- The Student-Teaching Model Is Outdated: Here's How We Can Do Better - September 15, 2021
- Visualize: How Seeing What's Coming Changed My Teaching - August 16, 2021
- 10 Lessons About Teaching from My Youngest Son - June 24, 2021
- Ending the Epithet “Try-Hard” Once and for All in Classrooms - June 18, 2021
- From STEM, Let's Pivot to the BRANCHES of the Humanities - May 25, 2021
- Would Education Collapse If Teachers Stopped Working for Free? - May 20, 2021
- 10 Ways to Teach Like Ted Lasso: Part II - April 21, 2021
- 8 Tips So Your Substitute Plans Don't Suck - April 14, 2021
- 10 Ways to Teach Like Ted Lasso: Part I - March 12, 2021
- The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teachers: Habit 3 - First Things First - February 26, 2021
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On March 22nd, 2012, A&E launched its first episode of Duck Dynasty. The show, which is about Phil Robertson, his wife Kay, their children, grandchildren, their multi-million dollar company, and their beards all made for a perfect combination that would produce the fastest growing television show in the United States. However, Mr. Robertson's comments to GQ Magazine about homosexuality being "sinful" has caused him to be indefinitely suspended from the show and to be one of those breaking points that lead to a discussion of many staples of the American way: freedom of speech, religion, and minority tolerance.
What most of the public doesn't know is that this type of freedom of speech is very much curtailed by your employer. While most people are unafraid to be unabashed in their thoughts, words, and deeds, teachers have very many more restraints in place than most other professions. The ACLU displays quite a comprehensive list of limits of teachers' freedom of speech, most namely by what is or isn't said in the classroom. In fact, I have been "called to the carpet" over what parents believed was an unfair bashing of Republicans by calling them "Radicals" (even though it's a historical term in most textbooks) in 2008. In 2007, I was called "too conservative to teach American government" by a school board member and "too liberal" by a student's parent in 2010 for my comments in class.
Just this year a close family friend came into contact with a teacher's own personal rights when this teacher was present in his/her room while another teacher taught a district-directed lesson from the New York Times, and the 1st Amendment spill thereafter is still continuing, much to that teacher's chagrin.
In fact, many teachers have been fired by their district after crossing their freedom of speech limits. That list includes:
- Countless amounts of teachers who lose their jobs due to their social networking negligence, which includes their posts, Likes, and Retweets like Texas counselor Karon White saying that soon "whites will be wiped from the earth. LOL" after the fertilizer plant explosions in the Lone Star State
- Lisa Parsons, a Chicago teacher who allowed her 5th grade students to criticize the longer school day
- John Freshwater, an Ohio science teacher who refused to remove religious regalia, including his own personal Bible from his desk
- Brooke Harris, a Michigan teacher who organized a "hoodie" fundraiser for Trayvon Martin, the young African-American Floridian who was slain this past year
- Randy LeVake, a Minnesota science teacher who refused to teach evolution because he didn't believe it
- Bryan Craig, a Washington teacher, was canned when he wrote a graphic novel on teen relationships
- Bill Diss, a Portland, Ore. teacher lost his job for prohibiting Planned Parenthood from entering his classroom
- Michael Griffin, who was fired from his job at a Pennsylvanian Christian school for being gay
TER's own Yoshana Jones (in her "Teacher's Freedom of Speech Rights" article last December) stated it best:
"Public school teachers are in a unique position. They are individuals and employees of the state. Therefore, school districts have an interest in making sure that the messages that students receive are in line with the district's goals and vision."
Certainly there is countless debate that can be ignited by each and every one of these free-speech-based terminations. However, one thing that is not debatable is that the limits on teachers' freedom of speech cross both conservative and liberal ideologies alike. Another things that is not debatable is that American Constitution provided each of these teachers - and Mr. Robertson - the freedom to say whatever they want. But he and his family are quickly learning what many of us teachers already know: the corporation that employs you, whether a school district or a cable network, don't necessarily need to acknowledge your right to freedom of speech if your comments aren't "in line with [/fusion_builder_column][fusion_builder_column type="1_1" background_position="left top" background_color="" border_size="" border_color="" border_style="solid" spacing="yes" background_image="" background_repeat="no-repeat" padding="" margin_top="0px" margin_bottom="0px" class="" id="" animation_type="" animation_speed="0.3" animation_direction="left" hide_on_mobile="no" center_content="no" min_height="none"][its] goals and vision."
There are many things in my life that prevent me from "keeping my quacker closed," as my grandmother would say: I was raised in a political, opinionated household, I served as a former legislative aide at our State Capitol and as an opinion writer for my university newspaper, remain a firm and devoted believer in God, and a proponent of the First Amendment. There are so many items that I want to comment on, but refrain from doing so because of my public position.
I've learned that over the years if my comments won't fire well, they will become controversial. If they don't spark good will, I better be willing to acknowledge and accept the fullest consequences of a possible fallout. It's possible Mr. Robertson and the above listed teachers were aware of this point of view, and maybe others were not. Regardless, all teachers must acknowledge the limits on free speech in public for public officials, whether they're in the classroom or of the bearded variety.[/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]