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Students Encouraged to Question … sometimes

I am a big advocate for encouraging children to think for themselves. I have no desire to brainwash my students or have them align their thinking to my own worldview. On the contrary, little gives me more pleasure than watching my students reach their own conclusions and engage in a robust exchange of ideas. On the flip side, it can be a bit disappointing that many children are so used to being spoonfed and mollycoddled , that it is becoming quite rare for a young child to form their own ideas.

That’s why I was deeply disturbed to read about the teacher who publicly chastised her student for daring to criticise President Obama:

A North Carolina high school teacher was captured on video shouting at a student who questioned President Obama and suggesting he could be arrested for criticizing a sitting president. 

The Salisbury Post, which first reported on the YouTube video, did not identify the teacher in question, who is reportedly on staff at North Rowan High School. The video does not show faces, but the heated argument in the classroom can clearly be heard. 

“Do you realize that people were arrested for saying things bad about Bush?” the teacher said toward the end of the argument, telling the student, “you are not supposed to slander the president.” 

The student told the teacher that one can’t be arrested “unless you threaten the president.” 

The argument started when the classroom began discussing news reports that Mitt Romney bullied a fellow student when he was in high school. 

“Didn’t Obama bully somebody though?” a student in the classroom asked, referring to an incident Obama described in his memoir “Dreams From My Father.” 

The teacher said she didn’t know — and the argument quickly escalated, as the teacher yelled at the student, telling him “there is no comparison.” 

“He’s running for president,” she said of Romney. “Obama is the president.”

 The student argued that both candidates are “just men,” but the teacher said: “Let me tell you something … you will not disrespect the president of the United States in this classroom.” 

According to the Salisbury Post, the teacher is still employed and has not been suspended. 

“The Rowan-Salisbury School System expects all students and employees to be respectful in the school environment and for all teachers to maintain their professionalism in the classroom. This incident should serve as an education for all teachers to stop and reflect on their interaction with students,” the school said in a statement, published by the Post. “Due to personnel and student confidentiality, we cannot discuss the matter publicly.”

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