Angry chemistry teacher needed to go but she had some valid points, George Pyle writes

Vaccinate your children with a healthy dose of skepticism.

(Nancy McKendrick) This photo comes for a history packet that Nancy McKendrick's daughter was using to make up credits through Northridge Learning Center.

“When I was a boy of 14, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be 21, I was astonished at how much the old man had learned in seven years.”

Mark Twain

In all my years as a student, I recall only one teacher whom I deeply despised. I thought he was a bully and a brute so, of course, he was a junior high gym teacher. I should admit that I was predisposed to hate him, no matter his personality, because I always hated gym class and I hated anyone who didn’t hate it.

Unfortunately, I was not clever enough at that age to realize the day he devoted most of the class to a sales pitch for a housing development centered around a golf course — “Tell your parents they really want to get in on the ground floor of this” — was probably a breach of faculty ethics that might have gotten him fired.

Or maybe not.

It’s hard to imagine that word of the presentation didn’t reach the ear of the administration, yet there were no repercussions that I was aware of. And no students flunked the class because their parents failed to buy a house on the 15th green.

It wasn’t like my gym teacher told the truth about Donald Trump, COVID vaccinations, anti-LGBT prejudice and other things that were apparently the first-day last straw for a teacher at Lehi High School.

The teacher said Trump is a sexual predator — which is true — and that eligible people who refuse to get vaccinated for coronavirus are endangering other people — also true.

She disparaged Fox News, which intelligent people do, and suggested high school students are likely to be smarter than their parents — which is how teenagers often feel, sometimes accurately.

After a video of the chemistry teacher’s rant took off on social media, we are told that she no longer works at the Lehi school. Which is the correct outcome, not because of her views but because of the angry and disrespectful way she expressed them.

She should have been welcoming students and helping all of them, regardless of political views, feel safe at the beginning of a school year that is even more intimidating than usual.

It’s almost like someone who knows something about science didn’t really want that job, with the health risk it entails in our anti-science state, and was determined to go out in a blaze of, well, momentary Facebook fame.

It relates to a bit of wisdom from an old friend, which I have shared in this space before, so please indulge me.

There are, my friend said, two kinds of parents. Those who hope that their children will be smarter than they are and those who fear that their children will be smarter than they are. Both kinds of parents are likely to be disappointed.

Those who wish wisdom for their children are clearly smart, regardless of their level of formal education, and they also have a head start so, as long as the parent is alive and learning, their offspring may never catch up.

I know I never did.

Those who wish their children to never surpass them in wisdom begin their parental careers in a hole in which they are probably stuck, and are likely fated to see the next generation leave them behind.

The incident in Lehi is worrisome for reasons other than what this individual teacher said. Educators are in a tough enough spot, what with all the blather about critical race theory and people who see George Soros conspiracies everywhere. The knowledge that any off-script comment or aside might be caught on a smartphone and broadcast around the planet can’t be comforting to even the most devoted teacher.

Meanwhile, off on the other end of the political spectrum, we learn that a local high school student was correctly appalled at what she read in a workbook she was using to make up a U.S. history credit. The text, provided by an outfit called Northridge Learning Center, whitewashed the history of slavery in America with such Lost Cause drivel as “most slaves were generally treated kindly” and had “reasonable living conditions and hours of service.”

We know this, and are told that Northridge will be rewriting its lesson plans, because a student who missed history class already knew enough history to know total bilge when she read it.

Education is not a product. It is a process. At all ages we are likely to read and hear stuff that is designed to distract, cover up, enrage, excuse and bamboozle. Sometimes such bad lessons will deserve to be confronted, and things may get a little tense.

So yes, talk to your children about what they are being taught and ask them what they think. But mostly work to vaccinate them with just enough healthy skepticism that they won’t be vulnerable to every bit of intellectual fraud they encounter. It is a skill they will need their whole lives.

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) George Pyle.

George Pyle, opinion editor of The Salt Lake Tribune, is still way behind on his reading list.


Twitter, @debatestate