Whites at the Blackboard

I get it. I wouldn’t want a middle-school social-studies teacher who hosts a white-supremacist podcast teaching my kid. I wouldn’t want her in my local school at all. But does everyone–even a teacher–have a right to free speech? Does our history of teacher purges have a lesson to teach us here?

voliltich tweet

Grounds for dismissal?

You’ve probably heard the story by now. Florida’s Dayanna Volitich has admitted she hosted a white supremacist podcast and twitter account. As her alter ego “Tiana Dalichov” Volitich noted that preferring one’s own race was not a bad thing. She wondered about the “Jewish Question.” She noted that some “races . . . have higher IQs than others.”

Does all this make her unfit for service as a public-school teacher? How about the fact that she bragged about disguising her views when her supervisor came around, but did her best to secretly promote them among her students?

In her own defense, Volitich has insisted that her online persona was nothing more than “political satire and exaggeration.”

Should she be fired? IMHO, if Volitich really did engage in this sort of racist diatribe, she’s not worthy of the role of social-studies teacher. Moreover, if she knowingly and intentionally taught her ideas to her students subversively, she should be out on her ear.

taylor reds at the blackboard

A different world? Or just a different context?

But the historian in me can’t help but ask: Is this situation different from Local 5? As Clarence Taylor has demonstrated, socialist teachers in New York City were purged for their political views. Between the 1930s and the 1950s, left-wing teachers were fired for their socialist ideas. They weren’t accused of bad teaching, but only of bad politics.

It can be difficult to remember the heat and fury of America’s anti-socialism movement. For long decades, though, as I argue in my book about educational conservatism, socialism was viewed as nothing less than intellectual poison. Teaching it to students–or even harboring a teacher who harbored socialist ideals–was seen by many Americans as an outrageous abdication of educational justice.

I feel the same way about this case. I can’t imagine allowing a white-supremacist teacher to sneakily insert her horrible views into a middle-school classroom. But when I call for her dismissal, am I repeating the travesties of the twentieth century, only from the other side?

What do you think?

Leave a comment


  1. johnkutensky

     /  March 8, 2018

    I guess for me the difference is that one philosophy is explicitly hateful, and the other isn’t, but I do feel like there isn’t really a great place to draw the line of what should be a fireable offense or not.

  2. Agellius

     /  March 8, 2018

    Yes, I think it is the same thing. I’m sure all kinds of teachers try to to “sneakily insert” their views into their teaching, and that many of those views would be (and are) met with horror by many parents. That’s just part of the human condition. I would say, just be glad she feels the need to do it sneakily.

    This is the kind of thing you open yourself up for with the First Amendment. We conservatives had to put up with one disgusting and immoral thing after another being protected by the First Amendment. Now it’s your turn. ; )

    • Another great soul in crisis! What is a liberal to do when the Pseudonymous Trump-backer who’s talked himself into a romantic medieval take on Christofascism stands up for “free speech” for anti-semites? It’s even more complicated than the BDS movement! (Sad violin for the professors.)

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