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Indoctrination High

By Ben Johnson


A 16-year-old student’s recording of Jay Bennish’s virulent political screed during a 10th grade geography class held February 1 at Overland High School of Aurora, Colorado, demonstrated once again that the Left prefers to begin its indoctrination as early as possible.


One snippet of the class, in which Bennish said President Bush’s most recent State of the Union Address “sounds a lot like the things that Adolf Hitler used to say,” has garnered media exposure. In the clip, Bennish claimed Bush told the world in his State of the Union Address:


America should be the country that dominates the world. That we have been blessed, essentially by God, to have the most civilized, most advanced, best system and that it is our duty as Americans to use the military to go out into the world and make the whole world like us. Sounds a lot like the things that Adolf Hitler use to say…it's our job to conquer the world and make sure they live just like we want them to…there are some eerie similarities to the tones that they use. Very, very “ethnocentric.”


Parents are rightly outraged, but this quotation hardly does justice to the 21-minute, 40-second rant – a rambling, full-throated shout denouncing Bush, Operation Iraqi Freedom, capitalism, the War on Drugs, the CIA, Israel, and the American flag. (Listen or download here. Read Michelle Malkin’s partial transcript here, additional excerpts here.)


The Rest of the Story


Bennish actually begins the rant by suggesting Iranians would be justified in bombing North Carolina tobacco fields.


Then he calls the United States “probably the single most violent nation on planet earth…And we’re a democracy, quote-unquote.


In what way are we the most violent nation on the planet? “Between the years 1960 and 1962, the United States, through the CIA, conducted over 7,000 terrorist sabotage attacks against the small island nation of Cuba.” He also claims CIA agents have “dirty minds” and “want to kill people for the sake of killing them.” No word on whether this includes William Sloane Coffin and Valerie Plame.


Making a quick about-face, he urges students to “Make sure you get these definitions down.” Among them is capitalism. After his “instruction,” he asks, “Do you see how this economic system is at odds with humanity? At odds with caring and compassion? It’s at odds with human rights.”


He hints America invaded Iraq for economic gain. Then he pivots to Bush’s “blind, naïve faith in democracy” (much like Pericles). “What makes him think that when the Palestinians get their own state that they won't wanna preemptively invade Israel to eliminate a potential threat to their security just like we supposedly did in Iraq?!” Actually, I’m pretty sure six Arab nations did exactly that in 1948. Bennish blusters on, “Do you see the dangerous precedent that we have set by illegally invading another country and violating their sovereignty in the name of protecting us against a potential future attack?”


Besides, the World Trade Center’s little Eichmanns had it coming:


Some of the companies that work in the World Trade Center are these huge, multinational corporations that are directly involved in the military-industrial complex, in supporting corrupt dictatorships in the Middle East. And so in the minds of al-Qaeda, they’re not attacking innocent people. They’re attacking legitimate targets, people who have blood on their hands as far as they're concerned.


When Sean asks Bennish if there is a distinction between terrorists killing innocent people and uniformed military men retaliating for their actions, Bennish responds, “You have to remember who's doing the defining of a terrorist.


Then he plays the ultimate atrocity card: “To many Native Americans, that [American] flag is no different than the Nazi flag or the Confederate flag.”


The 12-Minute Geography Hour


When asked how often these sweeping condemnations of the American Way occurred during class time, Sean Allen replied, “This went on everyday or every other day.” Sean told “Hannity and Colmes” host Sean Hannity last night, “About 20 percent [of class time] was dedicated to actual geography. About 80 percent was dedicated mostly to his personal politics and treating them as fact.”


“In class, I felt like he was trying to justify why al-Qaeda attacked us and that in their eyes, we were the real terrorists,” Sean continued. “He was a pretty intimidating teaching to confront, in his body languages, and the things that he said.” Earlier yesterday, Sean summed up his position, telling Neil Cavuto, “I think he’s really trying to get kids to think his way.”


Not Bennish’s First Offense


Upon hearing of the national backlash he’d inspired, the Cherry Creek School District promptly placed Bennish on “leave,” pending further investigation.


“We want to find out all the facts, what other students have to say about it, whether there have been other incidents,” school district spokeswoman Tustin Amole stated. Cherry Creek’s official statement on the matter agrees its first agenda item is to “Determine if this is an isolated incident or a pattern of behavior.


But Amole already knows the answer to this question, and revealed that fact to the Denver press:


Apparently, this is not the first time he has been in hot water over comments made in class, according to Amole. A few years ago, another student complained about remarks Bennish made in class. In that case, Bennish met with the parent and the school principal, and the issue was resolved without district intervention.


Denver-area media have had no trouble finding several such stories. Former student Derek Belloni, 18, told the Rocky Mountain News, “He is making interpretation as facts. He's preaching politics in geography class.”


“Brad,” a University of Miami (FL) student soon to enlist in the Marine Corps, told a Denver radio program when Bennish taught him American History in 2000-1, he used an extreme left-wing book as the text; his tests asked students to give examples of how American history is the story of white male imperialist oppression; and glowingly recounted personal tales of underage drinking, drug use, and premarital sex. (Brad vividly recalls Bennish’s explicit story of an amorous encounter in a cornfield five years after the fact.)


Thankfully, the school district’s statement concludes, “The district is in the process of identifying any personnel actions that may be necessary.” Only one comes to our minds….


Fire Bennish


In response to being placed on leave, Bennish has threatened to file a lawsuit first thing Friday morning. (Still future as of this writing.)


“I know about 10 federal judges who are more than willing to teach the Cherry Creek School District what the First Amendment is all about,” David Lane, Bennish’s lawyer, said yesterday. Lane – who was also Ward Churchill’s lawyer – derided school administrators as “scared little rabbits” for suspending the biased (non-)teacher. Lane said, “The nature of his class is to put out controversial ideas and let the students respond, to teach them to think critically.”


Discussing the disciplinary measure with local media, Cherry Creek spokeswoman Tustin Amole said: “After listening to the tape, it's evident the comments in the class were inappropriate. There were not adequate opportunities for opposing points of view.” In another outlet, she reiterated, “It appears that they were inappropriate because they didn't contain the balance.” (“The” balance?)


Her comments prove both sides miss the obvious. In fact, the “nature” of Bennish’s class is to get students to think about geography: the latitude and longitude of Cairo, the height of Machu Picchu, the length of the Amazon, etc. (Links included for the benefit of Bennish’s students, who may not have been familiarized with these concepts in class.) No school district should continue to employ – at taxpayer expense – a teacher who consumes 80 percent of class time with off-topic material of any kind, much less foisting his extremist, personal political views on a captive audience of unemancipated minors who signed up to learn the verifiable data of geography.


Sean Allen says he does not want Bennish fired. He should. Bennish’s irresponsible political diatribes are robbing Allen and all his fellow students of an education. They would be equally out of place if they were about his favorite sports team or college fraternity, or if his political views were conservative or centrist. But it seems little accident the majority of reported transgressions against pedagogy are perpetrated by leftists.


The Leftist Indoctrination Campaign in Our K-12 Schools


This incident was apparently not the first offensive action by Bennish in class. It certainly was not the Left’s first foray into indoctrinating minors at taxpayer expense. To cite but a few such examples:


  • The Pacific Palisades High School English department intended to force 300 students to sit through a 105-minute lecture from far-leftist Ray McGovern, who told his underage audience Iraq was a “war for oil” and that Ariel Sharon ran President Bush’s foreign policy.
  • An American History teacher at Santa Monica High School branded America “a terrorist nation.” A visit by David Horowitz was first cancelled, then protested.
  • On February 13, 2003, Miller High School of Corpus Christi, Texas, required all students to attend a political rally held by presidential candidate Al Sharpton.
  • Many high school students have had to endure the one-sided presentations of Wheels for Justice, a group focused on Middle Eastern issues.

Even elementary school students are vulnerable to leftist proselytization. In 2003, after an eight-year-old boy wrote a paper saying he wanted to be a soldier like his grandfather, the boy’s second grade teacher snapped, “If you ever write anything like that again, you are going straight to the principal’s office.”


This incident clearly illuminates the problem gripping many classrooms. Unfortunately, not all students have Sean’s courage – to record and document the offense, then expose the best disinfectant. Most acquiesce to the pressure to go-along and get-along, to smile and nod through the teacher’s political rants, regurgitate the teacher’s leftist bias on tests, learn nothing, and reach college prepared for four more years of the same.


The cure is clear: more students need to follow Sean’s lead, more K-12 schools need to form chapters of Parents and Students for Academic Freedom, and more state legislatures need to adopt the Academic Bill of Rights. And Jay Bennish should get his next opportunity to spout his extremist views as a columnist for Z magazine, not as a geography teacher paid by Colorado taxpayers.

Ben Johnson is Managing Editor of FrontPage Magazine and author of the book 57 Varieties of Radical Causes: Teresa Heinz Kerry's Charitable Giving.


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