Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Shut up and teach

My daughter came home from school yesterday and told me that her teacher spent about ten minutes discussing the demerits of Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin. Said teacher feels that Governor Palin lacks the necessary international experience to be effective as a foreign policy adviser to the President.

My initial thought was, "Great. Abby's teacher has decided to inject her personal politics into her classroom. She has been indoctrinated by the NEA and the MEA and feels it is her personal duty to pass along the bias that she and so many other young educators seem to carry with them."

Then I calmed down a bit - something my wife tells me I should do more of. I reasoned, "It is an election year. It seems reasonable that Abby would be studying the election in her American Studies class. After all, the class is about government, and her teacher's observation about Governor Palin's relative inexperience is not an unreasonable one.

When I asked Abby if her American Studies teacher presented the other side of the coin she said, "Oh . . . this wasn't in American Studies. This was my Anatomy and Physiology teacher."


Anatomy and Physiology? What business does an instructor who should be teaching the position of the appendix relative to the gall bladder have in commenting about the upcoming election? Did Sarah Palin have some sort of surgery of which we all need to be aware? Are the colons of Alaskan residents somehow different than those of Americans living in the lower forty-eight?

Frankly, I am fuming. Teach your subject and keep your personal political comments to yourself!

I said to Abby, "I have a captive audience of four hunderd people each week. Have you every heard me comment from the pulpit about any Presidential or Vice Presidential candidate?" She answered correctly, "No." That is because my personal opinions as they relate to the upcoming election are not relavent to the subject I am teaching - seeking, studying and serving God.

Frankly, I am pretty conflicted about this election. I am being asked to elect a commander in chief. One candidate is a decorated war hero. The other hasn't served a day in uniform. I am being asked to elect a CEO. One is a Washington insider who has been a part of the entrenchment for decades. The other is a fresh voice of change and hope. I don't know who I will vote for in November.

The point is, unless it is germaine to the subject I am handling on Sunday at 10 AM nobody needs to know my thoughts on it.

When Natalie Mains got her tail in a twist several years ago for dogging President Bush at a concert in Europe I read a great article on the subject titled, "Shut Up and Sing." If I were to email my daughter's A&P teacher - something she has forbade me to do - my message would be this: "Shut up and teach." You teach my daughter where her esophagus and stomach are located. I'll teach her to select the politician that is least likely to give her heartburn.


Anonymous said...

Let's see, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush...weren't all of those Presidents Governors first?

As I recall, none of those men were in Congress or Washington before being elected. Based on those facts, I don't know how anyone from either party can say Sarah Palin doesn't have enough experience in foreign policy.

Kokomo, IN

Anonymous said...

hey Frank, the teacher has as much right to express her opinion in her classroom as you do here on this blog. I think it,s called freedom of speech?


Frank Weller said...

The issue is not one of freedom of speech. Of course she has the right to present her opinion in two instances. First, if it is applicable to the subject she is teaching. For example, "The appendix, as a vestigial organ is, in my opinion, a leftover from the natural process we know as evolution." I disagree with her opinion, but it is certainly appropriate to her subject matter. It is also appropriate for her to give her opinion outside the classroom. I have no objection to either of the above scenarios. What I do object to, however, is her failing to teach anatomy and physiology and choosing, rather, to use that time to give her opinion on a matter unrelated to her subject.

As per my right to express my opinion on my blog . . . isn't that the point of a blog? Perhaps said teacher should consider writing one . . .

Anonymous said...

If her opinion agreed with yours, would we be having this conversation? Is that any different than you using the pulpit to express your opinion? I'm not saying you do, I'm just asking is it any different.

Anonymous said...

Also don't use as a chance to get angry, use it as an time to explain the difference in candidates good,bad or indifferent so your kids can have a good exchange with thier teachers.

Frank Weller said...


I haven't voiced my opinion yet, but since you asked . . . The Katie Couric interview at best shows Governor Palin is woefully unready to be interviewed as a Vice President. At worst it demonstrates that she is nowhere near ready to be Vice President. Am I worried that she might be a 72-year old heartbeat away from the Presidency? Absolutely. Might I vote for Obama-Biden? Still a very distinct possibility. So, would we be having this conversation if Abby's AP teacher agreed with me? Yes. Is it any different than me using the pulpit to express my opinion? No. That is why I don't express my political opinions from the pulpit. Should I not get angry. Probably not. I just happen to think that the stunningly high property taxes I pay ought to be used by anatomy teachers to teach anatomy.

BTW - who are you?

Anonymous said...

you know me quite well.


Anonymous said...

Way to go Frankly Speaking. It reminded me of the time my daughter's teacher was teaching about evolution. When my daughter tried to bring up the other side, namely creation, she was not allowed to and was nearly thrown out of class.

Rod Bisher said...

I think this month's Imprimis will help you to see who Sarah Palin really is.

It also includes another view of what we need to think about when voting for leaders.

Anonymous said...


After speaking with you earlier today I thought I'd share my comments with the rest of your readership. As a parent I believe you should be vigilant about what is being taught or shared in the classroom - I believe that your level of "awareness" speaks well of your approach to parenting.

However, I do have some concerns about how you express your frustration with the teacher's actions. While clearly this is "your" blog, you distinctly represent yourself on it as the Senior Pastor of South Lansing Christian Church and as such I believe have a greater responsibility to set a good example with such teaching moments. I wonder if your outrage or disgust with Abby's teacher might have been better expressed and used for a lesson on grace or handling conflict as Christ would. I don’t believe that suggesting someone should “Shut up and teach” is quite the approach of a “Contagious Christian.”

I share this as someone who also gets “fired-up” and often needs to be reigned in; sometimes I need to be reminded that what I say and do is not just a reflection of me.


Lorabele said...

I think your response is appropriate. It's all right to be disappointed in the actions of others. I think even Jesus expressed that many times. In fact, didn't he get angry from time to time? I do believe so.

This teacher is out of line, and you're right to object to her actions. When people of authority inflict such views on children, it's inappropriate. As you said, it's not like it was an open discussion where both sides were represented. It was an inappropriate topic for the subject matter she is paid to teach, and it was unfairly biased in that opposing views were not expressed.

Anonymous said...

Julia, I think you are missing the point of what Frank wrote. Instead of criticizing him for what and how he said something and how you think he should have portrayed himself, it would have been better if you would have stuck to the topic at hand. I don't think this blog entry that Frank wrote is representing South Lansing Christian Church. It says, "Frankly Speaking is the online home for the thoughts of South Lansing Christian Church Senior Minister, Frank Weller". To me that is identifying what he does, not that he is representing SLCC. This blog solely is written by Frank and the opinions expressed are his and not that of SLCC. Yes, he is the Sr. Minister of SLCC, but that is his occupation. This blog has been around a lot longer than he has even been at SLCC. He is human and he is ALLOWED to express his opinions. I believe that because Frank represents himself as a regular human being like the rest of us, that is what makes him more credible to the rest of us human beings. I think that if he were to blog as the minister of SLCC or any other church for that matter, and only use it to "preach" at us, he would have a lot less readers! Readers want to be able to relate and it is hard to do that when the blogger doesn't represent his real opinion, only the one you think he should express. Maybe he should change that one line at the top of his blog? Personally, I don't think so. I like that what Frank writes is who he is WARTS and ALL! He is real and so are HIS opinions! And it shows us that we are not alone in our similar reactions or actions.

To Mike who said that the teacher has every right to express her opinion in her classroom, I disagree. When you use your status to express opinions that are yours and not onecessarily of the 20-30 kids who HAVE to be in that classroom, that is not freedom of speech. If Frank would express his political opinions from the pulpit it would also not be freedom of speech. He is being paid to speak on God's word not his political opinions. It would be like holding someone hostage so you can forcefeed them your political opinions. Those kids have to be in that class to graduate and the topic for that class is Anatomy and Physiology. Last time I checked Anatomy and Physiology had nothing to do with politics but with cells and tissues.

Now having said all of that, I don't always agree with Frank's opinions but thats ok because I am sure he wouldn't always agree with mine either. But I am glad that he has the guts to blog about his opinions and also has the guts to admit when he has been wrong or he overreacts. I only wish I had his courage.

From a friend in Indiana

Mike Waugh said...

I think it may have been an innocent mistake. Think about this...

You're having a discussion about the position of the appendix relative to the gall bladder. You need an example to illustrate how close they are to one another. So you say, "The appendix is to the gall bladder what Russia is to Alaska." Then you say, "In fact, if you were standing on the gall bladder, you would be able to see the appendix."

It's easy to see how this simple lesson could turn into a one-sided discussion of politics.

Okay, maybe that's not how it went down. Nevermind.