Back to School

My latest letter has another challenger. Today Daniel Sitter writes:

Calvin Freiburger, the recent graduate from Fond du Lac High School, wrote a lucid, impressively worded diatribe about liberal teachers still in our schools.

The majority of teachers Calvin learned from in his own words were “outstanding,” but there were some liberals among them that felt the Iraq war was a big mistake.

I didn’t say that having liberals among my teachers was the problem. Indeed, I’ll be the first to say that among the good teachers, I knew a number to be liberal, and I never learned the ideology of most of the rest (I do know of a few who were conservative—but they never abused their positions by pushing a right-wing agenda in class). Nor do I object to considering the Iraq War a mistake. Political opinions become an issue in the classroom when a teacher uses his authority to try to persuade his students to adopt a political belief, and when he presents disputable (or flat-out false) political propositions as facts, and when he does so at the expense of the actual class subject—all of which happened at Fond du Lac High School.

I’m sure the majority of the other teachers, whatever their political affiliation, made up for any liberal bias that Calvin may have encountered.

It’s true that, on balance, I got a good education at FHS. And while teacher indoctrination may not have harmed me personally, since I had a solid grounding in political values & independent thinking, many students can’t say the same—they simply hear these things from an authority figure they’re supposed to be able to trust, and understandably assume what they hear is on the level. Moreover, any class time spent ranting about George Bush is time spent not discussing a class’s actual subject. Indeed, at times my senior year Western Literature course would get derailed by as much as a full week because our resident lefty had ideological grudges he preferred to indulge in.

In any organization, there are going to be people who abuse their posts. That’s understandable. However, it’s the duty of those who run the organization to deal with such people. If they don’t, then we have a problem that demands scrutiny. I’ve seen no evidence that the powers-that-be in the FdL School District have any interest in holding partisan teachers accountable.

As a teacher in Fond du Lac, I’m very proud that Calvin is involved in these discussions and has passion for his beliefs. I’m also impressed with his writing and willingness to take a firm stand. He must have had good teachers who helped him examine his ideas and develop his opinions.

Of all the things for which I owe my public education, rest assured that my political & philosophical development are not on that list. Isn’t it remarkable how arrogant Mr. Sitter seems to be, that one of his first instincts is to claim credit for something his profession had nothing to do with?

What makes me afraid is his self-righteousness and implied superiority in his writing.

Again, I think our friend has self-righteousness issues of his own. But for the record, I don’t consider myself inherently superior to anyone. What I will admit to is this: when I see people abuse the trust a community places within them—entrusting them with the community’s very children—I believe they, along with their apologists, should be stood up to by all the concerned, responsible members of the community.

He is already dismissing those he disagrees with as “all wet” and feels he is “beating a dead horse” when addressing legitimate concerns millions of citizens have in the great United States. I think his narrow world view has something to do with age, but perhaps the reason goes deeper than that.

No, I dismiss those who spout bumper-sticker-caliber left-wing talking points as “all wet.” And as I originally explained, this dead horse has been beat and beat. The argument has been amply waged on the Reporter’s opinion page, and I’ve contributed my share (for example,
here and here). I opted not to rehash Iraq in detail because I wanted to focus on the education angle, which is also important and gets nowhere near as much attention. It has nothing to do with narrow-mindedness, and everything to do with staying on topic.

With radio hosts spewing hate across the airwaves and television shows polarizing viewers in an us-against-them culture, perhaps we should have something to fear from the schools.

I should have guessed: hatemongers like Rush Limbaugh are the real problem! If you actually listen to Rush and his radio brethren, you know Dan is utterly mischaracterizing them (though I will admit that Michael Savage is too much of a loose cannon to be a good representative of the industry. Still, he is the exception to an otherwise-impressive rule).

Maybe we don’t do enough to make sure our students have an open mind and understand that although opinions differ, insulting and condescending opposing viewpoints do not further the discussion at all.

Open minds? My whole point has been that the teachers I’m talking about don’t care a whit about cultivating open minds; they want to churn out new liberals. As for the tone of debate, I think the opposition’s moral authority in that area has been, shall we say,
diminished of late. Politics is a rowdy arena, and people should know better than to get worked up over a little blunt talk & ribbing every now & then (I think most do). What is appropriate? Calm debate is always the ideal, if it’s possible, and I’ve done that when I can. Sometimes, though, there are offenses that need to be condemned, and sometimes reasoned debate is flat-out impossible.

Calvin missed that point, and I for one am hoping we don’t let another student miss the point either, no matter what the politics may be.

Au contraire; your point has been well-taken…and rebutted.

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