Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Kearny High School students defend their teacher

A number of commenters who say they are students at Kearny High School have stopped by to offer support for their teacher, David Paszkiewicz. Unfortunately, they are making a strong case that instead of saying to his students "you belong in hell," Paszkiewicz should have said, "you belong in remedial English."

neo1123 writes:
Dude this is a fucking joke...... first off why the fuck would you want so much attention over stupid shit... and second... i know this teacher personally and know he is a good person and diddnt mean to offend ne one... and fuck the little bitch ass who recorded this shiit... im a senior @ khs and this just adds to all the fucking drama in this school.. so u know wat fuck all u bitch asses who want to see action taken... u r a sad sad person and need to fucking get a fucking life so ya im done here..... u wanna talk shit tell me @
J.Cora writes:
I believe this is the most stupidiest thing ever. That kid is just trying to find attetntion for himself. I've had this teacher and he is one of the best teachers. He taught history the way it was and in group discussions he would view both points without no religion remarks. So who ever reads this, don't be ignorants and know the facts first. The kid who claimed this is the type of kid no one likes and wants to drive attention to hiself. I say to the father to drop it because that teacher is loved by many and going against it will cause much problems.
Both of these commenters seem to have missed a few key points here, such as:

(a) Paszkiewicz is the authority in the classroom, and is responsible for teaching what's in the curriculum.
(b) It is a violation of the U.S. Constitution's Establishment Clause for a teacher in a public school classroom to endorse a particular religious viewpoint.
(c) Satan, the Big Bang, evolution, and Noah's Ark have nothing to do with U.S. history.
(d) Paszkiewicz lied when he told administrators he wasn't saying these things in the classroom.

It is irrelevant to any of these points whether Matthew LaClair wanted attention or isn't liked by his fellow students, or that he asked questions of Paszkiewicz which provoked some of his absurd statements (a point brought up by neo1123 in an email to me). The fact is that it was Paskiewicz's actions which were irresponsible and inappropriate--which he clearly recognized since he initially denied saying these things--and it is he who is responsible for the attention that is now being brought on Kearny High School.

On another note, now that some of the audio of Paszkiewicz is available online, you can find some additional commentary on the content of his teaching at Pharyngula. (A cleaned up version of the audio file may be found here. Thanks, Dave.)

Ed Brayton of Dispatches from the Culture Wars has also weighed in on this controversy, and you can find some more comments on the issue from Garden Staters at Blue Jersey.

And there are also now numerous comments at Metafilter.

UPDATE (November 16, 2006): If you can stand to listen to the audio all the way through, you will find that Paszkiewicz runs his classroom in a very disorganized manner, allowing multiple students to carry on conversations simultaneously and apparently without any kind of lesson plan. He also speaks authoritatively and confidently on a wide variety of subjects about which he is apparently ignorant, as Oolon Coluphid has pointed out in comments. And most of those subjects have little or nothing to do with the topic of U.S. History that he is supposedly teaching. Mr. Paskiewicz says in the class that he homeschools his own children, yet it is his teaching that exemplifies the worst of public school teaching--and there's no doubt his children do no better.

UPDATE: Mike Dunford at the Questionable Authority has transcribed a few pieces of the recording.

UPDATE (December 6, 2006): There is a complete transcript of the September 14 class at Stephen Dranger's site.


King Aardvark said...

Wow, you can really see how highschools are slipping in terms of teaching kids how to communicate ideas effectively. Simple proof reading seems beyond their grasp, though I do appreciate the over-the-top excessive profanity.

Julie said...

These kids are frighteningly illiterate. Do they ever read?

Jan Aquarius said...

The two emails noted in the original post are such glorious examples of what is wrong with the high schools of the United States today! But then, the quality (more precisely, the lack thereof) of these students who have come out in support of their weird teacher is quite telling, don't you think? Go, Nut-cases for Paszkiewicz!!

Hannah said...

It's not just high schools - it's the entire system. My boyfriend attended public school for the first five grades or so, and when he switched to homeschooling through Calvert's curriculum he had to learn how to write an essay. I'm not sure what they're teaching kids these days, but if Paskiewicz is any indication, it's not what they're supposed to be learning.

dogscratcher said...

The fundamental illogic displayed in the arguments proposed in these emails (which you have so graciously illustrated), should act as a clarion call to the administration at Kearney High that they need to pay more attention to critical thinking skills.

nsfl said...

My favorite line:
I say to the father to drop it because that teacher is loved by many and going against it will cause much problems.

Right. It doesn't matter if the guy did something wrong, since that's incontrovertible at this point. All that matters is people like him.

Also, note the tacit little hint of a threat...

If the teacher was an atheist telling the kids that the idea of God was stupid and giving them classical atheological arguments, what do you want to bet me he'd have been fired by now?

Schtacky said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Schtacky said...

Dave over on Pharyngula says that he has cleaned up the audio. I have not listened yet...

swithy said...

I am a graduate of KHS, and had "US History" with David Paszkiewicz in 1998-1999. Everything Matthew LaClair is saying is absolutely true. Paszkiewicz constantly deviated from the curriculum to give us his views on religion. The very first week of class, he said he could prove the existence of god to us. I am a gay non-Christian, and was outspokenly so when I was in high school. At least once a week I'd leave that class sick to my stomach or red with frustration, because of discussions that Paszkiewicz initiated, in which anti-gay, Bible-thumping conservatives could have their say, while we in the, dare I say, counterculture, were shot down at every turn, belitted, and dismissed. On the occasions that I tried to bring up my concerns to Paszkiewicz directly, asking him to keep his personal commentary out of our classroom, he'd twist my words, and intimidate me into thinking I was wrong to bring it up. David Paszkiewicz fostered an environment of intolerance for young people who are still learning who they are. I, luckily, came out stronger for it, but I wonder how many other gay kids retreated further into the closet because David Paszkiewicz damned them to hell during school hours.

Stephen said...

There's a complete transcript of 9/14 on on my website.

Stephen said...

There is a full transcript of 9/14 at my website.