By John Thompson

Do you have a point you’d like to make or an issue you feel strongly about? Submit a letter to the editor or a guest column.

We hear of physical violence and shootings in our schools with increasing frequency. But another kind of violence is occurring with increased frequency. It is the utterly vicious attitudes and incitements occurring in and around classrooms in schools and colleges. Three recent examples:

First, outside the classroom: Randa Jarrar, an English professor at California State University-Fresno, after Barbara Bush’s death, called Mrs. Bush a racist who “raised a war criminal.” Jarrar had much more to say, most of it punctuated with F-bombs, a vicious arrogance and defiance — basically flipping the bird to anyone with differing views and to those in authority over her employment. (Google “Randa Jarrar” to find a ton of citations.)

Second, inside the classroom: A history teacher, Gregory Pittman at Douglas High School in Florida, is being investigated by school administrators. The allegations being he compared a Jewish pro-Second Amendment student to “Hitler” and called him “dangerous.” This was done in the classroom, as well as over social media forums.

Third, around the school grounds: A Chula Vista school mural, apparently related to a fundraiser not directly sanctioned by the school, shows the severed head of the president on a spear. School officials were “distancing themselves” from the mural. Details can be read at the San Diego Union-Tribune site.

To be clear, Jarrar’s words and conduct outside the classroom on her own dime is her business. Given the passion, vulgarity and hatred expressed in her public comments, one might wonder what else she teaches in class besides nouns, verbs or English lit. Pittman’s conduct and words inside the classroom on our dime is our business. In his case, assuming the reports are verified, it would demonstrate he’s unable to restrict his teaching to history. Nearby the school, murals associated with a fundraiser for a high school depicting savagery against those with whom you disagree is — to use a popular term — “hate speech.”

These stories should make us wonder just what does go on in classrooms in schools and colleges behind the veil of the classroom door.

Are these stories isolated or anecdotal? Maybe not. On occasion, we hear of students having recorded on their phones the words and images of their instructors. In 2018, you’d think the instructors would be aware enough to know students might be recording them. Or is it that instructors have no concern about being held accountable for their words and conduct?

But this is 2018. Call a business and hear “this call may be recorded for quality and training purposes.”

Maybe it’s time to install “classroom cams” in the elementary, secondary and college classrooms for quality and training purposes. In addition to quality and training, content can be viewed. This is the reverse of “1984” and “Big Brother.” With Orwell, it was to ensure only the approved point of view is shared. In this case, the cams are to ensure a variety of points of view are shared. To ensure the accuracy and quality of lesson content is maintained. My preference is students and educators stick to the curriculum and keep their opinions off the clock and out of the classroom. When legitimate, timely, debatable issues are discussed, evenhanded equal time for other views are included.

Archiving massive amounts of data these days is routine. With class cams, administrators and parents can know firsthand what is being taught to our kids on our dime. The districts might find the recordings valuable when confronted with complaints from students and parents. In extreme, the recordings could be useful to parents, instructors or districts should legal challenges to classroom conduct arise due to wrongful or illegal conduct on the part of students or instructors.

— John Thompson lives in Bend.

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