Last week, California teacher Jim Corbett lost his case against student Chad Farnan. Farnan had accused his history teacher of make anti-Christian comments during class and the court agreed.
Based on the lawsuit and the comments I’d read Corbett had made, I wasn’t siding with the teacher (though I agreed with what he said). I felt his comments were inappropriate.
Corbett speaks for himself, though, in a posting at Salon.com.
Chad Farnan, the boy who sued me, was an average student, who admitted under oath that he did not do the required reading for the class. If Chad’s lawyers, the “Advocates for Faith and Freedom,” and his parents were actually concerned with protecting the boy, why didn’t they simply come to me and ask me to explain my comments? Neither they nor the Farmans ever expressed concerns to me nor to any administrators before they came to school with attorneys and reporters in tow to drop a lawsuit on the desk of Tom Ressler, our principal. Perhaps more importantly, the Farmans were aware long before Chad took my class that I go out of my way to be provocative. Every year in July, I send a letter home to students who have signed up for my class. Chad admitted under oath that he received that letter. The letter says, in part:
“Most days we will spend a few minutes (sometimes more) at the beginning of class discussing current events from either The Orange County Register or the L.A. Times. I may also use material from a variety of news Web sites. Discussion will be quite provocative, and focus on the ‘lessons’ of history. My goal is to have you go home with something that will provoke discussion with your parents. Students may offer any perspective without concern that anything they say will impact either my attitude toward them or their grades. I encourage a full range of views.”
I’m all for a history teacher debunking myths… that’s a wonderful goal to have as a teacher. But I still don’t understand the context in which some of his comments could be understood as thought-provoking as opposed to simply anti-religious.
Saying Creationism is superstition nonsense is fine by me. It is.
The following, however, is not ok (PDF):
“How do you get the peasants to oppose something that is in their best interest? Religion. You have to have something that is irrational to counter that rational approach… [W]hen you put on your Jesus glasses, you can’t see the truth.”
Why is that not ok? The teacher’s opinion seeps in. Is is accurate? In my opinion, absolutely. But phrasing it that way would make any religious student uncomfortable, and that’s not what a public high school should be encouraging.
If you want to have that discussion, let it be student led with the teacher being an impartial moderator. You can’t facilitate a good discussion when everyone knows exactly what your opinion is on the matter.
I know if a teacher said something against atheism (e.g. atheism is responsible for the worst genocides in the 20th century), I wouldn’t feel comfortable in the class.
Why is this any different?
(Thanks to Andy for the link!)