“I am willing to give up some of my constitutional rights in order to be safer or more secure.”
That was the sentence dictated to her 4th grade class by teacher Cheryl Saab. From Yahoo News:
Harvey’s son attends Cedar Hills Elementary in Jacksonville, Fla. Back in January, a local attorney came in to teach the students about the Bill of Rights. But after the attorney left, fourth-grade teacher Cheryl Sabb dictated the sentence to part of the class and had them copy it down, he said.
The paper sat unnoticed in Harvey’s son’s backpack for several months until last week, when his son’s mother almost threw it away. The words caught her eye in the trash, and she showed it to Harvey, who said he was at a loss for words. He asked his son, who said Sabb had spoken the sentence out loud and told them to write it down. Harvey said he asked some of his son’s classmates and got a similar answer.
This reminded me of a similar experience I went through when I was a senior in high school in 19-mumble-mumble. I was in a class that taught students business skills. It was mandatory for a college scholarship offered by the state for students who went to school half the day and had a part-time job outside of school. To receive the scholarship students had to maintain a certain gradepoint average the first year in college. A new bill making its way through the Florida legislature would change the requirement so that students had to have that gradepoint average the first semester of college. If they didn’t have that average, they would lose the scholarship after the first semester rather than the first year. Since the scholarship was given for each semester, this would eliminate the extra cost for students who wasted their first sememester and motivate students to do better in order to keep the scholarship.
Given that the first step in getting the scholarship was to take this class in high school, the teachers were worried students would lose interest in taking the class if the scholarship was harder to get. As they explained the bill to my class they left out their own personal stake. We were then given our class assignment: Write a letter to the Florida legislature saying that you were against the bill.
I was a straight-A student who never made trouble. I raised my hand and said I was for the bill and asked if I could put that in my letter. Another student asked why I would do that and I explained why I thought the bill was a good idea. A few others students said they agreed with me. Then the teacher lost it. She angrily told me I was being insubordinate and threatened to suspend me. This was quite amusing to the rest of the class given my reputation as a quiet student.
That afternoon on my way to work I called in to the local talk radio that followed Rush Limbaugh and told the host my story. I told him how my teacher expected us to act like mind-numb robots and then threatened me with suspension.
The next day the teacher called me into her office just as class was about to start. Apparently, someone who knew the principal was a regular listener to the talk show had passed on my story. The teacher told me it was just an exercise in learning how to write a business letter and that she didn’t tell us we had to write about something in particular. She also said she didn’t really intend to suspend me. So, just an empty threat to humiliate me in front of the class?
These stories have been common for a long time. Many times students (and parents) don’t want to make waves because the teachers have the power. At least I had the power of talk radio behind me. Today’s kids have social media and the internet to back them up. It’s important that they know it’s wrong for teachers to force their political beliefs and that’s it’s ok to speak up. With enough sunlight, maybe teachers will realize it’s no longer worth the hassle.