Critical denial has nothing to do with rivers in Egypt . . .

Critical pedagogy:

a teaching approach which attempts to help students question and challenge domination, and the beliefs and practices that dominate. In other words, it is a theory and practice of helping students achieve critical consciousness. In this tradition the teacher works to lead students to question ideologies and practices considered oppressive (including those at school), and encourage liberatory collective and individual responses to the actual conditions of their own lives.

The student often begins as a member of the group or process (including religion, national identity, cultural norms, or expected roles) they are critically studying. After they reach the point of revelation where they begin to view their society as deeply flawed, the next behavior encouraged is sharing this knowledge with the attempt to change the oppressive nature of the society.

Colorado schoolteacher Jay Bennish, now in the news for comparing Bush to Hitler, actually does much more. He's the critical pedagogue's critical pedagogue. If you listen to this tape (via LGF), you'll hear him ranting about Israel and the United States being terrorist states, the evils of capitalism, Bill Clinton's slaughter of thousands in the Sudan which led to 9/11, etc.

I listened to the whole tape, and he sounds nuttier than a fruitcake (despite the cute appearance in the CBS picture).


While Bennish's views are protected by the First Amendment, I think that's a pretty lame way to analyze this. (After all, Nazis have free speech too.) The man is supposed to be teaching geography! But instead, he's delivering rantings that sound for the world like Ward Churchill on speed -- with his voice raised several octaves higher.

Now that he's been suspended, the kids have rallied to his defense. That's understandable (if molested kids can fall in love with pedophiles, I see no reason why kids can't fall even more in love with critical pedagogues), but it doesn't mean that what he does should be called teaching.

If I had a kid there, I'd sue to get my property taxes back.

Listening to the tape makes me glad I don't have children.

(For now, I'll cling to my denial, and I'll content myself by hoping this tape is an aberration, and that most teachers are normal people who try to be objective and fair and stick to the subject material.)

MORE: With their principal's approval, students in New Jersey are trying President Bush for "war crimes."

(I prefer the old-fashioned "enemy of the people" designation.)

UPDATE (03/03/06):Via Maggie's Farm, Michelle Malkin has more on Bennish (he's planning a lawsuit), and Ian Schwartz has the video of student Sean Allen's appearance on Hannity and Colmes last night.

I love this idea that there's a "First Amendment right" to teach whatever crazed ideas might pop into a teacher's head.


Next the ACLU will be championing the First Amendment right to "teach" that the earth is only 10,000 years old.

Well, aren't there two sides to every point of view?

posted by Eric on 03.02.06 at 03:37 PM


Looks like his students are split - 3.2 out of 5 (average)

MPH   ·  March 2, 2006 4:31 PM

"if molested kids can fall in love with pedophiles, I see no reason why kids can't fall even more in love with critical pedagogues)"

We laugh because it is funny and we laugh because it is true. :)

Also, when the CA teachers went out on strike I also left school, and if somebody had busted me I would have said I did it to support the teachers... in other words I would have lied.

Why the hell would anybody believe that more than 1 or 2 students were sincere? Especially since this teacher's a douche... Its like reporters are trying hard NOT to be cynical...

Harkonnendog   ·  March 2, 2006 5:23 PM

From the link to the war crime "trial":

"President Bush is often tried in absentia all around the world," Kyle said.

Not to be a stickler for - you know - facts, but has he been tried anywhere even once, let alone "often"? Google isn't very helpful in supporting his statement.

The Bostonian Exile   ·  March 2, 2006 6:17 PM

Let's make a big distinction between the teacher who is pushing his personal opinions on the students and the teacher running the war crimes mock court. The use of mock courts is a well-established and honorable educational device. It brings forth both sides of an issue for critical examination. Most revealing here is the fact that the court's decision will not be made public. That clearly demonstrates that the intent is educational, not propagandistic. The contrast between this mock court and the geography teacher's propagandizing could not be greater. The former deserves the plaudits of all reasonable people while the latter deserves their condemnation.

Erasmussimo   ·  March 2, 2006 7:32 PM

There's just something about running this sort of proceeding that just invites, um, "balance."

Hmmmm.... How to do that.

Maybe "try" Hillary Clinton for the murder of Vincent Foster?

Eric Scheie   ·  March 2, 2006 8:18 PM

I don't think that a mock trial of Hillary Clinton for the murder of Vincent Foster would provide much educational value. The evidence in that case is obscure and indirect; for a good mock trial, you want lots of good evidence on both sides. More important, you want some sort of tough dilemma that is illuminated by the trial. A murder case is only useful for a mock trial if it evokes deeper political issues.

Erasmussimo   ·  March 2, 2006 9:18 PM

Sorry, but I don't see any serious educational value in any of these "trials."

Eric Scheie   ·  March 2, 2006 10:55 PM

The use of mock trials as an educational exercise has a long and respectable history. The trick is to select topics that are usefully debatable, and that bring to the fore problems worthy of consideration. In the case of a mock trial for American war crimes, there would certainy be some merit in debating the American policy with respect to torture. There is certainly plenty of evidence of policies that meet various legal definitions of torture. There is also the discrepancy between official Administration directives regarding torture and various treaties America has signed regarding the use of torture. And of course, there are always the problems arising from the ambiguous legal status of the victims. Are they prisoners of war? Common criminals? The Administration has chosen to designate them as "enemy combatants" -- a term that has no reference in any legal documents pertaining to torture. Should we accept the creation of a new legal class of persons, and then deny them the rights of other classes? The official legal position of the Administration is that they have no legal rights whatsoever. Is this a violation of treaties we have signed? What does the concept of the "rule of law" mean in a situation in which the Administration has denied the applicability of any law?

There's plenty of material here to debate in a way that illuminates legal and political issues.

Erasmussimo   ·  March 2, 2006 11:21 PM

That does it. I'm holding a trial in absentia of Eric for gross misconduct involving posting pictures of Schlitzie the Pinhead. Long over due if you asked me.

Beck   ·  March 3, 2006 9:24 AM

Just HAVING THE TRIAL makes a political statement about Bush.

Just as JUST HAVING THE TRIAL would make a political statement about Foster and Clinton.

Isn't that obvious???

Harkonnendog   ·  March 3, 2006 4:49 PM

I listened to the audio of TEACHER CAUGHT IN BUSH RANT, with great interest. Also, with sadness.

My name is Michael Class. I live in the Seattle area with my wife and two children. I am a retired "dot-com" executive turned author, photographer, and publisher.

I was appalled at how some teachers presented American history to my children. My son and daughter learned that Thomas Jefferson had slaves—before they learned that he wrote the document articulating our rights and duties as free people. European settlers killed Native Americans with blankets infected with smallpox, they found out. That allegation upstaged the stories of courage, perseverance, and curiosity that defined the pioneers. My children knew that more than a hundred thousand people died when the atomic bomb was dropped on Japan, but they were not made to understand the moral context and the enormous scale of the conflict called World War II in which the atomic bomb story fit.

With a curriculum seemingly designed to instill guilt and shame, I wondered, how will my kids ever discover the lessons of history that inspire greatness and noble aspirations? Will they ever believe that they can make a difference? Will they have any heroes left at all? Then, I wondered: What would the heroes of America’s past say to the children of today?

I wrote, photographed, and published a book designed to set the record straight, to properly prepare our children for the future. My book is called Anthony and the Magic Picture Frame.

If you know where I can reach 10th-grader Sean Allen, I will gladly send him a FREE copy of my book.

My book specifically rebuts the positions taken by teacher Jay Bennish - because I have heard his arguments so many times before. My book tells the truth about capitalism, the War on Terror, and places them in historical perspective.

In the book, my real-life son, twelve-year-old Anthony, time-travels into the great events of the 20th century. Digital photographic “magic” places Anthony in the cockpit of the Spirit of St. Louis with Charles Lindbergh, on the moon with Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, in the laboratories of Thomas Edison and Jonas Salk, and on Normandy beach on D-Day. It looks as though Anthony really did meet Thomas Edison, Jonas Salk, FDR, Lou Gehrig, Charles Lindbergh, and Audie Murphy. And it’s all historically accurate: Even Anthony’s conversations with America’s heroes are based on things they really said.

While writing and photographing the book, I spoke with relatives of famous scientists and inventors, Holocaust survivors, award-winning biographers, and others who could help me ensure that the facts of the book were both accurate and vivid.

But the book goes beyond a simple recitation of historical facts: the book presents the moral lessons of American history. The chapter about Lindbergh’s flight is really about choosing one’s destiny. The story of Lou Gehrig is one of a virtuous life. The chapter about Thomas Edison is really about business. The story of Apollo 11 is about wonder, taking risks, and courage. The story of Dr. Jonas Salk and the cure for polio is really about dedicating one’s life to a higher purpose. When Anthony “meets” his immigrant great-grandfather at Ellis Island in 1907, it’s really a story about what it means to be an American. Anthony’s observation of D-Day and the liberation of the death camps during the Holocaust is a testament to the reality of evil and the need to fight it.

The book is meant to challenge the young reader. Many adults will find the book challenging, too. Anthony COMPARES the people and events of the past with the people and events of his own time. Anthony discusses the nature of good and evil, right and wrong, war and peace, what it means to be an American, honor and discipline, success and achievement, courage and destiny, marriage and family, God and purpose. Anthony’s observations prompt serious discussion of timeless moral questions. Anthony challenges the reader to think critically - to see the modern world in the light of the lessons of the past.

We can't afford to raise a generation of Americans who do not value their country, their heritage, and their place in the world. As Abraham Lincoln said: America is the "last best hope of earth."

Thank you.

Michael S. Class
Author / Photographer / Publisher

Anthony and the Magic Picture Frame: An American History Book for Right-Thinking Parents and Their Children


Web site:

Michael Class   ·  March 3, 2006 8:26 PM

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