Thursday, February 01, 2007


Ain't That Damn Messenger Dead Yet?

Sixteen year-old Matt LaClair is in the news again. Matt, who dared to point out that a popular teacher (supposedly of American history but who was and is ignorant of the Constitution of the United States) was violating the Establishment Clause by proselytizing in class on the taxpayers' time, was subsequently ridiculed and threatened by his classmates and others in his New Jersey community.

Matt had recorded the teacher because he was afraid school officials would not otherwise believe him over the teacher. Reportedly, the teacher denied telling students that evolution and the Big Bang were not scientific, that dinosaurs were aboard Noah’s ark and that only Christians had a place in heaven, until Matt produced the recording.
In a rather suspicious development, the school board has now instituted a policy that requires students to request permission from an instructor to record or videotape a class. Ostensibly the result of complaints by other students that that their voices had been broadcast on the Internet and on television news programs without their consent, it certainly has the appearance of an attempt, if not to quite do in the messenger, at least to muzzle him for the foreseeable future.

On the other hand, it has the adults at least making something like the right noises:

[T]he school board president, Bernadette McDonald, addressed a memo to the Kearny School District community that every teacher would receive mandatory instruction about how to interpret the Constitution’s separation of church and state and how it should apply to classroom discussions. Ms. McDonald also asked the school board to adopt a policy showing “its strong commitment to the principle that the personal religious beliefs of our instructional staff have no place in our classrooms.”

Kenneth J. Lindenfelser, the board’s lawyer, said classes were being planned to inform students of their constitutional rights, to encourage them to come forward with questions and to explain that people “who exercise their rights should not be viewed negatively.”

Still, the school officials who have said that they took “corrective action" against the teacher have refused to say what it was, leaving the sound of wrist slapping hanging in the air. This doesn't help, either:

Meanwhile, Matthew said that Mr. Paszkiewicz recently told the class that scientists who spoke about the danger of global warming were using tactics like those Hitler used, by repeating a lie often enough that people come to believe it.

Mr. Lindenfelser said that the district did not investigate the report of that comment, which he said was not religious or a violation of “any kind of law.”

So, basically, the board is saying that bad and unfactual teaching is okay with them as long as it isn't outright illegal? I feel for the poor kids in Kearny.
Via Pharygula and Evolutionblog.

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