An unnamed teacher at Bohls Middle School in Pflugerville, Texas, did some candid soul-searching about the nature of bias in front of his class. The discussion was recorded above. It’s fair to say that it did not go over well.
The topic was bias in general, and racial bias in particular. “Deep down in my heart, I’m ethnocentric,” the teacher said, “which means I think my race is the superior one…I think everybody thinks that.They’re just not honest about it.” Later he stated that “everybody is a racist at that level.”
The reaction was as you would predict, though why the teacher didn’t predict it is an interesting mystery on its own. Some students were disturbed, many told their parents about the discussion (or how they perceived it), parents complained, and the school administrators freaked out, as they are wont to do.
First Pflugerville ISD Superintendent Dr. Douglas Killian released a statement regarding the incident the same day, stating that the teacher had been summarily executed.
Just kidding! He had been placed on leave, he said:
“We are aware of an inappropriate conversation a teacher at Bohls Middle School had with students this week during an advisory class. This interaction does not align with our core beliefs as a district. The video of the conversation includes statements that we find wholly inappropriate. The teacher has been placed on administrative leave while Human Resources conducts an investigation. Pflugerville ISD and Bohls MS work together to create an inclusive and welcoming environment for our students. The advisory activity was inappropriate, inaccurate, and unacceptable. This type of interaction will not be tolerated in PfISD schools. Staff checked in with students today. Our counselors and administrators are always available if your student wants to discuss this situation further.We always do our best to ensure the safety of all students; we encourage them to be self-advocates and let an adult know when something is wrong, as they did in this situation; this could be to a parent, a teacher, or a counselor. If you see something, say something. We apologize for any undue stress or concern this has caused. As always, we appreciate the support of our families and community.”
The proverbial other shoe dropped yesterday, after a weekend of perfunctory and objective (I jest) “investigation.” The teacher had been fired, Killian announced:
“Last Friday, Nov. 11, Pflugerville ISD officials were made aware of an inappropriate conversation a teacher at Bohls Middle School had with students during an advisory class. As of Monday morning, Nov. 14, the teacher in question is no longer employed by Pflugerville ISD and we are actively looking for a replacement.
“In addition to providing this video to our administrators, the video was shared to social media by some in the class and has prompted local and national media attention. We apologize to any parents whose students have been included in the video without their knowledge.
“We want to reiterate that this conversation does not align with our core beliefs and is not a reflection of our district or our culture at Bohls Middle School. Pflugerville ISD and Bohls MS staff work together to create an inclusive and welcoming environment for all of our students. The advisory discussion was inappropriate, inaccurate, and unacceptable; and this type of interaction will not be tolerated in any PfISD schools.
“We apologize to our students and families at Bohls Middle School for the undue stress or concern this has caused. We have counselors and administrators available for any of our students and families who want to discuss this situation further.
“We always do our best to ensure the safety of all students; we encourage them to be self-advocates and let an adult know when something is wrong, as they did in this situation. If you see something, say something.
“As always, we appreciate the support of our Bohls Middle School families and entire PfISD community.”
Your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz of the Day is…
Should the teacher have been fired?
I’m going to restrain myself for once: I could write several long posts about aspects of this incident. I think I’ll just jot down a few points, and leave the rest to you:
- I had several teachers like this guy in junior high and high school. Some of them were also fired. They raised difficult issues in class and discussed them honestly, foolishly believing that their job was to encourage critical thinking, and trusting students to understand that. I did. Many didn’t.
- Is middle school too early to ask student to consider biases, how they are programed into our genetic codes (“I think everybody thinks that….”), and that part of a teacher’s (parents’, society’s) job is explaining to the young that biases must be recognized and managed?
- If it’s not too early, was this teacher simply not skilled enough to do the job competently? The task, after all, is like defusing a bomb: if you aren’t precise and skilled enough, you blow yourself up.
- Should a teacher avoid honestly telling students what he or she thinks?
- Was the teacher wrong in his analysis. or simply inexcusably politically incorrect?
- Would a black teacher have met the same fate? I believe that most, if not all, races believe that theirs is the “best” one (which doesn’t necessarily mean superior), but that only some races are allowed in 2022 to express or suggest that belief in public.
- Why do schools allow students to have cell phones in class? I wouldn’t.
- I assume the teacher knew the discussion was being recorded by someone. Knowing this, he still opined on racial bias candidly. Is he an idiot? Was he trying to get fired? Is he a brave idealist?
- “See something, say something”? Seriously? An unwelcome statement or thought is the equivalent of terrorism or crime? “Undue stress?” Whether the teacher should have been fired or not, those two statements are enough evidence for me to conclude that Dr. Douglas Killian (and his kind, which is legion) should hit the bricks.