free speech

free speech

Smut or Shakespeare: Kansas Senate Defines What’s Appropriate for the Classroom

If you’re a student (or know a student) in Kansas, major changes may be coming to your curriculum. The state’s Senate has recently passed a bill (SB56) removing legal protections for educators in schools for using curriculum methods that may be viewed as harmful to minors. However, the legislation did not remove the same protections for educators at colleges and universities.

kansas capitol

Seen by supporters as a way to protect minors from “offensive content,” the measure gained traction after a poster in a Johnson County middle school spurred some parents’ ire. The poster, displayed as part of sex-education curriculum, asked the question “How do people express their sexual feelings?” Answers to that question included intercourse and anal sex. None of the answers to the question were depicted in any way on the poster other than with words. Some parents were offended by the posters’ content, and it was removed by the school.

The tide then turned to other materials which some could consider inappropriate, culminating in the bill passing in the Kansas Senate. It will now go to the state’s House of Representatives. The bill would allow for teachers, principals and other educators to be charged with misdemeanors for disseminating and/or displaying materials determined to be harmful to minors.

Nathan Whitman, educator from Burrton High School in Kansas, helped clear up exactly what the “offensive content” would be. He said, “inappropriate content called ‘harmful to minors’ as defined by SB56 is ‘any description, exhibition, presentation or representation, in whatever form, of nudity, sexual conduct, sexual excitement or sadomasochistic abuse when the material or performance, taken as a whole or, with respect to prosecution for an act described by subsection (a)(1), that…the average adult person…find[s]…[appeals to a] prurient interest in sex to minors[;]…depicts or describes nudity, sexual conduct, sexual excitement or sadomasochistic abuse in a manner that is patently offensive to prevailing standards in the adult community[;]…lacks serious literary, scientific, educational, artistic or political value.'”

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NYC Teachers Sue Over Political Expression

Here’s an interesting issue.  According to the New York Times, the New York City teacher’s union is suing because teachers have been forbidden from wearing political buttons and displaying political signs on the job.  The union feels this is a violation of the teachers’ right to freedom of expression.  However, the school system feels that teachers have an obligation to maintain a strict sense of neutrality in the classroom when it comes to politics.

I tend to side with the teachers’ union on this issue — but I can certainly see both sides.  On the one hand, teachers have a right to free speech just like everybody else.  Teachers have an obligation to make sure their students feel 100% comfortable speaking their own minds about opinions, even if they don’t agree with the teacher — but that doesn’t mean that the teacher can’t express an opinion of his or her own.  This kind of open exchange of ideas teaches kids to participate in an intelligent and open minded way in political discussions, which is an important skill for learning to be a citizen. Read the rest of this entry »





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