Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Peacenik teachers get a rude slap from the real world.

Edumacation: This story is hysterical, a bunch of lefty teachers get together with an assignment of peace for their 3rd graders and it falls apart.

A letter-writing campaign by third-graders at Allis Elementary School encouraging an end to the war in Iraq was canceled because it violates School Board policy, district officials said Tuesday. Julie Fitzpatrick, a member of the 10-teacher team that developed the project for the school's 90 third-grade students in five classes, said the assignment was intended to demonstrate citizen action, one of the district's standards in social studies. "We saw peace as a common good," Fitzpatrick said. "We were just advocating that people keep working toward peace." But Robin Reynolds, an Army veteran whose 8-year-old grandson is in Fitzpatrick's class, said she regards the assignment as a form of "anti-war protesting" that "is not suitable for elementary students." "They're supposed to teach the facts and not opinions," she said. "That's brainwashing." ....Fitzpatrick and Hodge, said a misunderstanding resulted in the initial letter going out to parents. "I left with the impression we could go with it," Fitzpatrick said. But Hodge said she had wanted to find out what the School Board's policy was before the letter was sent home. "I thought it was an inappropriate assignment," Hodge said, adding she felt the topic of war was "too vast" for third-graders to understand. "I just think it was too much to ask of a third- grader." Hodge said she had only heard from one parent who also was concerned that the project was beyond a third- grader's level of understanding. School Board President Carol Carstensen said board policy and the district's teachers contract also require teachers to withhold the expression of personal opinion unless asked a direct question when dealing with controversial issues. While it would be appropriate for students to decide to write letters expressing their own views, Cartsensen said, "It isn't appropriate to mandate it."
This is scary because the teachers are either lying and/or stupid, not the type you want to teach your kids in any case.
"We're really stunned by the reception," Fitzpatrick said. "In hindsight, I guess we should have anticipated it. It's kind of sad when peace causes a furor." Fitzpatrick said many parents had sent envelopes and stamps as requested in the initial letter they received. Sharon Johnson, co- president of the Allis's Parent Teacher Organization, and Toni Kress-Russick, both of whom have children in Fitzpatrick's class, said they were supportive of the project. Kress-Russick, a special education teacher at Memorial High School, said it taught social responsibility and demonstrated to students that "people can make a difference" and that "just one little third-grader can matter." "I thought it was a great assignment," Johnson said. "People just tend to blow things out of proportion all the time. I think this is one of them." Susan Abplanalp, assistant superintendent for elementary and secondary schools, said she does not believe the teachers involved viewed the assignment as a political activity. "They really looked at this as a peace project," Abplanalp said. "I don't think that the intent was to make this a political statement."
This article goes into more detail what policies were broken that common sense should have stopped the teachers, but considering it was in Madison they probably thought they would have no problems. Sharon Johnson is the only honest one in this whole debacle.
School Principal Chris Hodge said the third-grade teachers came to her with the proposal last week. She believed it violated district policy but wanted to check with administration officials first. Hodge said the teachers misinterpreted her comments and sent a letter about the campaign to parents anyway. She immediately canceled the project after finding out. The campaign violated two district policies: one that bans teachers from promoting their personal political beliefs to students; and another that requires teachers to address opposing views when presenting controversial topics, said district spokesman Joe Quick. "It was a mistake on the teachers' part," Quick said. "They were very enthusiastic about what they were trying to do and didn't realize it violated School Board policy." Most of the calls made to the district about the assignment were from media outlets, not angry parents, Quick said. "This was kind of a moot point by 10 o'clock this morning," Quick said. The teachers won't face any disciplinary measures, Hodge said, but she planned to remind staff at their December meeting of district policies. Several of the teachers who signed the letter did not return calls to their home or office phone numbers; another teacher reached at home declined to comment. Sharon Johnson, Frank Allis Elementary PTA president, said she was disappointed to see that the envelopes and stamps she sent to school with her daughter, as requested in the assignment, were returned Tuesday. "I got the letter, and I had no objection," Johnson said. "Her world is pretty much made up of the Cartoon Network. I thought it was a good idea to get kids to open up their eyes." Johnson, a Democrat, had no problem with the assignment but admitted that it if the campaign had promoted the war she would have.

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