Thursday, July 24, 2014

Tenure & Academic Freedom in California Pre Vergara

I was reading over some stuff getting ready for my response to San Jose Teachers' Association member Ben Spielberg and I tripped on the actual text from CA Code 44932 (the things that a permanent (tenured) employee can be fired for in CA) (The highlight has been added by me):

44932.  (a) No permanent employee shall be dismissed except for one
or more of the following causes:
   (1) Immoral or unprofessional conduct.
   (2) Commission, aiding, or advocating the commission of acts of
criminal syndicalism, as prohibited by Chapter 188 of the Statutes of
1919, or in any amendment thereof.
   (3) Dishonesty.
   (4)  Unsatisfactory performance.
   (5) Evident unfitness for service.
   (6) Physical or mental condition unfitting him or her to instruct
or associate with children.
   (7) Persistent violation of or refusal to obey the school laws of
the state or reasonable regulations prescribed for the government of
the public schools by the State Board of Education or by the
governing board of the school district employing him or her.
   (8) Conviction of a felony or of any crime involving moral
   (9) Violation of Section 51530 or conduct specified in Section
1028 of the Government Code, added by Chapter 1418 of the Statutes of
   (10) Knowing membership by the employee in the Communist Party.

You can be fired simply for belonging to the Communist Party in California!??! Am I wrong about this?? I'm no Communist (not even close), but I thought that the Red Scare was over.


That's not all. Section 51530 is all about Communism. It says:
51530. No teacher giving instruction in any school, or on any
property belonging to any agencies included in the public school
system, shall advocate or teach communism with the intent to
indoctrinate or to inculcate in the mind of any pupil a preference
for communism.
Now on one level, this sounds harmless and patriotic enough: Just don't teach your students to grow up to be Communists. It  also goes on to say that we can teach about the facts behind Communism. They just wanted to stop the "the advocacy of, or inculcation and
indoctrination into, communism ". That's all they were worried about.

In other words, I'm allowed to 'teach the facts' of communism. Just not to the extent that my students can, of their own volition, choose or decide that they want to be Communists when they grow up.

If they do become Communists, I lose my job.

And what is Communism? Well, according to the law:

For the purposes of this section, communism is a political theory
that the presently existing form of government of the United States
or of this state should be changed, by force, violence, or other
unconstitutional means, to a totalitarian dictatorship which is based
on the principles of communism as expounded by Marx, Lenin, and

I'm sure if this means that California teachers are allowed to teach a different political theory that seeks to overthrow the US government and replace it with a totalitarian dictatorship. I'm guessing no (Sidenote to the NSA: and might I say that during this, the day of the Espionage Act, I am so fine with NOT EVER teaching ANYTHING that may overthrow this US Government. Thanks!).  Anyway, I saw no law like the one I just described.

Nor am I sure if I am allowed to teach about communism as expounded by Marx, Lenin OR Stalin. You see Marx's communism was slightly different than Lenin's and Stalin's Communism was completely different than the other two when you count the, you know, massive amounts of deaths caused. You'd have to either be a Communist or a history teacher in order to know that. I'm no communist, but as a history teacher here in NY, I must teach the difference, so I am aware of it. I just don't know if they're lumping all three of these guys in together!

Nor am I sure if there is a similar statute here in New York State (and I am not about to go and check!).

All I can be certain about is this: The more I learn about what tenure was in California, the more I learn about what is was not: It was not, in that state, the academic freedom for social studies teachers to teach whatever he or she wished. It was not the freedom to teach anything but the facts about communism. Anything beyond that got you fired.

 "A single termination is a tragedy. A million is a statistic."

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