My Parental Dilemma

Filed in Delaware by on January 30, 2009

Last night over dinner my 11 year old daughter announced that her science teacher doesn’t like Joe Biden.  After exchanging a look with my husband I asked, “Why would you think that?”  She then proceeded to explain…

“When we were watching the Inauguration in class Mr. XXXX said that finally Delaware is rid of him.”

Now this isn’t the first time this science teacher has brought politics into the classroom, and I ignored his previous antics since I wasn’t sure what he said about this email – but I could guess.  But now I’m angry.  I’m also in a dilemma.

My daughter is a typical 11 year old, which means fitting in is important to her.  She also really likes this teacher, which means I must take into account pre-teen mortification in whatever I decide to do.  My other concern is, if I decide to speak with the teacher, altering the friendly relationship my daughter shares with Mr. XXXX.  And yes, I know teachers aren’t supposed to treat children differently, but this post is based in reality – and teachers are human.

One of the other reasons this incident concerns me is that my daughter is a smart kid and it’s only a matter of time before she asks him what he means – at this time allow me to point out that she is a ridiculously polite child.  That said, she will ask questions about what a teacher says in a classroom – which strikes me as appropriate.  And since I’d rather not have my 11 year old discussing politics with an adult, and especially one in a position of authority, I’m conflicted.

I guess I could order her to ignore the teacher (Nice message sent with that one, huh?) or go speak with himself and hope my daughter doesn’t suffer the consequences of my actions.  I could also apply the three strike rule and wait for him to step out of line again… and then pounce.

Any advice?

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A stay-at-home mom with an obsession for National politics.

Comments (63)

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  1. Arthur Downs says:

    Imagine if the opinion had gone in the opposite direction.

    Perhaps the science teacher had a better view of the real world than those teachers who deal in opinion rather than fact.

  2. pandora says:

    Wow, Arthur! That’s stunning advice. Maybe you should write a book on parenting.

  3. nemski says:

    Pandora, while ignoring Art’s attempt at a joke, why don’t you talk to the principal . . . though in his/her office not in the hallway.

    I assume you want the situation corrected, but not blown up.

  4. pandora says:

    True, Nemski. My daughter loves school. I don’t want this incident touching her. The principal is an option… if he’d keep names out of the discussion with the teacher. And if he doesn’t… then I’m still in my dilemma.

  5. nemski says:

    . . . or the lead teacher . . .

  6. Stirring the pot with the teacher will only lead to trouble. It is best to explain to your daughter that people have opinions, and it is best to not follow someone’s opinion by rote, but take it in advisement, look at the facts, and form your own opinions.

    I would suggest that it would be a wonderful opportunity to preach the values of individualism and freedom of speech to your daughter, instead of trying to stir up trouble at the school.

    It teaches her to deal with dissenting opinions in a mature manner (lessons needed on the blogosphere, without naming names), and it fortifies your role as her parent, as one to come to for advise and sage wisdom.

  7. Mark H says:

    A tough line to draw, Pandora. Although I have a few years until my niece hits your daughters age, I guess I’d say that this would be good time to teach your daughter that reasonable people can have different points of view. Another lesson she could learn is that just because someone is in a position of authority, what they say may not be always right.

  8. anonone says:

    Does he teach her “creation science”?

  9. nemski says:

    I wonder if this science teacher believes in evolution or creationism.

  10. nemski says:

    Damn, A1, you just beat me.

  11. pandora says:

    Good advice, and I have told her to respect other peoples views. I guess what bothers me most is that the teacher’s comments bothered her .

  12. pandora says:

    Shoot! Now I’ll have to find that out. Thanks for piling on! ;-)

  13. nemski says:

    It’s nice to see DV just being snarky towards me . . .. for a minute there I thought he’d be giving parenting advice. I was kind of scared.

  14. RSmitty says:

    Not kn0wing anything about the teacher, the animosity Biden has caused to a decent amount of the now-older population (not the majority) is deep and emotional…just like Castle is now doing to some on this blog. Do you think I’m kidding? I’m not.

    That said, I do agree that teachers should keep politics OUT of the classroom, unless, it happens to be the subject matter. In that regard, it should be almost-absolutely educational matter. In that situation, though, it wouldn’t hurt to have the teacher share his/her preferences, but on the premise to allow an opportunity for other students to express their preferences and then the teacher manages the ensuing, hopefully friendly, political debate. Make it a part of political science. Afterall, it’s real-world situations! It may help to develop an appreciation of how to bring polar-opposite views into a negotiation or even compromise!

    OK, back to the topic, though. That teacher should have minded his views to his audience and that it had nothing to do with the subject. Ask, though, was it an intentionally-outloud comment, or was it one of those “under-the-breath” comments that many of us are guilty of unintentionally making audible? I bring this up, because whether you intend to or not, the teacher could end up in a severe reprimand if not careful.

    I’d say talk to your daughter again and get that piece of it. Then talk to the principal, but I do suggest to implore to the principal that this is not intended (at least I hope not) to get the teacher in trouble. A reminder that to “zip it” (my words) would be nice. If then, the teacher reacts negatively, then that’s between the principal and him. Unless he said it 1-on-1 to your daughter (which I sure to hell hope not), then I wouldn’t worry about your daughter being on the receiving side of any revenge.

  15. Unstable Isotope says:

    What Brian said.

    I really think she should ignore it. We all work with people with different religious and political beliefs all the time and we don’t want every off-the-cuff remark to be an incident.

    I’d tell her that if it happens again, she should feel free to say her own opinion as well. That usually stops those kind of incidents, if you make it clear that your views are very different.

  16. pandora says:

    I don’t want the teacher in trouble. He’s young and energetic. I also should have put in the post that he made the statement quite loudly.

    I guess my real concern is that this concerned my daughter. She was really bothered by the statement because she felt that maybe the teacher wouldn’t like her if he knew we supported Obama. If she had simply repeated what her teacher had said and let it go I wouldn’t be dwelling on this.

    Can you tell I’m dwelling? :-)

  17. RSmitty says:

    Hmm…sounds like he may be a bit naive, over anything else. I resist saying he’s ignorant (in the demeaning sense, not the literal sense), because of your emphasis that he’s a nice guy. I’ll concede to UI and Brian and make it a personal warning, of sorts. Explain to your daughter the difference of opinion and the respect of it, but also carefully point out that he may have been out of place, but you believe he didn’t mean any harm. All this, of course, with the intent to be aware if it happens again. If it does, then I’d say alert the principal in the manner I suggested in #15.

  18. pandora says:

    Thanks for all the great advice, guys.

    It’s funny how what you’d normally do changes when you have children and what ages those children are. If she had been younger I would have probably called the teacher immediately. If she had been a junior or senior in high school I would have spoken with her as the adult she was becoming and ask how she wanted to handle it.

    Eleven is tough. At this age they have one foot in childhood and the other in the teen years.

    Nobody told me the rules for parenting kept changing! ;-)

  19. Dorian Gray says:

    Is your daughter old and/or mature enough for the truth? Something like, “well, Mr. XYZ just has different political opinions. He probably shouldn’t have mentioned it but it really has no bearing on real science instruction. Some of the greatest science minds ever were real assholes, like Newton” Maybe skip the last bit.

    If he teaches ID or “magic” science… Then to the principal you go. But not until then.

  20. Rich Boucher says:

    First, let me say that I’ll agree with the others on here who have said that you need to address this firstly with your daughter and explain to her that sometimes people have opinions that may surprise her and that sometimes people may share those opinions at inopportune moments.
    This happens and the best thing to do is to take the high road.

    That being said, it seems strange to me that your daughter’s teacher would just blurt out this comment with nothing leading up to it and nothing following it. But if that’s what happened, then that is what happened and unfortunately, this already has impacted on your daughter. Since she heard the comment (and has begun to formulate new thoughts, no doubt, on this teacher she likes), there’s no turning back and no ignoring it. If it were me, I’d make an effort to meet with this teacher (together with the school principal) in the privacy of some school office. And then, once there, I would turn to this teacher and simply, and politely, ask, “Mr. _______, do you believe it is appropriate for you to be sharing your political views with students in your science class? And if so, can you please tell me what the connection might be between, say, the study of condensation, temperature and precipitation with whoever has recently held public office here?”

  21. Mark H says:

    Rich, from the context I’m gathering this from, the students were watching the inaugural, so it’s not like this was a regular part of the science class

  22. pandora says:

    Sorry, Rich, you must have missed it. It was said during the inauguration events at school – specifically when Biden took the oath.

    And since she’s my daughter she’s well aware that other people have different opinions!

  23. RSmitty says:

    Well, Rich, Biden has often been accused of releasing hot air. When you consider it is from the moisture-laden area of the mouth, the warmth and the humidity combined would be adding vapor to the air around us. Now, if you consider that Biden is long-winded, there is a decent chance that on one of his longer oratories, he could very well cause the relative humidity to increase to a point where cumulo-nimbus (thunderheads) to form and the eventual downpours and thunderstorms. In rare situations, when Biden really goes to town, the words just swirl around us, so it may then be possible to issue tornado warnings.

    See? After all of this, there really IS a science connection! Maybe the teacher is simply afraid of thunderstorms!
    :lol:

  24. Rich Boucher says:

    Mark,

    I know, it just still seemed weird to me, even taking into account that they were watching the inauguration. Just the lone, solitary nature of the remark seemed weird to me. But, maybe I’m the one who’s strange.

  25. Rich Boucher says:

    “And since she’s my daughter she’s well aware that other people have different opinions!”

    Well said, Pandora! lol

  26. Rich Boucher says:

    RSmitty – no kiddin’! good scientific breakdown.

  27. Mark H says:

    RSMITTY said it. BIDEN: THE CAUSE OF GLOBAL WARMING

    OR
    Joe Biden: The Revenge of the Gori

  28. Perry says:

    Pandora, until I read Brian Shields’ advice, I was going to suggest essentially the same thing, as a few others have also agreed. However, your idea of acting on a third strike is appropriate, but not to the principle quite yet. Better to have a low key conversation directly with the teacher — your daughter does not need to know. As has already been said, the idea of discussing with her that even teachers have opinions with which all may not agree. For what it’s worth, this advice comes from a father of two daughters now grown and raising their own families, and from a retired science teacher as well.

  29. Joanne Christian says:

    Pandora, Pandora, Pandora–I implore you to leave the principal out of it for now–it just contributes to the over-reactionary, then defensive stance it places teachers in these times and days. And you say he’s a good teacher….and your daughter is smart. You must humor him along with a piece of Biden memorabilia or photo and let him know now the Secret Service of the 11 year olds are watching and telling…….he wouldn’t want to start a file would he? Please try to settle it parent to teacher. It’s a whole lot of discomfort, and embarassment, elevating the incident to the front office, when all 3 of you already get along. Drop him the friendly e-mail…if he doesn’t “get it”, you at least have documentation, you went light-handed at first. Don’t poison the waters of what seems to be a great year for your daughter, over remarks he may have humanly said stupidly, and may need a little gentle re-direction. Now, that option is for if you really feel the need to address with him.
    Otherwise, I would agree w/ Brian too–and handle the backfield with your daughter of the differences of opinion, and tolerance, and how she too could humor him along, by wearing a Joe Biden T-shirt or whatever, to lighten the whole class mood of what I’m sure is the ol’ teacher worship by the entire class. It would create a dissent more affably, than an underlying discomfort. Good luck!! And lastly, the husband wants to know, what school is that, that we should be choicing our kids to? Tee Hee…

  30. edisonkitty says:

    Pandora, referring back to your comment #19 – I think you touched on the real reason your daughter was bothered by the statement. She’s in that tough, tweener stage. Mr. XXXX is (was) probably a role model, hero figure. He teaches science! Certainly, being your daughter, she has gotten a good dose of Obama/Biden as heros. How much have we all dwelt on getting our country back from the disastrous forces running it? So, someone she looks up to bashes an obvious good-guy hero right in front of her and her whole class.

    Anyway, I agree that the high road is best. Explain to her that it’s just Mr. XXX’s opinion and should not affect his teaching skills.

  31. pandora says:

    Thanks, Perry and Rich! AND Joanne and EK!

    All of these comments have really helped – my own personal therapy session! Reading these responses has cleared my head. First, we have spoken, often, about others’ opinions and their right to them, which since that was most people’s advice I’m giving myself a gold star!

    And I think the best thing I can do is speak with my daughter again and let her know that Mr. XXXX’s comment wasn’t a reflection on her, that he really shouldn’t have said it (but it’s not a big deal), and that if anything else is said along these lines she should let me know. And then, and only then, will I storm the building! ;-)

  32. nemski says:

    BTW, is your daughter’s science teacher David Anderson of Delaware Politics?

    And, please next time, warn me if your linking me to that porn site. ;-)

  33. Truth Teller says:

    I agree with most folks here that for now let it ride. However, should it continue then action should be taken. After all his job is to teach science not right wing crap.

  34. cassandra_m says:

    And do confirm that it is science — not the creationist, climate change denying substitutes.

  35. I’m with nemski, pandora. What’s the relevance of the link in the post. Is David Anderson her science teacher?

  36. pandora says:

    That was the science teacher’s strike one. For some reason he referenced this email in class.

    About two weeks ago, my daughter came home quoting it, and when I asked she said Mr. XXXX told them about it.

  37. RSmitty says:

    Oh God. Her teacher isn’t HUBE, is he? :lol:

  38. Susan Regis Collins says:

    My advice, worth what you paid for it, is to send the child’s Dad (your husband) to talk to the teacher about the situation.

    Most men pay more attention when they hear the sound of another male voice. Female voices are not always well recieved. Ergo, in one ear and out the other :)

  39. Sharon says:

    I think you’re making a mountain out of a mole hill. During the election cycle, my 5th grade son’s teacher went on and on about the historic nature of Obama’s presidential campaign, ignoring the historic nature of Sarah Palin as a V.P. candidate. The teacher gushed on and on about how wonderful it would be for him to win.

    I didn’t take this matter to the principal and I didn’t even talk to the teacher about it. I spoke to my son about the election, why I didn’t support Obama, that, yes, it would be historic but it would also be historic if John McCain won, that this campaign showed that everyone could be president, etc., etc.

    Teachers have enough trouble to deal with without parents complaining because someone made a comment while watching the inauguration.

  40. nemski says:

    ignoring the historic nature of Sarah Palin as a V.P. candidate

    Sharon conveniently forgets about Ferraro.

  41. X Stryker says:

    I really hate to agree with Susan’s sentiment, but I have honestly found that people (both men and women) will say things to my wife that they would never dare say to me. And I’m not a very imtimidating-looking person. Nauseating sexism is very much alive.

  42. jason330 says:

    I say chop down his telegraph wires and bomb his ball bearing factories while opening up a second front on the Atlantic.

    Hold it, that’s my advice for how to deal with German Nazis.

    Nevermind.

  43. Sharon says:

    Sharon conveniently forgets about Ferraro.

    My statement had nothing to do with Geraldine Ferraro. But she didn’t win and if John McCain had won, she would have been vice president, which would be historical.

    Look, I know it’s all about the party to you, but, seriously. When you talk to your kids about these things, you kinda take that out of it and give them facts.

  44. Sorry, but political views are in the classroom by way of every referendum. Public school send information by flyer and phone to support each referendum vote.

    Also, the peer pressure from other students will dwarf anything from a teacher. That concern is much more valid.

  45. pandora says:

    My mountain, my molehill. When something upsets my kids I listen. And this was this teacher’s second strike – Please notice that I didn’t write a post the first time this happened.

    And I’m really sick of the Republicans… I am, but what about you approach.

  46. Sharon says:

    You’re right. It’s your mountain and your molehill. But don’t make your kid pay the price for it.

    I understand you evidently have issues with this teacher. But expressing his political view on a political day shouldn’t be part of it. And you know what? I’m sick of Democrats arguing that it’s ok when they do it but not when they have to deal with it.

    We all have to deal with teachers who don’t teach our kids the way we think they should. They frequently express their opinions through their teaching styles. Part of good parenting is helping your children learn to deal with dissent and opinions.

  47. Mrs XStryker says:

    May I just say that I applaud your restraint, Pandora. My Dad once threatened to call the ADL on my Chorus teacher over a song we were performing.

    I agree with the others, your daughter is old enough to understand that people don’t always agree, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be friendly. Deal with it in the home for this particular case, but if it continues, have a polite discussion with the teacher requesting that he keep his political opinion out of the classroom.

  48. Mrs XStryker says:

    “I really hate to agree with Susan’s sentiment, but I have honestly found that people (both men and women) will say things to my wife that they would never dare say to me. And I’m not a very imtimidating-looking person. Nauseating sexism is very much alive.”

    I’m way cuter than you are. WAY CUTER. People see me and just get this urge to wipe the adorable smile off of my precious little face. It could also be my height.

  49. TGIF says:

    I guess what bothers me most is that the teacher’s comments bothered her .
    *
    Please add, in your discussion with the kid, that the teacher was unnecessarily disrespectful and had set a very bad example for the class.
    We should indeed question authority where and when it is appropriate and the science class wasn’t the place.

  50. Mark H says:

    What! I thought you were always supposed to question authority :)
    Mrs XStyker, what was the song?

  51. Tom S. says:

    As a conservative student who has spent many years in liberal institutions, let it go.

    This was just an offhand comment, maybe even an attempt at a joke. If the science teacher keeps going at it then reevaluate the situation but for now its really not that serious. Tell your daughter that some people are silly and that she is learning science, not politics from that man.

  52. Steve Newton says:

    Pandora,
    Checking in very late with a minority opinion–I think you should talk to the teacher. I train student teachers and we discuss with these young folks (even the ones teaching social studies, wherein it might be argued that political opinions were more germane) about what doesn’t come into the classroom.

    Most teachers below the age of 30 have very little understanding of their power relationship with their students, and how much power political comments, or sarcasm, or even opinions about movies can affect their students. I seriously doubt your teacher was intentionally prosletyzing; I’d bet he was making the same kind of political opinion/joke he’d make with his peers.

    If you can do it tactfully (and I know you can) you should approach the teacher and say, “I wanted you to know I really like about things you’re doing, but I thought you’d want to know that a comment you made the other day really threw my daughter for a loop.” The point would be not that it was a comment from a different political ideological perspective, but that she didn’t expect to be hearing a teacher talking so candidly about politics in a science class. And that she was uncomfortable because we’re Democrats and she wondered if she’d disagreed with you would it have hurt her grade.

    Tell him you realized that he would never do that (the threat need not be even implied), but you wanted him to realize just how much of an impact his comments had on his students.

    If you do this, I think you will discover a young man who isn’t trying to be subversive, but who is trying to figure out the right way to be the adult in the room.

    If you let it pass and he does it again, he will (With some justice) say later, “I really wish you’d told me about this the first time it made her uncomfortable, because I didn’t realize I was doing it.”

    For what it’s worth

  53. pandora says:

    It’s worth a lot. Thank you. I like that approach.

  54. Mrs XStryker says:

    Mark H –

    It was a piece called Saul. It’s about how Paul of Tarsus became who he is. Basically it talks about how Saul was “breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord” when he was Jewish, and then he had his vision and converted you know the rest of the story. Dad’s issue was that while it’s a biblicly correct (unlike my spelling there, sorry), it’s historically inaccurate and contributes to the blood libel persecution of Jews through the generations.

    It was hard enough being the only Jew in school in a SEA of Born Agains constantly telling me that I was going to Hell. Dad’s insistence on raising a ruckus (and my profile as JEWGIRL at the same time) only made it worse. The piece was artistically challenging and worth the performance from that standpoint.

  55. Miscreant says:

    There’s already a lot of good advise here, Pandora. With your guidance, your daughter sounds like she can handle such a remark from this jagoff teacher.

    Based on a personal, similar experience, I learned there was NO confidentiality between teachers and the administration. Consequently, my daughter not only endured the wrath of the offending teacher, but from some of his colleagues as well.

    If I had to do it over, I would have simply stalked the bastard and broke his legs. You could probably hire Donviti to do this. Since he’s somewhat idle now, he could probably use some cash, and would probably enjoy it. You could watch the baby…

  56. pandora says:

    Hmmm… I hadn’t considered that option! :-)

    Your experience is what I want to avoid. Sorry you and your daughter had to go through that.

  57. Geezer says:

    “And you know what? I’m sick of Democrats arguing that it’s ok when they do it but not when they have to deal with it.”

    And you know what? I’m sick of self-righteous, persecution-complexed jerks whose whining mars an otherwise interesting discussion.

    Also, I agree with whomever asked for a warning when a link will lead to DTR. Nobody over there deserves the effort that derision requires.

  58. Holger Awakens says:

    Maybe the teacher just couldn’t resist since you put an Obama bumper sticker on your kid’s book bag.

  59. pandora says:

    Too funny, but I actually didn’t allow them to bring/wear any political paraphernalia at school. But I guess that’s the liberal in me.

  60. Suzanne says:

    I have to be honest that I would not be able to just let that go. My son’s teachers personal opinions have NO BUSINESS in school. I would have to talk to either the principal or the home room teacher to get this resolved but I would also have to ask them to not mention which child said something. The teachers comment was uncalled for. (by the way, my son is 14 – and I would still step in but I also know that my son would tell him the same thing as well).

  61. Mooshoo says:

    Actually, I agree with the teacher.

    Finally, Delaware is rid of Joe Biden in the senator’s slot.

    For 6 terms, he sat there jockeying for personal greatness and letting Delaware’s Dover pudgemonkeys try to run the state without securing federal help for them.

    I suppose you could argue that Dover pudgemonkeys with money are more dangerous than Dover pudgemonkeys without money, but we’ll never know.

    So….YAY!!!! Delaware is finally rid of Joe Biden.

    Ted Kaufman? Yikes. That 2010 election can’t come soon enough.

    Just say no to Beau!!!!!!!

  62. Duffy says:

    Suggestion: Promote the teacher immediately. Tell your child to listen closely to said teacher when he/she talk politics. Take notes.