Boulder High students protest teacher layoff

video courtesy of The Daily Camera newspaper, Boulder, CO.

Boulder High School (or perhaps it’s the Boulder Valley School District) has laid off a social studies teacher, Chris Barnes, because of budget cuts. Such are the inevitable and in this case cruel losses of a severe recession. Apparently he’s not just any teacher. This is a video of his students protesting his layoff. They really like the guy. It’s not everyday that you see this. Even if he were to stay they probably wouldn’t have another class with him. So the fact that these students would take time out to do this means a lot.

I had a similar experience many years ago. I attended Casey Jr. High School (now Casey Middle School) in Boulder in the early 1980s. I had a government (civics) teacher who was great. He taught us the traditional stuff (out of the textbook) about how our government works, but he also had us carry out exercises of a couple different major governmental functions as a group, so we could enter those worlds ourselves and see how it really works, not just the ideal of how it should work. He got kids who most teachers would’ve given up on as trouble makers to participate in these exercises, and they became genuinely interested and engaged. I saw a side of these kids I didn’t know existed, and he proved the point that every child is interested in learning. Those were valuable experiences.

He taught us discernment skills in political rhetoric. We watched and read current, real political material and we evaluated what they said–how much was content, and how much was just air. Were they just giving us one side of the issue? What’s the other side? Do they make a good argument?

He encouraged us to watch C-SPAN, to see government in action, and to see political figures unfiltered; and a couple specific news programs, which covered news at length, not in little bites.

He decided to leave Casey after our course, of his own accord. He had taken up another job in the private sector. Somehow the rumor got around that he had been forced out because the assistant principal didn’t like him, or something. Soon after some of the students in his class, plus some kids who just didn’t like the assistant principal, went outside with signs and protested the assistant principal and the fact that our civics teacher was leaving. Some were passionate. Some were disciplined by the school for disruptive behavior. I never thought I’d see the day when students would protest in favor of a school teacher! It kind of brings to mind a movie I saw years ago called “Dead Poets Society” (video).

I still remember that teacher’s government class to this day (though as you can tell I can’t remember his name). I see him as someone who made me a fully engaged citizen of the United States. Seeing the video from Boulder High brought back memories, and it’s good to see that there are still public school teachers out there who are good enough that students are willing to protest for them.

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