Another Tale from The Cowardocracy Chronicles: Science Teacher Banned from Classroom

Everyone gets afraid. Everyone has fears. Whether or not one becomes a coward depends on how one learns to deal with fear.

I don’t know how Americans are doing as a whole; but “their” institutions enshrine cowardice as a social and political norm. (I use sarcastic quotation marks because I don’t think these institutions are really “ours.” They are over us; that is all.)

In the L.A. Times we read about Greg Schiller who once taught classes at Cortines School of Visual & Performing Arts:

Schiller was ordered to report daily to a district administrative office pending an investigation after two students turned in science projects that were designed to shoot small projectiles.

One project used compressed air to propel a small object, but it was not connected to a source of air pressure, so it could not have been fired. (In 2012, President Obama tried out a more powerful air-pressure device at a White House Science Fair that could launch a marshmallow 175 feet.)

Another project used the power from an AA battery to charge a tube surrounded by a coil. When the ninth-grader proposed it, Schiller told him to be more scientific, to construct and test different coils and to draw graphs and conduct additional analysis, said the student’s parents, who also are Los Angeles teachers.

A school employee saw the air-pressure project and raised concerns about what looked to her like a weapon, according to the teachers union and supporters. Schiller, who said he never saw either completed project except in photos, was summoned and sent home.

Both projects were confiscated as “evidence,” said Susan Ferguson, whose son did the coil-gun project.

L.A. Unified School District administrators have told Schiller that he was removed from his classroom six weeks ago for “supervising the building, research and development of imitation weapons,” said union representative Roger Scott.

School administrators did not respond to inquiries. District officials said they could not comment on an ongoing probe.

“As far as we can tell, he’s being punished for teaching science,” said Warren Fletcher, president of United Teachers Los Angeles.

Schiller teaches Advanced Placement biology and psychology, as well as regular and honors biology.

Students in Schiller’s classes are concerned about Advanced Placement exams for college credit in May.

The class is now essentially a free period,” said 17-year-old psychology student Liana Kleinman. “The sub does not have a psych background and can’t help us with the work.”

Schiller initially prepared lesson plans for the substitute, but the district in an email directed him to stop.

For those looking for life lessons here, I see a few.

First off, if you commonly think of bravery as having to do with physical activity and physical competition, your view is too narrow. Cowardice is intellectually crippling. It stunts thinking and learning.

Secondly, if you think teachers unions are wrong a hundred percent of the time, you are wrong. Even a stopped clock is right twice a day, and I am glad the union is supporting Schiller.  (And, even if we got rid of unions as they are now, there are still other possible types of unions. Homeschoolers often join legal defense funds and teacher could do the same.)

Third, notice that the philosophy and commitment of the entire school district is to inculcate cowardice into students rather than allow them to learn anything. They could have simply refused to accept the science projects and reprimanded the teacher. That would still have been cowardly, stupid, and evil, but it would have not raised doubts about the school district’s commitment to education.

Instead, they have dramatically affected the education and prospects of some of their students. A major class has now become “essentially a free period.” The school would rather have ignorant, failing, cowards than educated non-cowards. They are committed to producing reduced human beings rather than teaching them.

What will happen if the teachers and students who are, thankfully, rallying to Schiller’s cause get their way? This is what really drives me crazy. Whoever is in charge of that school district is now publicly revealed to be an enemy of education and character. How can we tolerate such people having authority over our students?

Barring my personal utopia of the abolition of all public school, the decision-makers in that school district all need to be fired and replaced.

On a personal level, we have to realize that the basic choice to not be a coward has not only personal but societal consequences. Think about yourself and whether you are part of the problem or the solution.


PostScript Speaking of living by cowardice, the movie Gattaca is on Netflix for those of you who haven’t seen it yet.