A Denver high school geography teacher landed in hot water recently when a student surreptitiously recorded him letting loose with a partisan tirade, among other things comparing the President to a notorious dictator:
In the 20-minute recording, made on an MP3 player, teacher Jay Bennish described capitalism as a system "at odds with human rights." He also said there were "eerie similarities" between what Bush said during his Jan. 28 State of the Union address and "things that Adolf Hitler used to say."
The United States was "probably the single most violent nation on planet Earth," Bennish also said on the tape.
Plenty has already been written and said about how a high school geography class is hardly the appropriate forum for such a discussion and that, in any case, teachers should try to present controversial topics in a dispassionate, non-partisan fashion.
What I wish to address is Mr. Bennish's deplorable rhetorical skills. His comments call to mind humorist Dave Barry's classic essay How to Win an Argument - specifically the conclusion where we discover how to deliver the coup de grace, as it were:
* Compare your opponent to Adolf Hitler.
This is your heavy artillery, for when your opponent is obviously right and you are spectacularly wrong. Bring Hitler up subtly. Say: "That sounds suspiciously like something Adolf Hitler might say" or "You certainly do remind me of Adolf Hitler."
Perhaps Mr. Bennish is familiar with this essay but failed to realize it was tongue-in-cheek. More likely he frequents lefty haunts of the blogosphere, talk radio and Usenet where such insults are commonplace. Fortunately or unfortunately, according to inclination, one doesn't have to wait long thereabouts, per Godwin's Law of Nazi Analogies, for discussions to (d)evolve to such a state.
UPDATE: Heh. Bennish gets off with a reprimand and regrets the Hitler analogy:
At a meeting Thursday, Bennish told Cherry Creek school leaders that he should have used a different dictator when comparing President Bush to Adolf Hitler in a geography class.
I'm glad he got off with a reprimand. While I find his defense to be disingenuous, he's young and deserves a chance to demonstrate he can adhere to his school district's policy which requires that balanced viewpoints be presented in class, even if he prefers political activism to teaching.
Everyone's biased. Teachers should aspire to something approximating an objective and impartial journalistic ideal. Good journalists have opinions about the events they cover, too, but they attempt to 'stick to the facts' and present the alternate perspectives of others. If anything teachers have a greater duty to play it straight and not to abuse the trust their students and their parents place in them. Children are impressionable and ill-equipped to judge fact from opinion or detect bias.