Outrageous Inquirer Poll Asks, ‘Should a teacher make fun of a child?’

by Christopher Paslay

The Inquirer’s latest poll on the “Romney T-shirt” incident shows just how pathetic the response from the Philadelphia liberal establishment has been.    

Today the Inquirer asked it readers: “Should a teacher make fun of a child wearing a T-shirt supporting a political candidate?”  The poll is so warped and mindboggling that I won’t even bother to list the four possible responses.  Anyone in their right mind knows the answer to this ludicrous question, and the answer is no, a teacher shouldn’t make fun of a child.  The fact that the Inquirer asked it reveals a lot about the newspaper, its readers, and the hypocritical culture of Philadelphia’s liberal establishment. 

The reason the Inquirer is posing the question, of course, is to downplay the seriousness of the Romney T-shirt incident.  It’s a way to equate intolerance with “making fun” or “making jokes.”  Should teachers be able to joke around with their students about political things? they are saying. What do you think?  Is it really such a big deal?

It’s clear the Inquirer’s editorial board isn’t convinced that what happened to little Sam Pawlucy is an absolute, unquestionable injustice.  If what happened to Pawlucy were an unquestionable injustice (like, say, the unquestionable injustice of violating gay rights), the Inquirer wouldn’t still be grappling with public opinion on the issue.

For example, you would never see an Inquirer poll asking the question: “Should a teacher make fun of a child for wearing a LGBT rainbow T-shirt?”  They wouldn’t ask it because when it comes to such issues, there is zero tolerance.  In other words, you don’t make fun gays, period.  You don’t even joke about it.  Especially, and most importantly, teachers.

Likewise, the Inquirer would never run a poll asking: “Should a teacher make fun of a child for wearing a Muslim Taqiyah cap?” They would never run a poll asking: “Should a teacher make fun of a child for wearing a Travon Martin memorial shirt?”  Again, these are issues apart of the liberal sacred untouchable cannon, so the Inquirer would never ask such questions.

But when it comes to making fun of Republicans or comparing a Romney/Ryan T-shirt to the KKK, the Inky runs a poll.  Should teachers be allowed to do it, what do you think?

Interestingly, the local media—the Inquirer, Daily News, and their columnists and editorial boards—have yet to publically reprimand Samantha’s geometry teacher for the egregious transgression of stereotyping Republicans as the KKK (both papers have focused on the issue of freedom of speech, and only Christine Flowers had the guts to bring up bullying).  No one has come out and righted this wrong by setting the record straight.  No one has said, It was unconscionable of this teacher to compare a Romney Ryan T-shirt to the KKK.  Most Republicans are not racially insensitive, and it was wrong for this teacher to stereotype this group in front of her students.      

Imagine if a teacher (jokingly) made a Muslim student take off his Taqiyah cap because she said (jokingly) that this cap represented terrorism.  After the teacher was crucified, sued, chewed-up by the ACLU and spit out, and ultimately fired, there would be a series of editorials and commentaries chastising this teacher for being intolerant, and the record would be set straight immediately: It is wrong to stereotype Muslims as terrorists, because most are tolerant, peaceful people

Smear a Republican in a heavily Democratic town such as Philadelphia and you get ill-defined “teachable moments.”  Equate a Republican T-shirt with the KKK and the remedy is a vague, feel good lesson on “political differences.”  Sure, a teacher stereotyped an entire group of people with a symbol of hate, but can’t we all just get along?  Can’t we just get back to our normal routines?  She did say she was joking, after all.

Suddenly, amazingly, the unbending hyper-vigilant politically correct left has a sense of humor! 

Actually, I don’t buy for a second that they have a sense of humor.  The reality of the Romney T-shirt incident is that newspapers like the Inquirer and the Daily News don’t want to debunk the Republican = KKK stereotype because they benefit too greatly from it politically.  In fact, newspapers like the Inquirer and the Daily News promote such stereotypes (Republican Voter ID = Jim Crow is just one example that comes to mind).

So as it stands in Philadelphia, Republicans are indeed 21st century Klansmen, you just can’t say so out loud in class if you are a teacher and your student happens to be wearing a GOP T-shirt.

For Schoolteachers, Collective Bargaining Protects Free Speech

by Christopher Paslay


Quinnipiac University recently polled 1,800 registered voters and found that 63 percent believed that public-sector workers should pay more for their health benefits and contribute more to their retirement programs.  The same poll also revealed that 42 percent felt that public-sector workers are paid “too much,” as opposed to 35 percent who said they are paid “about right.”


Interestingly, when it came to the issue of collective bargaining, Americans were split: forty-five percent said they supported limits on employees’ negotiating rights while 42 percent said they were against bargaining restrictions.     


On Friday, Philadelphia Daily News columnist Christine M. Flowers (who is for the record one of my favorite local writers) weighed-in on the issue of unions by commemorating the 100 year anniversary of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire that killed 146 immigrant seamstresses.  Flowers went on to write that these women died because they had no bargaining power or workplace protections.  In essence, there was no one to tell their bosses that it was illegal to lock the exit doors during the work day.


Of course, Flowers went on to write that although unions started out as a shield, they ultimately turned into a sword:     


“. . . While unions did good things for their members and improved working conditions in blue-collar industries (the ones that built, fed and clothed the nation), the tactics used to obtain fair deals for the seamstresses and steel workers have now been manipulated by others with a more partisan agenda.


In many cases, those ‘others’ work in the public sector, and their ‘collective bargaining’ has been turned into a form of public bribery. By taking their members’ dues and contributing big sums to the political campaigns of officials who – when elected – can sweeten their contracts, public-sector unions have gone from puppet to puppet master.


‘A decent living’ became a euphemism for bloated salaries and way-better-than-average perks at taxpayer expense. And tenure all of sorts has turned into immunity for the mediocre. . . .”


Flowers’ quip about tenure is clearly a jab at schoolteachers, but I won’t hold this against her.  Her views are normally right on point, and I have the utmost respect for her as a writer and thinker.   


But regardless of Flowers’ sweeping generalization about schoolteachers, there is another issue at the root of unions and collective bargaining that is rarely analyzed or discussed.  Buried beneath health benefits, pensions and salary is the issue of free speech, a right that has been denied schoolteachers by the courts in recent years.          


Jonathan Zimmerman, professor of history at New York University, wrote about the importance of collective bargaining in terms of its impact on the free speech of teachers in a March 1st article in the Philadelphia Inquirer headlined, “In fight for workers, free speech is at stake.” (To read the article in its entirety, which I strongly suggest, click here.)


Zimmerman opened his article by stating the following:    


“In 2001, high school English teacher Shirley Evans-Marshall gave her class a copy of the American Library Association’s ‘100 Most Frequently Challenged Books.’ She asked her students to choose a book on the list and explain why it was controversial.


But the assignment itself was too controversial for Evans-Marshall’s Ohio school district, which declined to renew her contract.


Evans-Marshall sued, claiming a violation of her First Amendment rights. And last year, a federal appeals court ruled that she didn’t have any – at least not in her own classroom.


‘The right to free speech … does not extend to the in-class curricular speech of teachers in primary and secondary schools,’ the court declared.


That’s why teachers still need collective bargaining, which lies at the heart of this winter’s bitter battles over public-employee unions. . . .


. . . Historically, these agreements have protected teachers’ salaries, benefits, and pensions. Now that the courts have gutted teachers’ academic freedom, however, the only way they can retain it will be via collective bargaining. . . .”


Zimmerman’s point is well taken.  For those who think teachers’ unions and their collective bargaining power is simply a tool to win underserved benefits and cushy pensions, think again. 


Collective bargaining is at the heart of a teacher’s right to shape curriculum—or put another way, their right to use their expertise as an educator to determine how they will deliver instruction.  It is also at the heart of their right to make their voices and opinions heard, as was the case (at least in part) with Philadelphia School District teacher Hope Moffett; without the collective power of the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers, Hope would have been terminated for protesting the reconstitution of Audenried High School where she currently teaches English. 


As a public servant and a dues-paying member of a union, I don’t think it’s unreasonable for workers to contribute more for their health insurance and pensions in light of the current economy.  However, America’s recession and the financial woes of many states should not be used as an excuse to cripple unions and take away the First Amendment rights of public workers.