Support growing for suspended history teacher

In a little city a few miles north of me, a school district has made moves to embarrass itself.

Those moves are causing trouble for a school employee, a well-loved and respected history teacher doing his job, and by all accounts, doing it well for over 38 years.

Last week the Marlow School District in southwest Oklahoma suspended Steve Alcorn with pay, but without much information. The suspension is regarding a drawing by a former student of a cat and alongside, a Benjamin Franklin quote, “In the dark, all cats are gray,” which, to those who know something of Franklin history, comes from a piece he wrote that refers to choosing a mistress. The fact is, not all of history is nice and neat.

Alcorn was given little information at the time of his suspension, and as time progressed, he has still been given little information. During an interview with a local T.V. station that aired yesterday, Alcorn said he has still not received anything in writing from his employer. At an executive school board meeting last night, the decision was made to have a termination hearing Jan. 20.

Family and friends have started a Facebook page for supporters, and it is filling fast with messages of support from all over, including current friends, current and former students and people who don’t even know Alcorn but have heard the news in their own necks of the woods.

Folks are posting how far Alcorn’s story is traveling, from our own local newspapers and news stations in Chicago, the UK, and even China.

Help us get the word out that this school district is going too far in restricting which parts of history are appropriate for teaching, as well as how loosely the district seems to be following procedures for reprimanding an employee, even if they have a justifiable reason.

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About teachjournalism
I am a high school teacher of journalism, technology and reading. I advise the school's newspaper and yearbook, both student-led publications. Documenting and sharing my experiences is a way of reflecting to improve my own work and and inviting commentary so that we might all benefit. I believe, as I tell my students each year, that we all learn from each other.

4 Responses to Support growing for suspended history teacher

  1. As usual people tend to pull a single line from a manuscript and fail to read the whole. Most of the letter by Ben Franklin is spent telling the young man about the importance of marriage.
    Some would like our youth to have no concept of sex…no sex education at all in a false hope that nothing would happen. But knowledge is necessary to prevent the unnecessary hardship of teen pregnancy. Ben could not say to the young man who could not resist his primal urges. “Use a condom” for in his day they were mostly ineffective.(and I won’t describe them) Instead he gives a safer alternative to hurting a young girls reputation and includes some humor. As usual when dealing with the humorless…it is our humor that gets us into trouble.

    • Thank you for your response, Stephen, and the additional information. Consider joining the Facebook page to support Mr Alcorn and add to the commentary there as well. I appreciate your feedback.

  2. kathymclinn says:

    Is the teacher tenured? Is there strong union representation in Oklahoma? I am shocked, but yet I am not. Do you know if this was a parent who complained to a principal who acted on his own or if there was pressure from the district level? I was just discussing the importance of local control versus centralized control and the implications of each. It seems to me this circumstance is an example of the downside to local control where academic freedom is unprotected for students and teachers. I have been reported to our state department of ed., reprimanded, had students removed from my class, forbidden from teaching certain subject matter or using certain pedagody, evaluated poorly for many reasons. Some include: quoting Mark Twain’s characterization of America using skull and cross bones as a critique to American foreign policy, a debate about Columbus being a villain versus a hero, a class project against a local mining company jeopardizing their fishery and cultural subsistence lifestyle, a personal poem assignment about how each student feels stereotyped, putting my desks out of groups and back into rows, for not using the textbook enough. All of those situations, like this courageous teacher, Mr. Alcom’s circumstance, were acted on because there was no existing checks and balance for arbitrary and capricious censorship from parents, school boards, and administrators. Thanks for letting me ponder the underpinnings of an injustice such as the one you describe. I will go to the Facebook page in support!

    • Kathy, thank you for your response and I apologize for the delay in mine. What state are you in?
      If you did go ahead to the Facebook page, I’m sure you were able to get more information and a better picture of what is going on in Mr. Alcorn’s situation. I am not sure about his tenure. No, there is no union in Oklahoma, although we have the option of being a part of an education association. The school board is not releasing any information so far, so no one knows how the complaint came about; therefore there is much speculation and rumor about this situation. One of the more popular suspicions is that they want to replace him with a coach who is certified in history. I understand that history is a common certification for coaches, but there is no hard evidence that this is the case here.
      Thanks for reading, and thanks for your support of Mr. Alcorn. His hearing is set for the beginning of January, though the exact date has temporarily escaped me. Info is available on the Facebook page.
      Lisa

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