Wednesday, March 15, 2006

So it is the student who has to change his act

Chuck Green, veteran Colorado journalist and former editor-in-chief of The Denver Post, points out the real lesson of the Jay Bennish diatribe-as-geography saga:

The teacher, after arguing that he had given balancing views to counter his heavily biased tape-recorded version of President George Bush’s presidency and the U.S. capitalist political system, was asked in one interview what that balancing view was. Specifically, had he compared Bush’s "style" with anyone else’s besides German dictator Adolph Hitler. Given several moments to consider his answer, and prompted a couple of times by the radio host, Bennish came up blank.

The astonished host pressed again, asking if Bennish had "ever" made a different comparison of Bush, with any political figure in history, he again could not produce an example.

In another interview session, on a different radio program, some of Bennish’s students were asked what balance Bennish had provided to his tape-recorded lecture. Although all of the students said he had provided balance, none of them could think of any examples.

Either Bennish had failed as a teacher, or the students had failed as pupils - there was no evidence that the students had grasped the lesson.

"He teaches, like, in an interesting way, you know?" was the typical response. "He’s fair, you know, in what he teaches us, like, he covers both sides, you know?"
Um, like, whatever.

Green notes that the student's defense of their teacher paled in comparison to the arguments made by Sean Allen, the student who first exposed Bennish’s diatribe-laden teaching technique:

During more than a dozen radio interviews last week, Allen was articulate and probing in presenting his case - the kind of student you would expect to find in an accelerated class, which Bennish teaches.

Unfortunately Allen and Bennish won’t be seeing much of each other now. While Bennish returned to his classroom Monday, after a week of administrative leave, Allen is changing schools.

The two made a good pair - even if their roles seemed reversed at times.

In his discussions of the controversy, and in his analysis of the issues involved in Socratic teaching methods, Allen appeared to have a good grasp of world history and politics - a field of knowledge he didn’t credit Bennish with teaching him. He also seemed eager to debate all comers, not shying away from defending his decision to expose Bennish’s teaching style.

Bennish, on the other hand, avoided the press most of the week and seemed almost reticent about debating his class structure in the few media interviews he granted. In the most confrontational interview, with talk-show host Peter Boyles, he was utterly unable to engage in an effective defense of the political content of his world geography class.
So while none of Bennish’s actions have had any negative effect on his career as teacher, the student who exposed him is forced to move schools, in part due to the fact that several of Allen’s peers were openly hostile toward him for airing his grievances, making him feel unwelcome on campus.

Amazing. Why is it again that we are forced to pay the salaries of teachers like as Bennish and the public schools as such when any dissent from those who demand more for themselves and their children is crushed?

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