Students in a Maryland high school are campaigning to get a "Peace Studies" course taught by retired newspaper reporter Colman McCarthy eliminated from the curriculum:
Last Saturday, Andrew Saraf sat down at his computer and typed out his thoughts on why the course -- offered for almost two decades as an elective to seniors at Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School -- should be banned from the school. "I know I'm not the first to bring this up but why has there been no concerted effort to remove Peace Studies from among the B-CC courses?" he wrote in his post to the school's group e-mail list. "The 'class' is headed by an individual with a political agenda, who wants to teach students the 'right' way of thinking by giving them facts that are skewed in one direction."
He hit send.
Within a few hours, the normally staid e-mail list BCCnet -- a site for announcements, job postings and other housekeeping details in the life of a school -- was ablaze with chatter. By the time Principal Sean Bulson checked his BlackBerry on Sunday evening, there were more than 150 postings from parents and students -- some ardently in support, some ardently against the course.
Since its launch at the school in 1988, Peace Studies has provoked lively debate, but the attempt to have the course removed from the curriculum is a first, Bulson said. The challenge by two students comes as universities and even some high schools across the country are under close scrutiny by a growing number of critics who believe that the U.S. education system is being hijacked by liberal activists.
At Bethesda-Chevy Chase, Peace Studies is taught by Colman McCarthy, a former Washington Post reporter and founder and president of the Center for Teaching Peace. Though the course is taught at seven other Montgomery County high schools, some say B-CC's is perhaps the most personal and ideological of the offerings because McCarthy makes no effort to disguise his opposition to war, violence and animal testing.
"I do recognize that it is a fairly popular class," Saraf said. "But it's clear that the teacher is only giving one side of the story. He's only offering facts that fit his point of view."
... the Peace Studies course at Bethesda-Chevy Chase is unique for a number of reasons. Although a staff teacher takes roll and issues grades, it is McCarthy as a volunteer, unpaid guest lecturer who does the bulk of the teaching. He does not work from lesson plans, although he does use a school system-approved textbook -- a collection of essays on peace that he edited.
Uh, oh. This sounds to us as though the individual who is the primary instructor in the classroom is an uncertified teacher. In some states, like Pennsylvania, such insults to the protocols set forth by the educational bureaucracy can land a school district a substantial fine. We wonder how Bethesda-Chevy Chase is getting around this regulation, if indeed it is a regulation in Maryland, besides employing a certified teacher to take roll. Using a certified teacher as an attendance monitor certainly seems like a transparent, and cynical, ploy which may itself be a violation of the certification requirement.
Where's the Maryland State Education Association on this? Most state teacher associations demand that only certified teachers be allowed to teach in public school classrooms. Maybe this case is different because the teacher is volunteering. Or maybe it's different because the teacher happens to be a bona fide lefty. Who knows?