Teacher has right to Hitler comments

Already this year, there has been an interesting assortment of freedom of speech issues that have made their way into the mainstream media. While the debate over the Danish cartoons depicting Mohammed continues and the attention to the boy suspended for his MySpace.com posts fizzle, a new story presents a similar theme.

A Colorado teacher was placed on paid leave after comparing President George Bush to Adolf Hitler, according to CNN.com on Friday. Although social studies teacher Jay Bennish has since been reinstated to his position, this should have never happened in the first place.

Following Bush’s State of the Union Address, Bennish made a comment about how the things the current U.S. president was saying were similar to some of Hitler’s rhetoric. A student had recorded the comments, and the tape was turned in to the school administration and a local radio station.

Although the teacher was inserting his own opinion in the middle of his lecture, teachers across the country do this all the time, and nobody ever expresses interest. As long as educators include the phrase “in my opinion,” which Bennish did, teachers deserve the right to continue examining how they feel. Young students develop their own opinions from the people around them, including parents and teachers. Learning that there are different sides to every issue assists students in becoming more educated adults.

Teachers like Bennish are just trying to get students to think critically and make comparisons. If his intent was to persuade students to agree with his thinking, he would just be exploiting his position as an educator, but that doesn’t seem to be the case.

This is just a gross exaggeration that the school administration, as well as the media, decided to jump all over and blow out of proportion. There was no harm done to the students, and this entire situation is just plain ridiculous.

This debate has gotten so big that Bush himself has even stated his feelings. The Rocky Mountain News on March 11 reported Bush has been asked by reporters how he feels about schoolroom freedom of speech. His reply was simple – people should be able to be critical of his actions.

Colorado’s state senate voted recently against a proposal that would fire teachers who only presented one side to important issues. There are still disciplinary actions that can be taken against educators who constantly give students narrow-minded views. It’s not the role of school systems to stop teachers from discussing important issues. It is, however, their role to protect the best interests of the students’ educations.

Teachers are not going to stop expressing how they feel about politics in social studies classrooms anytime soon. Whether it be opening up a discussion on President Bush’s presidency or entering a small sarcastic remark about the current administration, teachers’ opinions aren’t going anywhere.

The above editorial is the consensus opinion of the editorial board of the Daily Kent Stater.