About Jake Miller

Mr. Jake Miller is the 2016 National History Day Pennsylvania Teacher of the Year, a 2017 NEA Global Fellow to China, and a former candidate for county-wide office. Miller has written more than 500 articles, most of which have appeared on The Educator's Room. He's the opening contributor to TER's book When the Fire Is Gone. Learn more about Jake at www.MrJakeMiller.com

“We have a bunch of dumb sh**s over there…” California high school teacher Gregory Salcido said, in the midst of his classroom discussion with his teenage students. “They’re not academic people, not intellectual people. They’re the freaking lowest of our low…” The video, recorded by student Victor Q. (who wishes to join the United States Marines), captures one grotesque statement after another. Salcido continues: “We don’t have a good military… it’s just a bunch of people whose parents didn’t love them enough to push them.” The teaching profession is once again sullied in the national conversation.

All educators have seen news stories where those in our profession have done plenty of stupid things. Every profession has those who make poor decisions, that have sullying the name of their profession everywhere. I’ve even been pulled in from the sidelines to view a few first-hand. But I’ve never seen somebody at the front of the classroom so blatantly place his foot in his own mouth, only to be asking for others’ foots to be targeted at his rear.

But for every 10 detractors, there are defenders of Salcido’s comments. Namely among these has been Trinity College and U.S. Army veteran Johnny Eric Williams, who, himself, was victim to a viral, meteoric criticism of what he deemed as growing white supremacy and fascism. In his defense, Williams says Alcido’s comments were valid as part of the First Amendment. He couldn’t be more wrong.

Yoshanda Jones wrote an article about a year ago describing the power – and limits – of a teacher’s Freedom of Speech. In it, she declares:

So, does that mean that teachers can say whatever they want and claim the protections of the First Amendment? The answer should be a resounding no.  First, the court will determine whether the employee spoke as a citizen on a matter of public concern… If the employee did not speak as a citizen on a matter of public concern, then the employee is not entitled to the protections of the First Amendment. Second, the court will determine whether the government body had an adequate reason for treating the public employee differently from any other member of the general public. This question analyzes whether the employee’s speech was outweighed by the state’s interest in promoting efficiency.

In such a litmus test, Salcido’s comments violate both counts. But, most importantly, it violates the community trust placed in this teacher to discuss things with students in a manner of respect and accountability. With this captive audience, Salcido has used his podium as a pedestal to preach and pontificate from, rather than teach and lead from. It’s one thing for Salcido to have these thoughts and feelings. Coming from a family with vast military experience, I completely disagree with them, but I am not one to engage in thought police tactics, fascism be damned.

Salcido's comments violates the community trust placed in him as a teacher Click To Tweet

That said, just because some teacher has the right to their own opinions does not give them the right to push them on students as a form of entertainment, or, worse, targeted dismissal.

One could only imagine what it was like to be Victor Q., whose dreams are to join the United States Marines. Or how any of our current 1.5 million active duty members of the United States military, the 22 million veterans of the United States Armed Forces, or their families felt about his comments the first time they witnessed this video.

I, for one, still can’t listen to them the whole way through.

For many, the military built up and became sustenance for their life. Watch any veteran or active duty member interact with someone in their unit, and you’ll see the power of what they refer to as “brothers-in-arms.” These arms aren’t weapons; they’re connected, arm-in-arm, leading our military in various entanglements throughout the world.

Moving forward, I can’t stand the thought of Salcido standing at the front of another classroom. This has nothing to do with political ideology – as Victor Q’s family member who posted his video to help them go viral called Salcido a “liberal douche.” It has everything to do with promoting a quality learning environment where all students feel welcomed, accounted for, and valuable in our society – chief among these those who lay down their lives protecting our nation and world by serving in the Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force, National Guard, reserves, and Coast Guard.

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