TeacherPreacher Forgets Where He’s At

According to the NY Times, David Paszkiewicz, a History teacher at Kearny High School in New Jersey, told his students “that evolution and the Big Bang were not scientific, that dinosaurs were aboard Noah’s ark, and that only Christians had a place in heaven.”

These words come courtesy of recordings made by a student, Matthew LaClair.

As a result, the teacher has been suspended and the student can get on with his life.

I’m just kidding.

Actually, the teacher is getting the support of everyone and their mother. And the student is receiving death threats.

From the NY Times article:

Greice Coelho, who took Mr. Paszkiewicz’s class and is a member of his youth group, said in a letter to The Observer, the local weekly newspaper, that Matthew was “ignoring the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, which gives every citizen the freedom of religion.”

Maybe if Paszkiewicz ever got around to teaching the Constitution instead of preaching fundamental Christianity, Greice would’ve learned that the First Amendment allows you to believe what you choose to believe. It doesn’t give you the right to preach your beliefs to students who are forced to listen. In fact, the courts have repeatedly said that proselytizing is not allowed in public schools.

The article goes on to quote other Kearny residents who are mad at Matthew for “baiting” the teacher and taking the story public. Guess what? If a kid asks a teacher a question that’s not relevant to the class, the teacher has to say it’s not appropriate to talk about and then get back to teaching. Any teacher who takes the bait deserves to be reprimanded.

The recordings themselves are just infuriating. Listen to them by clicking on the multimedia section in this article.

What does this teacher say about Evolution?

“Has anybody ever observed it?”

No one can see species evolving directly because it takes millions of years and we live in the span of decades. Basic rule of evolution. Anyone with basic science knowledge should understand this. I’m wondering why this guy is a teacher. I don’t care that he’s not teaching science. If you don’t know basic knowledge of the core subjects, what makes you think you should go into a career where you have to educate others?

The students on the audiotape (including LaClair) manage to bring some intelligent dialogue into this by questioning the validity of what Paszkiewicz is saying, but none of this is a discussion to be having in a History class.

At what point did the teacher forget that the church and the school are different buildings?

(And does anyone think the kids in Paszkiewicz’s church youth group raise as many good questions as the students in the school did?)

I assume Christians would be pissed off if I walked into a classroom and told students that God wasn’t real and they were being indoctrinated to think otherwise. (According to Paszkiewicz, indoctrination is why we believe in evolution.) And yet, where are those Christians who are speaking out against this man’s attempt to proselytize?

Bad teachers make me mad…


[tags]atheist, atheism, Christianity, New York Times, David Paszkiewicz, Kearny High School, New Jersey, evolution, Big Bang, dinosaurs, Noah’s ark, heaven, Matthew LaClair, Greice Coelho, First Amendment[/tags]

  • http://www.malnurturedsnay.net Malnurtured Snay

    Baiting teachers bad death threats good? And people wonder why it is so hard for so many to take the religious right seriously.

  • txatheist

    Teacher David Paszkiewicz is what is wrong with our educational system. He graduated from college and still believes that malarchy. I really despise the concept that Christianity is “scripture” and not religion as he states. I also think the idea of believing in evolution, gravity and god are comparable. His analogy was someone who doesn’t believe in gravity will go splat. David should realize that there is no consequence for accepting the fact of evolution. There is a personal choice to believe xianity is true but I think the student asked a great question about a “loving” god putting someone in hell and a parent putting a kid in the burning oven for eternity. It’s still sick and cruel no matter how “just” you think either of the authority figures are. The only good thing is this David guy isn’t the science teacher.

  • tcc

    It’s not that he believes this stuff, which he’s certainly entitled to believe, it’s that he’s being paid by the parents of these kids, through their tax dollars, to teach them history and he’s not doing it.

    It’s wrong to take money in exchange for a service and not provide it.

    And how seriously does he take his Christianity if he doesn’t have the integrity and honor to do the job people are paying him to do? That doesn’t seem to jibe with any Christian value system I’ve ever heard about.

  • txatheist

    And how seriously does he take his Christianity if he doesn’t have the integrity and honor to do the job people are paying him to do? That doesn’t seem to jibe with any Christian value system I’ve ever heard about.

    Could we please not make excuses for his inappropriate behavior and just ask him to publicly admit he’s wrong.

  • tcc

    How was I making excuses…?

    I was calling him out on his hypocrisy and his lack of personal integrity, not to mention his failure to perform a job he was paid to do by the taxpayer.

  • Allen

    The only problem I see is that he is wasting class time on a topic not within the class. I also agree with most of you that what he believes is malarchy. But I do not get the complaint based upon the content, other than it si outside the scope of the class. Why is it so bad to educate kids to think and argue for themselves by challenging what they believe or discussing a position or belief you or I or they disagree with? ANd where was the harm? The kids seemed to be holding their own to me.

    I don’t think the answer to relgion’s tendency to indoctrinate and shelter kids from all opposing view points is to just to the opposite, indoctinating them only in what you think is right and sheltering them from anyone who holds a religious belief.

    I agree with Dan Dennet. Lets make teaching religion mandatory in the public scools and let the kids be exposed to all religious thoughts as well as areligious positions.

  • Siamang

    Why is it so bad to educate kids to think and argue for themselves by challenging what they believe or discussing a position or belief you or I or they disagree with? ANd where was the harm? The kids seemed to be holding their own to me.

    Allen,

    Okay, assume it was okay for this teacher to take this class time for Dinosaurs on the Ark today. Then 3rd period, algebra II is taken up with another teacher teaching “aliens visit area 51″. Then 4th period, the Biology teacher teaches “Johnson had JFK bumped off.” Then 5th period, the English teacher teaches “NASA faked the moon landings.” Then lunch and recess. Then after recess, we get a special assembly on the Tri-Lateral commission and the Illuminati, and then a big homework packet on how the Holocaust never happened.

    That sounds like fun! I don’t think we should indoctrinate and shelter kids from these opposing points of view! I’m sure these bright kids could hold their own.

    (Forget about the curriculum that they’ll need to graduate?)

  • txatheist

    tcc,
    The fact he was a christian doesn’t matter that he crossed the line professionally. He needs to accept responsibility is my point.

  • txatheist

    Allen,
    I actually had a mythology class during my junior high school years. It was a part of social studies.

  • Logos

    The student was just on CNN

  • Allen

    Siamang,

    I agree with you. English teachers should teach english etc. That is not my point. My point is that the criticism ought to be limtied to the fact that he was wasting class time on a non topic. It would just as bad for him to spend time discussing the supporting documentation for evolution since that is outside the scope of his class. The content is irrelevant.

    However, in any class, there are “down times” when non-class topics get discussed for a few minutes (the game friday night, a recent event that has everyone talking, etc.) I don’t see the harm in a brief discussion on “the purpose of public education” or what a particular relgion belives, even if the teacher is presenting a postion I disagree with, when the students are allowed to participate and challenge the teacher’s position.

    In this particular case, I agree he was wasting too much time, but that should be the only criticism – the fact that too much time was spent on a non-class topic, not the subject of that wasted time.

  • tcc

    Ummmm….exactly…?? The fact that he’s a christian is neither here nor there. That he abused his position is why he ought to be fired.

    But it’s still amusing _to me_ that he claims to adhere to a religion in which integrity and honesty are virtues and, in the process of abusing his position, he also acted contrary to what he claims he believes.

    But, yes, we’re on the same page as far as his abuse of position goes.

    Or would you have preferred something like “Fire that motherfuckingcockucker’schristianass!!!” ??

    Would that have sounded less as if I were “making excuses for him”?

  • Allen

    txatheist,

    And when they taught the mythology, did they take a position, inpliedly or expressly, as to whether those gods actually existed and whether men should worship them? Of course they did. It is impossible to be completely nuetral in a discussion of any religion. You either believe it or not.

    One problems with the discourse on relgion in this country, and an impedement to the advancement of areligous reason, is the insistance by atheists that the relgious folks should have to shut up in the public square. that will not sell and merely makes us look like a mirror image of the regligously dogmatic folks. Let them talk. The more they they talk, the more obvious is the ludicrousness of their beliefs and the more likely the will be rejected by thinking, reasoning students. Teach the kids to think and let the religous folks talk.

  • txatheist

    tcc,
    The teacher was easily recognizable as a christian because of his statements. There is no doubt about that but he should apologize for stating them as true in a history class. I don’t follow you nor is it to be implied that because he was in error that goes against his moral stance as a christian. I hope you aren’t alluding that to be xian means that he is supposed to be of high moral character. Morality isn’t based on belief but action. He acted inappropriately in a public school setting and that action came about because of his belief system.

  • txatheist

    Allen,
    I don’t remember you being in my mythology class so I wonder about your ability to state that the gods were literal or figurative according to the textbook. I’m sure that depended on the current belief of the student. If we talked about Zeus or Zoraster or Jesus and someone believed in this god then I’m sure they felt differently than someone who lumped them all together.

    I can’t comment on your public square issue as I don’t have enough detail. Should you be able to go to a public school and tell your kid Jesus or Zeus loves him? Sure. I’m not worried about them talking about their god. I’m worried they have been taught that it’s literal and want that message to be spread on public school teaching time.

  • txatheist

    This is a prime example of the issue I have with officials concerning the 10 C monument at the Austin capitol and my Treaty of Tripoli monument that I want next to it.

    “As Matthew’s parents, Debra and I chased after the administration for more than a month, requesting appropriate corrective action. Not money, not a lawsuit, just appropriate corrective actions. I wrote four letters, in sequence, through the entire chain of command. Yet despite clear requests in those letters, we were put off.”

    From this write up:
    http://thecanessacorner.blogspot.com/2006/12/letter-from-paul-laclair.html

  • Siamang

    It would just as bad for him to spend time discussing the supporting documentation for evolution since that is outside the scope of his class. The content is irrelevant.

    I disagree for the simple reason that my child is required by law to be present, and that the teacher is an arm of the government.

    I disagree for the sake of the Jewish kid in the third row. I disagree for the sake of the muslim kid or the gay kid who are silent in the room.

    I disagree because school is manditory and a teacher should not, EVER, place their authority above the parents spiritual beliefs in raising a kid.

    Listen, my kid will grow up hearing the very best arguments for religion. She is going to get the best education available about all the religions of the world, because it’s going to be her choice what she believes.

    For the record, I’m not against religious studies. I dig Daniel Dennet’s points about teaching religion. Dawkins makes the same points. The mainstream atheists as far as I know almost to a person are all for teaching kids about all the religions.

    What they’re against is this, exactly. One person holding forth on their particulars, by sole merit of happening to believe with the majority. And minority beliefs be damned, literally.

    Because if kids are fair game, and a teacher does that to my kid, I’m looking up that teacher’s sunday school and paying a visit sunday morning. I’m showing up with a big stack of Harry Potter books and handing them out, each one with a big fat pamphlet as a handy bookmark.

  • Logos

    Siamang, you might get beaten up if you did that.

  • http://franksatheisticramblings.blogspot.com frank

    One thing the article didn’t mention (and I was surprised) is that when Matt asked to see the principal and the teacher together, the teacher initially lied about doing any of that stuff. By lying he knew what he did was wrong, and it wasn’t until Matt gave the principal the audio evidence that he (the teacher) clammed up and insisted on getting his union representative.

    That to me is the most telling out of all this. He lied, because he knew it was wrong. End of story. He needs to apologize and disciplinary action needs to be taken.

  • txatheist

    Siamang, you might get beaten up if you did that.

    Because if kids are fair game, and a teacher does that to my kid, I’m looking up that teacher’s sunday school and paying a visit sunday morning. I’m showing up with a big stack of Harry Potter books and handing them out, each one with a big fat pamphlet as a handy bookmark.

  • txatheist

    Siamang is using his alternate name that you use when in downtown Los Angeles. You know I love ya Siamang so I thought of this to make light of the issue.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=97l16HvrwH8

  • MTran

    The teacher’s misbehavior was gross, and, as frank points out, the teacher knew that it was gross misbehavior.

    Teachers in public schools are agents of governmental entities. And no government agent has the right to attempt to indoctrinate anyone, especially captive minor students, into religious beliefs.

    Allen, the teacher was not simply “wasting time.” (Few students would care about that, I would guess.) This teacher was actively interfering with the students’ Constitutional rights not to be coerced into receiveng religious intstruction from the government.

    Don’t pretend even for a moment that this type of proselytizing in a public school classroom is either instructive or harmless. Children should not be subjected to religious indoctrination by figures of authority such as this so-called teacher.

    I do, however, enjoy Allen’s coinage of “malarchy”! At first I just thought it might be a typo for “malarkey” but the more I thought about it, the more it seemed to be that “malarchy” perfectly described the type of governmental interference with religion that the teacher indulged in. I’m going to start using that word!

  • MTran

    Here is a link to the online blog for the Observer editorials. The parents of Michael LeClair submitted a very helpful explanatory letter to the paper; too bad it didn’t make it into the print edition.

    It’s at:
    http://thecanessacorner.blogspot.com/2006/12/letter-from-paul-laclair.html

    Just in case my attempt at a link doesn’t work, for cutting and pasting the cite is: http://thecanessacorner.blogspot.com/2006/12/letter-from-paul-laclair.html

  • tcc

    txatheist…how do you know it came about BECAUSE of his belief system? I’ve seen exactly the same kind of inappropriate behavior from self-proclaimed atheists. My daughter had a math teacher who spent most of the class preaching her feminist agenda. She spent so much time engaging in this that enough parents complained to get her fired. Many of us also had to spend a bloody fortune on private tutors just to get our kids taught enough algebra to make it to the next level because they didn’t have enough skills on their own as a result of this little bimbo’s selfish, inappropriate behavior.

    But she didn’t have a belief system…

    So is the action the result of the belief system, or was the guy just acting inappropriately and the behavior manifested itself through his belief system…??

    That he is a loud and vocal Christian, and one who promotes his Christianity in the public sphere, means that I not only get to call him out on his inappropriate behavior as a teacher, but I get to call him out on his hypocrisy as a Christian.

    It’s not making excuses for him. It’s finding him twice as bad as you do.

  • txatheist

    That the earth is young and that hell is real? Bishop Ussher was responsible for the young earth view and hell is the current negative idea in xianity if one doesn’t accept JC as the lord and savior. If there are other religions teaching that I’d like to know.

    Please cite an example of a self-professed atheist that believes in hell or a 6000 year old earth. I’m sure there is an organization for this type of atheist of some sort.

    Feminism does not equal atheism any more than it equals christianism or buddhism. She may have been a christian offended that she was made as a helper to Adam. I’ve talked to atheist females that dislike the idea that man was created first according to christian mythology. I’m not the one making excuses for her. If she taught misinformation in math then she was in error and she could have been a xian but I don’t know. The history teacher acted inappropriately as I’ve concluded. He spouted nonsense that has nothing to do with actual history.

    I think we agree that he was wrong and I don’t care if he is a christian just that he espoused things found in xianity which are completely irrelevant for any history class other than mythology history class. I guess he should have kept his Christianity to himself in the public square is my best idea to a solution.

  • MTran

    tcc said: My daughter had a math teacher who spent most of the class preaching her feminist agenda.

    That math teacher sounds inept at best, and offensive as well.

    There is a place for discussion of different ideologies in high school, but not in math class and not in the form of attempted indoctrination.

    The major difference between the feminist math teacher and the proselytizing Christian history teacher is that the US Constitution prohibits government agents from promoting any religion while discharging their official duties. The Constitution says nothing about teachers being inept or propagandizing for a cause during class time.

    I agree that the math teacher behaved improperly, but the standards applied in that instance would essentially be the school district’s or state’s regulatory code. And common sense.

    The legal standards to be applied against the history teacher are parts of the highest law of our nation. He violated one of our core American civic values. That makes his violation of greater concern, even though there may be examples of lousier teachers out there.

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