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'Free speech' debate in Loudoun school


ashburnskinsfan

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Interesting story out of a Loudoun high school.

http://www.timescommunity.com/site/index.cfm?newsid=16261487&BRD=2553&PAG=461&dept_id=507243&rfi=8

A very highly regarded teacher, Ron Richards, who also supervises a debate program that has won multiple state championships, holds an AP Government class.

"For Black History Month, he had students read a series of essays about Martin Luther King Jr., all written by black authors, and then argue for or against the King legacy. "This kid decided to be outrageous,” said Richards. “He wrote racist rubbish.” Richards characterized the essay as a messy first draft. Had it gotten to him, said Richards, he would have had the student rewrite it."

Another teacher finds the essay, says there is pattern of behavior and intentionally humiliates the kid in front of another class and then takes the kid to the principal where they both give him an ‘ear-bashing’, allegedly calling him 'despicable' among other things.

The original teacher is far from happy and accuses the head of bullying and saying his behavior risked pushing the kid over the edge and thereby endangering the school.

I think the endangerment accusation is a stretch, but the head acted very poorly. Given that this was an assignment in an AP Government class, he should have handled it differently and involved the kids parents if he felt it necessary to take it this far.

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If anything the parent and teachers should have met to discuss the situation. Attacking the student, in front of his peers no less, because the teacher wanted to make a point over a paper that wasn't even written for his class seems like a bad move IMO.

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When I was in HS, we had an entire section on the Holocost. A girl in the middle of the class stood up and declared that the Germans had every right to do what they did. We all started to attack her (verbally of course). The teacher who happened to be Jewish, made us all shut up, and made it an organized debate.

I think the gov't teacher was right. The head should not have punished this kid at all. An exchange of ideas, no matter how offensive, in a debate forum helps educate both sides.

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I find this story pretty interesting. It doesn't surprise me in the least that a teacher would attempt to humiliate or denigrate a student for indicating an un-Politically Correct opinion, even if it was as part of an assignment by another teacher. Especially if the student has a reputation of thinking and acting outside the societal "norms" dictated by the school. It does surprise me a little that this instructor requires his students to look at BOTH sides of potentially explosive issues. It's a happy surprise to me, but a surprise none the less.

I took an "American Politics" class my Senior year in High School. The basis of the class was discussion and education regarding the history of politics in the United States. It included a requirement to do volunteer work for a political party or candidate (of the student's choice) for a minimum of 40 hours during that fall's campaign. The class also included a lot of debate and discussion time. The teacher and I have totally opposite political philosophies, which I knew going into the class as I'd had him for other Social Studies courses. About halfway through the semester he pulled me aside after a class and asked me how I was able to so completely and throroughly argue the opposite side from him regularly in class. "Because it's what I actually believe Jim." was my answer. His jaw dropped. He proceeded to tell me that he'd thought I was just working the other side of the aisle to promote discussion. "I've had you for three other courses and I'd never have guessed you were an Ultra-Conservative. You seemed to be so bright and competent." He told me. I just smiled and walked away.

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When I was in HS, we had an entire section on the Holocost. A girl in the middle of the class stood up and declared that the Germans had every right to do what they did. We all started to attack her (verbally of course). The teacher who happened to be Jewish, made us all shut up, and made it an organized debate.

I think the gov't teacher was right. The head should not have punished this kid at all. An exchange of ideas, no matter how offensive, in a debate forum helps educate both sides.

that is exactly the way it should be, too. the way i read the article, they were supposed to be ridiculing dr. king essays. i think this kid decided to put himself in the mindset of the time to argue it.

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Ron Richards was my Honors Govt Teacher at Broad Run in my Senior Year (1991).

Granted I had him 15 years ago, but he was always extremely fair with us. He both praised us and repremanded us privately and believe me... the man gives his Honors classes a hell of a heavy workload, mostly based on essays.

Very liberal teacher, personally, but doesn't doesn't pontificate or indoctrinate. He allows you to present your point-of-view and he's looking to see if you have developed it logically and checks for your reasoning. He won't debate a student of his. All he looks for is how you have come to your conclusions. He wrote a book during my Senior year called A Southern Yarn which was a "what if" kind of story about the Civil War with the South winning.

One student said "But Mr Richards... the South did win the Civil War... "

Keep in mind this was an Honors class. It got so quiet in there you could hear the grass growing.

I can think of one instance where he called out an entire class, but I think it was warranted.

A class before us in the schedule (non-Honors Govt) made cheat-sheets for a test and shrank them down to 1.5"x3". It became an effort for the whole class. They made the cards and distributed them. He told us how disappointed he was in that class and was glad he could depend on us to be more honest.

Unfortunately, I knew the person who actually made the sheets for them was in my class. So did he. He was looking for the person to confess, which never happened.

Mr Richards is a good man. I liked the guy. He once called me an asset to my family. Even if the kid's stuff was that bad, it was to be discussed among him, the student and the Parents, not publicly. This Kent and the Principal seem to follow their own hype and enjoy the sound of their voices a bit too much. I think Mr Richards comments and actions are a bit extreme, but it should have never gotten this far.

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