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Flag-stomping and wine tasting get teachers fired, but should they?
January 10, 2013 - Andrea Johnson
A couple of interesting stories today about a couple of good teachers fired for daring to do something a little different.
French teacher Daniele Benatouil was fired from the private Calhoun School in New York City because she let a group of 18-year-old girls have a glass of wine with dinner during a trip to France. The parents of the girls gave permission but the school board didn't and said Benatouil violated the school's "zero tolerance" policy. Benatouil allowed the girls to drink wine because she considered it part of the overall cultural experience. A glass of wine is traditional at an evening meal in France. It was also entirely legal for 18-year-olds to drink alcohol in France.
Benatouil sued for wrongful termination but the Manhattan State Supreme Court upheld her firing, according to the Daily Mail.
Also in the Daily Mail today is a story about a Chaplin, S.C. English teacher who stomped on the American flag in front of three sections of his English class. Scott Compton told his students that the flag is only a piece of cloth and doesn't mean anything. The article doesn't indicate the point of the lesson, though based on an article at the Huffington Post it sounds like Compton may have been teaching the students about difference between a symbol and the ideal that it represents. Nevertheless, parents complained, school administrators announced that teachers have been told not to air their personal political views in the classroom and Compton has been placed on administrative leave and is probably going to lose his job.
I think Benatouil and Compton were probably unwise, since the reaction from parents and the overall community in both cases was predictable. I also think they have taught their students lessons that they are not likely to forget.
Why shouldn't 18-year-old students exploring France have a glass of wine with their meal, the way that French adolescents do? And, though Compton's actions may make your blood boil, he's right that the freedom that the flag stands for is far, far more important than a mere piece of cloth. That very freedom the flag symbolizes allows protesters to desecrate the flag.
Students are in class to expand their horizons, not only to have what they already believe reinforced. Hopefully Compton's shocking action set a few teenagers to thinking about what freedom actually means.
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