Friday, March 03, 2006

Lots of Bennish Updates

Last night was Sci-Fi Friday, so life on Earth ceases to exist until Saturday morning. But today there are several Bennish stories in the RMN.

As I thought, there was more to the lecture than was given to us by Sean Allen. [edited: It's important to emphasize the fact that the discussion Allen recorded was part of the class syllabus that Bennish gave students at the beginning of the school year, so the discussion was not in any way off topic.]

First, as I suspected, the class is an accelerated world geography class (pdf), meaning these are the smarter, college-bound students who can handle difficult subjects. Second, the discussion was part of the current events portion of their class, a regular part of class which can earn students extra credit. Third, a look at the class syllabus shows:

... a list of Web sites the students can visit to learn about current events and write papers for extra credit. While many of the organizations are on the left side of the political spectrum, including Guerrilla News and the Brookings Institution, not all are. At least three are on the right side of the political spectrum - those for the Cato Institute, the Heritage Foundation and the Project for a New American Century.

Fourth, Bennish's attorney (also Churchill's attorney, but try not to hold that against him), David Lane, said that Bennish told his students:

'I'm throwing all this out to you guys. I want you guys to write about what I've said. I want you to take it apart. I want you to criticize it. I want you to analyze it, and if you do that I will give you extra credit. It doesn't matter what your position is - you can agree with me; you can disagree with me.'

That was not on the recording. Neither was the end of the class. The sounds of Allen taking out his recorder and positioning it on his desk are clearly heard. But the recording ends abruptly and silently, is if it were edited rather than stopped. It was a twenty minute excerpt of a one hour class made by a student who apparently doesn't like what his teacher has to say.

Finally, Jeffrey Bennish, Jay's brother, who apparently knows a little more about the situation than the public has been made aware, says this:

"What kind of student covertly records his teacher after peppering him with questions from his father during the open discussion on current events section of class?" [emphasis added] Jeffrey Bennish's post asks. "The same student that boasts of beating Jehovah's Witnesses over the head with Bibles on his MySpace site [ed: it was a joke from Allen's stand-up routine]."

Sounds to me like this was a regular, planned part of the class, that there was ample opportunity for challenges, an open atmosphere for discussion, and a student who set up a teacher simply for airing differing, controversial opinions. And it has been highly unfair to leap to conclusions based on an edited recording of a class.

Teacher stands by work
Story grew legs on internet
Student 'starting to get crucified,' his dad says
Union: suspension will stifle class discussion
Accelerated World Geography course summary (pdf)
Bennish Transcript

From the syllabus Sean Allen received at the beginning of class:
Important themes include: population, religion, human rights, notions of development and underdevelopment, impact of colonialism historically and currently, sustainability, impacts of modernization on developing countries, globalization of economy and culture, political and international conflict, cultural diversity, and global environmental concerns. To that end, a deeper understanding of current events from a historical and geographical perspective is imperative. Thus, timely issues and events in the news will be tied into the overall framework of the course.

    Course Goals
  1. Critical and creative thinking
  2. Critical reading
  3. Spatial Reasoning
  4. Effective writing

Other links:
Bennish Transcript
Allens' Story Doesn't Add Up
Letter to Dr. Moses
Lack of Bennish Support
What Kind of Honors Student is Sean Allen?

Bennish Today Show Transcript
Bennish, Unions, Joss Whedon's Serenity

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