Last week, I wrote about an article by Sabrina Rubin Erdely that appears in the Feb. 6, 2012 issue of Rolling Stone magazine. More digging into her story reveals additional problems with her account of teen suicides in the Anoka-Hennepin School District outside of Minneapolis.
Erdely wrote about a cluster of teen suicides that she attributes to two causes: Evangelicals and a school district policy that requires faculty to remain neutral on the controversial topic of “sexual orientation.” She makes her case primarily through the use of logical fallacies.
Illinoisans should pay close attention to what’s happening in the Anoka-Hennepin School District in Minnesota because the irrational arguments and manipulative tactics used by homosexual activists and their allies, like Erdely, are being used in every state to corrupt public education.
Erdely identifies nine teens who committed suicide over a two-year period. Five of the teens whose names Erdely mentions, however, were neither homosexual nor were they the victims of homosexual epithets. This seems rather like writing an article about deaths caused by smoking and doubling the number of deaths by including deaths wholly unrelated to smoking.
If her article had been about teen suicide in general, then the inclusion of all nine names would be justifiable, but then she should have discussed all the teen suicide risk factors. Since her article was titled “One Town’s War on Gay Teens,” it’s clear that the subject was not teen suicide in general. Readers should be asking why in an article about a purported “war on gay teens” being waged by Evangelicals, Erdely even mentions teens whose suicides were completely unrelated to homosexuality.
It should be equally clear that conservative community members are not at war with “gay teens.” They’re at war with the efforts of homosexual activists and their allies to promote their ontological, moral, and political beliefs in public schools while censoring all dissenting voices.
Erdely’s article depends on accepting her unproven assumption that moral opposition to volitional homosexual acts constitutes hatred of persons. This is a feckless but politically expedient argument that few liberals apply consistently. They never argue that their moral opposition to certain types of behavior constitutes hatred of those who engage in it.
What I’ve learned subsequently is that one of the teens Erdely mentions,TJ Hayes, was enrolled in a “progressive” charter school that was not covered by any of the school policies on which Erdely blames the suicides.
Another of the students Erdely names was Kevin Buchman who was not enrolled in any Anoka-Hennepin high school. He was, in fact, a student at the University of Minnesota.
Kevin, a bright, good-looking, popular athlete, had graduated from an Anoka-Hennepin high school 8 1/2 months before his suicide. He committed suicide during the second semester of his freshman year at the University of Minnesota. His family wrote this about Kevin’s suicide:
A situation happened his first year of college, that caused Kevin to question his character. He began a spiral downward into the dark cave of suicidal depression. He treated with a doctor [sic], was on medication, and seemed to be doing better. He kept his despair hidden and ended his life.
Depression is a treatable illness. It is not invited or wished for. It is a disease that ravages the mind as cancer ravages the body. It is difficult to recognize, diagnose, and to treat. Our son died from suicidal depression.
In order to understand the big picture implications of what’s taking place in Anoka-Hennepin, taxpayers need to consolidate the opinions expressed by liberal teachers and opponents of school policy that require faculty neutrality on topics related to homosexuality. Although the rhetoric of liberal educators sounds superficially reasonable, the implications of their policy demands are destructive to the legitimacy of public education.
- Anoka High School teacher, Mary Jo Merrick-Lockett, asserts that “If you can’t talk about [homosexuality] in any context, which is how teachers interpret district policies, kids internalize that to mean that being gay must be so shameful and wrong. And that has created a climate of fear and repression and harassment.”
- Teachers’ union president, Julie Blaha, stated that teachers should be able to express their opinions on homosexuality.
- The Anoka-Hennepin school board is poised to pass a proposed “Respectful Learning Environment Curriculum Policy,” that states the following:
Curricular discussions of such issues shall be appropriate to the maturity and developmental level of students; be of significance to course content; and be presented in an impartial, balanced and objective manner, allowing respectful exchange of varying points of view. Lessons shall be designed to help students think critically and develop decision-making skills and techniques for examining and understanding differing opinions.
In the course of discussions of such issues, district staff shall affirm the dignity and selfworth [sic] of all students, regardless of their race, color, creed, religion, national origin, sex/gender, marital status, disability, status with regard to public assistance, sexual orientation, age, family care leave status or veteran status. (emphasis added)
Some questions and concerns to consider:
- What is Merrick-Lockett’s evidence for her claim that silence creates fear, repression, and harassment?
- Will the freedom to express their views on homosexuality be extended to all teachers, including conservative teachers? If Merrick-Lockett believes that silence creates a climate of fear, repression, and harassment, what would liberal teachers, administrators, and school board members think about the expression of the belief that volitional homosexual behavior is not moral, or that marriage is the union between one man and one woman, or that children have an inherent right to be raised by a mother and a father?
- What precisely does the school board mean when they assert that “district staff shall affirm the dignity and self-worth of students regardless of sexual orientation?” It is decidedly not the job of teachers to affirm students’ sexual attractions or their volitional sexual acts or their romantic relationships. Teachers, as government employees, should not affirm subjective, non-factual, and controversial ontological, moral, or political beliefs. Teachers should teach their subject matter. They should interact civilly with students. That’s it.
- If a teacher were to express conservative views, would they be found in violation of school board policy that appears to mandate affirmation of liberal assumptions about homosexuality?
- Since the new policy would require that “lessons be designed that help students think critically and develop decision-making skills and techniques for examining and understanding differing opinions,” will those teachers who present pro-homosexual resources (e.g., plays, novels, magazine articles) to students be required to present resources that espouse opposing views?
- If conservatives are not permitted to express their opinions and if teachers are not required to present resources from both sides of this contentious debate, is sound pedagogy compromised? Liberals are stacking the deck: First, they say that in order to prevent bullying and suicide, public schools must talk about homosexuality, and in order to prevent bullying and suicide, public schools must talk about homosexuality in exclusively positive terms. But that corrupts the entire educational enterprise.
- If silence creates a climate of fear and harassment, then how will conservative kids feel if their ontological, moral, and political beliefs are censored, while others are permitted?
- Who decides if curricular discussions are “appropriate to the maturity and developmental level of students?” Does this statement refer to emotional maturity, intellectual maturity, or moral maturity?
- Who decides if a curricular discussion is of “significance to course content?” Is that decision made at the sole discretion of each individual teacher? English teachers in particular are notorious for finding virtually any topic they want to discuss “significant to course content.”
- Merrick-Lockett suggests that homosexual acts are not shameful or wrong, but those are unproven, non-factual, a-historical, arguable moral beliefs that no public school teacher — in his or her official role — has a right to express to students. Many believe that homosexual acts are, indeed, shameful and wrong, and efface human dignity. If Merrick-Lockett or any other teacher wants to tell students that homosexual acts are not shameful or wrong, they should go teach in a private school. Public school teachers, whose salaries are paid by the public, have no right to teach controversial moral beliefs as objective truths.
Any school policies that treat homosexuality and heterosexuality as equivalent are not neutral policies. They are Leftist policies built on prior acceptance of Leftist assumptions about the nature and morality of homosexuality. It is only those on the Left who believe that homosexuality is ontologically and morally equivalent to heterosexuality. It is those on the Left who believe that homosexuality is the morally neutral flip side of the sexuality coin.
Conservatives believe that homosexuality represents a disordering of the sexual impulse; that homosexual acts efface human dignity; and that heterosexual acts are the only moral form of sexual expression.
The only school policy that is truly neutral is the policy that either prohibits resources that address homosexuality, or the policy that mandates equal time be spent studying resources from both sides of the debate.