A high school geography teacher here in Colorado — Jay Bennish who teaches at Overland High School in Aurora — is in trouble, attacked by the right, for things he said in an honors geography class after Bush’s State of the Union address. A student in the class taped the teacher’s comments (about twenty minutes of a fifty-minute class) without the teacher’s knowledge. His parents complained to the school administration, and, after nothing came of this, they gave the tape to radio station KOA (850 AM), a 50,000-watt outlet for far-right shock jocks like “Gunny Bob” Newman (Gunny Bob is a retired Marine gunnery sergeant. On a recent show, he gave graphic descriptions of torture and argued that it was necessary and desirable for U.S. forces to use such torture) and Dave and Lois, the “drive home’ team. During each of the past two days, Dave and Lois devoted their entire four-hour show to Mr. Bennish. On most shows, these two sound brain-challenged, but on these they presumed to know all there is to know about what makes a good teacher and what should be taught in any and all classes.
Mr. Bennish’s remarks were made on February 1, the day after Bush’s speech, but their publication by the radio station just happened a couple of days ago. (You can hear what he actually said in the twenty minutes that were taped at the KOA website.) Since then, the station has created a real hysteria around the state (and nationally as the snitch student was just on Fox‘s Hannity and Colmes show). The comments made on the station have to be heard to be believed. Just nasty and vicious with the assumption that Bennish should be summarily fired. Bennish has already received numerous death threats.
|Overland Students Walk Out
in Support of Jay Bennish
[Click on any of the images to watch the CBS 4 Denver video of the student walkout.]
“Many students said they were frustrated and angry about how Bennish had been criticized on talk radio. ‘I think he inspires so many students and he’s a great teacher,’ one student said during the rally. ‘I mean he makes people do there [sic] work and he makes people care about things.’ ‘It’s not about missing a day of school but rather our future,’ said Stephanie Edge, a student in support of Bennish. ‘I don’t think that education should be censored’” (emphasis added, “Overland Students Walk Out In Support Of Teacher,” CBS4Denver.com,2 March 2006).
Several hundred students demonstrated yesterday in the teacher’s support, a remarkable thing, and several got through to the talk shows to say what a fine and fair teacher Bennish is. But the proto-fascists see blood and aren’t letting up. Bennish has now been placed on paid leave while the school district investigates (the district is Cherry Creek 5).
I called the Colorado Education Association, which has an affiliate union at the Overland school. I suggested that the union should give all-out support to the teacher. I was told that Mr. Bennish is not a union member. I was then directed to the voice mail of someone in the union presumably dealing with this. I left a long message. But it amazed me that the union would dismiss these disgusting attacks on a teacher by saying Bennish is not a member. So what? I mean what hope is there if a union won’t support a teacher under such horrible attack. Solidarity? Principles? Fightback? Forget about it. And on the Air America liberal station in Denver, the sappy liberal talk show folks could only muster a pathetic, “Well, I don’t know about this one. What do you folks think?”
By the way, Colorado is ground zero for the right-wing Christian movement. Reaction is everywhere. Anti-immigrant, anti-abortion, you name it.
Among other things, Mr. Bennish asked his class which country has the most weapons of mass destruction and answered the United States. He suggested that capitalism was inimical to human rights and that the U.S. wants to create by military force if necessary a world in its own image. He suggested that there were chilling similarities between Bush’s words and those of Hitler. Right on the mark if you ask me! Meanwhile, the moronic Gunny Bob said that Bennish criticized capitalism but was a capitalist himself (because he gets paid a wage?).
Finally, on March 3, the Denver Post noted that, near the end of the recording, Mr. Bennish told his students, “You have to figure this stuff out for yourselves. . . . I’m not in any way implying that you should agree with me. . . . What I’m trying to get you to do is think about these issues more in depth and not just to take things from the surface.” And, “I’m glad you [those students who challenged him] asked all of your questions because they’re all very good, legitimate questions.” Sounds like a real brain washer to me!
DEFEND FREE SPEECH AND SUPPORT JAY BENNISH
Contact the Cherry Creek Schools District
to Get Bennish Back to Work!
4700 South Yosemite Street
Greenwood Village, Colorado 80111
Dr. Monte Moses, Superintendent
Michael D. Yates is associate editor of Monthly Review. He was for many years professor of economics at the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown. He is author of Longer Hours, Fewer Jobs: Employment and Unemployment in the United States (1994), Why Unions Matter (1998), and Naming the System: Inequality and Work in the Global System (2004), all published by Monthly Review Press.