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As the political climate continues to polarize in this country, I become more and more concerned about my position in the Academy.  As an untenured instructor, how much freedom do I have in the classroom?  I am a teacher of Writing, Rhetoric, and English literature.  My classes inevitably get into political language whenever the topic of rhetoric comes up.  It's often unavoidable because the students themselves bring it up.  I'm usually careful to avoid bringing my own lefty views into plain sight, and try to show the abusive uses of language in political language in general.  But will I always be perceived with such generosity by my students?  Several recent cases make me think that I such generosity may not always be given.

Follow me over the fold as I consider the ramifications of students having the right to record the political and religious speech of their professors.  

When I first read the following story, I was appalled.  Here's the text:

Last fall, Matthew, 16, taped the teacher, David Paszkiewicz, telling students in a history class that if they do not believe that Jesus died for their sins, they "belong in hell."

On the recordings, which Matthew made surreptitiously starting in September, Mr. Paszkiewicz is heard telling the class that there were dinosaurs aboard Noah’s ark and that there is no scientific basis for evolution or the Big Bang theory of the origin of the universe.

Since Matthew turned over the tapes to school officials, his family and supporters said, he has been the target of harassment and a death threat from fellow students and "retaliation" by school officials who have treated him, not the teacher, as the problem. The retaliation, they say, includes the district’s policy banning students from recording what is said in class without a teacher’s permission and officials’ refusal to punish students who have harassed Matthew.

For another New York Times story on this issue, go here.  It seems to me like this is a clear cut case of the teacher abusing his position, but the school officials are treating it as anything but.  However, this raises some really thorny issues concerning students' rights and academic freedom.  

I can make the overly hasty generalization that a lot of Daily Kos readers will believe that this student is courageous, did the right thing, and is being wrongly abused because of his actions.  I think that many people here will also believe the teacher should either be fired or at least severely disciplined.  These are my views on the matter at least, but I am conscious that this is my view from the left side of the fence.    
When I first read the following story, I was appalled.  Here's the text:

Last fall, Matthew, 16, taped the teacher, David Paszkiewicz, telling students in a history class that if they do not believe that Jesus died for their sins, they "belong in hell."

On the recordings, which Matthew made surreptitiously starting in September, Mr. Paszkiewicz is heard telling the class that there were dinosaurs aboard Noah’s ark and that there is no scientific basis for evolution or the Big Bang theory of the origin of the universe.

Since Matthew turned over the tapes to school officials, his family and supporters said, he has been the target of harassment and a death threat from fellow students and "retaliation" by school officials who have treated him, not the teacher, as the problem. The retaliation, they say, includes the district’s policy banning students from recording what is said in class without a teacher’s permission and officials’ refusal to punish students who have harassed Matthew.

For another New York Times story on this issue, go here.  It seems to me like this is a clear cut case of the teacher abusing his position, but the school officials are treating it as anything but.  However, this raises some really thorny issues concerning students' rights and academic freedom.  

There have been other issues of students recording professors and teachers at the university and secondary education levels.  Another famous one is the case of Jay Bennish.  Here's an excerpt from an excellent piece from the Guardian:

Meanwhile, in January in Aurora, Colorado, social studies teacher Jay Bennish answered questions in his world geography class about President George Bush's speech from his students at Overland High School. Caricaturing Bush's speech, Bennish said, "'It's our duty as Americans to use the military to go out into the world and make the world like us.'" He then continued: "Sounds a lot like the things Adolf Hitler used to say: 'We're the only ones who are right, everyone else is backwards and it's our job to conquer the world and make sure they all live just like we want them to.' Now I'm not saying that Bush and Hitler are exactly the same. Obviously they're not, OK? But there are some eerie similarities to the tones they use."

Unbeknown to him, one 16-year-old student, Sean Allen, recorded part of the class on his MP3 player. When his Republican father heard it he was so incensed that he shopped it around to local conservative radio stations, where it finally found a home with radio talk-show host Mike Rosen.

Later in Bennish's class, the teacher had told his students, "I am not in any way implying that you should agree with me. I don't even know if I'm necessarily taking a position. But what I'm trying to get you to do is to think, all right, about these issues more in depth, and not just take things from the surface. And I'm glad you asked all your questions because they're all very good, legitimate questions." Rosen only played the first part of the tape on his programme. He also put it on the internet.

Now, it also seems clear to me that Bennish may have stepped over the line here and pushed his own political agenda.  There's a way to analyze Bush's rhetoric without necessarily going to the Hitler analogy.  (As a side point, the Hitler analogy should be retired for a while.  It never serves to make a good point anymore because it's too incendiary.)  From the right side of the fence, Sean Allen can also be seen to be courageous.  So much so that the chief education cultural warrior David Horowitz felt it earned him his own award:

The press conference also included the presentation of the "Sean Allen Award" by David Horowitz to Colorado high school student Sean Allen whose recording of an illiterate political rant by his geography teacher, Jay Bennish, created a national furor over classroom indoctrination. The "Sean Allen Award" and will be presented annually to a student who displays great courage as Sean did in combating classroom indoctrination and standing up for academic freedom.

So, what's the problem so far?  Both cases can be reasonably read as teachers overstepping their boundaries (although in my case I think the teacher telling students they're going to burn is more egregious than Bennish's errors, and I do believe that Bennish has been lynched more or less by the media and conservative machine), but these cases set precedents for abuses of students' assertions of their rights.

The Guardian piece I quoted from above makes the insightful point that some of these cases are pointing to a more organized attack on liberal academe:

Either way, a growing number of apparently isolated incidents suggests a mood which is, if nothing else, determined, relentless and aimed openly at progressives in academe.

Earlier this year, Fox news commentator Sean Hannity urged students to record "leftwing propaganda" by professors so he could broadcast it on his show. On the web there is Campus Watch, "monitoring Middle East studies on campus"; Edwatch, "Education for a free nation"; and Parents Against Bad Books in School.

In mid January, the Bruin Alumni association offered students $100 to tape leftwing professors at the University of California Los Angeles. The association effectively had one dedicated member, 24-year-old Republican Andrew Jones. It also had one dedicated aim: "Exposing UCLA's most radical professors" who "[proselytise] their extreme views in the classroom".

Sean Hannity asking people to record their teachers so he can play it on air, or various websites offering to do similar things or even give rewards all encourage a persecution culture within the classroom.

So, here's my questions: What are the teachers' rights with regard to academic freedom when it comes to religion and politics? Do students have the right to be "whistle blowers" and record (in some fashion) their teachers' abuses?  Does such recording constitute a violation of Academic freedom?

At least in the case of Matthew LaClair, I think he did the right thing.  But if we permit him to do it, then don't we open the door for disgruntled College Republicans to use purposeful and selective editing of otherwise even-keeled professors as a weapon against progressives?  (Not to mention the occasional looney on the left side that shouldn't be teaching, but is made into a poster-child for the Left even though most of us would shun them.)  

As an Academic myself, I'm a staunch reporter of Academic Freedom.  But I don't think that gives me the right to tell, say, my religious students that they're delusional idiots.  And though I'm not an advocate of completely de-centered classrooms where pedagogy is student-led, creating a consumer environment, I do believe that students have the right to protest obvious transgressions.  But who decides what is justifiable protest and what is partisan agitation on either side?

If this went to the legislatures, State or Federal, I'd fear that Academic Freedom would become so denuded that teachers would hardly be able to say anything in their own classrooms.  ilona's excellent diary on the a proposed law in Arizona could speak to the future of Academic Freedom.  This law would effectively ban political opinion in the classroom.  I think it would sound like a good idea to many partisan politicians, and they either would not understand or would desire the far-reaching implications of such a law.

I invite better minds than I to discuss this issue.  How do we protect students' rights without abrogating Academic Freedom?  

Update: I found this link that I thought I'd post:

As a school law guy, I’ve been following this incident with great interest. Here are some thoughts that have been running through my head...

  1. The United States Supreme Court famously said in Tinker v. Des Moines (1969) that "state-operated schools may not be enclaves of totalitarianism. School officials do not possess absolute authority over their students. Students in school as well as out of school are ‘persons’ under our Constitution. They are possessed of fundamental rights which the State must respect, just as they themselves must respect their obligations to the State."

Originally posted to Statius on Tue Feb 20, 2007 at 10:12 AM PST.

Poll

Should students be allowed to record their teachers for poltical purposes?

53%35 votes
34%23 votes
6%4 votes
6%4 votes

| 66 votes | Vote | Results

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tips for poor, embattled teachers? (33+ / 0-)

    Our great democracies still tend to think that a stupid man is more likely to be honest than a clever man. -- Bertrand Russell

    by Statius on Tue Feb 20, 2007 at 10:11:38 AM PST

    •  I added a small update (0+ / 0-)

      where some else is writing on the case of teacher's proselytizing.

      Our great democracies still tend to think that a stupid man is more likely to be honest than a clever man. -- Bertrand Russell

      by Statius on Tue Feb 20, 2007 at 11:09:28 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  How do you go about determining... (10+ / 0-)

    ...if a tape is being made for political purposes? Absent a specific admission, I don't you can.

    A tape can be a powerful study tool, especially for students with learning disabilities. Given that the purpose of public education is for people to learn, it simply doesn't make sense to eliminate a powerful learning tool. As long as instructors don't cross the line -- and as you note, both did in these cases -- it should never be a problem. But when the instructors do cross the line, any administrator who isn't willing to impose some kind of sanctions appropriate to the degree of the violation ought to be fired. Permitting death threats and harassment of a student in retaliation is unforgivable.

    Full of good ideas since 1978. Follow the link for the latest one. -6.38, -6.00

    by wiscmass on Tue Feb 20, 2007 at 10:24:44 AM PST

    •  The postings below (0+ / 0-)

      about copyright, are what I've always been led to believe around the topic.

      •  Fair use... (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        tryptamine, poemless

        ...for education would seem to dictate that a student who is taping a class for the sake of learning is not violating copyright in any way.

        Taping a lecture for political purposes, on the other hand, could be problematic, but fair use should still permit the use of taped excerpts.

        Full of good ideas since 1978. Follow the link for the latest one. -6.38, -6.00

        by wiscmass on Tue Feb 20, 2007 at 11:09:07 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  I'd particualrly like to invite any further legal (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          wiscmass

          ruminations on this topic. I can only come at it from within my perspective as a member of a University Community.  I'm not solid on the issues of fair use, and copy right, and intellectual property.  Let alone the implications of Universities or Legislatures trying to resolve this issue.

          Our great democracies still tend to think that a stupid man is more likely to be honest than a clever man. -- Bertrand Russell

          by Statius on Tue Feb 20, 2007 at 11:37:42 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  Here at UW... (5+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            tryptamine, djpat, HiBob, Lashe, JDWolverton

            ...we are obligated to allow certain students to tape our lectures. In fact, we're supposed to do what we can to facilitate it. That's because, as I noted in my initial comment, a tape can be a powerful learning tool, especially for students with learning disabilities. For them, a ban on taping could be perceived as a violation of the Americans With Disabilities Act.

            But even if it's not, it's just bad policy. In an institution whose primary function is the dissemination of knowledge, you do not take away legitimate learning tools.

            Full of good ideas since 1978. Follow the link for the latest one. -6.38, -6.00

            by wiscmass on Tue Feb 20, 2007 at 11:41:45 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  Yes, there's definitely an ADA (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              wiscmass

              angle here, and as someone who also has a disability, I know that disabled rights are often trampled on unintentionally because of one thing or another.

              And yes, knowledge should be disseminated wildly,  The MSM sure doesn't always do it.  But how do we prevent unjustifiable professor lynchings?  

              Our great democracies still tend to think that a stupid man is more likely to be honest than a clever man. -- Bertrand Russell

              by Statius on Tue Feb 20, 2007 at 11:43:57 AM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  For starters... (0+ / 0-)

                ...when the Rethugs publicize specific cases, we should be even louder defending the faculty in question if their words are taken out of context. And if their words are taken out of context, there will be ample evidence of it, including witnesses who attended the lecture.

                But if the words aren't taken out of context, there are some additional considerations. I'm not convinced that we should be using our lecterns to advocate our positions in the classroom. I think that's inappropriate, though there are some complicated contexts in which it might be ok. I think it's wrong because of the power relationship that exists between professors and students -- we should not ever give the impression that students must accept our political views, because in the grand scheme of things, we should not give even the appearance of blackmailing our students. Express your partisanship outside the classroom; inside, it's not acceptable.

                So if an instructor crosses the line, even if we agree with his/her views, we should protest. We should do it gently the first time it happens, or for mild misbehavior -- no need to make a federal case out of everything. But for repeated or major missteps (e.g., "you'll burn in Hell" or "only an idiot fascist would vote for a Republican" -- even though the latter is true), we may need some kind of sanction.

                And FWIW, that kind of political advocacy by an instructor in the classroom is against the law in public educational institutions in Wisconsin, and I'm sure it is in several other states as well.

                Full of good ideas since 1978. Follow the link for the latest one. -6.38, -6.00

                by wiscmass on Tue Feb 20, 2007 at 11:53:38 AM PST

                [ Parent ]

                •  Well put (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  wiscmass

                  I'm not convinced that we should be using our lecterns to advocate our positions in the classroom. I think that's inappropriate, though there are some complicated contexts in which it might be ok. I think it's wrong because of the power relationship that exists between professors and students -- we should not ever give the impression that students must accept our political views, because in the grand scheme of things, we should not give even the appearance of blackmailing our students. Express your partisanship outside the classroom; inside, it's not acceptable.

                  I don't want to blackmail my students, nor do I want them or other parties to blackmail me.  It rejects the whole premise of the open exchange of knowledge.

                  Our great democracies still tend to think that a stupid man is more likely to be honest than a clever man. -- Bertrand Russell

                  by Statius on Tue Feb 20, 2007 at 11:56:42 AM PST

                  [ Parent ]

              •  ADA requires reasonable (0+ / 0-)

                accommodations, NOT a specific method.

                I don't allow any tape-recording in my classes, ever.  I've told the administration that if they allow it it without my permission, it's in breach of my contract.  My lectures are my intellectual property.

                I hand out my lecture outline notes to ALL of my students, for quizzes and tests.  They are based, roughly, on the textbook.

                I am an attorney, and teach paralegal studies, criminal justice and business law to undergrads.

                Eat your dessert first. Seize the day!

                by bearian on Tue Feb 20, 2007 at 11:55:08 AM PST

                [ Parent ]

          •  a bit of a tangent (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Statius

            on teachers' freedom of expression on The Panda's Thumb.

            In 2006, the United States Supreme Court issued a little-noticed decision called Garcetti v. Ceballos, 126 S. Ct. 1951 (2006), that has some interesting—and disturbing—implications for how public employees can express themselves on the job. A January 24th decision from the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, called Mayer v. Monroe County Community Sch. Corp., has now applied the Ceballos doctrine to the case of a government school teacher who alleged that she was unconstitutionally fired for telling students how she felt about the war in Iraq. And this raises the issue of whether the doctrine might be applied in cases involving government teachers who express to their students their own views with regard to evolution and creationism.

            ...

            The Supreme Court ruled against him. Although government employees "do not surrender all their First Amendment rights by reason of their employment," the government can curtail its employees’ speech in certain circumstances. To decide whether its actions violate the First Amendment, the Court asks (a) whether the employee was speaking only as a private citizen on a matter of public concern, and (b) whether the government had a good reason for treating that employee differently than any member of the general public as a consequence of the speech. But in this case, Ceballos’ self-expression was "made pursuant to his duties." Id. at 1959-60. And this fact "distinguishes Ceballos’ case from those in which the First Amendment provides protection against discipline. We hold that when public employees make statements pursuant to their official duties, the employees are not speaking as citizens for First Amendment purposes, and the Constitution does not insulate their communications from employer discipline." Id. at 1960 (emphasis added).

            Quick! Man the Blogs!

            by HiBob on Tue Feb 20, 2007 at 12:51:32 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

    •  That's why I voted "yes." (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      wiscmass

      I don't want to support something that depends on teachers/schools on finding out their true intentions, especially when other issues are present.

      "False words are not only evil in themselves, but they infect the soul with evil." Plato

      by JPete on Tue Feb 20, 2007 at 11:50:52 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  A questioned teacher (0+ / 0-)

    would get the opportunity to enlighten a whole city and not just a few students whenever he is questioned.

    One can prepare written documents beforehand that will accurately present the teacher's opinion and the basis therefore and they will serve both as learning aids and as defensive tools.

    Publish or perish enters a new century.

  •  Besides academic freedom (5+ / 0-)

    there's a whole 'nuther layer of law in play, copyright.

    Distribute a written notice that you retain copyright in all lectures, etc, and do not authorise reproduction.

    Democratic Candidate for US Senator, Wisconsin, in 2012

    by ben masel on Tue Feb 20, 2007 at 10:25:41 AM PST

  •  I'll state what has been the case... (9+ / 0-)

    ...my entire teaching career:  Students have a right to tape the teacher if the teacher grants them that right.  They have to ask.  The teacher can refuse.  Once taped, the terms of use are as set out by the teacher.  For me, for instance, personal use is okay, but passing them along to someone else is not.  That constitutes violation of my right to control the distribution of my work.

    Teacher's Lounge opens every Saturday between 11 am and noon. It's not just for teachers.

    by rserven on Tue Feb 20, 2007 at 10:25:51 AM PST

    •  If recording is permitted... (0+ / 0-)

      can the terms be so strict as to prevent what is analogous to "Fair Use" of a copyrighted work?  i.e. could you prevent just a snippet from being redistributed to make a political point?

      •  Again, the student would... (0+ / 0-)

        ...would have to agree to my terms or not tape.  I can't believe that I would ever agree to letting someone pass what I have said, in whole or in part, to anyone else or use it for anything but personal use.

        Teacher's Lounge opens every Saturday between 11 am and noon. It's not just for teachers.

        by rserven on Tue Feb 20, 2007 at 10:42:09 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  That's a good point, but (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      rserven, JerseyGirl226

      what about the cases where the the teacher is overstepping his or her boundaries, and has not given the right to be recorded.  What's a student to do then?

      Our great democracies still tend to think that a stupid man is more likely to be honest than a clever man. -- Bertrand Russell

      by Statius on Tue Feb 20, 2007 at 10:31:54 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Follow the procedures that are in place. (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        HiBob, Statius

        There are always procedures that address what to do when a teacher crosses boundaries.  We got procedures up the ying-yang.

        Teacher's Lounge opens every Saturday between 11 am and noon. It's not just for teachers.

        by rserven on Tue Feb 20, 2007 at 10:43:59 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  We certainly have procedures up the ying yang (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          rserven, esquimaux

          but do they seem to be working?  It doesn't seem like they always work effectively (that's an unscientific judgment on my part), and I fear what reform of those procedures would bring.

          Our great democracies still tend to think that a stupid man is more likely to be honest than a clever man. -- Bertrand Russell

          by Statius on Tue Feb 20, 2007 at 10:45:46 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  One has to keep on one's toes... (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Statius

            ...that's for sure.  We're entering a whole new era of podcasting on campus.  I may need to get a lawyer.

            Teacher's Lounge opens every Saturday between 11 am and noon. It's not just for teachers.

            by rserven on Tue Feb 20, 2007 at 10:47:13 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  somewhat off tangent (0+ / 0-)

              but I've often thought of beginning my own podcast, in a more formal way.  But more and more universities are podcasting whole courses, and this raises whole new issues of the performativity of the class, and of education as public spectacle.  

              I hope you never need a lawyer rserven.  Your work here and in class is too valuable.

              Our great democracies still tend to think that a stupid man is more likely to be honest than a clever man. -- Bertrand Russell

              by Statius on Tue Feb 20, 2007 at 10:49:36 AM PST

              [ Parent ]

      •  Take notes. (0+ / 0-)

        Democratic Candidate for US Senator, Wisconsin, in 2012

        by ben masel on Tue Feb 20, 2007 at 10:48:54 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  doesn't this depend on the nature of the school (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      rserven, Statius

      and more to the point: do the contracts teachers and professors sign address this at all?

      Quick! Man the Blogs!

      by HiBob on Tue Feb 20, 2007 at 10:37:25 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  That's a good question (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        HiBob, rserven

        as a doctoral candidate, I haven't actually seen such contracts yet myself.  If we let University officials wrangle over the language of what's fair use and what students' rights are, as opposed to the Legislatures, would we fare any better?

        I'm not as cynical of Deans and Chancellors as some of my colleagues, but I must admit that they would have more than just Academic Freedom in mind.  They must protect the university from litigation and bad publicity.

        Our great democracies still tend to think that a stupid man is more likely to be honest than a clever man. -- Bertrand Russell

        by Statius on Tue Feb 20, 2007 at 10:40:54 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  wow (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          JDWolverton

          when I started  grad school (biochem) the last thing I signed was a release that pretty explicitly signed away all rights to any IP I generated while I was there. Didn't matter if it was connected to my research or just a poem - it was technically  theirs. I know the language was really only intended to make certain no one wandered off with all the ingredients for a  patent in their lab notebook, but it still made quite an impression.

          Quick! Man the Blogs!

          by HiBob on Tue Feb 20, 2007 at 11:29:08 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  To a degree (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            HiBob

            it's like that in some composition classes where the curriculum is universal across sections, but there isn't any piece of paper signed.  I think, and I mean no offense by this, that the sciences are a bit more guarded about Intellectual Property.  But that could just be my experience.  Many humanities grad students are too busy drudging through understanding the literal sense of a text with their students, and can't get into the domain where they can offer their own bona fide impressions.  That's just the cynic in me though.

            Our great democracies still tend to think that a stupid man is more likely to be honest than a clever man. -- Bertrand Russell

            by Statius on Tue Feb 20, 2007 at 11:32:55 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

      •  I don't pretend to be anything... (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        HiBob, Statius

        ...but a college professor.  Faculty contracts sometimes address the ownership of material, but it is rare.  It is more common with online classes coming into vogue.

        Teacher's Lounge opens every Saturday between 11 am and noon. It's not just for teachers.

        by rserven on Tue Feb 20, 2007 at 10:45:57 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  I voted yes, but with a caveat: (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    JDWolverton

    Quoting out of context or editing should not be allowed.

    A new class of fair use, perhaps, requiring full text or nothing at all...  

    How can a teacher challenge students if they are not allowed to argue provocative points from the perspective of an advocate of a controversial view?

    They don't have to actually espouse that view to argue it...

    If allowed to quote it out of context, then the point is lost, everyone is relegated to managing spin, nothing of value is actually learned, kids don't develop critical thinking skills.

    As a society, we are in dire need of critical thought.

    On the other hand, if a teacher is teaching a science class claiming dinosaurs were on Noah's ark, and the full text/full session recording proved that teacher was not, in fact, joking, then there is the evidence to remove that teacher.

    It would all end so quickly if they were just impeached.

    by netguyct on Tue Feb 20, 2007 at 10:29:08 AM PST

    •  my context was simply recording, not (0+ / 0-)

      'recording for political purposes' in which case, i'd answer no...
      but excellent perspectives from rserven and ben masel in the previous comments...

      It would all end so quickly if they were just impeached.

      by netguyct on Tue Feb 20, 2007 at 10:33:55 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  I have had students make formal and informal (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Statius

    charges against me at a couple of different institutions where I have taught.  I am rarely asked about taping, but is does not concern me.  I think that if a student is going to become part of some attempt to attack me, then they will do it with or without a tape.  I feel more confident when I am challenged about what I really said, rather than what somebody claims I said, so the tape would be a help to me.

    Of course, ones feelings on this issue depend to a large extent on confidence of support from one's administration.  I have always, and still do at my current post, felt that my administration supported me.

    So I see only tatters of clearness through a pervading obscurity - Annie Dillard -6.88, -5.33

    by illinifan17 on Tue Feb 20, 2007 at 10:29:59 AM PST

    •  I'd like to see a comprehensive study (0+ / 0-)

      on how University and College Administrations deal with the issue of student complains leveled against a teacher's opinions in the classroom.  What schools are more supportive of their instructors?  Does it make a difference whether or not it's a private or public university (excepting the private institutions that have clear religious affiliations)?  

      Does it depend on the state?  The selectiveness?  What Presidents and Chancellors have the best track records for dealing with these issues tactfully?  Do liberal or conservative students level more complaints?

      Our great democracies still tend to think that a stupid man is more likely to be honest than a clever man. -- Bertrand Russell

      by Statius on Tue Feb 20, 2007 at 11:53:17 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  i'm dead against the az proposal (0+ / 0-)

    for starts, who determines what is political? the free exercise of thought should be encouraged, especially in the classroom.

    "step on the gas & wipe that tear away..." - the beatles

    by rasbobbo on Tue Feb 20, 2007 at 10:31:44 AM PST

    •  Yeah, and it'll bite them in the ass... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      rasbobbo, Statius

      ...could you imagine a class on, say, Russian History at ASU or the U of A without any critical examination of Communism and its successes, failures, and atrocities?  

      9-11 changed everything? Well, Katrina changed it back.

      by varro on Tue Feb 20, 2007 at 10:43:43 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  I'm glad you raised this issue... (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    OHdog, netguyct, Statius

    because every time I see Hannity, O'Reilly, et al go off on one of these situations, I fear an over-reaction that would lead to, as you aptly described: "[an environment] so denuded that teachers would hardly be able to say anything in their own classrooms."

    I owe professors a debt that I could never repay for kick-starting my intellectual development. Ironically, I was inspired by conservative as well as liberal profs. Both types were unafraid to bring their opinions to the classrooms, and both types respected and encouraged other points of view.

    But that was well over 20 years ago. My profound fear is that the "denuding" process is well under way and I'd find a very different atmosphere today.

    Society's loss, ignorance's gain.

    •  I wish (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      The Eyewitness Muse

      that we did not live in an educational environment where students are so afraid to have their beliefs challenged.  It even extends beyond these sorts of issues.  Try telling a student who's been taught that everything they write is pure gold that they may, in fact, need to develop more as a writer, and see what happens.  I've also learned from liberal and conservative professors.  I also have several colleagues who are conservatives, but they are the principled, intellectually honest sort.  Not ranting partisans.  I similarly don't have the patience for lefty colleagues who turn every class into a protest against the governmental machine.

      Our great democracies still tend to think that a stupid man is more likely to be honest than a clever man. -- Bertrand Russell

      by Statius on Tue Feb 20, 2007 at 10:37:12 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  well, (0+ / 0-)

    purposeful and selective editing of otherwise even keeled public utterances have been a traditional way of slandering people ever since the beginning of ... politics. The biggest problem here is that in cases like the ones you cited, it's probable that only one person recorded the talk. That person can easily distribute the edited portions, but the speaker won't be able to present a recording of the context to defend themself.
    Maybe the fairest and simplest solution is for schools to enact policies stating that any recording should be done publicly (not surreptitiously), or perhaps tell the teacher they are recording the class (for study purposes of course). This also gives other students a chance to ask that their comments and questions not be recorded.

    Quick! Man the Blogs!

    by HiBob on Tue Feb 20, 2007 at 10:34:13 AM PST

  •  Well, here's my view (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Statius, Niniane

    Professors and teachers can say what they wish and pursue whatever scholarship tehy wish.  However, they should not be able to hide under the cloak of "academic freedom" from having their views exposed to society for societal evaluation, praise, criticism or condemnation.  That does not mean that a professor should be fired for his views.  Rather that his views should be subject to criticism just like anyone else's views.  To that end, recording lectures so as to bring these views out in the open air is a good idea.  In fact, if these professors really believe what they say, and say these things to legitimately move the debate, they should welcome the broad airing of their views.

    •  A professors views should be able to stand up to (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      JDWolverton

      public critique, but the classroom is often informal and off the cuff.  It's not the same atmosphere as a prepared lecture or a publication.  Especially on classes where discussion is the norm rather than lecture.  It's so easy to be taken out of context, or for an argument to erupt between students.

      Our great democracies still tend to think that a stupid man is more likely to be honest than a clever man. -- Bertrand Russell

      by Statius on Tue Feb 20, 2007 at 10:44:05 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  That is true; however, (0+ / 0-)

        that is true about almost any public speaking.  You can take almost any phrase by anyone and quote it out of context.  Here's a blindingly obious example.

        Suppose I say or write the following:

        Many Germans in the 1930s and 40s if questioned would have said that "I think that Hitler is good for the country and the world and he is properly restoring to Germany its due place and glory."

        That could be a part of a well-thought out historical essay.  Of course it could be quoted as follows:

        DrGrishka1 said that he "think[s] that Hitler is good for the country and the world and he is properly restoring to Germany its due place and glory."

        Obviously that would misrepresent what I said, despite the fact that it was fully prepared remarks.  So the misrepresentation problem does not really change with the level of spontaneity in the classroom.

        •  *sigh* (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          JDWolverton

          that's certainly right.  I labor, sometimes in vain, to teach my students that purposefully misquoting sources is a breach of academic honesty, and comes under the domain of plagiarism in the sense that it's an inappropriate use of another's intellectual property.  It's difficult to make this point to them, but it's also hard to get them to do it because it makes writing so much more difficult.  It forces you to actually engage an argument rather than setting up a strawman, like so many did with Bennish.

          Our great democracies still tend to think that a stupid man is more likely to be honest than a clever man. -- Bertrand Russell

          by Statius on Tue Feb 20, 2007 at 11:00:57 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

        •  Bearing false witness (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Statius

          is prohibited by one of the Ten Commandments.

  •  Once presented in class (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Statius

    it is fair game to use in any way shape or form.
    Unless of course the teacher has a clearly presented policy against recordings, and in a state like Florida where it is illegal to record someone w/o consent.
    If you allow yourself to be recorded, expect the worst. But... be sure to have your own recordings to protect against out of context usage.

    TFYQA - think For Yourself, Question Authority

    by Niniane on Tue Feb 20, 2007 at 10:42:13 AM PST

    •  Sometimes I think that (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Niniane

      I participate in the conservative mindset that I'm always arguing against.  I dream of a nostalgic past, that probably only exists in my mind, where Reason rules, and that education was often intellectually pugilistic in a healthy way.  The students learned to challenge their teachers, but also learned to be respectful of scholarly judgments.  Critique isn't the same thing as taking offense, and the Hegelian thesis, antithesis, synthesis played a part.

      I'll never reach the University of Lake Wobegone, but I'll be damned if I'm going to be protecting myself at every turn in every class that I take.  Heightened surveillance on both sides will sterilize debate just as much as Horowitz's Students' Bill of Rights.

      Our great democracies still tend to think that a stupid man is more likely to be honest than a clever man. -- Bertrand Russell

      by Statius on Tue Feb 20, 2007 at 11:14:10 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  You may be correct. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Statius

        Unless we trend back to the ability to engage in civil dialogue with those we disagree with.
        I have little hope for that between political parties, when so many even here at dKos can't seem to stay civil when their pet buttons are pressed...

        TFYQA - think For Yourself, Question Authority

        by Niniane on Tue Feb 20, 2007 at 11:32:41 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  You raise an interesting issue. (0+ / 0-)

        In the good old days when profs were really unregulated, really good things and really bad things happened.  The same seems to have been true of many, perhaps most professions.

        I think that the new political movement against the academy leaves out the important factor of peer judgment.  In effect, the legislators don't trust it.  

        My university - and many others - have some sort of ombuds office for students, and maybe we should all be visibly encouraging students to go there.  It's much less adversarial and often quite effective.  And visible attempts to deal with issues should help.

         

        "False words are not only evil in themselves, but they infect the soul with evil." Plato

        by JPete on Tue Feb 20, 2007 at 12:06:43 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  The Digital Student (0+ / 0-)

    So let's say you have 25 students in your class.

    Any of them could have a cell phone that records voice, or a regular digital voice recorder. It isn't just the student who wants to put a tape recorder out in plain view - any of them could surreptitiously be taping with an eye to shooting a copy off to Hannity et al.

    Something to keep in mind.

    Every day's another chance to stick it to The Man. - dls.

    by The Raven on Tue Feb 20, 2007 at 10:43:43 AM PST

  •  As a high school teacher (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Statius, JDWolverton

    my rule of thumb is this:  don't say anything you wouldn't want a kid's parent to also hear.  Would I care if a kid tape-recorded me?  No, not particularly.  I don't say anything in my room that I would want to hide.  

    I teach an elective in Peace Literature, and much of the discussion in the first half of the course is centered on the myth of war.  Would some parents not like what I'm saying?  Sure.  Would some not like the text I'm using?  Sure.  And my response to that is so what.  Most public schools districts have specific policies that both preclude proselytizing by faculty and provide guidelines for discussion of controversial matters.   If the speech falls outside the parameters, then it's subject to scrutiny.  

    It's all fun and games until the Vice President shoots someone in the face.

    by lightiris on Tue Feb 20, 2007 at 10:43:57 AM PST

    •  Your point about the parents is important (0+ / 0-)

      especially at the HS level.  But it should, theoretically, be a different situation at the college level.  Of course, more and more parents are involved in the daily college lives of their kids.  When students and their parents view education as a product for consumption, then they might begin to agitate further against perceived political bias in the classroom.

      Our great democracies still tend to think that a stupid man is more likely to be honest than a clever man. -- Bertrand Russell

      by Statius on Tue Feb 20, 2007 at 10:48:02 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Yes, there's a substantial difference (0+ / 0-)

        between high school and college, no doubt, but I think the parameters of speech are not all that different.  Parents may, indeed, begin to agitate for greater control over the content of post-secondary classroom speech, but that's the nature of the beast.  It's up to the college administration and the strength of the faculty to be vigilant in keeping the line bright and clear just as it's up to the faculty, administration, and school committee in the public K-12 sector to do the same.  That requires a clearly articulated vision about what that school's mission is as well as its views on speech in the classroom.  

        It's all fun and games until the Vice President shoots someone in the face.

        by lightiris on Tue Feb 20, 2007 at 10:59:20 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  Paszkiewicz is a Christofascist... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    LynneK

    ...and should be fired for trying to indoctrinate students and malpractice.

    Seriously, throwing away standard scientific research in biology and paleontology for his myths?  He's a menace to science and a menace to his students.  Where are the standards, people?  Think of the children!

    9-11 changed everything? Well, Katrina changed it back.

    by varro on Tue Feb 20, 2007 at 10:46:47 AM PST

  •  I always had more respect for teachers... (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    tryptamine, emeraldmaiden, Statius

    with an opinion.  Showed they had cojones.  I didn't always agree with them, and there was always a little give and take.  Often, they would go overboard to give the "other side's" views.  Their great gift is they forced me to argue both sides of an argument.  They also helped me engage them and come into my own as a reasoning adult.

    As far as the anti-science misreading of biblical text practiced by David Paszkiewicz, if it's a private, parochial school - so be it.  If you want  to claim Xenu came here 75,000,000 years ago in your scientology school, whatever.  However, at a public school I would be outraged that my child was subjected to this utter nonsense.

    With respect to higher education, the remarks should be judged on the quality of scholarship.  I think what has given the right-wing goon squads some traction is the specious quality of some research.  (The right-wing has more than it's share of this, including whole creationism museums).  However, they took 0.5% of the problem and made it a cause celeb.

    Frankly, I would think school officials would suspend stundents for audio-taping lectures for the sole purpose of engaging in a political hit-job against teachers.  What they're doing is inviting parties that have no business in school afairs into the schools.  Hannity doesn't live in their community, doesn't pay taxes there, and is just using this for his personal benefit.  

    •  Have we lost the ability to see both sides? (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      emeraldmaiden, phoehne

      As I continue to teach students at one of the more selective universities in the US, it becomes more and more visible that a large portion of them have deeply held beliefs (religious or political) that they are not willing to have challenged.  Even compared to 6 or 7 years ago, they're more self-assured that what they believe is right.  Is this the continued polarization of US politics or is it something deeper in US education?

      Our great democracies still tend to think that a stupid man is more likely to be honest than a clever man. -- Bertrand Russell

      by Statius on Tue Feb 20, 2007 at 10:57:32 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  My 2 cents (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        DrWolfy, Statius

        I think it's a byproduct of the culture to which these kids are exposed.  I think that it's especially dangerous when you add religion into the mix.  Why should I listen to you when all I need is in the Bible?  If you challenge anything in the Bible, then you are going against the world of God, and I should not listen to you.  In fact, it's probably a sin to entertain your ideas.  (It could very well be you're a devout Catholic but that's not important to close minded people).

        I think the ditto-head, right-wing paranoid, goon-squad culture has played itself out in such a way that it taught mob rule and intollerance.  We learned from the mob tactics of Rush Limbaugh and the unappologetic hate speach of Anne Coulter that we don't have to tolerate the other side.  We just scream and shout loud enough we get our way.  I think the left picked up the example as well, with a lot of progressives not even making the effort to connect with the right.  

        •  The culture of self-righteousness (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          phoehne

          will result in nothing except a deadlock.  This is why Bush's inability to admit mistakes is so anathema to people like myself, and why I think he's an awful example for children, speaking of just this issue.  I trust people more when they demonstrate to me that their thinking can evolve.  But the danger of this is the political smear tactic of decrying flip-flop or pandering.

          Our great democracies still tend to think that a stupid man is more likely to be honest than a clever man. -- Bertrand Russell

          by Statius on Tue Feb 20, 2007 at 11:30:51 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

  •  I wrote a diary about the ... (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    tryptamine, poemless, Statius

    David Paszkiewicz incident about 2 months ago.

    I think that was a case of preaching on the public dime, which quite different from expressing a political opinion.

    •  It's clearly different in that sense (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Autarkh

      but it still comes down to whether or not students have the right to avoid being challenged in their personal beliefs.  Yes, proselytizing is a more clear violation than analyzing Bush's rhetoric negatively, but students often react the same in both kinds of cases.

      Our great democracies still tend to think that a stupid man is more likely to be honest than a clever man. -- Bertrand Russell

      by Statius on Tue Feb 20, 2007 at 10:53:32 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Quite frankly, how they react is irrelevant... (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Statius

        ...the content, and mode of presentation, is what matters.

        I subscribe to this:

        If liberty means anything at all it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear. -- George Orwell

        Political opinion has a place within the educational system, as long as its claims of objective truth are backed by verifiable facts. The equation of religious mythologies with scientific theory, on the other hand, is egregious and cannot be tolerated; the operative issue isn't academic freedom, but statement establishment of religion.

        Would Matthew LeClair have been believed if he hadn't recorded the lecture?

        •  It's only irrelevant (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Autarkh

          if the educational environment permits students to be challenged.  If only schools subscribed to Orwell's great dictum, then we'd be a bit better off.

          Our great democracies still tend to think that a stupid man is more likely to be honest than a clever man. -- Bertrand Russell

          by Statius on Tue Feb 20, 2007 at 11:08:35 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  The desire for a person to go... (0+ / 0-)

            ...through school without ever hearing an idea that offended existing beliefs, planted seeds of cathartic possibility, and ultimately led to an evolved understanding, is anathema to my conception of education.

            It's just mind boggling how anyone could want such a thing.      

            •  Hear Hear! (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Autarkh

              One of the most important things I learned in High School from some great teachers was that education is a life long pursuit, not a commodity during brief years in institutions of learning.  

              I couldn't have said it better myself, that the desire to go

              through school without ever hearing an idea that offended existing beliefs, planted seeds of cathartic possibility, and ultimately led to an evolved understanding, is anathema to my conception of education.

              It's the evolution of understanding that leads to progress, and I don't necessarily mean that in the political sense of the term.  Just, without challenging existing beliefs, refining them, expanding, there is no cultural or historical movement.  It's a different kind of End of History, something more akin to Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451.

              Our great democracies still tend to think that a stupid man is more likely to be honest than a clever man. -- Bertrand Russell

              by Statius on Tue Feb 20, 2007 at 11:22:09 AM PST

              [ Parent ]

  •  I'm not sure what I think. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Statius, JDWolverton

    On one hand, I support it, but on the other hand, it is worrisome.  If recording one's teacher is upheld as legal, I think schools or at least the teachers themselves should make an effort to record the entire lecture so that phrases and statements can be put into context before (or while) the teacher faces investigation.  I've had many teachers say incendiary things that they didn't necessarily mean or that lead to a rational point, which could only be clarified in full context.  

    Of course, trying to save that much recorded lecture time is a whole other issue...

    •  I also doubt that most (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      tryptamine, JDWolverton

      professors would have the tech savvy to make such recordings, and few departments have dedicated IT people to help out with this.  Constant recording would inevitably raise tuition even more if it became a common practice.

      Our great democracies still tend to think that a stupid man is more likely to be honest than a clever man. -- Bertrand Russell

      by Statius on Tue Feb 20, 2007 at 12:29:45 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Two sides (0+ / 0-)

    First, I really think that teachers and professors ought to explicitly give students permission to tape lectures and use the tapes for noncommercial purposes. Otherwise, you're turning students who write slowly and need tape recorders into rule breakers, maybe lawbreakers, for no good reason.

    Second, I think students ought to have a right to use the tapes to bring misconduct to the attention of the appropriate authorities. Say the teacher in this case had been sexually harassing students or simply ridiculing them in a horrible, unfair way. Why should teachers be able to hide behind the fact that there's no proof admissible in the principal's office of what was said?

    But, third, teachers ought to have a right to speak their minds and not to be subject to micromanagement. I think teachers ought to be able to share their religious beliefs (including weird, offensive beliefs) with students over a certain age in an appropriate context, with lots of disclaimers.

    Clearly, a first-grade teacher shouldn't be able to tell pupils that they're damned during math class.

    But, in my opinion, it's just as clear that a teacher who's leading a high school-level discussion about religion in current events should be able to explain that he believes non-Protestants are damned to hell, as long as he does not harass individual students and makes it clear that he is speaking solely for himself, not for the school or the school board.

    In this case, it seems as if the school did the right thing, by telling the teacher to stop making chitchat about religion. I think that school administrators really ought to have as much authority to get the teacher to stop wasting classroom time with religious discussions as with discussions about Anna Nicole Smith's baby.

    I think the ACLU and the student are really wrong here, because it's really unfair for them (and not very unsympathetic to civil liberties) to sue a teacher simply for discussing his personal beliefs about religion. If the teacher were boring students with obsessive comments about Anna Nicole Smith's baby, that would be a matter for the school board to handle through its normal disciplinary process. Unless a teacher is ridiculing students for their religious beliefs or harassing them in some other way, off-topic discussions about religious obsessions ought to be handled the same way as off-topic discussions about girls gone missing or whether Kirk is better than Picard.

  •  I go out on a limb to make sure (0+ / 0-)

    I never discuss my politics in class.

    It is relatively easy, since I teach management.

    If a student ASKS me, in class, what I think, I will say what I think, but if the student wants more details, they will have to come to my office.

    I don't like "checking up on liberal professors" but if that is the price of catching assholes like the guy who said they will all burn in hell, then, OK.

    -6.5, -7.59. All good that a person does to another returns three fold in this life; harm is also returned three fold.

    by DrWolfy on Tue Feb 20, 2007 at 11:26:33 AM PST

    •  likewise, I think my students would have (0+ / 0-)

      difficulty saying what I really believe as I make sure that we discuss multiple sides of every controversial subject. I often state a ridiculous position just to keep the discussion going, but usually in a hypothetical way. I get my points in, but I also toss in the right wingnut point of view to be fair. I often teach the students to look at a position from their opposition's point of view, so they can strengthen their case.

      I teach medical management courses and we get into a lot of political issues as they pertain to medical management. Release of information, Power of Attorney, minors, abortion, euthanasia, religious belief, HIPAA, STD's all muddy the waters and my students will have to negotiate them on the job.

      I have to teach my students that the patient and physician get to have the opinions. (My students can have them too, but expressing them to the patient or physician is risky.)

      I allow them to record my lectures, but I always say it's for their personal use only.

  •  Hitler analogies: (0+ / 0-)

    (As a side point, the Hitler analogy should be retired for a while.  It never serves to make a good point anymore because it's too incendiary.)

    Godwin's Law was official repealed on
    Thursday June 12, 2003.

    I wrote about it here and here and here.

    "...And bunnies would dance in the streets, and we would find life on Mars." -Peter Singer, Brookings Institution

    by zentiger on Tue Feb 20, 2007 at 11:39:09 AM PST

  •  I don't like recordings (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    mommyof3, Statius

    If I had had the ability to record my teachers in college I would have recorded them all, slept through the classes planning to re-listen to the tapes later, and then tried to panic-cram them all on the last week before exams.  Instead, I learned to take notes and only slept through half my classes.

  •  I believe that students should be allowed (0+ / 0-)

    To record their teachers' lectures for EDUCATIONAL purposes only. I remember taping lectures when i was younger and it helped me immeasurably when I was studying for tests. I see no reason for a student to turn a teachers' lecture into a political statement, unless the teacher in question is blatantly violating the Constitution. (As was the case with the teacher who told his class they were "going to hell" if they didn't believe in Jesus. This was a history class, not a religion class.)

    "Truth never damages a cause that is just."~~~Mohandas K. Gandhi

    by LynneK on Tue Feb 20, 2007 at 12:51:37 PM PST

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