Sunday, May 13, 2007

Top Teacher Shown the Door After Showing “Baghdad ER”

From the Progressive:

Michael Baker worked for the Lincoln, Nebraska, public schools since 1981.

But after he showed the documentary “Baghdad ER” to his geography class on April 18, his career there was over.

This, despite the fact that in 2006, Baker was one of only 47 teachers in the state to win National Board Certification, according to the Lincoln Journal Star, which broke the story.


“What’s obvious is that the showing of ‘Baghdad ER’ was only an excuse to remove a progressive educator from the classroom,” Anderson charges.

Baker has clashed with administrators before. In 2005, they objected to his innovative approach to teaching history, which was to start at the present and work backwards, an approach he’d been using for four years.

But then, the school district forbade him from teaching that way any longer. The school’s consultant said it was “not logical, does not contribute to effective teaching or monitoring of progress, and puts students at a disadvantage” with newly instituted statewide tests, according to a paper on the subject by Professor Nancy Patterson of Bowling Green. Baker appealed but lost, and was eventually “prohibited from teaching U.S. history,” Patterson writes.

More here.

So this Progressive article has to speculate because of some compensation deal Baker cut with his district, but, having taught high school for six years myself, I think it's pretty safe to say that their guess is probably dead on. I've been writing here at Real Art lately about how teachers are just as subject to the severe and harsh authoritarian culture of public schools as students are--even slight challenges to the traditional order of things are dealt with harshly; teachers, then, serve as huge examples to their students of both authority and obedience.

It's pretty obvious that the film showing was only a pretense. Baker, who seemed to believe that the institution could actually be used to facilitate real learning, defied the rather arbitrary standards for his department's curriculum. It doesn't matter that learning history backward, by providing some context and real world applicability in order to create some true understanding and appreciation, might actually be a better way to teach history. All that matters is that Baker broke the rules. That is, he stood in direct defiance of the public schools' true mission, indoctrinating children into the culture of obedience and authority. For that he had to be punished.

Learning, you see, is a crime.