RACINE, Wis. – Left-wing Wisconsin teacher Al Levie believes his mission in the classroom is to help students “become engines of positive change in our society.”
Some of his former students, however, describe their experience in his class a little bit differently.
“This man is a socialist and proud of it. Not someone I wanted to learn from and I feel that I was not taught the truth,” a former student wrote on the popular website RateMyTeachers.com. “I was only taught the propagandized version of the truth. This man is a danger to American society.”
Another student described him as “a wolf in sheep’s clothing,” and advises parents, “do not allow your kids to attend his class.
“He is the reason our high schools/colleges have become so progressive and this type of influence just solidifies our entitlement society.”
Levie, a social studies teacher at Racine’s Horlick High School, generated an online firestorm recently when he publicly rejected a humanitarian award from Congressman Paul Ryan during a local ceremony honoring Martin Luther King, Jr.
A video of the incident, and Levie’s lame excuse for his actions, has generated over 36,000 hits on YouTube.com. “Paul Ryan is a lackey for the one percent,” Levie contends.
The snub is the latest in Levie’s long history of political pandering for liberal causes, a passion that often involves public antics with his students and spills over into his classroom. He recruits high-schoolers to his student group – Youth Empowered in the Struggle (YES) – to fight immigration laws, picket legislative offices and turn out voters for liberal politicians.
“By engaging students in real-life issues and encouraging them to act on a political level, we will transform schools into places where authentic learning takes place,” Levie wrote in his union’s magazine, NEA Today.
Unfortunately, Levie’s social justice curriculum isn’t working out as well as planned. Only 57 percent of Racine high school students are proficient in social studies. Yet we would be willing to bet that most of them could quickly identify Marx’s “Communist Manifesto” or tell you the life story of Fidel Castro.
That reality has parents and community members fuming over Levie’s lop-sided, politically biased approach to teaching, with the public reaction to his most recent stunt hitting swift and hard.
The immediate response to Levie’s snub of Ryan was caught on video. Audience members booed loudly as the so-called teacher walked away from the award.
Others yelled: “Come on, it’s for the kids!”
But that was just the beginning.
Hundreds have posted comments on message boards at YouTube.com, BigGovernment.com, the blog Free Racine, Glenn Beck’s The Blaze, RateMyTeachers.com, PublicSchoolSpending.com, and sent letters to Racine’s Journal Times newspaper. Local radio stations have also hosted callers who were outraged by the incident.
Here’s a sample of what some are saying:
” … (W)hen Al Levie, a Horlick High School teacher, got up to receive his Humanitarian Award, he asked if he could say a few words. Most of us were thinking he would speak of the unfinished work that Dr. King would ask us to continue today. Be kind to one another, love one another, be civil to one another,” Burlington resident Chris Weidert wrote in the Journal Times.
“But instead, Levie got up on his soapbox to trash talk the governor of Wisconsin. How inappropriate, disrespectful and, to use the words of others, how ‘shameful’ it was for this to happen. This day was meant to honor the students, but instead, he turned into a circus.”
Several online message boards posted Levie’s snub video and several forums quickly shifted focus from the incident itself, to a broader discussion on political activism and “social justice” lessons in the classroom.
“I really wish you would stand down from ruining our children with your moronic leftist social propaganda and just let real teachers stick to teaching math and science without injecting their own political agenda,” one person commented on the YouTube video.
“This man is not teaching. He is propagandizing and should be dismissed. He is an embarrassment to the community and to the teaching profession as a whole,” wrote a parent on RateMyTeachers.com.
“Levie should be fired. You want to know why our kids cannot compete in today’s world. He is the reason,” another poster added.
Others took offense to Levie’s compensation as a public school teacher – more than $90,000 in salary and benefits – and alluded to the hypocrisy of his call for “economic justice” while he earns far more than the average taxpayers who fund his salary.
The local Latino newspaper, El Conquistador, acknowledged the teacher’s work with the area’s Latino population, but criticized Levie andVoces De La Frontera, a radical group which supported his public snub. The stunt was unprofessional and an affront to Martin Luther King, Jr.’s dream, the paper opined.
“A plot to embarrass a sitting U.S. Representative for political points doesn’t change immigration policy, and it certainly doesn’t heal a partisan divide. It would be difficult to believe that if Martin Luther King Jr. were alive today, he would mock the Congressional guests of events meant to honor humanitarians,” the El Conquistador editorial read.
In news interviews after the incident, Levie acknowledged that he never intended to accept the award from Ryan, and, if given a chance, he’d reject it all over again.
But we believe that his childish antics could have some unintended consequences. After the story broke, conservative radio talk show hosts and other pundits started focusing on the far too common problem of extremely liberal public school teachers peddling their ideologies to students.
“This guy has a history of trying to indoctrinate his kids into being activists for the liberal cause. He should be fired,” said Jerry Bader, withNews Talk 97.5.
Bader went on to discuss how Wisconsin parents have “gritted their teeth” and refrained from criticizing educators who teach from a political slant, largely because union protections made removing such teachers nearly impossible. Thanks to Governor Scott Walker’s budget repair legislation, Act 10, that is no longer the case, Bader said.
“Now that the collective bargaining protections that they had have been largely removed, when this type of stuff happens, parents need to demand that they be fired. Maybe one warning, maybe two, but when there’s a pattern, this guy shouldn’t be teaching anymore.”
Bader’s comments instigated instant feedback from callers who have had their own problems with teachers crossing the political line.
“My son texted me … from his civics class, he’s a freshman, and there is some guy in the room just running (Gov.) Walker down. So I immediately call the principal and told the principal ‘Get that teacher out of the room,'” a caller from Colby, Wisconsin said. “She told me not to worry, there was only 12 minutes left in class, and she would let him finish up.
” … That was the wrong answer,” according to the caller, who went on to press the issue with the superintendent and the school board. The teacher, a substitute, was ultimately required to issue an apology, the caller said.
According to Racine Unified School District Superintendent Ann Laing, Levie’s conduct at the awards ceremony “occurred on his own time since Martin Luther King Day is not a work day for employees.”
“The First Amendment protects his right to freedom of speech,” she said.
We certainly agree, and it’s clear that Levie uses that right to its full advantage. But what’s concerning is that teachers like Levie are using their positions in publicly funded schools to recruit teens to their personal political causes. Parents and citizens are rightly concerned that students are receiving an education skewed by political ideology.