Lobbyist extraordinaire Jeremiah M. Murphy stepped before House Education yesterday and made exactly the arguments that I made against Representative Kaleb Weis’s ill-advised Teacher Code of Silence: it would shut down intelligent teaching, and the vague concerns the extremist Aberdeen right-winger raises, if they have any basis in fact, are already addressed by the existing Code of Professional Ethics that teachers follow.
Murphy, representing the South Dakota Education Association that Weis seeks to vilify in his culture-war crosshairs, said it was his first appearance before House Education. Murphy testified that the bill as written had a glaring problem: he imagined a fourth-grader mouthing off about the Pledge of Allegiance and a good teacher taking advantage of the moment to explain the history and meaning of the Pledge of Allegiance. He imagined that teacher stating approval of the law Congress passed making the Pledge what it is. And he said that patriotic act in class would violate House Bill 1113. Any effort to encourage kids to follow the law or respect the Bill of Rights would become illegal.
Murphy said we all agree that teachers should teach important issues with balance and fairness and not abuse their authority. However, “this bill as drafted creates a trap,” Murphy explained.
Murphy then proceeded to distribute copies of the Professional Code of Ethics, “which governs all teachers in all South Dakota public institutions” and explain how any concerns about unfair teaching or abuses of power are already covered by that code, the training teachers get, and local school board control. Noting the sponsors desire to “update” the code of ethics, Murphy noted that the code is part of administrative rule, not statute, which is easier to update.
Murphy gave examples of behavior Weis thought he needed a law to prohibit and lines in the existing code that already prohibit such behavior. Murphy also contended the existing code subjects teachers to stricter punishment than the Weis Code. Finally, Murphy noted that the existing code covers far more misbehavior—e.g., religious proselytizing, personal profiteering—than Weis’s narrow ideological code would.
In other words, educators—the very people Weis doesn’t trust—have worked with the Department of Education since before Weis was born to compose a rigorous code of professional ethics that protects children far better than the slop Weis threw in the hopper.
Murphy gave a useful lesson in how teaching works and how law should be written. Alas, Weis missed it. Weis is such a feckless subwonder that he couldn’t even show up to House Education learn his lesson.
Murphy’s argument was so good and Weis’s bill was so bad that even teacher-hating culture warrior and House Education chair Lana Greenfield had to vote against it.
House Bill 1113 died 10-3 in committee.
Related Rookie Wreckage: Weis appears to have missed the hearing on his own Teacher Code of Silence because he was down the hall in House State Affairs shepherding his silly state seal bill over a cliff. After giving HB 1069 nearly 34 minutes of discussion (really? over half an hour, on whether half-inch wide versions of the state seal need to say, “Under God”? Kaleb, is your God really that small?) House State Affairs sent that dippy frippery on an 8–5 ride to the 41st day.