Wash. Times posts doctored transcript to claim Jennings called for mandatory "LGBT course" for teachers

››› ››› JOCELYN FONG

Continuing her paper's witch hunt against Department of Education official Kevin Jennings, The Washington Times' Kerry Picket reprinted a doctored transcript -- originally posted by a conservative blog -- of 2008 comments by Jennings to falsely claim Jennings had said he wanted teachers to be required to "take an LGBT course" -- a claim also echoed by the Fox Nation. In fact, responding to an audience member who asked about how to combat stereotypes held by teachers based on race, gender, and ethnicity as well as sexual orientation, Jennings did not call for a mandatory "LGBT course," but rather called for a mandatory course on "issues of bias in the classroom" for aspiring teachers in order for them to be aware of "how biases can influence how you interact with your students."

Wash. Times, Fox Nation claimed Jennings called for required "LGBT course" for teachers

Wash. Times' Kerry Picket: Jennings said teachers should be required to "take an LGBT course." In a post for The Washington Times' Water Cooler blog headlined, "VIDEO- Kevin Jennings: Every aspiring teacher should be required to take an LGBT course," Picket, the Times editorial pages online producer, reproduced a post from the American Principles Project Blog asserting that in the video, "Jennings answers a question about what sort of policy could be implemented to counteract the 'negative impact of stereotypes' against Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgendered students by their teachers." American Principles Project also posted a transcript of Jennings' remarks, subsequently reproduced by Picket, in which "[LGBT]" is repeatedly added to purportedly describe Jennings' references to "bias" or "biases": [emphasis in the original]:

Jennings:

"It should be impossible to graduate from NYU or any other school of education without coursework - required coursework - that address issues of [LGBT] bias in the classroom and how it might influence your teaching. [It] should be a graduation requirement.

"... you cannot be an effective teacher if you are not aware of how [LGBT] biases can influence how you interact with your students. Pure and simple."

"There's some really nice - largly guilty, white, liberal straight people who tend to take the one elective on "bias in schools" we offer, but it should be a required course that every single student has to take before they are allowed to be in a classroom as a teacher near children. Because if they aren't aware of their [LGBT] biases and how it effects how they are going to interact with kids they are a threat to children."

Fox Nation: "Jennings: Every Aspiring Teacher Should Be Required to take an LGBT Course." Under the headline "More Shocking Comments From Safe Schools Czar," FoxNation.com posted the video clip on October 8, which it described with the subhead, "Jennings: Every Aspiring Teacher Should Be Required to take an LGBT Course."

In fact, Jennings was asked about and discussed coursework on several different "biases"

Audience member asked about how to combat "negative stereotypes" based on race, gender, sexual orientation, and ethnicity. The audience member -- who noted that she has "been thinking about race and gender in schooling for about 20 years" -- asked about policies to address "the negative stereotypes that basically affect kids' lives." The woman specifically referred to how "many teachers have told us" that "black and Latino kids don't want to learn," and how "teachers ... were reporting that their Chinese-American kids" are "excellent at math" at very young ages. She further asked about "trying to think about on a policy level, rather than thinking about by -- whether it's sexual orientation, whether it's girls versus boys, whether it's black -- making it sort of a more meta policy thing around how do you get into teacher education programs, into teachers -- the whole notion of thinking about the negative impact of stereotypes and how much if you believe a child doesn't have potential, guess what, they're not gonna make it."

Jennings did not mention "an LGBT course" in his response. Jennings stated that coursework "that address[es] issues of bias in the classroom and how it might influence your teaching" should be "a graduation requirement" for aspiring teachers. Jennings further stated that "we all have biases, but the key thing there is to be made aware of them and to be made aware of how they might influence your pedagogy and how that might impact students, and strategies to mitigate that."

From NYU's April 25, 2008, Education Policy Breakfast event on "Gender, Schooling, and New York City" [at 1:10:30 in the video] [bolded portion included in video clip posted on Washington Times blog and Fox Nation]:

WOMAN: I've been thinking about race and gender in schooling for about 20 years and hanging out in schools probably a little but longer than Lisa, but for a long time, and just came and listening to you -- it seems like the common theme is this whole -- the silent killer that can sometimes not be so silent, which is the negative stereotypes that basically affect kids' lives. And it seems like we have lots of research on the real impact that negative stereotypes have on achievement, on lots of different things, whether it's a "ho," "dyke," or "bitch," or whether it's being "stupid" or all those kinds of things. There's a colleague of mine that did incredible research on looking at teachers' expectations, teachers' perceptions of 4-year-olds in a pre-K class. And one of my most shocking findings is the teachers were telling -- were reporting that their Chinese-American kids, at 4 years old, were really excellent at math. And if you know any 4-year-olds, you know they're not doing too much math. So the whole idea that it starts very early, this whole assumption of who you are and what you're capable of doing. You create schools where you, I'm sure, don't have teachers -- like all three of you -- types of schools where you don't have teachers who do that, which then creates people that actually reach their potential.

So I'm thinking -- it's a long-winded way to ask a question -- of how to actually think about, since we know this insidious effect of negative stereotypes and we know that it oftentimes comes from teachers and administrators and policymakers who we don't care -- we're not on the streets, John, because I think -- we basically think, as many teachers have told us, black and Latino kids don't want to learn, so if they don't want to learn, there's not much we can do about it anyway. So if you enter that conversation, you're lost anyway. There's no argument to be had because it's starting from a premise that's so problematic. So just trying to think about on a policy level, rather than thinking about by -- whether it's sexual orientation, whether it's girls versus boys, whether it's black -- making it sort of a more meta policy thing around how do you get into teacher education programs, into teachers -- the whole notion of thinking about the negative impact of stereotypes and how much if you believe a child doesn't have potential, guess what, they're not gonna make it. And if you actually show them that they do have potential, which all three of your schools are doing, then they do. And it's just as simple as that. So how do we -- how do we do -- how do we make that into something more meaningful and real since we know that already?

JENNINGS: It should be impossible to graduate from NYU or any other school of education without coursework -- required coursework -- that address issues of bias in the classroom and how it might influence your teaching. It should be a graduation requirement, and I don't believe it's a graduation requirement here or pretty much anywhere else in the world. Because you cannot be an effective teacher if you aren't aware of how biases can influence how you interact with your students. Pure and simple.

Everyone has biases. I mean, many -- how many of you have ever taught kids -- raise your hand, you know -- thank you. Now tell the truth: How many of you liked every kid you taught? You know, we all have biases, but the key thing there is to be made aware of them and to be made aware of how they might influence your pedagogy and how that might impact students, and strategies to mitigate that.

There's some really nice -- largely guilty, white, liberal straight people who tend to take the one elective on bias in schools that we offer, but it should be a required course that every single student has to take before they're allowed to be in a classroom as a teacher near children. Because if they aren't aware of their biases and how it influences how they are going to interact with kids, they are a threat to children.

Wash. Times has engaged in a witch hunt against Jennings

Wash. Times distorted Jennings' comments about school curriculum. In an October 6 "Water Cooler" blog post, Picket wrote that in a 2000 speech, Jennings "spoke about the promotion of homosexuality in the public school curriculum" and "why he thinks it is important to have a pro-homosexual curriculum in the public schools starting in kindergarten." In the video Picket linked to, Jennings actually stated, "Our curriculum at kindergarten, and first grade, and second grade and every grade until students have graduated school should be that you must respect every human being regardless of sexual orientation, regardless of gender identity, regardless of race or religion or any of the arbitrary distinctions we make among people."

Wash. Times smeared Jennings with false claim that he failed to report "sexual abuse" of student. In an October 4 editorial, the Times advanced the discredited falsehood that Jennings "violated Massachusetts law" over 20 years ago by "covering up" the "sexual abuse" of one of his students. In fact, the student in question has confirmed that he was, indeed, 16 years old at the time of the incident, which is -- and was -- the legal age of consent in Massachusetts, and there is no evidence that the student indicated he had suffered abuse. The Times editorial board previously accused Jennings of "encourag[ing]" statutory rape.

Wash. Times advanced manufactured Jennings-NAMBLA link. In an October 4 editorial, the Times attempted to link Jennings to the North American Man-Boy Love Association (NAMBLA) because of Jennings' past praise of gay rights activist Harry Hay. The editorial stated that Hay spoke in support of NAMBLA in 1983. In fact, in the 1997 speech in which Jennings mentioned Hay, Jennings' praise was of Hay's work as an early gay rights activist and had nothing to do with NAMBLA.

Wash. Times accused Jennings of "promoting homosexuality in schools." The Times editorial board wrote, "Mr. Jennings has made extremely radical statements promoting homosexuality in schools and about his utter contempt for religion that render him unsuitable for a prestigious White House appointment."

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