POSTED: 7 March 2006 - 8:00pm

If the Brown Shirt fits...

Bush in newly designed brown-shirt uniform in 2004

This was in the Buffalo News today. I just called the school to congratulate them on having such a great teacher. They said thanks and would I please call the part of the school board that is attacking the teacher (I think to counteract all the right wing radio calling for the teacher's head). So I did. If you care to pass on the number to help counteract the attacks on this brave teacher, here it is 720-554-4436. Tustin Amole is the board member. Since the call, I googled the name of the teacher and found a myriad of right wing sites calling Jay Bennish " a brainwasher of our kids" so I wrote a quick letter (attached). Perhaps others you know might consider writing a letter - as the positive outcry is far smaller than the push to crucify Jay Bennish. Karen Engstrom Harvey

Teacher faulted for Bush-Hitler link
by Nicholas Riccardi 7 March 2006 picked up by The Buffalo News

It was the day after President Bush's State of the Union address, and social studies teacher Jay Bennish was warning his world geography class not to be taken in.

"Sounds a lot like the things that Adolf Hitler used to say," Bennish told students at the suburban high school. "We're the only ones who are right, everyone else is backward, and our job is to conquer the world."

The teacher quickly made clear that he wasn't equating the president with Hitler, but the damage was done. A sophomore in the class had recorded the lecture and this week turned it over to a conservative radio show.

Bennish, a five-year veteran of Overland High School, was placed on unpaid leave by the Cherry Creek School District on Wednesday, sparking an uproar over issues of free speech and proper classroom behavior.

About 150 Overland students walked out Thursday to protest Bennish's absence, and the teacher's lawyer - who met with district officials Friday - has threatened a federal lawsuit. Attorney David Lane argued on the Mike Roem radio show, which originally played the tape, that what his client said is not so outlandish and was intended to provoke his students into thinking about current events.

"Maybe it's not mainstream, middle-American opinion," Lane said Friday. "But the rest of the world agrees with him." Lane added that if Bennish had spoken strongly in support of Bush, he would not be under investigation.

Tustin Amole, a spokeswoman for the school district, said officials were investigating whether Bennish had violated a policy that says teachers may not intimidate students who hold political beliefs different from their own. "Teachers do have a First Amendment right to express their opinion," Amole said, "but it must be in the context of the material being taught, and it must provide a balanced point of view."

The Cherry Creek district, with 47,000 students, encompasses an arc of suburbs to the southeast of Denver; voter registration within its boundaries leans Republican.

A partial transcript of Bennish's class taken from the student's recording showed the teacher voicing a wide range of criticisms of U.S. policy and the war in Iraq. Bennish has not disputed the accuracy of the recording.

The teacher noted that American troops have spent 30 years fighting the drug war in Colombia and using "chemical weapons" to eradicate coca fields, cited more than 7,000 "terrorist sabotage acts" committed by the United States against Cuba and called the United States "probably the single most violent nation on Earth."

During the class, Bennish questioned why the United States is allowed to wage war in the Middle East but Palestinians are condemned as terrorists for attacking Israel. A student interjected that the United States does not single out civilians, unlike Palestinian terrorists. The teacher asked how Israel was created and pointed out that early Zionists used assassination and bombings to create their state.

According to the transcript, Bennish concluded by telling his students: "I'm not implying in any way you should agree with me . . . What I'm trying to do is to get you to . . . think about these issues more in depth."

March 7, 2006

Cherry Creek School District
12400 E. Jewell Aveenue
Aurora, CO, 80012

Dear Principal,

I was heartened today when I saw the story in the Buffalo News about the courageous history teacher at your school, Jay Bennish.

We indeed live in difficult times and it is rare that history is related to the times in which we live. More certain than ever is the saying “ Those who fail to study their history, are doomed to repeat it”.

A teacher who helps students think and analyze rather than regurgitate dates and facts is doing a great service to his students, community, and country.

As a documentary filmmaker and 30-year news veteran (retired Chicago Tribune, 1998), I can see the trend toward not thinking but just going along in all aspects of life in America has become the norm.

We thank you for having a conscientious teacher on your staff, and hope you will support him in the face of strident ignorance and hysteria.

Yours sincerely,
Karen Engstrom Harvey
4935 Alleghany Avenue
Mayville, New York


see also: Island Breath: Bush Brown Shirt