The flap about Eric Hamlin, the Colorado World Geography Teacher who was placed on administrative leave when his Principal demanded he take down flags of China, Mexico and the United Nations, has now progressed through the predicable (but depressing) stages that result in a good teacher leaving the classroom. Read my previous post, or this article in the Denver Post for the details on the situation.
The villains in this tragedy are easy to identify. Foremost are the divisive state legislators in Colorado who passed the foolish amendment to a 1971 law that prohibits the display of foreign flags on public property. Next in line is Carmody Middle School principal, John Schalk, who, fearful of criticism from right-wing critics, put Hamlin on paid leave Wednesday after the teacher refused three orders to take the flags out of his classroom.
Then there are the Jefferson County School District officials who at first supported Schalk’s decision and then, after the situation received national attention and they were inundated with critical e-mails and phone calls, came up with what they called a “win-win” solution. Hamlin could come back and keep the flags up for six weeks, then exchange them with other flags from his collection of more than 50. The district said he could keep his next set of flags, 25 of them from Middle Eastern nations, up for 12 weeks.
Of course, the original villain, former state representative Carl Miller, couldn’t resist wading in with the following observation:
the school was right to put Hamlin on leave and should not have let him return so soon. Miller, a Democrat from Leadville, disagreed with Jefferson County Superintendent Cindy Stevenson, who said the outcome was a “win-win situation.” “The only win-win I see is that Mr. Hamlin wins, China wins, Mexico wins and the United Nations wins,” he said.
Today, the teacher, Eric Hamlin, proved himself to be the only rational actor in the tragedy by deciding that he was going to leave teachng.
The overwhelming local and national attention brought to the school in Jefferson County has polarized parents, said Eric Hamlin, a seventh-grade teacher who was to return to his classroom today.”I have already told them that I won’t go back to Carmody because I want Carmody to move on,” Hamlin said. “The school community feels a little bit torn apart … There are some parents that strongly support the stance that I took. “But there are certainly a portion that are opposed to that,” Hamlin said. “That could stir things up.”
Who are the real victims of this drama? As usual, the kids at Carmody Middle School who won’t be able to learn geography from Mr, Hamlin.