If I were in his position, I’d ask my students to please shut up

This story about the wingnut history teacher, David Paszkiewicz, just gets more and more amusing and sad. Lippard has comments from students defending the guy, and while I know that a lot of high school students are immature, these are damning. Kearny High School officials ought to be very concerned that their teacher and students put the place in a very bad light.


  1. says

    I couldn’t listen to too much of the recording, but I got as far as the part where he proudly proclaims to his students that HIS kids are homeschooled. Hmmmm.

  2. says

    I couldn’t listen to too much of the recording, but I got as far as the part where he proudly proclaims to his students that HIS kids are homeschooled.

    He doesn’t want the kids to go to schools with teachers as bad as himself? No, wait … that doesn’t quite work.

  3. George says

    Matthew LaClair has also refused to stand and say the Pledge of Allegiance at school. Good for him.


    I’m finding some of the student responses appalling:

    Second, If any non-Christian asked me if they were going to hell, I would answer, “There is a strong possibly that yes you are, unless God wants to save you from eternal damnation.”

    These people aren’t going away anytime soon. A whole new generation is being indocrtrinated into the religious frame of mind and will take over from the nuts now in power. Can there be any doubt that we need more people like PZ and Dawkins and Harris and Sweeney and Dennett to come forward against this tidal wave of religious wingnuttery that has taken over the country?

    Get that idiot out of the New Jersey school system!

  4. Steve_C says

    We need to arm these non-christian/non-believing kids with good
    skeptical arguments. I think La Clair was being skeptical and as argumentative
    as he thought he could get away with.

    But he shouldn’t even have to take this required stand.

    That’s why religion should not be in schools, stick to the facts and you wouldn’t need a kid questioning some loon’s authority.

    It’s just sad that at least half that class wasn’t asking the same questions and laughing at the teacher.

  5. GH says

    The mere fact that these kids:

    A: accept hell as a literal place

    B: Find the eternal suffering of others acceptable as a premise

    C: Are spouting this material and defending it at such a young age

    All means to me the Dawkins has more than a small point about the religious indoctrination of children and how shameful it may very well be.

  6. Nymphalidae says

    It’s great that Mr. Paszkiewicz has all the illiterate children in his class defending him.

  7. Cathy in Seattle says

    >>Matthew LaClair has also refused to stand and say the Pledge of Allegiance at school. Good for him.

    My daughter did the same thing in her high school. Then one day she told me about it – because she just hit her limit of abuse from the teacher. Every day he tried to get her to stand and recite with the class, every day she refused. He started writing her name on the board, claiming he was going to “turn her in” because refusing to say the Pledge is against the law. Then he started debates in class about whether they thought she was being unpatriotic or not. Then he started telling the class how offensive she was because she was insulting him – an ex Vietnam vet- by not agreeing to salute the flag. Two weeks of this.

    This was a math class.

    When I found out, I called the school, and left a message for the teacher to call me – he wouldn’t. So I called the Principle and complained, but she tried to imply my daughter was causing a disruption. I called the State of Washington Dept of Education, to find out the actual law. The faxed me the law immediately, and within minutes I learned that it’s legal to refuse to say the Pledge of Allegiance.

    I called back the school – still hadn’t heard from them – and tried to get them to talk to me – but they wouldn’t.

    So then I called my Senator Patty Murray, explained the situation, and her office said they’d take care of it.

    Within a half an hour, I got a call from the principle of the high school, AND the teacher – with apologies. The Principle admitted she’d talked to the teacher and he agreed my daughter hadn’t been disruptive – she simply sat at her desk and looked out the window during the pledge.

    I asked the teacher why he’d lied- he said “How else could I get the students to say the Pledge?”

    Turns out the teacher was involved in Republican politics, and often the state Republican Party has their annual picnic on Vashon Island, where my daughter went to high school.

    I was told later that a few teachers at the picnic prior to that school year had been overheard to claim they were going to press the Pledge issue, among others, in their classrooms. This was probably a case of a teacher, fired up by the mass hitlerian-type enthusiasm created at the picnic, wanting to please his overlords.

    I hurled a lot of abuse (deserved) back at this teacher. Based on the fact that he wouldn’t return my calls up to that point, I assume he “had” to listen to me because that b*st*rd got an earful from the Principle, after getting an earful from Patty Murray. He said that he’d do whatever I wanted him to do about it, to make it right.

    I told him I wanted him to explain to his class how he had been incorrect about believing it was against the law to NOT say the Pledge, if your teacher wants you to. I had him explain to the class that anyone who didn’t want to say the Pledge was protected by law and he wouldn’t retaliate. I told him I wanted him to explain that dissent was protected and patriotic.

    I wanted him to apologize publicly to my daughter, but high-schoolers being what they are, my daughter would have none of it. He did apologize privately to her, for what that’s worth.

    Anyway, it was about 7 years ago, and I enrolled her in an alternative high school after that, which she graduated from in 2000.

    Important lesson, no? I mean, for the fascist teacher. My daughter had the right idea all along.


  8. Bryn says

    Lippard says, “Both of these commenters seem to have missed a few key points here,….” One of those missing key points would appear to be an English class or twelve. And, yes, it’s interesting, if not damning, that the students who appear incapable of producing a coherent post without obscenity and vague threats are the ones defending a fundamentalist nutbucket.

  9. Mena says

    Isn’t it interesting how if politics are being discussed everyone with a chip on their shoulder just happens to be a Vietnam vet, when it’s science being discussed the people throwing names around are all scientists of some unknown discipline, and now they just happen to be his students? It almost defies the odds…

  10. says

    Kearney students have been sending their love my way also. One girl informs me that because I was in Perth, Australia, and not sitting in Mr P’s classroom at the time of the incident under discussion, I have no right to express my opinion on the matter.

  11. Ichthyic says

    After taking the matter to the school administration, one of Paszkiewicz’s students, junior Matthew LaClair, requested a meeting with the teacher and the school principal. LaClair, a non-Christian, was requesting an apology and correction of false and anti-scientific statements.

    uh oh! looks like PZ will have company on the DI’s “shit list”.

    …and people wonder why so many get so worked up about this issue.

    Blatant lies and illegal behavior by a teacher at a public school doesn’t warrant an emotional response?


  12. Sarah says

    There are intelligent kids out there, yes, even in America, even the public high schools, that can write something worth a damn that is thoughtful and thought-provoking.

    Very, very, few. But they do exist. I swear they do.

    The reason I hated high school is because standards were dropped so very low so that people unlike this, people who don’t care about the quality of a teacher, just as long as they’re allowed to play Texas Hold-Em during lectures, could pass.

    It’s true. Cards were a big thing back at my school. The most popular teachers were inevitably the ones who didn’t discipline the students and didn’t teach. That’s why they’re defending this guy.

  13. says

    Oh, that’s nothing new. In my high school, physics was taught entirely self study — which meant we’d get handed the textbook, told that whenever we wanted we could take a test for any chapter, and when we’d finished them all, we were done. I took all the tests in the first two weeks of class, and then a friend and I would play cards all through the “class”.

    It was a complete waste of time. It didn’t make me like the teacher more, though.

  14. Ichthyic says

    The most popular teachers were inevitably the ones who didn’t discipline the students and didn’t teach. That’s why they’re defending this guy.

    actually, it was pointed out by LaClair’s own father that Paszkiewicz is actually a very good teacher… when he sticks to history.

    again, just like the “nice guy” issue, it is irrelevant to whether he violated the law or not.

    as a related example, when I was in high school (about 25 years ago now), I had a fantastic marine science teacher. again, great guy, very personable, excellent teacher. We often went on field trips to various ocean-related sites to do labs. Many times, the female students wore bikinis during these trips, as we often had to get wet to do some of the labs. This teacher had a bit of a wandering eye, and occassionally made comments about the students “attire”. Nothing overt or gross, but might be considered innappropriate, certainly. He was forced to retire about 10 years back for this behavior.

    it had nothing to do with whether or not he was a nice guy or a good teacher.

  15. Sarah says

    Well, that’s an interesting idea, I guess, but it does sound like a waste of time.

    Though, at my school, the card-playing students didn’t care about learning, and just barely cared about passing the subject so they could be allowed to go and party on the weekends. And if those idiots didn’t pass, that meant that the teacher must have done something wrong. So, everybody, even the students who were genuinely interested in, say, Biology, and were truly thinking about a career in it, they got dragged down with them. No matter how firmly they grasped the concept of convergent evolution, it had to be repeated, over, and over, and over, again.

  16. says

    Sarah’s story and PZ’s followup make me sad, and shockingly, make me mis high school just a little bit (but not too much).

    Throughout my high school years, the majority of the students in the majority of my classes were motivated learners who paid attention and participated in class. Granted, I spent a lot of time taking GT and AP courses, but even in my standard-track classes, there was little if any messing around going on during class time (unless the teacher explicitly gave us mess-around time, of course, which did happen occasionally).

    In fact, the best and most engaging teacher I had in high school was Mr. Ward, who taught my standard-track 12th grade English. That guy brought Beowulf and MacBeth and 1984 to vivid life right there in front of our eyes. I was always a reader, but he made me love literature in addition to popular fiction.

  17. Ichthyic says

    No matter how firmly they grasped the concept of convergent evolution, it had to be repeated, over, and over, and over, again.

    try explaining to a high school student the differences between convergent and parallel evolution, and then get them to place observations about various species into one classification or the other.


    come to think of it, most undergrads I taught had almost as many problems with it.

  18. craig says

    Closest I ever came to having a teacher like this was a chemistry teacher.
    Somehow I was “outed” as an atheist, and so kids were shocked and were standing up from their desks grilling me.
    “Craig! You don’t believe in God?!?!?!”
    “Why not?”
    “because it doesn’t make any sense.”

    At this point my chemistry teacher turned beet red and started shouting at me how I was completely wrong, how dare I say such a thing, etc. Disrupted the whole class until the bell rang.

  19. swiftee says

    “n my hgh schl, physcs ws tght ntrly slf stdy”

    Pfft. Wh’d gssd?

    Thn y mvd nt slf tght blgy, rght? s tht whr y cm p wth th “drwn t mbry n lchl” xprmnt?

  20. Ichthyic says

    hmm, seems “swiftee” is a little “slowee”.

    he still stuck on the student developmental bio experiment thing?

  21. Shinigami says

    PZ Myers, you’ve finally got your wish.

    As a student who was actually in this class as the tape was recorded, I must say that I don’t agree with many of the statements that the teacher actually stated.

    I don’t agree with what he says and in later classes, I have even tried to persuade him to the contrary. By the way, you can probably hear my voice towards the end of the tape, trying to argue with Mr. Paszkiewicz about his disproving of evolution, the theory of which I believe strongly in (something along the lines of: “but in a murder case…”).

    Yet during the class, I did not wish to respond to my teacher’s arguements. That was mainly due to 3 reasons. One: I really was quite interested in what this teacher wanted to say. Two: I raised my hand once or twice but it went unnoticed due to my shy character and low hand position. Three: I did not really want to do any work during that class.

    You must admit that there have been times (when you attended school) when you did not really wish to be in the class. History is not my FAVORITE subject so there are times when I just want to stare out the window, not that I would ever do that as a teacher is teaching.

    Which brings me to my my first point. During this class, my teacher wasn’t really teaching. This is one of the classes (which don’t occur now) that he has nicknamed “Discussion Classes” and as its name implies, it’s where the class dicusses a topic.

    A majority of the time, we will dicuss something that has nothing to do with what we are to be tested on. Furthermore, the topic is usually voluntary, a subject which none of the students raise an objection against. If you listen to the tape closely, do you hear Paszkiewicz ever preaching “you must believe in my religion or you will fail this class?” No, he even stated in the tape that it is the “student’s prerogative to decide if they want to believe.” Not that I do believe in Christianity or any other religion, I am an aethist myslef.

    If one day, you garner the patience to listen to the whole tape (seriously, it’s quite long), if you listen towards the last few mintues of the tape, you can hear the teacher say something about “bringing in the worksheet on POPULISM.” Note that nothing in the class had to do with populism and in no way did my teacher relate hell or heaven to populism.

    Which doesn’t mean that Paszkiewicz doesn’t know how to teach. He has taught me much about U.S. History during the classes where we don’t discuss on a general topic of interest. I’ve only been with him for a few months, so obviously I haven’t learned that much but still, I have learned much more in this class than any student in our “rival class” in the respective grade and with the same “rated difficulty” (i.e. advanced placement, honors, average, remedial), but different teachers.

    Furthermore, Paszkiewicz has taught me about religion. I must be quick in noting, however, that when I say, “taught me about religion,” I do not mean that he has preached to me the virtues of his religion. Coming from an aethist family, I do not know much about religion (in fact, I don’t know a thing about it at all – except that it is “led” by God). Nor do I have the will or curiousity to read a Bible. In those early class discussions, I was not convinced about what my teacher had said. No, in fact, I was given more information of religion which I could disprove.

    And a part here so I can argue the points of others:

    (quotes on Lippard Blog against Paszkiewicz)
    a. “Paszkiewicz is the authority in the classroom, and is responsible for teaching what’s in the curriculum” – Paszkiewicz does teach what’s in the curriculum, just not during a open discussion about ideas with no revelance to the class curriculum.

    b. “It is a violation of the U.S. Constitution’s Establishment Clause for a teacher in a public school classroom to endorse a particular religious viewpoint” – True, but Paszkiewicz did ask if anyone in the class was uncomfortable speaking about this issue. It can be heard near the middle of the tape (again, good luck with the patience part, seriously).

    c. “Satan, the Big Bang, evolution, and Noah’s Ark have nothing to do with U.S. history” – I thought that was obvious.

    d. “Paszkiewicz lied when he told administrators he wasn’t saying these things in the classroom” – I never heard about this and I take your fact as truth but to speak a bit frankly, the time when this was recorded isn’t really the time of the “classroom.” – It is a free discussion time.

    e. “If you can stand to listen to the audio all the way through, you will find that Paszkiewicz runs his classroom in a very disorganized manner, allowing multiple students to carry on conversations simultaneously and apparently without any kind of lesson plan.” – That’s may sound to be true but one must remember that this isn’t a closed classroom. There are classrooms across the hall and which neighbor the classroom which this discussion occurred in.

    f. “while I know that a lot of high school students are immature, these are damning” – I must agree that the students who have the “guts” to respond are not very literate nor can they choose more appropriate words. Those who have not responded, I assure you, are quite literate. As for myself, you can decide whether I am literate or not.

    g. “Matthew LaClair has also refused to stand and say the Pledge of Allegiance at school. Good for him.” – I must say that I am confused how this applies to what Paszkiewicz did…

    h. “Kearney students have been sending their love my way also. One girl informs me that because I was in Perth, Australia, and not sitting in Mr P’s classroom at the time of the incident under discussion, I have no right to express my opinion on the matter.” – I am truly sorry that someone would say that you have no right to express your opinion on the matter; you do have that right. However, what i think that girl meant to say is that you don’t have the first-hand experience of being in the class for an extended period of time to make a good judgement. On a side note, please spell “KEARNY” correctly(don’t worry, a lot of people make that mistake) but otherwise, I am offended that someone would say that to you, truly.

    Whew! That was a lot. I must conclude, though, with the fact that I have no ill will towards those who disagree with my opinion. I simply disagree with Matthew LaClair on his opinions and to the aftereffects caused by his rash actions, I simply respond.

  22. katie says

    It’s lovely how all of these random people are leaving comments on a situation that they have no idea about. First the teacher stated and asked if everyone was open to talk about the subject, meaning all views are allowed into the conversation. If he believes that you may go to hell, so be it. If you don’t believe in hell there should be no problem dismissing the issue, and if you said you had no problem discussing you should be mature about the situation. Matt LaClair clearly set up a teacher to make him look bad. Does anyone realize you are not allowed to taPE A teacher without their consent in a public school, and also that electroni devices are not allowed by students in the classroom? If they werent mature enough to talk a bout all sides of the conversation they should of stepped up and said something.

  23. Caledonian says

    And just think – in our representative democracy, katie has as much right and power to influence the running of society as any of the rest of you!

    I know I’m thrilled by the thought.

  24. Paul says

    Katie, in the first place, that is not what happened. Paszkiewicz asked if the discussion was bothering anyone only after he had been proselytizing for about 15 minutes. He wasn’t set up at all. He initiated the religious discussions, which is why Matt brought in his recorder.

    In the second place, it doesn’t matter who started the discussion. Under the law, the teacher may not express his opinion on religious beliefs in a public school — period. So while you may not like what happened, the teacher’s conduct violates the Constitution, while the student’s is entirely legal. You may not like it, but that’s how it is.