Sandy Hook Denying Professor Was The Best Sort Of Teacher Imaginable According To This Former Student

The following is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of RISE NEWS. 

By Chuck Forbes

The decision to fire James Tracy, a professor at Florida Atlantic University, has stirred up a lot of buzz in South Florida and amongst the FAU community.

Tracy was let go by the University for claiming that the 2012 massacre of 26 people- including 20 children at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut was a staged hoax designed to pass gun-control legislation.

Even more outrage took place when Tracy sent a letter to Lenny and Veronique Pozner, parents of a six-year-old boy named Noah, who was killed in the shootings demanding that they show proof that he was indeed their son and that he ever lived in the first place.

The Pozner family never replied, claiming Tracy’s actions were outrageous and unsettling and filed a police report for harassment.

Upon not hearing back from Noah’s parents, Tracy took to his blog called Memory Hole and labeled the Pozner’s as “alleged parents,” ultimately leading up to his firing.

At the surface, this story is sad. A professor claiming a national tragedy as a hoax and going as far to call out the parents of a boy who passed away in the shootings.

But, if you always look at the surface you will never know how big the ‘iceberg’ really is.

The rest of this article may offend a few and cause comments to follow, but I am too passionate about this subject – because it has changed my life – to not speak about it.

Everything below is completely true and my hope is at the end of this article you are able to see below the surface and understand how Tracy’s way of thinking is what college students need more of.

Everything below is completely true and my hope is at the end of this article you are able to see below the surface and understand how Tracy’s way of thinking is what college students need more of.

While getting my degree in Marketing/Communications at FAU, I took three courses that James Tracy instructed.

I remember the first one was a three-hour class once a week. Within the first 30 minutes it was very apparent that Tracy did not teach like and was not like other professors. You could tell a million thoughts were racing through his mind during discussions. We would align our desks into a huge circle for group forums discussing politics, theories and the media.

Tracy would challenge students directly with questions and asides to comments. He would challenge students on their views so much, sometimes you could feel the anger boiling inside a student. We had a lot of awkward moments in class and a lot of times where Tracy would say something or make a point and leave us scratching our heads.

I remember after the first few classes I would leave with other students and we would make remarks walking down the breezeway like “What is that guy thinking?” or “I don’t know he seems really egotistical.”

I knew that Tracy had to be digging at something more, he had to have a purpose behind his madness. It wasn’t until a good month into his class that I realized why he did what he did.

James Tracy had his syllabus set up for students to grow their critical thinking skills. He challenged students with questions we couldn’t answer on purpose because he knew once we figured out where his counter-question came from we would open another point-of-view we never had before.

James Tracy taught us that if you only receive information, you will never be able to make a change, be a leader or think for yourself. You must receive, analyze and then counter back further explanation or questions.

This type of teaching and critical thinking is so important for personal development into your career. Up until college, I dominated grade school because the curriculum was a simple foundation. You learn a subject and take a test that spits the same information back at you. What is the freezing point for water? When did World War II start? Who was our 12th president? Etc.

This laid the foundation for what I needed next, the type of learning Tracy provided. When you learn how to think critically and look beyond what is being told to you, your brain opens a whole new world. No longer did I just accept something to be true because a source told me so.

No longer did I believe the initial purpose of an event just because everyone else thought so too. No longer did I think that actions, events and words couldn’t have a mass effect on our society, government and globalization. I began to think in layers. I began to control multiple scenarios in my head. I began to pick up on social and economical cues that I never did before.

I remember watching TV when FIFA chose Qatar to host the 2022 World Cup. I had friends next to me say exactly what the media did, “they’re trying to expand the game to new parts of the world.”

I looked at them and laughed and said, “No, they’re trying to extend their pockets to own the world.” The FIFA scandal came out shortly after.

Tracy taught our class to ask questions. Simple as that. Why are commercials louder than TV shows? Why does my technology break down after a certain point? Why is instilling fear in a society good for a government?

There has never been and will never be a crime to ask a question. Do not just receive – you must also analyze and figure out more. This mentality has allowed me to be great at proofing work, finding better solutions, communicating items through multiple departments of a company, and keeping a loyal circles of friends.

Thinking critically and asking questions as Tracy taught, is not just what conspiracy theorists do – it’s what successful, keen people do.

I am not a conspiracy theorist and I do not agree with all of James Tracy’s actions.

I am not a conspiracy theorist and I do not agree with all of James Tracy’s actions. However, I will ask questions, I will break down a situation, I will try and uncover motives of the parties involved, I will look at history to predict your next move, I will ask you to prove necessary items, I will not be naïve and think that I am the only one who knows something, I will not take anything for face value, I will analyze information given and plot all angles of the situation – all traits that are brewed from learning what Tracy teaches.

For example, too many people focus on the conspiracy theorist’s physical being – honestly if you don’t like someone, who cares?

It’s the system in which they think that is the real gold mine. If you don’t want to believe 9/11 is a conspiracy – don’t! But at the same time, if you’re not willing to take their thinking into account and apply it to what you need in life – you may find yourself walking the same path as others. You will never challenge yourself, never grow and never be innovative. All traits that people strive for everyday.

I shared my feelings about this subject, as I always do with my people I knew from my Alma Mater, on Facebook.

Below are real comments from people (names excluded) from a post I made on the subject.

The comments and my responses to them will hopefully shed more light into my thinking on this.

“He is disgusting for ever even saying what he said. Vote for whoever you want, say what you want (to an extent) don’t bring innocent lives lost and their families into more of a heartache…”

This comment leads to the point of not having the ability to ask questions. Again, I don’t believe Tracy’s actions in sending a letter to Noah’s parents is right. However, if you lack the capacity to even think or understand why someone would – you’re missing another side of the story. Tracy doesn’t care about embarrassing a family, he cares about opening people’s eyes to realize that sometimes there is a larger purpose behind tragedies. Sometimes events are staged. And sometimes it’s OK to ask if they are, because if you abandon that thinking all together, you leave yourself vulnerable to manipulation.

“He might’ve been a good professor, but he might also be a sociopath. So yeah, I think he deserved to lose his job.”

He might be a sociopath? So, it’s not OK for someone to ask or even claim (which is an opinion) that Sandy Hook is a hoax, yet it is OK to generalize people into categories because we don’t understand how they think? Got it…

“The name of the class was ‘Conspiracy Theories’. Then he got fired for talking about conspiracy theories lol. God bless America. I took this guy for a semester. The first thing he says to the class is to open your mind and not be a sheep. He then explains that these are just theories and none of it is proven facts.” I can also confirm this is true – first day of every class he clearly said that we were diving into sensitive issues and what would be talked about is theory, opinion and the media.

Perhaps it’s different for others, but when I was in college I longed for lectures and classes like I read about in books or saw in movies. Classes that students were so engaged with and concerned about. Classes that made you feel like a new person afterwards. Classes that were so different they were borderline crazy! That was Tracy, I knew every time I would leave with a deeper understanding of new ways to think. James Tracy never tried to turn anybody into a conspiracy theorist. He could care less what you thought. He taught class to give you that “awe” moment, to make the light bulb go off and say “Wow! I never thought of that but it could make sense.”

Sending a certified letter demanding proof of the Pozner’s child was too far. However, instead of filing a police report I wish they would have used that time to write Tracy back, document it on social media and show that he is wrong. That would have ended his whole theory and shown his students that his way of thinking is just that – an opinion.

Then we could have shed light on what matters – asking questions about events that have a large impact, even if you’re proven wrong. At least you then know the truth and you set a foundation that hoaxes, lies or anything of the sort will not go unnoticed.

FAU may have lost a ‘crazy person’ but they lost an even better professor.

Cover Photo Credit: Florida International University

What Do You Think?


3 comments on Sandy Hook Denying Professor Was The Best Sort Of Teacher Imaginable According To This Former Student

  1. Abel says:

    This is one of the worst defenses of a truly deplorable individual that I have read in a long time. It is not at all respectable to praise a man for thinking critically for the act of denying the massacre at Newtown and pushing conspiracies about gun violence. It doesn’t matter at all what his teaching strategies were like – he is an objectively awful person in the way he has taunted families who lost children to gun violence, and pushed conspiracies about other tragedies. I can’t decide if this piece is more ignorant or naive, or equally both. There is always room for debates and ideas, but I think it has to be balanced out with respect for history, tragedies, and the families involved – imagining one of those families reading this piece, I can’t help but think about how about insulting it is to them to justify Tracy’s actions and ideas by pushing them as a good example of critical thinking. Yes, we should always question, always ask for facts and information, but there are extremes. Tracy is far into that extreme.

  2. Allen says:

    Great Read. A lot of people completely miss the point of this because their minds can only think on a one-way street. He’s not saying that every tragedy is a conspiracy – but it IS possible to have conspiracies, it IS possible for a tragedy to be staged for another objective, it IS possible for things to be fabricated and given out to the media for us to consume. So if it IS possible, then why in the world would you ignore it? That’s our right as Americans to know truths, be able to have freedom to ask questions and know what is really going on. Respect for history?? You would be disrespecting our history if you didn’t exercise your right to speak out and ask these questions.

  3. mm Alex Austin says:

    There is nothing wrong with thinking critically and questioning things that happen in the world. It is a skill that should be taught and grown by teachers, not just in universities, but in high schools. I do not know this man and have never taken a class of his, so I can say little about his teaching methods.

    That being said, what he did was vile, and your defense of him is downright insulting. Espousing a theory that Sandy Hook and other mass murders are hoaxes is one thing. He has the constitutional right to do that. However, bringing emotional distress to people is a different story. My “conspiracy theory” about James Tracy is that he did this to gain notoriety and his 15 minutes of fame. He is no better than people who deny the Holocaust, and no more correct.

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