My son's history teacher can't tell the difference between his classroom and The Pit

My son is in 11th grade. He works very hard at school, gets good grades, and is on track to go to a top college.

Here’s the problem. His history teacher has been using the classroom as a means to promote his political point of view, and doing so in a very ignorant and hurtful manner.

I should mention at the outset that my son and I are both conservatives. I’m sure that some dopers would like to rant at both of us at this point. Please don’t. That’s what The Pit is for if you need to do so. We’re looking for advice here so please don’t get the thread bumped.

The problem started the first day of class this semester. The teacher asked if any of the students are conservatives and my son was the only one to raise his hand. The teacher indicated his lack of respect.

In general every day or two the teacher makes one or two relatively dumb and relatively hurtful political comments. Usually incorrect but always hurtful and always irrelevant to the curriculum, which BTW is 18th century American History.

Today’s comment was way over the top and I’m furious. My son called me as soon as he left school and reported the teacher’s quote for today:

My son is upset, my wife is upset, I’m upset. I’m upset as an open-minded person, a taxpayer, a person who believes in education, an American, etc.

We’re looking for ways to deal with this. A direct confrontation with the teacher or administration might not be smart in terms of teaching my son to get along with everyone. I should also mention that our family is very much in the closet politically. No doubt it would hurt us in the community if we go public about this. Ideally we’d like to find some way to turn this into a win/win situation where we look back on it are glad it happened becasue of what we learned.

It would mean a lot to get some support from some people who disagree with me politically. Your perspectives can be very valuable.

Not quite the same, but similar story and how I dealt with it:
The first day of school, my daughter’s (very incompetent, as we have come to see) history teacher asked a question. One of the boys in the class answered it and was basically gushed about how smart and right he was. Not twenty minutes later, the teacher asked the almost the exact same question again. My daughter was called on to answer this time, and did so as she usually does – using her very extensive vocabulary correctly. The idiot looked at her, puzzled for a few moments while he worked out what she had said and then looked at the boy who had answered previously and said “isn’t that just like a girl, to try to show up a man?”

I called the principal’s office the next morning and explained to them that everyone gets a second chance, but the next remark like that would result in us suing both the teacher personally as well as the school for sexual discrimination. He has yet to make another remark like that, and in fact has been almost civil to the girls in the class since.

I’m a Democrat, so I probably wouldn’t agree with you politically.

However, what you are experiencing is unacceptable. Utterly and completely.

I would take the following steps.

  1. Have your son write down, as exactly as possible what the teacher has said and done that are over the top and unprofessional. Tape record if possible. Document, document, document.

  2. Have your son politely and respectfully speak with the teacher and tell him that these statements make him feel uncomfortable in the classroom.

  3. If this has no effect (and I suspect it won’t) the boy needs to take it up to the principal. Go with him if he wants you there (and don’t go if he doesn’t), but let him do most of the speaking. Show the principal the record of what was said. See how they respond.

  4. Continue up the chain if you don’t get your response. The school board probably has regular public meetings.

  5. If nothing else works, go to the press. Your local paper would be VERY interested in hearing about this. Especially with your documentation.
    I think this could turn out to be a GREAT lesson for your son in standing up for himself in an appropriate manner.

Good luck and keep us informed.

That’s inexcusable.

I’m really curious as to in what context the teacher made the Palin remark. Does Son B remember?

Step 1: Confirm the exact statements and circumstances.

Step 2: Call the Principal.

Step 3: Raise hell.
If this was 12th grade government, this just might, maybe, be somewhat borderline acceptable as a sparkplug for class discussion. Otherwise, it is out of line.

I’ll ask tonight when I get home.


On behalf of half-way-decent to good teachers, let me apologize for this idiot (and his brother-in-stupidity that Litoris’s daughter ran into.

They oughtta know better. It’s the job of the principal to remind them of that. But first, the principal needs to know that there’s a problem. I actually do recommend that you take this to the principal.

Have your son write down any off-topic and politically biased remark for the next week. Take a look at this list next Friday and see how much of it is palpably false and/or off-topic. If it seems like ‘enough’ (you’ll have to define that for yourself), then set up a meeting with the principal - not with both the principal and teacher, if you can avoid it. Let the principal have a copy of the list. Tell the principal that you feel that the teacher is not covering the material you son needs to know and is using the classroom as a soap box. On your way out, casually mention, “oh, and the teacher has already ridiculed my son for having a different political opinion. Should that behavior return, I’ll be contacting my lawyer the next day and visiting with the school board the day after that.”

Let the principal handle the fallout with the teacher. That’s one of their jobs. The principal may ask you if you want anything “official” to happen. That would be up to you. I would tend to say, “no, not this time.”

If you’re looking for a magic way for your son to talk to the teacher and get him (the teacher) to stop spewing crap, I don’t have it. I really think you’re going to have to go over the teacher’s head. The lesson to your son should be: when you’re paying for a product, and don’t get it, you go talk to the manager.

-Geek, who is:
a.) Adamantly against McCain & Palin
b.) A teacher
c.) A teacher’s union officer (so, if it were my school, I might have to go and defend this idiot as best I can. It had really better not be in my building, mm 'k?)
ETA: Careful on the tape recording. Could be legally sticky ground, and could get the kid in trouble (if there are any ‘no electronic devises’ rules.)

As a liberal, most of the professors who used their classroom as a political pulpit were usually espousing viewpoints that I agreed with at least up to a point (though some often led it by the hand to the point of reason and then drug it by its hair to the point of the completely impractical- e.g. yes I agree, the rich should pay more taxes, no I don’t agree that their mansions should be sold and the money used to buy houses for the poor- hopefully some were being deliberately provocative). Anyway, even when I completely agreed with their viewpoints it irked the hell out of me: unless it’s completely relevant (e.g. the professor teaching about El Salvador’s revolution who mentioned the frustrations of working for the foreign service in El Salvador at that time) that’s not what I’m here for, and this was college.

I don’t care if you’re a New Earth creationist who believes that John McCain can cure gout with a kiss, you’re completely right on this. I don’t know anything about your son but most eleventh graders are too young to have real political opinions anyway and tend to assume teachers are telling the truth and know what they’re talking about and school is not a place for spreading propaganda whether it’s correct or incorrect (and if Palin had said that I don’t exactly think the media would have politely said “eh, let’s give her a pass- Clay Aiken just came out”). You’re in your rights to raise hell.

(Incidentally I’m extremely opinionated on religion/politics/social matters and I’ve never had a student in the literally hundreds of hours I’ve taught classes who would have any idea where I stood on the issues from the class. As a reference librarian, if a student comes to me and asks for information on a report about why homosexuality should be outlawed (and I have) I’m going to help them find information on why homosexuality should be outlawed and refrain from commentary [other than perhaps on the validity of a source, which is my job]. I don’t understand others who can’t be objective in teaching factual information.)

Whoa! Did Sarah Palin say that? Or was the dumbass teacher putting words in her mouth to get in a dig?

Once you have confirmed the wording, I recommend you refer to this -

as an “anti-Semitic” remark (which it is) rather than a politically offensive remark. I suspect this will get more traction.

If you know how to complain, you can get things accomplished. I am not sure if I mentioned this before or not, but my daughter’s 10th grade biology teacher is no longer employed by her high school, for reasons not entirely unrelated to my lack of satisfaction with how her class was conducted.


No, it’s not anti-Semitic so much as it’s an allegation of anti-Semitism. Still serious, but the teacher said nothing about Jews themselves. If I said “Shodan says AIDS is because God hates gays” it’s an anti-Shodan lie, not a homophobic one.

“Getting along with everyone” isn’t the same as rolling over and letting yourself be ridiculed. You will not solve a problem of this magnitude without confrontation of some sort.

I don’t know about that. It seems awfully anti-Semitic to me. Lumping a diverse group of people into a monolithic bloc, using a term that can be borderline or worse offensive depending on tone and context, playing into the stereotypes…I’d call him on it in a second.

In my experience, teachers are only slightly less stupid, cruel and/or socially inept than the average person. I think almost anyone who had teachers knows that, but at that age, it’s probably good for them to get some help in standing up for themselves when facing authority figures.

I don’t want to give you any strategic advice, since I’m completely unfamiliar with the laws and regulations regarding this kind of thing in american schools, but this kind of behaviour is in my opinion not acceptable and you and/or your son should make it clear to the teacher/school.

For the record: in the US, I would definitely not be regarded as a conservative. :slight_smile:

edit: silenus: I think you’re reading the post wrong. What the teacher said is not anti-semitic.

Dude, just teach your kid to say “Cite?”.

Wait till the kid gets to college!

I’m going to take a minority view point here. I had a teacher (in the mid 90s) who had us using a book that called Native Americans “savages” and in general was just offensively wrong. He continually said things that didn’t go over well in our poor, ethnically diverse high school. I dutifully got worked up, underlined every offensive statement in red, got other people on my side and was all prepared to make trouble. I didn’t, because I didn’t belong to a class of people who could threaten to sic their lawyer and I had plenty to do as a Junior. But man I spent a lot of energy being outraged.

Looking back- meh. Sometimes you have to work with people who are idiots. Sometimes you have idiots in positions of authority over you. You can fight with them, you can get worked up about it, or you can just write them off and go your way. 11th grade is old enough to choose a path without needing your parents to back you up. Anyway, it’s a good learning experience. No doubt he’ll have to deal with many more idiots in his lifetime.

This is really good advice. Doesn’t work at parties, but should work great in the class-room.

I don’t think the parents should handle this; I think they should help the kid handle it. Things only get rougher after high-school.

I think there are two possible approaches.

  1. Get really, really well-informed, and challenge -er, discuss every off the cuff remark, especially as it relates to 18th century America.

  2. Go the document and complain to Authority route; I would recommend emphasizing that the comments are disruptive to the class, rather than ‘hurtful’.

And then there is 3.) even sven’s advice: Suck it up and deal.

  1. sounds like the most fun to me.

Actually, the next time the teacher says anything blatantly false like that, have your kid offer to bet a point on his final grade on the issue.

Thanks for all the responses so far and here’s an update.

The good news is that my son is no longer upset about this, so I’m not nearly as upset. The bad news is that he says that this happens all the time and this wasn’t even the worst example. Maybe just the most colorful. And this teacher is actually one of the better ones both in terms of holding back on political indoctrination, and general teaching skills.:frowning:

I don’t think the teacher was making an anti-Semitic comment. I think he was saying that Palin is an anti-Semite. This is a NYC magnet high school…lots of Jewish students.

The context for the statement was as follows. They were talking about colonial times and how King George played one group off against another. He specifically scapegoated the French. Then he said something like: And that’s what some American government officials are doing now. Just today…

Thanks again for the responses. I’ll briefly say that I’m all for confrontation and I spend a lot of my work day teaching executives how to politely stand up for their rights w/o killing their career. But the vilification you get for saying you’re a conservative in some of these leftist communities is unbelievable. Usually we treat political comments as if someone tried to start a conversation about some trade the White Sox made in 1964.

Anticipated conversation with close friend this weekend:

Plan B’s Friend: This dermatologist I work with told me that McCain has less than two years to live.
Plan B: hmm, yeah…Oh! I remember what I wanted to ask you. Did your son decide to go out for basketball again this year? I remember when I spoke to him this summer…

A particularly crass comment in a thread about prejudice.

You may have had bad teachers, but why do you think ‘almost everyone’ agrees with you?