Monday, November 9, 2009

Matt Polazzo Schooled by Veggie Tales!

If you needed any more proof that Matt Polazzo was wrong, wrong, wrong for calling for the confetti-ization of the UFT contract, it came in today's NY Post. If you recall, Mr. Polazzo was the teacher who called for principals to have the right to fire 'bad' teachers--essentially eliminating tenure protections.

Today's story is about one Greg Van Voorhis, who teaches 11th grade English at the Bronx School of Law and Finance. He gave his students a story to read from Playboy, which the Post says "discusses a teenage boy's use of a carrot in a sex act on himself and autoerotic asphyxiation." Now, in the interest of full disclosure, I have not read the story, nor have I purchased any carrots lately. The point is that word of the story swept through the school, and now Mr. Van Voorhis has been removed from the classroom--he now sits in a rubber room, or 'teacher reassignment center' as the DOE like to call it, awaiting a verdict on his fate. Chances are he will languish there a long time.

I don't know whether the story was inappropriate or not. The point is that in Matt Polazzo's brave new UFT, Mr. Van Voorhis could have been fired on the spot--no questions asked. Polazzo said, "The contract must allow administrators to fire bad teachers, give them the power to hire any teacher they want..."

Thankfully, Mr. Van Voorhis will be allowed a fair hearing and due process under teacher tenure laws. These laws protect teachers like me who teach books that might be objectionable, such as one in which a boy incessantly uses the N-word; or in which the protagonist recalls a visit to a prostitute, later has sex, and is finally tortured; or another in which the main character commits an attempted rape and murder (Huck Finn, 1984, Of Mice and Men).

The dilemma for all of Polazzo's defenders is: whose side are you on here? Those of you who stuck up for Polazzo so vigorously, do you agree that Mr. Van Voorhis should be fired, or do you believe in due process and academic freedom? Before you answer, you may wish to know that Van Voorhis' students believe that he is an excellent teacher, too. They even have a Facebook page up defending him. Sound familiar, Team Polazzo?


NYC Educator said...

Off-topic, but I won't teach Of Mice and Men anymore, or any book using racial epithets in any context. My kids, ESL kids, may not have learned those words, and I don't want them to learn them from me.

Teachers are now selected by principals. However, in this economic environment, it's preposterous to contend that working people need even fewer protections in the United States. I've got a kid who wants to be a teacher, and I don't want to leave things any worse for her than they already are.

If I get half a chance, I'd like to make them better.

Mr. Talk said...

I have to admit, it's been a long time since I've taught any of those books, and at least part of that is fear of backlash. It's a shame, because unlike your students, mine know those words, but without any of the context of the suffering behind them. The entire curriculum under Klein has become so watered down that the classics have become lost in middle schools. I only hope high schools still teach them, but after what happened to Van Voorhis, I sure don't know why anyone would risk it.

I agree 100% re protections for workers. What shocks me is that so many allegedly liberal students see no value in labor unions.

NYC Educator said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
yaichnitsa said...

I'm more than positive that Polazzo never said that that a teacher has no right to sue if he/she gets fired. This is right exists even in professions without labor unions. So if Van Voorhis got fired for his action and felt it was unjust, he could sue the school board.

But currently, a NYC public school teacher is probably one of the hardest people to fire, no matter how competant he/she is.

Anonymous said...

What is this man Matt Polazzo talking about? Firing incompetent teachers? How unimaginably horrific, bordering on atrocious. After all, how can we bear to deprive our children of poor education? You tell him, Mr. Talk!

In the interest of full disclosure, I don't know the full facts of the matter, but of course that doesn't affect the validity of my opinion.