The Chronicles of Kearnya: Let’s Go to the Audiotape

February 24, 2007

What is the sound of one hand clapping? Beats me, but if you head over to the Observer Web site you can hear the sound of one Kearny High School history teacher getting hoist on his own petard.

Click over to the site and you’ll get the audio recording that student Matthew LaClair made when he sat down with the school principal to talk about his complaint that Paszkiewicz was neglecting pedagogy for proselytization. It’s not a very attractive performance by either the teacher or the administrators in the room. Paszkiewicz is allowed to speak pretty much without interruption; once LaClair starts speaking, he is constantly interrupted and contradicted, often before he can complete a single thought. Many of us are a long time out of public school, and this recording will be a useful reminder of all the overbearing ways adults use their authority on youngsters. LaClair keeps his cool long past the point when many other teenagers would have crumpled. This is not a guy you want to play against in a poker match.

You will also wish there had been a video camera on hand to record the facial expressions when LaClair revealed he had taped portions of the class. As he distributed the CDs, Paszkiewicz started to accuse LaClair of being an atheist out to bag a Christian scalp. Somebody (the principal perhaps) abruptly stepped in to keep Paszkiewicz from hanging himself with his own words. I can’t say that the recording shows anything like the same solicitude for LaClair.

The site includes three audio clips made in Paszkiewicz’s class, which are bothersome in unexpected ways. In all fairness I’d have to say that in the classroom Paszkiewicz doesn’t come across as an ogre: he’s polite to everyone, and you can even hear him praising LaClair’s arguments on some points.But the first two classroom clips are essentially long monologues from a guy who sounds like he hasn’t read a newspaper or cracked a book since Fox News started broadcasting. His presentation of evolutionary theory could have been lifted whole from a Jack Chick comic tract; his notion that the Big Bang, for instance, can’t be proved because nobody was there to see it is simply beneath contempt, especially coming from a man leading a discussion group for advanced students. After listening to these clips, I’ll hear no more nonsense about how liberals are corrupting education.

And there’s simply no denying that the third clip shows Paszkiewicz very clearly moving from being a believer saying “this is what my faith stands for” to becoming a full-out evangelist in the classroom. Not in a nasty way, to my ears; he isn’t some Elmer Gantry raining hellfire and damnation on his students. But he’s clearly over the line on this tape. And the way this mess has been handled so far isn’t going to inspire much . . . well, faith in either the curriculum or the competence in the Kearny school district.


One Response to “The Chronicles of Kearnya: Let’s Go to the Audiotape”

  1. Caveat Says:

    I people want their education mixed with religion they should go to private schools.

    I didn’t listen because I know it will drive me nuts, short drive ha ha.

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