Freedom of Speech

Doug over at Borderland has a very thought-provoking post called Teaching the Controversy. In it he talks about the case of Deborah Mayer who lost her job because she told her elementary school teaching job because she told her students she honked for peace. A US court of appeals ruled that the school board was justified in firing her. According to an article in the San Francisco Chronicle,

As a federal appeals court in Chicago put it in January, a teacher’s speech is “the commodity she sells to an employer in exchange for her salary.”

My first reaction to reading that was amazement. Then it was disgust. Then I thought about the fact that I was bound, in my last job, not to publicly advocate anything that was in opposition to the teachings of the Catholic Church. And it hadn’t bothered me. Of course, I don’t publicly advocate much of anything. And I never felt that it limited my freedom to say what I wanted to about any topic in my classroom. My students always knew who I am and what I believe in. But in spite of my own feelings of freedom, I basically gave away my freedom of speech when I took the job.

What amazes me now as I think about it is the way I never really realized what was being asked of me. I just accepted it as something buried in the faculty handbook that didn’t really apply all that much to me. And I am sure that Ms. Mayer never really thought about it either — until she had lost her job.

But that is where the problem lies, I think. We need to be thinking more.

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