Friday, June 11, 2010

Liberal teacher canned but she doesn't understand why.

Elizabeth Collins is an ex-teacher today. Frankly, after reading the story and perusing her blog, I think that it's a good thing.

It all began when Collins was hired by the Academy of Notre Dame de Namur, an all-girls private school in Villanova, PA. The school hired Elizabeth to teach English. Now when I went to school, taking an English class meant that you learned about grammar, punctuation, sentence structure, and other basic skills. But Elizabeth apparently felt that those things weren't quite as important as her own worldviews on things like environmentalism, feminism, Obamacare and how rotten President Bush was, so she used her class to push her views and indoctrinate the students on these things--something that was totally inappropriate for a teacher to do.

Well eventually a student pushed back, and gave a speech in class on "Obama's lies" after Collins has assigned them to write and deliver an advocacy speech. Well fair enough--the student took a point of view and argued it, something that an advocate does. But Collins couldn't handle criticism of her beloved messiah by a mere student in her class so she responded to the speech by writing one of her own and posting it on her blog, which she, in another display of inappropriate behavior, had given out to her students to read. In her blog piece, she stated that she was "modeling" the correct approach to the assignment.
Her piece encouraged students to move "beyond knee-jerk joining of their parents' political party, and not become one-issue voters, to open their minds and consider the ramifications of their votes." Collins' essay criticized many George W. Bush administration policies and defended the Obama administration.
OK, so here we have a teacher pushing her political views in a class where she's just supposed to be teaching kids how to write. Then she gives them all her personal blog address, and this blog is basically a rambling nest of Collins' self-absorbed thoughts about how she sees herself in the world and screeds against Bush and Republicans in general.

Now both of these things go beyond the boundaries of a proper teacher-student relationship, but as unprofessional as that was, Collins went further by criticizing this student on her blog--a blog which she'd encouraged all of her other students to read. Naturally, the student's parents--big donors to the school--were not amused.
The next day, Collins received an e-mail from the student's parents, James J. White IV and Megan White. Saying there "may be some mix-up with the tone of your blog and the actual class that you are teaching," they requested a conference and asked, "If this had been an overly liberal paper, would our daughter have been the subject of your blog?"
I think that we all know the answer to that one.
The parents' e-mail also questioned two previous, unrelated incidents in Collins' class. "Earlier in the year, we did let the comment go about marriage and the taking of your husband's last name," though it was an "unnecessary comment to make to the girls and had little or nothing to do with English," it said. "Later, we were all exposed to your very strong feelings about the health-care proposal. . . . Another platform that neither of us felt was necessary for the classroom."

Collins said in an interview that she had told her students why she had kept her maiden name after they asked, and added, "I just feel like health-care reform is such an innocuous issue - it's not abortion."
Collins replied to then parents' email and told them that if they wanted to meet with her, she was bringing a lawyer. (Over-reaction, anyone?)

But Collins only became more unprofessional. She blogged about the parents. She didn't name them specifically, but one can assume that in this small sphere, it was pretty clear who she was talking about. She also claimed that she "was dealing with some hard-core provincialism - not to mention intolerance of anything but ultraconservative views."

Since when do English teachers--or any other subject-matter teacheers--warrant tolerance for their personal views in a classroom?

Anyone?
Bueller?
Anyone?

The school called her in for a meeting with administrators and the student's family and warned her about this unacceptable behavior, but she walked out and wrote yet another blog piece in which she described her version of the meeting, assigning fake names to the parents and apparently assuming that even though everyone would know who she was talking about, it still wasn't something that the school could act on. Finally the school had had enough. They justifiably fired Collins.
The school has no specific guidelines on blogging, but in a letter to Collins, it said she had violated faculty policies and procedures and the ethics code, "which specifies that the academy is committed to treating our students and parents fairly."

Her termination letter said she had "engaged in improper communications with academy staff and former staff members about your dispute with the Whites."

Collins maintains that she was the target of an unjustified attack by the Whites that was largely motivated by what she called in one e-mail to the school their "clear political intolerance" toward her views.
There's that reference to her views again. She really doesn't get it, folks--she was hired to teach a subject and that subject was English. It wasn't "what Elizabeth Collins thinks about politics".

So now she's an ex-teacher. Hopefully no other school picks her up, but with her warped teaching priorities and political views, I'm sure that some inner city public school's teachers' union would love to have her as a member.

Now I tried to post a comment on Elizabeth's blog suggesting that she refrain from political indoctrination of other people's kids and simply stick to teaching the subject matter, but Elizabeth is a true liberal in that she only recognizes the right to speak out if it's speech that she agrees with. She's rejected my post several times and appears to only be approving those few from other liberals that tell her how brave and wonderful she is and express sympathy with her for being "victimized" so. (Here at Lagniappe's Lair, all comments are approved unless they are spam, obscene personal attacks on the author or extended advocacy pieces that go well away from the topic being commented on.) Elizabeth could learn a thing or two if she'd get outside of her own fantasy world for a bit and check out reality, so to that end, I've invited her to stop by here and post her thoughts. Stick around and see if she accepts, folks. And if you've got a few minutes, stop by her page and let her know your thoughts--she'll read them even if she doesn't post them.

Tell her me and Lagniappe sent ya.

EDITED TO ADD: Looks like she posted my invite, and people are drifting over from there. So welcome, both Elizabeth and her supporters. I look forward to hearing why, in your opinions, an English teacher should be trying to politically indoctrinate other people's kids instead of just teaching them to write.

19 comments:

  1. When I first scanned the the title in my blogroll, I could have sworn it read "Liberal teacher caned but she doesn't understand why." - no such luck.
    Teaching has long been a bully pulpit for indoctrinating youth with a teacher's views - fortunate indeed are the children who receive an education without any major bias. Sadly, that is the exception rather than the norm.
    Now about that caning...

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  2. Followed the links, read the news report and the blog post, and have a few thoughts.

    First, with freedom of speech comes responsibility to use it wisely. I, personally, have not avoided blogging about my work on my own blog; however, when I do write about work, I am careful not to give names or enough factual information to make a solid guess as to IDs. Further, I don't actively advertise my blog to co-workers or business associates and certainly not my claimants. The fact that this teacher gave her blog address to her students comes with the responsibility to use the forum wisely and understand that anything you say can and will be used against you.

    Second, I agree that the class room is not the venue for political or religious indoctrination, whether it be teacher or student.

    Third, having said number 2 above, the assignment, according to the information available, was a speech to advocate on a particular issue. Advocating means taking a stand for or against a particular issue. Learning to write an effective argument is a necessary skill to be taught/learned in an English class. It's a skill I use in my work everyday.

    The question, I think, is whether or not the teacher effectively demonstrated the technique and graded the student fairly on the student's work. Without seeing the student's work, I don't think we can give a reasoned opinion on the latter. From what I can tell from the report and blog, the teacher did not feel she had adequately conveyed the purpose of her assignment and wrote her blog post as a means of demonstrating what she thought the proper technique to be. Whether she succeeded in fulfilling her own assignment is subject to debate from what I can tell in the comments.

    Could the incident have been handled differently? Yes, I think so. Should the teacher have been fired? I don't think there is enough information to make an informed comment on that question. Was this her first offense? Had she been cautioned on expressing her views before? I do think it is harsh punishment to fire someone without warning and an opportunity to change the offending behavior if that is the case here.

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  3. I, too, tried to post to EC's blog but she denied my entry, evidently for the many of the same reasons she denied yours.

    Actually, I placed blame on both parties-- Notre Dame for conducting itself like the typical Main Line private school catering to the upper middle class elite. It's all about the dollars with these schools, so the parents run the show.

    As for EC, she royally screwed up. You're right, she thought it more important to push her political agenda onto kids than to teach them the basics. But you know, since she's not a formally trained teacher in English, she likely doesn't know how to do that. Privates don't have to hire state certified teachers like publics.

    EC would be better suited to teach up the road at Villanova. I taught there for five years there and many teachers freely use their bully pulpits to push their political views, which of course, arrive from the left. EC would fit right in there.

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  4. Great post. Really hit the nail on the head. Frankly, Collins could have been fired justifiably based on the quality of her shallow, tendentious screed alone. Throw in the fact that she demonstrated no discipline in tolerating opposing but mainstream political views in her classroom, and the school made the right decision.

    The parents handled it exactly as I would have. Let the first one or two incidents go, but draw the line at a blog post attacking (not so indirectly) my child's political views.

    ESM

    randomfinancialthoughts.blogspot.com

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  5. The author of the original post didn't approve my comments either (interesting how she supports her own free speech but not others). My comment actually tried to be understanding an helpful but did say that underage students should not be open season for teachers (or other students) online. I didn't even get into politics.

    Anyway, thanks for continuing the conversation and being open to comments from others.

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  6. "The Abolition of Man" by CS Lewis is about a similar case of not teaching what you claim to teach. I highly recommend it.

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  7. This is what I posted. I doubt she'll post it:

    "I was a high school English teacher, too, and I must say I find your integration of personal politics appalling.

    There really is no way to teach in a "values neutral" environment when teaching literature. Every short story or novel you assign puts forth values of some kind. But there are values...and there are politics. And you push your politics.

    You challenge students to step outside the "knee jerk" joining of their parents' political parties. As a former teacher and now homeschooling parent of four, I strongly disagree with your right to in any way undermine the core values of your underage students. As a parent, I transfer my values (and yes, my politics that reflect those values) because I love my children and I believe that the conservative perspective on issues tends to be the morally right one. The idea of paying thousands of dollars to send my child to a school where the teacher abuses her position of influence to directly undermine how I'm trying to raise my children...unbelievable.

    Ms. Collins, if you want to influence children to embrace liberal politics, HAVE YOUR OWN."

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  8. "Ms. Collins, if you want to influence children to embrace liberal politics, HAVE YOUR OWN."

    Now there's the money comment of the month, Misty. Nicely put indeed!

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  9. Well, I got kicked too... She is yet another left wing loony who 'thought' her position gave her the power to do what she wanted, NOT what she was hired to do. Re the comment about Colleges, I had a couple of go-arounds with a prof who tried that crap about Vietnam in a class I was in. I did get kicked out of the class, but 8 others came with me and we all went to the Dean, and got our $$ back and were given withdrawls rather than flunked like the prof wanted.

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  10. Not sure why I haven't heard from Elizabeth or any of her supporters...I meant it when I said I'd publish their posts.

    You guys are reading...so sound off.

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  11. Typical liberal can't take any disagreement at all. They are open minded as far as everyone agreeing with them. She's publishing every sycophant, useful idiot post she gets but not anyone with legitimate criticism.

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  12. She didn't allow my comment either and I was quite nice about it! Teachers like her are why I sent my kids to private school.

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  13. In high school, I had two English teachers who were left-of-center. We all got along swimmingly, because they understood the difference between open discussion and the bully pulpit.

    So, in short, if a vegan from Maine and a Vermont hippie can do okay in the deep South, then it shouldn't be that hard to not be run out on a rail in your own area.

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  14. Misty, you're ridiculous. What makes you think Ms. Collins doesn't have her own kids? She has great, incredibly smart kids. I suppose you couldn't have kids of your own?

    No wonder she didn't post your obnoxious note. Bet you were Anonymous, too. Coward.

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  15. Well now we've heard from the Teachers' Union (and also a racist, if we apply the plain meanings test to her blog title, "Stand Up To The Whites".

    I know Misty's children--all of them. They are without a doubt the most well-behaved, well-mannered and intelligent kids I've had the pleasure of getting to know. I have no doubt that they'll grow up to become great adults just like their parents, well-adjusted and properly grounded in the Christian faith.

    I also note for the record that Misty doesn't post anonymously, as can clearly be seen here, nor does she post from behind an empty blog title, unlike some people that come to mind right now. She's also above resorting to personal attacks, again, unlike some people that come to mind right now. (You're really a teacher? God help our country. No wonder Johnny--and a generation of Johnnies--can't read today.)

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  16. Whoever you are, your verbiage is vile, your facts are wrong, and I would ask you take down this slander (untrue, as it is unverified) before I sic my lawyer on you and your dog.

    Your litle friends here did send me messages and all did so anonymously, though I see their names on your page. That's interesting. I guess people feel freer to be nasty when they don't use their names.

    I am never nasty and I always use my name.

    I never indocrinated anyone, never did anything wrong, never pushed any political agenda. Were you in my class? Do you know what my class was? Try college-level argumentative rhetoric based on political and social justice issues.

    Could you handle that class? I asked for sophisticated discourse, not rants that are reminiscent of that clownish Glenn Beck. I didn't get that in one case, and as a teacher who aimed to craft effective lessons, I was "dismayed."

    I don't care what you believe, as long as you can express those beliefs intelligently and in a non-hostile manner.

    Do some more reading, do some more research, and I strongly suggest you edit this post to eliminate the defamation I see everywhere.

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  17. Sue me and my dog?

    Well Lagniappe and I discussed that, and we're unanimous our response:

    BRING IT!

    Silly Liberal...Rights are for everyone, including the one gauranteed by the First Amendment of our Constitution.

    And you might want to have your lawyer explain the concept of "public figure" to you. Like it or not, you are one, at least within the context of this widely-published story. And since you initially sought the publicity yourself when you called the reporters, granted interviews, and blogged about it extensively yourself, good luck trying to convince a judge that no man or dog can offer up additional opinions on the topic that you started.

    That aside, all I've done is comment on the news story about your professional demise. I didn't offer up a single original bit of prose, much less claim that it's factual. Don't like the story that I quoted from? Take it up with the source. If/when they retract it, let me know and I'll modify this article, which, BTW, has drawn thousands of hit to my site. (Thank you very much.)

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  18. Mr Dogface,

    Your posting, I regret to inform you, is full of mistruths. I never told students to view my blog; I was always careful not to have anything weird or controversial on there. (Now, I don't care anymore.)

    Unprofessional, you say? I call your use of that word libelous.

    Do you have any understanding of my qualifications and expertise? No. But trust me, it's a very impressive resume, a thousand miles away from "unprofessional.'

    Yes, i am a public figure now. I can thank people such as yourself for making me so.

    Do you read books? You might be interested in mine. There are two coming up. I doubt they will be available at Wal-Mart, but if you ever hit actual bookstores, look for them...though it may be two years or so. Publishing is slow.

    At any rate, I suggest you read more right now to better understand what you are ranting about. You have no idea what actually happened.

    When someone gives you death threats is it unprofessional to mention that? I think people have the right to know so that it never happens to any other (good) teacher again.

    How about an apology? What others have done to me and what you also have done to me is terrible, heinous, and that's what I call unprofessional...
    though I don't know what your profession even is.

    It definitely isn't journalist, informed citizen or writer.

    I think it's hack, troll, or just generally nasty person.

    Good luck finding a woman to put up with that; I suggest rewording your "want" ad. It's mildly off-putting, to say the least.

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  19. Uh, Elizabeth? Honey? I've just moved the whole issue to the front page of the blog. Just to make sure that you get equal time, of course.

    Mr. Dogface? How hurtful.

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