Saturday, March 11, 2006

Bennish: Intellectual Child Abuse, by Mike Rosen, March 10, 2006

Here's how the Los Angeles Times spun the story: "Teacher suspended for Bush remark." Wrong! Several other news stories in our local papers have been no better. Congratulations to Rocky Mountain News reporters who got it right: "The teacher, Jay Bennish, is on paid leave pending the outcome of an investigation into whether he violated a district policy requiring balanced viewpoints being presented in class."
Bingo! If teachers were disciplined merely for criticizing President Bush, half of them would probably be out of work. Bennish is under scrutiny for violating his public trust as a teacher of callow young minds by carting his personal political soapbox into his 10th- grade geography class in violation of a perfectly sensible and reasonable Cherry Creek Schools policy that requires teachers to be "impartial and objective" when dealing with controversial issues.

There's an old saying among lawyers: "When you're weak on the facts, argue the law. When you're weak on the law, argue the facts. And when you're weak on the facts and the law, abuse your opponent."

So Bennish, the Overland High School left-wing political activist who masquerades as a geography teacher, has retained David Lane to personally attack Sean Allen, the 16-year-old student who had the courage to expose Bennish as the propagandist he is. Lane - who also represents Bennish soundalike Ward Churchill - doesn't have much to work with. This is not a First Amendment issue. Lane conceded on my radio show last week that the district policy requiring that teachers offer a balanced presentation in class is most certainly constitutional. And anyone who has listened to the recording of Bennish's 20- minute tirade (you can hear it by clicking on the "Mike Rosen" link under "Shows" at will recognize it as a one-sided, left-wing rant. So all that's left is to attack the whistleblower, Allen.

Lane isn't really lawyering for Bennish at this point since a lawsuit would be premature. The district hasn't concluded anything yet. No, Lane is Bennish's PR man, his media flack. And he's made young Allen the target of preposterous claims that he doctored the recording or that he's lied about Bennish's past political diatribes. Allen has offered to make the recording available to an audio expert and has been corroborated by past students of Bennish who have testified to a pattern of left-wing indoctrination in his lectures, which may be why the school district has decided to extend its investigation.

Equally preposterous is the claim that Bennish's remarks have been "taken out of context." Just listen to the recording yourself. It must be heard to be believed. It's indefensible. He sounds like Michael Moore - only angrier! He isn't merely "playing devil's advocate."

Bennish is supposed to be a teacher not an agitator. And, no, balance wouldn't be served by an offsetting right-wing diatribe, wholly unlikely for an ideologue of his leftist ilk - and just as inappropriate in a 10th-grade classroom. His pretense is that this is Socratic dialogue meant to engage students. Nonsense. Socratic dialogue is reasoned, measured and dispassionate, not ranting and raving. Bennish's tone is bitter and inflammatory. He's a demagogue. He asks rhetorical questions and answers them himself with simplistic, left-wing sloganeering. "Capitalism is a violation of human rights," he declares as incontrovertible fact. Really? According to whom, Karl Marx? Josef Stalin? Kim Jong Il? That kind of a declaration would be out of line even in a class on comparative economics and has no relevance whatsoever in a geography class!

Bennish shamelessly concludes his 20-minute harangue saying: "And I'm not in any way implying that you should agree with me. I don't even know if I'm necessarily taking a position," after he just finished doing precisely that. What chutzpah! This is part of his charade as an advocate, pretending he's just provoking thought. He inserts this facile disclaimer, imagining that it inoculates him from charges of manipulating the impressionable young minds he rewards for regurgitating this twaddle back to him on a test or paper.
Lane, the Bennish button man, has questioned Allen's "agenda." Allen has made that clear. He believes it's wrong for a teacher to exploit his position of trust to engage in self-indulgent ideological indoctrination. And Allen's parents believe their public education tax dollars shouldn't be used to subsidize Bennish's political agenda and that their son is entitled to a fair and honest education. Apparently, many other parents and taxpayers agree. Nobody's taking Jay Bennish "out of context." He damns himself with his own words. This is nothing less than intellectual child abuse.

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