suprise me. The Fellating Freepers are renown for their eager swallowing of right-wing propaganda and they've obviously come to believe such behavior should apply to our educational institutions as well. Kool-Aid... it's not just for zealots anymore.


RTSO said...

I'm with you. That was as much a geography lesson as Intelligent Design is a science lesson. While I admire the concept of getting kids to think both critically and for themselves, this was an inappropriate venue for this particular discussion.

Glad to see you back in action!

Cantankerous Bitch said...

Thanks, RTSO.

I've been watching the story evolve a bit here in the local press, and the class is being described as a "human geography" class, honors level. Also suggested is that political landscape is part of the course syllabus. Assuming that's true, I'll happily retract my assertion that his comments were wholly inappropriate, but I will add this -- he should have anticipated the firestorm his commentary would generate and as was suggested by someone with whom I was discussing this issue, he should have inserted many more caveats into his rant in order to a.) keep with the school's (claimed) policy of "balance" and b.) insure against his comments being labeled as "fringe" by the great number of RW conservatives in the community.
In other words, while I support his overall message, his delivery was sloppy and he arguably should have known better, assuming this is *not* the reaction he was hoping to provoke.
If it was, then more power to him.

les said...

I'm lazily responding to your post, without going to the original; but my guess is no balance was possible (as viewed by the complainants, if the freepers are in on it) if he strayed very far from "All hail king george." If in fact he presented some opposing views, more power to him. In our current situation, any difference, far less dissent, is greeted with uproar.

iAmerican said...

Schoolteacher Jay Bennish is simply putting forward thoughts that any who claim spiritual descent from the Jeffersonian Whig Founders of the United States of America should have been realizing right after they heard GHW Bush's public, "mystically" claimed "inability" to recall his whereabouts upon hearing of President Kennedy's assassination: W's only "qualification" for office.


Any true American who watches the above, free video - "Loose Change, 2nd Ed." - will recognize the fact that Bush committed 9/11 the same as his grandfather's client, Adolf Hitler(Google "Prescott Thyssen Auschwitz"), committed the Reichstag Fire.

Inarguably, Bush is Hitler-redux. Those near him, or serving him - other than truly innocent dupes(?) - are transparently part of the "real anti-Christ" identified by Thomas Jefferson in his unsent letter to Samuel Kercheval.

Death for Treason

Daisy said...

I wish I'd had a teacher like this. I'm not a big follower of politics, as you know, but this teacher provides the information in such a raw format that it becomes interesting, intriguing, and makes me think about things in a very different perspective. I applaud his choice to speak so frankly.