The Duck Dynasty Debacle Continued

OK, so I wasn’t sure I should write the first post on this topic but I was pleasantly surprised with many of the comments I received. Yes, there where some who said I should die and others who said I was every bit as hateful as Phil. But most comments were serious and thoughtful and added a lot to the discussion. 

I received a tweet this morning about a high school teacher in southwest Ohio who has been suspended from his job for something he said. The person who sent me the tweet said he would like to see me defend this guy’s right to free speech and expressing his opinion.

A couple of things. First, I didn’t defend Phil’s right to free speech on the first post. Second, neither what Phil said or what this teacher is reported to have said are free speech issues. 

It seems a lot of folks don’t really understand the First Amendment of the United States Constitution. It says and I paraphrase here, that you can say whatever you want. It’s doesn’t say anything about protection from being fired from your job for saying anything you want. 

The fact is, you can be fired for saying the sky is blue if your employer doesn’t like you saying it. So long as they fire everybody who says the sky is blue they have no problem.  All the First Amendment guarantees is that you won’t go to jail for saying it. 

Now, back to the tweet that put me on this topic. 

A high school teacher who allegedly responded to a black high school freshman that the nation doesn’t need another black president has been suspended. He responded to the freshman’s statement that his goal was to one day become President of the United States. The teacher’s board of education has indicated that the suspension is the first step in the firing process.

Since we already know this isn’t a freedom of speech issue let’s talk about his “right” to express his opinion. Many of the same people defending Phil’s “right” will be defending this teacher’s too but the situations are completely different.

Phil did what Phil is paid to do. He expressed how he felt, which is fine, and then he supported it with some outrageous comments. That’s reality TV. His network suspended him while taking what they described as the morale high ground and then caved like a cheap tent as soon as it became apparent that their position might cost them some money. 

The teacher did exactly what he isn’t paid to do. He isn’t paid to dash the hopes and dreams of his students. He is paid to teach, support, and mentor them. 

To be fair, I have no idea what the teacher really said, he claims the student has “misquoted” him. The only good thing for the teacher to have said to any student expressing such a worthy goal is something like this: “Well, good for you. Continue to work hard and you too can accomplish great things. I’m here to help you achieve your goal anyway I can.” 

I don’t know how that turns into anything near “we don’t need another black president” so the whole “misquoted” thing sounds weak to me. 

If it sounds like I’m holding the teacher to a higher standard than Phil you’re exactly right. If you don’t like what Phil says just change the channel. The student can’t change the channel. He is required to be there; the teacher is in a position of authority. The teacher is a leader and leaders willingly sacrifice certain “rights” in order to lead effectively. 

I don’t care what the teacher believes, he can believe and think whatever he wants. But   because he is in a position of authority he is also in a position of “imposing” his opinions on others. Because the student can’t “escape” the opinion of his teachers, the teachers should not be expressing those opinions while in the presence of their students. 

I hope this doesn’t become a big controversy because it shouldn’t. If what the teacher is alleged to have said is true, then the teacher said something really stupid. Does anybody really want a teacher like that teaching their kids? 

Maybe the teacher could start his own reality show, there are plenty of networks that could use one. 

9 thoughts on “The Duck Dynasty Debacle Continued

  1. Hi Steve,

    Thank you for clarifying the First Amendment and demonstrating there is a difference between the First Amendment and Employment at Will.

    With that said, I do differ with your opinion concerning the termination (and now my understanding reinstatement) of Phil Robertson. I feel celebrities, politicians, athletes – anyone in the limelight should be held to a higher standard.

    Concerning the Ohio teacher, like you, I will reserve judgment until all the facts are in. However, I am in full agreement with you his duties are to mentor, develop and encourage his students. I would hope this or something very similar is part of his agreed upon job description.

    Thank you for another thought provoking post.

    1. Thanks for your comment Bill, I guess I just figure Phil did was Phil does. The network pays those guys to say and do the darnedest things…. They got what they payed for, maybe even a bit more 🙂

      Nobody watches the Duck Dynasty family because they are just your average American family. They are successful because they are unusual. I think it’s the old “when you play with fire” deal.

      Your post made me think about something. I think Phil is just a TV personality, not a role model. He gets paid a ton of money for that. The teacher is a role model, mentor, coach, etc. in many ways teachers hold the future of our country in their hands. Do you suppose this teacher, or any teacher, makes a 10th of what Phil makes?

      There’s something wrong with that picture when you stop to think about it.

      1. I have never watched the show and didn’t know a lot about it, but I was really surprised when I started researching the family.

        It wasn’t the network show that made them this wealthy. And whats more, they are quite educated. Phil has a masters degree in education and used to be a school teacher – which is scary in itself when one thinks about it.

        Was it all an act?

  2. Voigt was a government employee as a public school teacher and the government penalized him for something he said by suspending him from his job. When one’s employer is the government, the first amendment limits his employer’s ability to penalize him for the things he says. So this is absolutely a free speech issue. The school acted within their limits. But this is definitely a first amendment issue.

    As for defending Phil’s right to free speech, you say you didn’t do that in your first post, but this passage certainly comes close. “The network that has suspended [Phil] was well within their rights to do what they did. He said something they didn’t like and they benched him. No problem there; it might be a stupid decision but in the United States businesses make stupid decisions everyday, it’s a right. Just like expressing an opinion used to be. Used to be!”

    Maybe I assumed that when suggest we, including Phil, no longer have the ability to freely express our opinion, you were defending Phil’s right to free speech. The only “right” to express an opinion is given by the right to free speech. So this right versus “right” discussion is arbitrary and meaningless.

    I promise you I have an above average understanding of the first amendment. This statement shows that you do not. “It’s doesn’t say anything about protection from being fired from your job for saying anything you want. The fact is, you can be fired for saying the sky is blue if your employer doesn’t like you saying it. So long as they fire everybody who says the sky is blue they have no problem. All the First Amendment guarantees is that you won’t go to jail for saying it. ” This is not a criticism. This is an observation. Wiki has a pretty good overview. I recommend you check it out.

    The problem with defending Phil’s “right” and not the teacher’s “right” is that you are creating two “rights” for when it is acceptable to say something inappropriate; which is a ridiculous idea.

    1. I’m sorry you think it’s okay for the teacher to say that. I do not agree. The law is crystal clear here, you don’t have more rights as a government employee than private citizens.

      Too many in government believe that and that is one of our major problems in this country. Government employees, at any level, have no more rights than anyone else.

      1. I do not think the teacher has the right to say “we don’t need another Black president.” I believe he does not have the right to say what he said without penalty as a public school teacher.

        My point is that if we agree the teacher is wrong for saying what he said, then Phil has to be wrong for saying what he said too. Both men expressed opinions that, while some Americans may agree with, many people believe to be inappropriate because both comments single out marginalized groups.

        If Voigt is wrong, then Phil is wrong. If Phil is right, then Voigt has to be right too. They committed the same act. I’m saying they’re both wrong.
        It is absurd to say Phil has a “right” that Voigt does not. That’s double standard. And we don’t like double standards, right?

        If you want to distinguish between private and government employers, let us do so. Their respective employers have nothing to do with the inappropriateness of their respective comments.

        At the end of the day, we cannot base the standard of appropriateness based on that with which we agree. That is, indeed, not a standard.

      2. They are completely and totally different situations. Morally, ethically and legally. They are not comparable by any standard. One guy is an entertainer and what is a person in a position of authority.

        One size does not fit all.

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