The recent furor over the San Antonio teacher who called a tea party leader a “Nazi” makes me realize I haven’t been fully depicting the tea party movement. I usually call the tea party an antigovernment group, and that’s true, but only up to a certain extent.
The movement is decidedly antigovernment when it comes to critical public services that are vital to millions of Texans, such as education and health care. Tea partiers want to starve the public schools and dismantle what’s left of the fragile public safety net for the poor and infirm. If you can’t pull yourself up by your own bootstraps, or don’t even own a pair of boots, you better get out of the way or get trampled.
At the same time, however, some tea party leaders are promoting a bigger role for government as, well, Big Brother. They want government, even school teachers, to weed out what they consider undesirables and do the impossible – halt the march of history.
What prompted the Nazi comment during a public forum in San Antonio last week were demands by tea partiers that school teachers report undocumented immigrant students to authorities for deportation. That idea struck the school teacher as a “Nazi” tactic.
His choice of word, for which he has publicly expressed regret, was unfortunate. But it is absurd for the tea party to demand that teachers act as immigration agents. Teachers are paid (most of them are underpaid) to teach, not to march up and down school hallways, clicking their heels together, demanding that children produce citizenship papers.
Compounding the tea party’s affront was the fact that this particular educator teaches in Edgewood ISD, one of the poorest districts in the state. And, it was made even poorer when Gov. Perry and the legislative majority, yielding to tea party demands, slashed $5.4 billion from the public education budget.
And, whether tea partiers like it or not, no less an authority than the U.S. Supreme Court has decreed that school districts must teach undocumented children – not assist in their deportation.
According to the newspaper article linked below, the right wing has gone viral over the Internet against the Edgewood teacher, who essentially was exercising his constitutional right of free speech in a public forum on his own time.
Since some students attended the forum, the tea party leader to whom the “Nazi” label was applied accused the teacher of “indoctrinating students in a very liberal manner.”
Nonsense. He was simply expressing his opinion in an overheated political exchange.
Despite the furor, Edgewood ISD doesn’t intend to fire the teacher. And, there is absolutely no reason that it should. Fortunately, the First Amendment doesn’t make exceptions for antagonizing rightwingers. At least, not yet.