How not to teach


An Oklahoma teacher, Amy Cook, is using her classroom in a novel way. I’m always looking for different approaches to engage with the students, so I thought I’d see what she’s doing. Maybe I could adapt it to my classes.

According to Durbin, comments that Cook has made to students’ faces make them feel unsafe at school.

“She has a prayer wall in her room with Bible quotes all over it,” Durbin said.

Durbin said a student put something up about gods and goddesses on the wall and Cook called it “non-Christian”.

“That the person that put it up there should go to hell,” Durbin said. “And that any student that is gay or any part of the LGBTQ+ community should go burn in hell, basically, is what she has said to students’ faces.”

Cook is listed as a science teacher on Memorial’s website and has her own website as a 2022 Republican candidate for Oklahoma Senate District 34.

Just imagine the reaction if I were to play like Kevin Sorbo in the God’s Not Dead and demand that students profess the non-existence of gods to get a passing grade in my biology classes, or made all the straight students sit in a corner of shame at the back of the room, or announced that grades don’t matter, because all the students will be returned to the dirt soon enough. Not only would it be bad pedagogy, but I really don’t hate my students that much.

Amy Cook is not fit to be a teacher.

Let’s read her own words.

“I have a proposal,” she wrote on her website.” I propose that every Christian teacher decide right now, this very minute, to say no to all curriculum and policy in their school that is anti-Scriptural and dangerous for the souls of our youth. I think … no, I know this is not an impossible fight to win. We CAN have Christian values in our schools again. We CAN have God as the foundation for our students.”

“If every Christian teacher decided today to say NO! No more! Satan is not welcome here! Imagine how loud our battle cry would be and how quickly the enemy would rush to the shadows to cower. He’s already so afraid of us. Why else would he choose the youngest and most vulnerable of us for his dastardly plans? He knows he is no match for an army of teachers covered by Jesus’s blood.”

Well, that’s an image.

She hates sex education, too.

“When the LGBTQ national mandate was forced on my students under the guise of SeXXX Education in a 2-week class, I boycotted it and alerted all my students’ parents,” she wrote in a blog posting. “It was successfully taken away from most of the students’ young eyes. I continue to model my Faith in God openly in my classroom.”

Just curious…does she model her oppressive heterosexuality in the classroom? How?

She has the usual far-right beliefs.

Under a picture of bullets, she wrote, “Our freedoms in Oklahoma, including our right to bear arms, must be protected and shall not be infringed.”

On the site, Cook also came out against vaccines and mask mandates

“If you are forced to inject your body with any substance against your will, you are not truly free,” she wrote. “We must stand against tyrannical mandates forcing masks and vaccines and oppressing businesses.”

In addition, she took a stance against abortion rights, writing, “I believe that all life is sacred and given by God. It is valuable, and I will not rest until abortion is abolished in our State!”

Would you believe she’s a…biology teacher?

As a teacher at Memorial High School, Amy Cook vowed to stay in her lane and stick to instructing students in the subject of biology.

“I strictly teach science lessons and not indoctrination of unrelated subjects,” she said in a blog post.

Now I wonder how she teaches evolution, or if she does. It doesn’t say on her website.

Her approach doesn’t seem to serve the Lord very effectively, since students are walking out of her class and demanding the administration fire her.

Comments

  1. cartomancer says

    One wonders how bible quotes, pictures of bullets and anti-LGBT propaganda count as “staying in one’s lane” and only teaching biology.

    I’m trying to think of one thing in my own Classics classroom that this halfwit wouldn’t disapprove of. Fortunately there isn’t anything. We have displays on Greek and Roman gods, Roman Emperors, Pride flags next to the legionary vexillum, epic poems illustrated on the walls, as much naked male statuary as I can get away with… and a shrine to Mary.

    No, not that one. It may be a Catholic school, but I have standards. It’s a shrine to Mary Beard, built from her books, complete with cult statue (my mum knitted that). There is also a motivational poster I made next to it, telling students to “be more Beard”. We occasionally leave offerings in front of the shrine when other people have been in there and left things lying around that don’t belong.

    Oh, and the students have decorated the walls with classics memes quite of their own accord. Which makes me feel about as old as the material I teach.

  2. StevoR says

    Firing her should be the very least of their demands here.

    How did she ever become a teacher in the first place? Don’t they have to get qualifications and certificates and pass at least some sort of tertiary courses to qualify to teach in the USA like teachers have to do here in Oz?

    See :

    To be registered as a teacher in South Australia you must meet the Board’s minimum qualification requirements. You must hold higher education (ie. university) qualifications that total at least 4 years of full-time (or part-time equivalent) study, including an approved teacher education qualification.

    https://www.trb.sa.edu.au/qualifications#:~:text=To%20be%20registered%20as%20a,an%20approved%20teacher%20education%20qualification.

    Can just anyone teach in the United States – is it really that backwards? No police checks or something?

    Also could the students traumatised and harrassed by her not take some sort of legal action against ehr and /or the school for breach of contract, trauma, discrimination, etc ?

  3. indianajones says

    And so when your inner biology teacher comes into conflict with your inner christian what are you going to say in your classroom? Do you leave one or the other or do you betray one or the other? Betrayal is not intellectually honest, and that is a virtue both aspire to, so you must leave one or the other. Right? Which one will it be?

  4. says

    It is entirely possible to state that one is a christian, that one attends church regularly, and that one believes in a creator god, and at the same time stand up and teach the science, just the science, honestly and accurately. If your beliefs are true and accurate, you don’t have to hammer students over the head with them and threaten them with hellfire and judge them as bad people — just teach the truth, and let them make up their own mind. I don’t think Ken Miller, for instance, is betraying his ideals by teaching about evolution.
    Intellectual honesty should be about laying your cards on the table and letting others assess them.

  5. says

    And so when your inner biology teacher comes into conflict with your inner christian what are you going to say in your classroom? Do you leave one or the other or do you betray one or the other?

    When I practice guitar I’m not betraying the books I want to read.

    And when I’m at work I’m not betraying cooking dinner. I do the thing I’m paid to do and then later I do that other thing I need to do for other reasons. It’s not a betrayal. It’s a job.

  6. Pierce R. Butler says

    … Amy Cook… is using her classroom in a novel way.

    I don’t see any novelty in her syllabus as reported, just the … usual far-right beliefs.

    Ms Cook, wouldn’t you fit in a lot better at a “Bible” school than a public school? Do you stay where you are just to stir some shit?

  7. rorschach says

    Maybe the issue here is that of the separation of church and school. Prayer walls, whatever they are, do not belong in schools or biology classrooms, they belong in believers homes. I don’t know about Ken Miller, but the USA brand of Christian extremists, of which this person seems to be a member, doesn’t seem suited to teaching biology at all.

  8. lldayo says

    “If you are forced to inject your body with any substance against your will, you are not truly free,” she wrote.

    Which should include religious ideology. The subject is science and should be limited to that. Anything outside that scope should be considered forced against your will.

  9. Rich Woods says

    I believe that all life is sacred and given by God

    …right up until the point where it is taken by a Christian bullet. I’m pretty sure Jesus had something to say about that.

  10. raven says

    “If you are forced to inject your body with any substance against your will, you are not truly free,” she wrote.

    If you translate that from fundie godbabble to English, she is an antivaxxer.

    If you are forced to wear clothes against your will, you are not truly free.
    If you are forced to pay taxes against your will, you are not truly free.
    If you are forced to work to buy food and shelter, you are not truly free.
    If you are forced to get a drivers license to drive, you are not truly free.
    If you are forced to learn how to read and write, you are not truly free.
    If you are forced to pay into the social security fund, you are not truly free.
    Etc.

    Hmmm, looks like the only free people in our society are naked, have no job, money, or car, and are illiterates living under a tree.

    What Ms. Oklahoma right wingnut hasn’t figured out is that living in any society requires following some rules and regulations. There are tradeoffs here. If you learn to drive and get a drivers license, then you can drive a motor vehicle.

    Living in our society is voluntary though. You can leave any time you want and people do occasionally do so. You can move to any existing (the real number is zero) christofascist paradises or just head out into the wilderness. People who do so often end up dead pretty quickly (e.g. Chris McCandless) but at least they were…free.

  11. Reginald Selkirk says

    I propose that every Christian teacher decide right now, this very minute, to say no to all curriculum and policy in their school that is anti-Scriptural…

    She’s a science teacher? Is she teaching her students that a bat is a type of ‘fowl’, that a rabbit chews its cud, and that insects have four legs? Those are all in Leviticus chapter 11.

  12. jacksprocket says

    They don’t even believe in their own religion: “This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you.”.

    I don’t believe in their religion either, but I generally agree with that, at least until someone fucks up so badly that they need to earn it again before you can love them. I wonder what horrible things that kid did?

  13. whheydt says

    Hmmm… Does Oklahoma mandate various vaccinations in order to teach in public schools? Just asking….

  14. says

    “If you are forced to inject your body with any substance against your will, you are not truly free,” she wrote.

    But if you’re forced to ingest a debilitating and possibly fatal or permanently-crippling disease, it’s no big deal, right?

  15. F.O. says

    She’s doing it on purpose: the greater the backlash, the greater the spotlight. She wants to prop up her political career.

  16. drew says

    “can have Christian values in our schools again”

    Is she talking about Sunday school?

  17. birgerjohansson says

    If we should have religion in the schools, let’s try the Jainist religion. Let those buck-naked Jainist monks explain the whole deal to the students. That will go over well with the parents. Or not.

  18. birgerjohansson says

    Why not that crazy flying-saucer Raelian cult, the ones using swastikas? At least they would be entertaining.
    They and the Scientologs could handle education alternating weeks.

  19. bigwhale says

    I heard an interesting idea that what these people are practicing is closer to black magic. They are trying to mold the world to their will.

    They have completely given up the idea of “thy will be done”. That maybe we don’t have all the answers and to be humble. The example of Jesus who valued the needs of others, especially the marginalized. Ideas I was taught and still value as an atheist.

    Instead they are more like Lavey Satanists. They act like their only law is to do what they want with the world and give zero thought to what anyone else wants or needs.

  20. nomdeplume says

    How can this be not conclusive evidence of severe mental problems. She needs psychiatric help (and so will her pupils unless she is stopped).

  21. indianajones says

    I was a little unclear. In the case of Ms Oklahoma, the christian is coming into conflict with the biology teacher, and fairly catastrophically it seems when she says :

    “I have a proposal,” she wrote on her website.” I propose that every Christian teacher decide right now, this very minute, to say no to all curriculum and policy in their school that is anti-Scriptural and dangerous for the souls of our youth. I think … no, I know this is not an impossible fight to win. We CAN have Christian values in our schools again. We CAN have God as the foundation for our students.”

    I did not mean the 2 things are always in conflict or that in every case for everyone that they have to be. But I think that for , Ms Oklahoma in this case that they are.

  22. beholder says

    @21 nomdeplume

    How can this be not conclusive evidence of severe mental problems.

    Is it? I mean, sure, it’s behavior you want to distance yourself from and associate with the “other”, but if normal, polite society takes Christianity really seriously, then she’s just your everyday schoolteacher in a hyperreligious shithole. I don’t see any need to resort to mental illness when the problem is society itself.

  23. StevoR says

    @ ^ beholder : The problem is her extremist Christianist ideology rather than society itself in my view but yes.

  24. Badland says

    @Cartomancer

    I’m trying to think of one thing in my own Classics classroom that this halfwit wouldn’t disapprove of. Fortunately there isn’t anything.

  25. brightmoon says

    I’m Christian, it’s bigoted ignoramuses like her that make me want to put my foot up her behind and walk around one legged .

  26. Walter Solomon says

    “If you are forced to inject your body with any substance against your will, you are not truly free,”

    I’m pretty sure there’s a vaccination schedule kids have to follow to even be allowed to attend school. Being a teacher, she should know this.

  27. whheydt says

    Re: Walter Solomon @ #27…
    If I’m not mistaken, there are vaccinations required to be a teacher….and she should know THAT.

  28. says

    StevoR @2:

    How did she ever become a teacher in the first place? Don’t they have to get qualifications and certificates and pass at least some sort of tertiary courses to qualify to teach in the USA like teachers have to do here in Oz? … Can just anyone teach in the United States – is it really that backwards? No police checks or something?

    I’m a bit surprised no one else seems to have answered this, but in case you’re still curious I can do so. The short answer is yes, you do need a teaching credential to teach in the U.S., but

    I’m a credentialed teacher in the state of California, and yes, there are certainly qualifications and certificates involved. In California, at least, you can get a multiple-subject credential, which allows you to teach any subject but only at the elementary-school level, or a single-subject credential, which allows you to teach middle school or high school, but only in a specific subject, though it is possible to get credentialed in more than one subject. I currently have a multiple-subject credential as well as single-subject credentials in physics and mathematics. (It’s not necessarily common to have both a multiple-subject and a single-subject credential; the reason I do is because I’m a studio teacher — I work with child actors on film sets — and that job requires its own additional special certification, and one of the requirements for that certification is that applicants must have both a multiple-subject and a single-subject credential, because they may end up working with kids of any age.)

    To get a credential in California, you do need at minimum a four-year college degree, and you also need to take classes specific to education. Some teachers combine the two and get degrees in education; in my case I already had a master’s degree before I decided to get my teaching credential, but I still had to go through a two-year program about educational principles to get my credential. (To get both the multiple-subject and single-subject credentials I had to take a few extra classes.) I also had to take several exams, one on general knowledge (called the CBEST) and one specific to each subject I was getting the credential in (the CSET).

    Oh yes… and there absolutely was a police check. Yes, a background check is required to get a teaching credential in California.

    So yes, you do need qualifications and certifications to teach in the U.S. But I said there was a “but”, and here it comes… actually two of them.

    First of all, a teaching credential is only required to teach at a public school. To teach at a private school, there are no such requirements. Private schools can set their own requirements for applicants, but there are none legally mandated; in principle there’s nothing stopping a private school from hiring as a teacher some random guy off the street with no teaching experience and not even a high school education. I actually did teach at a private school before I had a teaching credential; the school charged an expensive tuition fee, but that money didn’t go primarily to hire skilled teachers — the starting teacher salary there was significantly lower than a public school salary, and unlike at a public school there were no benefits.

    The teacher in question does seem to have been teaching at a public school, though, so that doesn’t apply here. But the other “but” may apply:

    There’s a reason that in my description of requirements to get a teaching credential I repeatedly referred specifically to California. There are no national standards in the U.S. for teaching credentials. Every state sets its own standards. That does mean a teacher credentialed in one state who moves to another state may have to get re-credentialed there. It also means that some states have more rigorous credentialing processes than others. California, from what I understand, is among the states with the strictest requirements (New York is up there too). I don’t know what the standards are in Oklahoma, though I’m sure it does have some standards.

    Okay, it’s not hard to find the standards with a web search. Here’s the relevant page from the Oklahoma Department of Education. I didn’t read the whole thing, but just from skimming it yes, they do require a four-year college degree, a background check, and a passing grade on certain examinations.

    So, yes, despite the different standards in different U.S. states, even in Oklahoma a background check and a college degree are required to become a credentialed teacher. So presumably Ms. Cook has indeed passed a background check and does have a college degree.

    But really, that’s not surprising. Radical religious beliefs wouldn’t have shown up in a criminal background check, and she wouldn’t be the first person to have a science degree and preach antiscience religious fundamentalist principles. It’s possible that she didn’t go off the religious deep end until after she got her teaching credential; it’s just as possible she was already a religious extremist but that didn’t stop her from passing a background check and a biology exam.

    So anyway, to sum up: Yes, there are qualifications, certifications, and background checks necessary to teach in the United States, but the requirements are set at state level rather than national level, and of course nothing about the credentialing process is designed to weed out religious extremists. All that being said, yes, this teacher’s actions are of course wildly inappropriate and in violation of the separation of church and state (among other things), and she definitely ought to have her teaching credential revoked (which is absolutely a thing that can happen).

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