A student apparently taped part of the 50 minute lecture and sent the tape, representing about 20 minutes of the lecture, to a Denver radio station.
On the recording, Bennish told the students that some of Bush's speech "sounds a lot like the things that Adolf Hitler used to say. We're the only ones who are right, everyone else is backwards and our job is to conquer the world and make sure that they all live just like we want them to."
Later in the recording, Bennish said he was not claiming Bush and Hitler were the same, "but there are some eerie similarities to the tones that they use."This is a valid reason to put a teacher on leave? Because he told his class that there were similarities to the speeches? My economics teacher at Hume-Fogg used to make political cracks all the time, no one thought anything of it. Are we saying that today, in America, social studies and history teachers can't bring up criticisms or comparisons of the current administration with anything that happened in the past, without facing criticism, forced leave, and perhaps dismissal?
I do think it is a valid method of teaching to draw comparisons, and allow students to think about those comparisons and whether or not they agree. This is how we form opinions, after all. Sure, the comparison was against one of the most evil men of the 20th century (second only to Montgomery Burns, I'm sure), but if the comparison fits for this teacher's purposes, so be it.
I know, I know. Plenty of people will say "but these types of things shouldn't be presented in the classroom". Why not? Are we not allowed to discuss current politics in the classroom anymore?
Are we not allowed to discuss Hitler? Can we not compare Hitler to Stalin? FDR to Lincoln? Clinton to Bart Simpson? (I am not making actual comparisons of these people, by the way, I am just throwing things out there)
As these types of cases creep their way into American life, I have to wonder if it is the beginning of something bigger, of something worse. To the final loss of privacy, freedom of speech, and all the things America holds dear - or used to hold dear. Perhaps it is simply liberal overreaction.
I pray that is the case.
UPDATE: Here is a transcript of what was on the tape. I read over it and I still don't see a discussion any different than any discussion that I had in class in high school. The teacher repeatedly states that he just wants the kids to think about these things. In the end, saying that a teacher can't say these things about American politics is like the Japanese saying they can't teach their students about the Chinese/Japanese wars and whatnot. I don't care who you are, you can't avoid some sort of bias in a teacher. And if this teacher was gloriously praising Bush and everything else, none of this would even be an issue. It would all be ok. And if a liberal minded kid taped that discussion and took it home and a parent complained, well, it would be just a bunch of liberals crying over nothing.
Also, was it a Social Studies class, or a simple World Geography class? If it was just geography, ie. locations, captials, populations, exports/imports - then perhaps the discussion was not warranted, although I don't think it should have resulted in him being forced to take leave. I do find it hard to believe, however, that a high school has a simple geography class, without delving into the historical, social, cultural, and political aspects of each country.
EDIT: Julie O. at her site They Get Letters has lots of good information about this case.