Political Indoctrination Replaces Education in Wisconsin English Class
Political Indoctrination Replaces Education in Wisconsin English Class
Written By Laurie Higgins   |   01.14.07

Reading Time: 5 minutes

I’m speechless. I’m also beginning to understand how a homosexuality-affirming middle school was by default approved by the Milwaukee Board of Education. Wisconsin public schools are permitting radical ideologues to use public money to promote their subversive, unproven moral conclusions and political goals about homosexuality. These propagandists, who should be teaching history or literature or writing, are instead pursuing their illegitimate goals of transforming the views of other people’s children on the contentious issue of homosexuality.

Here is the most recent manifestation of educational malpractice:

Sarah Arnold who teaches 11th grade English in the Elkhorn, Wisconsin area, generously shares with readers of Teaching Tolerance, a publication of the social justice organization Southern Poverty Law Center, her grand sexual re-education scheme. Disturbed that her students “cracked jokes about anything that defied gender stereotypes,” she embarked on a 37-day indoctrination program to transform her students’ views on homosexuality — a 37-day unit. The average school year is 180 days, and she spent 37 of them on homosexuality.

Here are some of the activities from the unit she titled, “Exposing Hidden Homophobia”:

  • Students “conducted an in-depth exploration of depictions of the GLBTQ community in the mass media”
  • Students “watched the film Trevor (about the struggle of a gay teen in the Bible Belt in the 1970s)”
  • Students “viewed a PBS special about the anti-gay murder of Billy Jack Gaither
  • Students “did Internet research on the nature of homophobia”
  • Students “selected and read a book from a short list of young adult works about gay issues” (including Rainbow Boys, Rainbow High, Rainbow Road, Getting It, A Tale of Two Summers, The Laramie Project, So Hard to Say, Geography Club, Alone in the Trenches)
  • “Students watch 60 Minutes ‘Gay or Straight'”
  • Students watch and discuss “MTV’s True Life: Gay Parents video
  • Faculty Advisor from the Gay/Straight Alliance comes in to speak to the class about questions they may have and what happens at a GSA meeting. Students are offered extra credit to go to a GSA meeting and participate in the discussion.
  • Students “watch Race, Gender, and Sexuality
  • Students “watch The Laramie Project (takes three days)”
  • “Arnold recalls how she sparked a lively discussion by simply providing her students with a copy of a newspaper story about a hate group that protests at the funerals of gay people and soldiers killed in the Iraq war.” (Ah, yes, another instance of sexual subversives trotting out the fringe character of Fred Phelps as representative of all those who believe homosexuality is wrong. I’m sure Ms. Arnold neglected to inform her students that conservative Christians all across this nation find the activities and beliefs of Fred Phelps reprehensible. And I doubt whether she told her students that his “church” is composed of about twenty members of his own family. Those two bits of information wouldn’t likely serve her purposes.)
  • Ms. Arnold had students take this “Homophobia Questionnaire” that fairly oozes bias: Click HERE.
  • Ms. Arnold had students define the following terms: “homophobia, heterocentrism, heterosexism, and erasure.” Their homework was to “write one paragraph providing examples of behaviors relating to each term listed above.” How central those terms are to the teaching of literature is not quite clear.
  • Ms. Arnold had students take the “Heterosexual Questionnaire” in which they were to take “questions commonly asked of homosexuals and ask them of heterosexuals (example: When did you decided to become heterosexual?).”
  • Students read “A Rose for Charlie,” “A nonfiction account of an anti-gay hate crime.”

Wow. Vietnam’s re-education camps got nothin’ on Sarah Arnold.

The article in Teaching Tolerance reported that:

“Her students resisted at first. . . . Some parents also balked: many people in Elkhornattend churches that interpret the Bible as condemning homosexuality. In addition, administrators fretted about devoting more than a month of instruction to a single theme.

“Still,Arnold had done her homework. When parents or administrators questioned the plan, she was able so (sic) show how it supported higher-order thinking skills. She had each student assemble and present, in a professional manner, a portfolio on their research. Students had to define sociological and literary terms used in the unit, analyze examples of gay themes in the media, do qualitative research to examine the changing culture within their schools and in the world outside, and write a letter explaining what they learned from the unit.”

For academic ideologues, that’s the beauty of teaching English: they can always find ways to rationalize the teaching of controversial texts that undermine traditional values. They just assert that these texts cultivate higher order thinking skills, or critical thinking skills, or research skills or the teaching of literary terms or that they connect thematically to other texts being taught. These are all subterfuges to conceal the true goal of societal transformation. And we fall for it every time. We’re spineless dupes. Virtually any piece of writing could be used to fulfill those purposes.

It would behoove the astonishingly presumptuous Ms. Arnold to read the recently released book Save the World on Your Own Time by the well respected scholar Stanley Fish who argues that educators should not “advocate personal, political, moral, or any other kind of views except academic views.” He contends that some “faculty members . . . have forgotten (or never knew) what their job is and spend time trying to form their student’s character or turn them into exemplary citizens.” Fish asserts that teachers are not hired to do things like “produce active citizens, inculcate the virtue of tolerance, redress injustices, and bring about social change.” In Fish’s view, these are tasks properly left to preachers, therapists, social workers, political activists, professional gurus, [and] inspirational speakers.”

English teachers, unlike, for example, math teachers, can far too easily design their curriculum around their personal beliefs. For academic ideologues, the central criterion for text selection becomes a text’s social and political content. Arnold, like countless other English teachers, bases her text selections on whether the ideas conform to and advance her socio-political goals and her particular moral convictions. And she’s doing this with public money.

Perhaps she would have served the educational goals of her students a wee bit better had she asked them to research Fred Phelps. They could have contacted theologically orthodox churches to find out what they think about his activities. They could have found out more about his fringe church. Perhaps Ms. Arnold could have provided her students with names of intelligent, articulate scholars like Professor Robert Gagnon at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary; Robert George at Princeton; Anthony Esolen at Providence College; J.Budziszewski at University of Texas; Francis Beckwith at Baylor U.; Hadley Arkes at Amherst; Christopher Wolfe at Marquette U.; Stanton Jones at Wheaton College; Gerald Bradley and John Finnis at Notre Dame; Dennis Prager; or Michael Medved to interview or whose works they could read. Oops, I forgot-critical thinking, research, and education weren’t her real goals: they were just the cover.

Lest you think Ms. Arnold’s educational malpractice is a problem just for the Elkhorn area, Teaching Tolerance reported that “Teachers and administrators who have seen Arnold’s work have been inspired to incorporate it into their own curriculum. Colleen Rafter, principal of Raritan High School in Hazlet, N.J., said that after seeing Arnold’s approach, she encouraged her English department to adopt a similar curriculum.”

“‘We really want to make a change in how people think and act,’ Rafter said. ‘I will try to be more brave on these issues myself.'”

There is something parents whose children are placed in Ms. Arnold’s class can do: Insist that their child be moved into the class of a teacher who truly respects diverse views and who has the humility to understand what a teacher’s proper role is.

And there is something that taxpayers can do: Express their unequivocal opposition to the use of their taxes to subsidize socio-political indoctrination. They should express their views to Ms. Arnold, her department chair, her administration, the school board, and their local press.

Ms. Arnold apparently does not understand that a number of her implicit or explicit presuppositions are just flat out wrong:

  • Homosexuality is not equivalent to race, which many African Americans and queer theorists will confirm to her if she doesn’t believe me.
  • There is no research proving that homosexuality is biologically determined.
  • Even if it were found that there are some biological factors influencing same-sex attraction, it would not follow that volitional homosexual conduct is automatically moral. Biology tells us precisely nothing about morality.
  • Expressions of moral disapproval of conduct do not constitute hatred or incitement to violence.

Ms. Arnold apparently also does not see what Stanley Fish sees, which is that academics should begin with “the understanding that they are first and foremost academics and not wise men, gurus, and saviors.” Understanding their proper role, Fish asserts, will prevent teachers from being “tempted to cross the line between pedagogy and activism”–something thatArnoldhas clearly and unfortunately done.

Laurie Higgins
Laurie Higgins was the Illinois Family Institute’s Cultural Affairs Writer in the fall of 2008 through early 2023. Prior to working for the IFI, Laurie worked full-time for eight years...
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