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Further Flag Folderol
September 26, 2001 10:45 AM   Subscribe

Further Flag Folderol Teacher gets suspended for allegedly burning the American flag in front of his class. Will this wave of disrespect continue its unflagging pace? I wonder what the rest of the staff thinks. And you, of course.
posted by gazingus (44 comments total)

 
Not sure how I feel about putting this kind of demonstration in front of a classroom. Off the bat though, I'm not taking kindly too it.

But I will say that if I were a parent, I'd be upset simply because having a teacher setting things on fire in a classroom, especially something to the nature of a flag that can flap around and spread the flames, outside of a controlled experiment is a pretty serious threat to my children's saftey. How's he so sure that "only lighting a small corner" of the flag is under his control?
posted by tomorama at 10:54 AM on September 26, 2001


The article does not mention the context of the lesson during which the teacher allegedly burned part of this flag. My initial guess is that this incident is being taken out of that context.
posted by chuq at 10:56 AM on September 26, 2001


I'm with Chug -- we need to know what the teacher said along with the burning. The article only specifies that "The teacher also allegedly said some 'inflammatory' statements." That's not enough to judge the guy.
posted by muckster at 11:00 AM on September 26, 2001


Anti-flag-burning stories always piss me off. A flag is a damn symbol. The right to burn an American flag is more an expression of liberty than the actual flag.

We should set all of our American flags afire!
posted by SilentSalamander at 11:21 AM on September 26, 2001


It shouldn't matter what the teacher said or didn't say... they started something on fire in a classroom. That in itself is dangerous. If I was a parent and I had heard this, I would be worried about this individual.

Does it matter it was a flag? To some people it will, but I have to look at the safety aspect of this.
posted by da5id at 11:23 AM on September 26, 2001


We should set all of our American flags afire!

Because...?

posted by mirla at 11:31 AM on September 26, 2001


How is burning the flag disrespectful? My greatest freedom is the right to criticize my government. There could be no greater tribute to American freedom than to burn the flag in celebration. I wish everyone burned the flag on Independence Day. It would be a real statement to those who burn the flag in protest, especially in oppressive countries where flag burning is illegal.
posted by fleener at 11:33 AM on September 26, 2001


(inflammatory remarks, ha, ha, ha!)

you know, this is bound to draw the ire of the masses, but one of the things I love about this country is that if I own a flag and I want to burn it, I can, and if you don't want to burn yours, you can refrain from doing so. at least that's the way I read the constitution, any lame laws (did they pass that flag burning law?) notwithstanding.

freedom to express differing ideas in differing ways is a cornerstone of our bill of rights; if poor taste were against the law, most hit films and aaron spelling's entire ouvre would be illegal.

ps--if he burnt the fabric in an empty trash can, it was probably fairly safe; I don't know that this would be inherently less safe than allowing high school students to mix chemicals in chemistry class.
posted by rebeccablood at 11:35 AM on September 26, 2001


I agree that we don't know the context of the lesson. Moving to a broader issue, however, I've always thought of flag burning as a pretty blunt, inarticulate and intellectually lazy way to protest.

Theflag is a representation of the country as whole -- left, right, rich, poor, black, white, pretty, ugly etc -- so, to burn it really means your rejecting the entire messy mix of humanity that is America, doesn't it? While that may be the point when a flag is burned in Iraq, I don’t get the sense that's what's intended when it's burned domestically.

If your beef is with the military or Christians or whatever, why not attack a symbol unique to those groups, ala Sinead O'Conner's pope incident of a few years back?
posted by nobody_knose at 11:39 AM on September 26, 2001


in Peshwar they eat the American flags after they burn them.. Maybe he was feeling a bit peckish?

Allowing students to mix chemicals in class can be very dangerous indeed. Hey, its fun to watch things go boom.. And sizzle.. And fizz as that sink corroded..
posted by Mossy at 11:40 AM on September 26, 2001


Mixing controlled chemicals in a lab environment under the supervision of an expert in chemicals and chemical reactions is different from lighting aflame a large peice of fabric in a room filled with papers, notebooks, textbooks, a trashcan and 10 year old kids.
posted by tomorama at 11:41 AM on September 26, 2001


Yes guys, I'm sure the administration was upset that the teacher lit a fire in a classroom, and not that he put a lighter to an American flag during the most absurdly patriotic time this country has seen in years. Come on, now.
The issue is flag burning, not school safety.
posted by Doug at 11:52 AM on September 26, 2001


(I think that when people burn the flag, they might be using it as a symbol of the people currently in charge.)

tomorama: your chemistry teacher was a) a lot more experienced than mine and b) a lot more attentive than mine.
posted by rebeccablood at 11:54 AM on September 26, 2001


you know what I should have said, I should have said "this is bound to inflame the masses...."

I'm such a walter mitty.
posted by rebeccablood at 11:55 AM on September 26, 2001


In principle I can see how students could learn something important by seeing the flag burnt.

In practice, though, this just sounds off base.

The teacher, whose name has not been released, allegedly burned the corner of a flag with a lighter, school district superintendent Carl Mack Jr. said.

...

The teacher also allegedly said some "inflammatory" statements, according to Mack Jr., including, "I can't burn it all because it's illegal."

So then I don't get it. I'm almost afraid he did it because he hates the U.S. or something and thought he could get away with expressing that in class (so long as he only burnt the corner of the flag). Especially given when he chose to do this -- doesn't sound like it was part of his yearly lesson plan.
posted by mattpfeff at 12:06 PM on September 26, 2001


burning flags is merely another example of american decadency. the folks in peshawar ate american flags, because -- quite honestly -- what a waste they would be to burn!
posted by moz at 12:11 PM on September 26, 2001


What Doug said. Two weeks after the attack? Think this incident wasn't related to that? Doubtful.

Let's email him - I personally wanna know.

posted by mirla at 12:13 PM on September 26, 2001


i'm having a hard time condemning the guys since he probably was just following the lessons outlined in the board mandated curriculum developed to the maximize test scores thus securing additional federal funding.


still...kind of tough point to drive home on 6th graders. i doubt the message made it across initially. the fallout might produce the results the teacher was looking for.
posted by bitcrank at 12:13 PM on September 26, 2001


Yes guys, I'm sure the administration was upset that the teacher lit a fire in a classroom, ... Come on, now. The issue is flag burning, not school safety.

OK, I see the light now. Since the school probably opposes the situation for the wrong reasons, I'm not allowed to oppose the situation for what I see are the right (albeit different) reasons.

Thanks for setting me straight.

And how are you so sure that the issue of lighting something on fire in a classroom setting presents a saftey issue didn't cross an administrator's mind? Skepticism has a psychic office now, eh?
posted by tomorama at 12:13 PM on September 26, 2001


A further consideration: did the school own the flag or was the teacher destroying school property?
posted by DBAPaul at 12:15 PM on September 26, 2001


rebeccablood: that's view implies a kind of ownership on the idea of America by the office of the president (who I assume you mean by "people in charge") -- do you think that when there's a new administration they "own" America and all its symbols? I don't, but maybe I'm in the minority.
posted by nobody_knose at 12:18 PM on September 26, 2001


Well, mattpfeff, that's the only "inflammatory" statement we have on record (allegedly) and it only bolsters the point he (probably) was trying to make: that burning the flag is a core patriotic right, that the flag is just a symbol of what America is really meant to be. After all, what if he was a history teacher- wouldn't this be an ideal lesson about civil liberties and patriotism/nationalism, and also for being strong enough to stand up for what you believe in even in fervent times of lockstep unilateral thinking? For all we know, the other "inflammatory" remarks were references to the difference between patriotism and Nationalism, and how the flag is just a symbol, etc. etc. I SERIOUSLY doubt, as mattpfeff suggests, that the teacher hates America or any pseudo-fascist Nationalistic crap like that. That's the problem with these sorts of moods: any dissent, even reasoned dissent, will be slandered as "attacking america"- much as the despicable Ann Coulter did on Politically Incorrect last night (god, that woman is a repulsive bitch!).

bitcrank: still...kind of tough point to drive home on 6th graders. i doubt the message made it across initially. the fallout might produce the results the teacher was looking for.

Don't be so quick to assume- maybe the point did get across. After all, the article explicitly states that most of the students didn't report the teacher because they liked him. I suspect- having been in school myself at one point, and having had great teachers that challenged the class to think outside the lines, to be an individual- that most of the students did get the point and even appreciated it.

Quite frankly, it pisses me off on many levels, this story: we claim to want good education, but the solution only seems to be "more testing, more testing" (as if simply taking a sick child's temperature several times an hour will be cure enough for what ails them)- yet the best teachers are found when we give them the freedom to be bold, innovative, and yes to take some risks- and taking risks means sometimes they won't work so great, but you've got to have the conviction to keep trying. That's where great education occurs.
posted by hincandenza at 12:22 PM on September 26, 2001



Seasoned flag-burners know that almost all American flags are coated with flame retardant chemicals. To get a decent burn you need to soak your flag in some sort of flammable liquid, preferably kerosene or other slow burning fuels.

I don't think there was any sort of safety issue here.
posted by modofo at 12:26 PM on September 26, 2001


Tomorama - I couldn't agree more. If the guy burnt it in the classroom, then it was dumb. But the article doesn't say where or how the guy set the flag afire. Thus, I don't think we can speak to the guys apparent lack of concern for his students' safety.

It's also not fair to posit whether the guy was burning our flag to communicate his hate for America - or to illustrate the ludicrousness of the apparent law that you can burn part of our flag, but not all of it - or to rile the public - or to communicate something about our nationalistic bent as of late - or (I hope) to illustrate that, yes, we have certain enviable rights in our society.

However, aside from safety and property concerns, I stand behind him on this issue 100%.
posted by SilentSalamander at 12:56 PM on September 26, 2001


Tomorama, It's pretty clear from the article that he is in trouble for burning a flag, not for burning a cloth. The statements of the superintendant, the teacher in question, and even one of the student's parents illustrate this. There's no mention of any danger to any of the kids. I'm not sure, maybe you have a frankenstien-like fear of fire, but fire isn't actually that dangerous. If the kids were in danger, I'm sure the article would have mentioned it.
DBAPaul: That's true. Maybe the flag was also wrapped around a child's head? Or, maybe it was on loan from the smithsonian, the first flag sewn by Betsy Ross!
I'm not saying whether or not what he did was right, but he is in trouble for burning a flag.
posted by Doug at 1:03 PM on September 26, 2001


With all of this flag burning discussion (based on one or two actual burnings), I'd like to point out that lately there has been a large increase in flag thefts all over the U.S. Why aren't there mobs of people going after those thieves?
posted by gluechunk at 1:25 PM on September 26, 2001


Eat flags, but be careful not to overcook.
posted by martk at 1:25 PM on September 26, 2001


hincandenza:

I don't pretend to know what the teacher was thinking. But I wonder why he did it if he thought it was illegal to burn the flag. Is it customary for elementary school teachers to push the limits of the law (as they understand it) in front of their students? What would motivate someone to do that?

If he was motivated by trying to educate his students, I would expect him to find a form of protest he thought was legal, so that they could understand how protest really works. He could have had them write letters asking for peace, or against whatever U.S. policy he wanted to protest.

Instead, it seems like he might have been trying to get away with something. I just don't know why, and it seems fishy to me. That's all. (Sorry my guessing at possibilities seemed inflammatory.)
posted by mattpfeff at 1:38 PM on September 26, 2001


Fishy, yes: apparently, he told his students to keep it quiet. And "Babylon is burning?" Oy.

See this other local article...
posted by spinning jennie at 3:03 PM on September 26, 2001


Burning a flag is perfectly legal. It's inflamatory and kinda asking to get kicked now-a-days, but still legal. As soon as it's made illegal you'll see people burning sheets that have "American Flag" printed on them. Making it illegal isn't going to change the way people feel, for or against.
posted by Dillenger69 at 3:16 PM on September 26, 2001


is different from lighting aflame a large peice of fabric in a room

did either article state how big the flag was? maybe it was one of those little itty bitty ones, about half the size of a sheet of paper.

as for the second article's traumatized/"she was confused" girl, maybe mom should take some time to discuss with the girl why some people burn the flag, why they'd choose to make a statement in that manner, and why it's a legal activity instead of making it sound like the teacher's Evil for confusing the students.
posted by tolkhan at 3:44 PM on September 26, 2001


The teacher is giving the students an excellent civics lesson. The lesson is; "whatever this country might say about freedom of expression it doesn't really mean it".
posted by rdr at 4:00 PM on September 26, 2001


Any educator who specifically requests that his/her students not tell parents what's going on in the classroom obviously has some idea that what they're doing isn't quite on the level. If I were a parent, I'd be damned uncomfortable with that kind of behavior. I'm don't think anyone's implying that the teacher is "evil" - but IMHO, his timing and the apparently underhanded way he carried it out makes him pretty stupid. Even if he had the most noble intentions.
posted by spinning jennie at 4:10 PM on September 26, 2001


This happened in my city, and if you read the local coverage, it sounds more like this teacher is a wackjob with a history of problems (including punishing a student by locking him in a closet). I don't think this is really a free speech issue ... more like a bad teacher issue.
posted by xeney at 6:31 PM on September 26, 2001


This was certainly not the time or place, even more so than the two firefighters who refused to get on board the fire engine in Florida. Even so, this seems almost too perfect an incident to unleash the flag burning debate again, this time nailing this liberty into the coffin for good. Again, we don't know the precise context. In all likelihood, this was yet another ill-timed emotional reaction.
posted by ed at 7:01 PM on September 26, 2001


gluechunk...

Funny you mention the flag stealing. It's been going on here in the Detroit area - didn't realize it was happening elsewhere.

Honestly, I think it's because it's pretty damn hard to find a flag right now. All the stores are sold out. So what do people do? They steal them from yards and from lamp posts, so they too can display American pride.

Hehe. Ironic. That's the theory we came up with, at least.
posted by Windigo at 12:07 AM on September 27, 2001


but one of the things I love about this country is that if I own a flag and I want to burn it, I can.

Not in a public school while under the employ of the government, you can't. Public school teachers have no right - zero, zip, nada - to inflict their own personal political ideologies onto their captive students.
posted by aaron at 12:20 AM on September 27, 2001



So exactly whose political ideologies are they supposed to inflict on those "captive students" instead, aaron? :)
posted by hincandenza at 2:19 AM on September 27, 2001


So exactly whose political ideologies are they supposed to inflict on those "captive students" instead, aaron? :)

I find the phrase captive students interesting. It is not incorrect as the children are not free to leave, and it is only upsetting because it puts the negative spin on the school experience. I imagine many here might very well use the same words to describe children exposed to Channel 1 in their classrooms.

In regard to the "whose", I would hope nobody's. Bias will always exist and shine through, but to actually recruit the young to your position is a violation of parental trust, and one of the reasons I am most leary about public education.
posted by thirteen at 10:01 AM on September 27, 2001


    [13: I imagine many here might very well use the same words to describe children exposed to Channel 1 in their classrooms.]
Quite different- the beef with Ch1 is that it's advertising laden, not that it's overtly political (although that may be a beef others have). The advertising is itself an indoctrination; however, unlike a teacher it can't be questioned or challenged itself.

    [13: In regard to the "whose", I would hope nobody's]
Impossible. The only way to lack bias is to lack opinion. The only way to lack opinion is to be supremely apathetic or supremely ignorant- neither of which are characteristics that we (hopefully) desire in our children. As I said earlier, my best teachers challenged me, even though I didn't always agree with them. However, there's a big difference between challenging your students- and what this teacher did sounds like a challenge, to make them think or question the preconceived notions they have- or even demonstrating alternative viewpoints and stances, and "recruiting" them. Really, calling it "recruiting" basically is a tagword you put on ideas you don't like as opposed to ideas you do- it is exceptionally hard for one teacher to "recruit" a student to a particular viewpoint (and we're not talking about "The Wave" or anything); and that's not always a bad thing, this exposure to a variety of viewpoints. Some might even call it "growing up". Others call it "Metafilter".

Besides, letting parents alone have exclusive access to their kids minds is a violation of societal trust, and one of the reasons I am most leary about home schooling.
posted by hincandenza at 12:17 AM on September 28, 2001



The advertising is itself an indoctrination; however, unlike a teacher it can't be questioned or challenged itself.
Fair enough. I have no love of Channel 1, but I did not think the examples were all that different that my comparison was invalid. I don't think the teacher in the link was educating so much as selling, and I don't think that is proper.

Really, calling it "recruiting" basically is a tagword you put on ideas you don't like as opposed to ideas you do- it is exceptionally hard for one teacher to "recruit" a student to a particular viewpoint
If that were the case there should be no problem with Christians spending an hour or 2 talking about Jesus now and again. I addressed bias, and I know it will always be there, but it should be the job to present facts ( and I mean unvarnished trust, not someone’s interpretation of fact) and let people make up their own minds. I assume the "you" in your reply is rhetorical, as I do not have a problem with flag burning. I use recruiting where I think it appropriate, and not always in a negative way. It is not the responsibility of schools to teach a different value system to children than their parents would approve of. Who is working for who?

Some might even call it "growing up". Others call it "Metafilter".
If your goal was to make me wince with embarrassment at that cornball line, you have succeeded.

Besides, letting parents alone have exclusive access to their kids minds is a violation of societal trust, and one of the reasons I am most leery about home schooling.
"letting"? What a generous people we are. I deny the existence of a societal trust, and I don't believe you can prove there is one. There is no reason whatsoever I have to give equal time to what I think are bad ideas, other than this is what to avoid, and here is why I think so. Nobody needs to swallow poison to know it is not good for them. On many issues, I am sure we do not disagree, our difference is that even on the stuff we do agree on I don’t think I have the right to force my view on anyone, and especially not on a child behind their parent’s back.
I really don't much care for the authoritarian tone of that quoted line. You have to do a LOT more talking before I surrender my responsibility to strangers, and I am curious what punishment you think is warranted for the violation of this “societal trust”. This is very bad stuff.
posted by thirteen at 11:43 AM on September 28, 2001


The 3 day rule in effect, I claim victory in the name of liberty.
posted by thirteen at 9:28 PM on October 1, 2001


Does this mean we're colonising this thread, too?
posted by cCranium at 9:01 AM on October 2, 2001


Does this mean we're colonising this thread, too?

*begins mitosis*
posted by iceberg273 at 9:08 AM on October 2, 2001


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