Maine Repeals Gays as Human; Public School Parent Protests Gays as Animals

4 11 2009

Dan Delong of Carlinville, Ill., at teacher at Southwestern High School in the nearby town of Piasa, will face a school board hearing November 2, after being suspended from teaching. A parent of one unidentified student thought the optional reading assignment was inappropriate for her child . . .

When this and this coincide in the same week, what are kids actually learning do you think, about the values woven into America’s power of story?

The teacher’s disciplinary hearing was Monday night, and perhaps there’s a better lesson in how it ended than in how it started, a fitting lesson of today’s American president as true to yesterday’s American precedent:

“As a nation we’ve come far on the journey towards a more perfect union. . . Time and again, we faced opposition. Time and again, the measure was defeated or delayed.

Time and again we’ve been reminded of the difficulty of building a nation in which we’re all free to live and love as we see fit.”

Now that’s all I need to know, to read this as American Power of Story fit for any public school classroom, especially at the high school level.

But here’s more sensational, divisive detail for anyone who can’t or won’t support individual liberty on principle and instead needs to see which side is which first and put on the correct-colored jersey, march into battle under a reliably solid-colored flag and can only understand human power of story as “opposite-meaning” akin to Carrie Prejean’s intellectually bereft concept of “opposite marriage”:

Dan Delong, an English teacher at Southwestern High School in Piasa, Illinois has been suspended for allegedly allowing [honor] students in his English classes to read an [optional extra-credit] article about homosexuality in the animal kingdom. The article that Delong allegedly had his class read was published in a 2006 edition of “The Gay Animal Kingdom” and is available at Seed Magazine.

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25 responses

4 11 2009
JJ

The Washington State ballot initiative is interesting in a different way. So far it’s too close to call but this morning I saw two story angles, the first affecting not just gays but heterosexual seniors who are domestic partners but not “married” for various reasons — sin or civil right? animalistic? should it be my call or theirs? how do the politics break for the AARP e.g.?

“I think people may not be very well-educated about the full scope of the law, that it affects more than just same-sex couples,” Elmore said. “They may not consider what it means to people like us.”

Referendum 71 will ask voters to approve or reject the latest expansion of the state’s domestic-partnership law, approved by the Legislature in the spring. It would give registered partners the right to use sick leave to care for one another and the right to one another’s disability and unemployment benefits, and it would impose a divorcelike process for ending their union.

Protect Marriage Washington, a consortium of religious conservative groups and individuals opposed to domestic-partner benefits, campaigned to put the expanded law to a public vote. . . a legal battle has erupted, with lawsuits pending in federal and state courts, and allegations, accusations and name-calling between those who support rights for gays and those who don’t.

Lost in all of that are older heterosexuals in domestic partnerships, paired under the law with same-sex couples but part of a generation less likely than younger people to support equal protections for gays.

And their most powerful voice — AARP — has been silent.

. . .Gary Randall, one of the main organizers with Protect Marriage, said he believes seniors’ original inclusion in the law was strictly political and that his campaign will counter any efforts by gay advocates to use seniors to advance their cause.

[POLITICS?? I’m shocked, shocked . . .]

“I don’t want to be in a position where I’m suggesting that seniors shouldn’t be helped,” Randall said. However, he said, the domestic-partnership law “condones conjugal relationships” outside marriage — something that’s condemned in the Bible.

4 11 2009
JJ

Here’s the second, about being rightful whether righteous or not — the many sins of the two fellows leading this attack on other people’s rights to do the same:

Facing resistance even from within their own ranks, they’ve landed wins in state and federal courts, and were triumphant where it mattered most: a contentious signature count in the Secretary of State’s Office that ultimately credited them with enough valid signatures to get Referendum 71 onto the Nov. 3 ballot.

Larry Stickney, campaign manager for Protect Marriage Washington, and Gary Randall, his philosophical soul mate, see the tightly contested battle as one not about pension rights and sick leave but as their last chance to protect traditional marriage in Washington.

From dissimilar backgrounds, the two preach that unchecked “special rights” for gays are taking the state and nation down a wrongheaded moral path.

They are unflinching in that conviction, despite messy personal histories that challenge their claim to the moral high ground.

The twice-divorced Stickney, a 51-year-old construction worker turned conservative-political activist, has denounced as blatantly untrue allegations from an ex-wife that he abused her.

And Randall, an Oregon resident who can’t vote on the measure he helped get on the ballot, has had a record of unpaid taxes, which he says he’s since paid off.

“There’s lots of divorce and indiscretion on our side; we’re not perfect,” Stickney acknowledged in a recent interview near his Arlington home. But that “doesn’t mean we can’t say one man and one woman is still the ideal,” he said. “That’s still the best, even if I’ve failed at it.”

For his part, Randall [is] a 68-year-old ordained minister and former TV-show host . . .

Anne Levinson, chairwoman of the campaign to retain the domestic-partnership law, said the two are lying to voters . . .

4 11 2009
JJ

Moral reasoning anyone?

Kohlberg used stories about moral dilemmas in his studies, and was interested in how people would justify their actions if they were put in a similar moral crux. He would then categorize and classify evoked responses into one of six distinct stages. . .

Seems a good place to quote something Principled Discovery’s Dana wrote:
“We don’t necessarily equate advancing the Kingdom of Christ with reforming the nation’s laws to suit our beliefs.”

Think about it:

which party [and which platform]. . . is more focused on our social contract and universal ethical principles?

I wonder if the original FDR idea of “social security” was ahead of its time, way up there in the fifth or sixth stage of moral human reasoning, and whether we’ve kept it up or just corrupted it? What about “war” up and down the ethical reasoning levels, such as urinating on the Koran to protect your own people’s freedom and religious values? [what about torture, what about domestic spying and lying to the American people, what about selling us out to corporate corruption even when it kills us, what about quitting in the middle of your term, what about NOT quitting when the people catch you working against them, and on and on]

And how does compulsory public school look to us as a moral social contract?

4 11 2009
sam

Quoting from your first comment, “the domestic-partnership law “condones conjugal relationships” outside marriage — something that’s condemned in the Bible.”

That last bit says it all, that people are still trying to make civil law and all of the citizenry bend to what they feel their scripture says is right. The thing is, scripture is meant for believers. They certainly feel it is right for us all, but whether or not the Bible says to force everyone to obey it doesn’t mean that anyone has the right to use the Bible to create or enforce civil law. I seem to remember a constitutional bit that suggests something along the lines of not allowing any one religion to set standards or something, but I’m sure I’ve quite forgotten, much like too many christians.

The argument time and again is that gay people are asking for special rights, but if those making that argument would for once be completely honest they’d see that the rights we ask for as the exact same rights that so many people take for granted. That’s I prefer the word “equality” while opponents insist on terms like “gay rights” and “gay marriage.”

It must be admitted that, while Maine was an upset, there are still good signs, and there were some wins for the advancement of equality. An openly gay person was elected mayor in Chapel Hill, NC and to city council in Detroit. A non discrimination ordinance was upheld in Kalamazoo, MI despite the efforts of some to inject religious belief.

The very idea that school is somehow a place where gay must never be allowed is ridiculous. A huge part of the anti equality movement in Maine revolved around the lie that our “agenda” would be forced on school children if we are treated equally. That just makes more people less equal because many of those kids are gay, and many of them have gay people in their family. The anti equality movement is basically saying that I and my children do not constitute a family in any way just because I’m gay.

Of course then we get back to allowing religious belief in school at all and the people who are all for it so long as it’s only their religion. These same people that want the Bible injected into all walks of life would clutch their pearls and faint at the idea that other beliefs must then get equal footing, and I think we all know that there are a lot of religions and branches and sects.

I think what really gets me is the martyrdom that christians so often insist on for themselves when they see everything as an attack, and the funny thing is, if they’d just shut up and leave everyone alone everyone else would shut up and leave them alone.

4 11 2009
JJ

Not to mention atheists! — whose civil rights continue being openly and self-righteously trampled even by those who don’t get too het-up over civil rights for teh gay. Know any openly atheist elected officials? Why, even the openly gay and socialist fed officials* wouldn’t go THAT far! 😉

*Frank and Sanders are both identified as Jewish, bad enough when it comes to America as a Christian Nation! Atheist and they’d surely be dead, politically if not literally . . .

4 11 2009
JJ

More:

History of Identity in America: Our Insecurities and Need to Belong

Because teaching vile, contemptible lies is bringing down America

Easter, Passover and Presidential Politics — this one’s got Abe Lincoln, Terry!

Comic book religions

Can you at least THINK about it?

So somehow, in this intellectually rigged and regulated environment, we nevertheless need to get ourselves and our kids in the habit of asking open-ended and complex questions rather than memorizing and following the Orders of the Day. Start defining real education as productive, creative thought and ourselves as comfortably confident to think and learn independently. Somehow, enough of us must learn (by teaching ourselves against all odds, apparently) that humanity isn’t merely socialized, standardized insect life born to exist in preordained church hierarchies and/or one big biologically imperative collective called “School.”

4 11 2009
JJ

Recent polling data might lead us to conclude the American population of atheists is as large or even larger than our gay population, and many times as large as the Jewish percentage of Americans, for example. So what about civil rights for ALL?

Not from Rick Warren’s world view, that’s for sure:

A tiny number of deviants can be preached against as so aberrant and freakish, that it’s easy to legislate against. A much larger percent, say ten to fifteen percent, can be preached against as threatening to take over and be the new normal, and make deviants of the good conformists.

OTOH, from one individual all the way up to a majority, I can’t see how a preacher gets around the problem of that conflicting with messages like every person made in god’s image and “god doesn’t make junk.”

4 11 2009
JJ

Here’s the Value I think ethical schools and the rest of us everywhere need to teach all kids about “our differences” and yes, because it includes their gay, black/brown and/or atheist friends and family members:

Long story short. . .a story with power to play with in the real world, imagining how all the elements of man’s myth and reality can connect to build the most wondrous cities — so many colors and shapes for both lion and mouse, Disney and the Danes, dynasty from politics to toymaking, from the personal to the presidency. In thinking and feeling, learning and teaching, giving and taking, head and heart and spirit.

Happy History, Happy Innovation. Play well!

5 11 2009
Lynn

JJ: Not to mention atheists! — whose civil rights continue being openly and self-righteously trampled even by those who don’t get too het-up over civil rights for teh gay.

Will atheists be last in line – and all alone? That’s what I’ve heard.

You’ve reminded me of something written by Greta Christina:

(T)he atheist community has been fierce and outspoken in defense of LGBT rights. To give just one example: The atheist blogosphere needed no prodding to blog about Prop 8. They were all over the issue like a cheap suit. Almost every atheist blog I read had something to say about it; many of them blogged about it multiple times. And they were all over the issue from very early on. Hell, I know straight atheist bloggers who were blogging about Prop 8 before I was.

They see it, among other things, as one of the main examples of how traditional organized religion is stubbornly adhering to unsupported dogma at the expense of real human lives. And that makes it a big issue for them. Apart from just, you know, being appalled by it because it hurts their friends and loved ones. Apart from it just being the right thing to do.

And yet, I’m having a realization that I’m finding extremely unsettling.

I’ve seen comments in LGBT blogs, listing bigoted and wildly inaccurate anti-atheist canards that could have come straight out of the religious right’s playbook.

(Read the full version of her article at the link above.)

I remember being a little let down after reading what she had written. Like she said, you defend others because it’s the right thing to do, not in expectation of something in return. That said, I think I did presume a mutual alliance of some kind. But, now, whenever I see a video like the one I just posted about the “silence of friends,” I think about what she wrote.

5 11 2009
Crimson Wife

I fail to see how the article in the Illinois case is relevant to an English literature class. A biology teacher I could see including it as an optional assignment, and I personally wouldn’t have a problem with that assuming there were other articles available from which to choose. I might not care for the political agenda behind the article, but it does fall within the purview of science. An English course, however, should be assigning literary masterpieces, not some pop science article…

5 11 2009
JJ

It doesn’t matter, is the point. One parent objecting to any academic resource shouldn’t even get the resource removed, much less the TEACHER.

5 11 2009
JJ

It wouldn’t have helped if the magazine piece had been more clearly in the teacher’s field of expertise btw. Literature, theatre and the arts generally are suspect no matter what.

Forget evolution, Ken Ham’s Creation Museum and the public school science teacher burning crosses into eighth-graders’ flesh for Christmas. Ignorance isn’t just about failing to master the rigors of science and math; ignorance in the liberal arts and humanities might be even more dangerous.

And what I am furious about today isn’t even about school kids and their stupid parents, teachers or principals. This news is about The Racially and Rationally Challenged Real World, out in grown-up free America where all the scary ideas and words and human differences are right there on every street corner and no one is in control of the script.

Dickens (not Darwin) wrote that between Ignorance and Want, Ignorance was more likely to doom mankind. The reason I happen to know and appreciate the true nature of his fanciful fiction isn’t because of science or math but because I am literary, and I mean to use the precise word literary, and not merely literate much less merely [shudder!] literal.

5 11 2009
JJ

Politicized education stories from Dr. Seuss to high school musicals:

Who is Dr. Seuss and what should his story teach kids?

School theatre and citizen censorship

For Banned Books Week one year, we had concurrent news stories about concerned parents literally “kidnapping” offensive books and refusing to return them, single-handed censorship affecting the whole community.

In that discussion I had fun illustrating what came up again last week with Cat and Dale and Southern Female Lawyer — that in the South, good argument is no argument, and it’s more art than science. One compliments and self-deprecates and feints and slathers on the slop and sugar, in twisted-sister-sounding but deviously effective ways . . .

There is a Maine woman and an Alabama granny-girl combo using the eerily similar publicity stunt of kidnapping a book that shocks them and holding it hostage, supposedly so no one else can ever read it. . . .in response to the Tuscaloosa County high school granny and girl :

LOL – Southern ladies used to be so much more clever with their public manners, to solve such problems with devastating yet impeccably polite little social gambits.

For example, if I were the shocked Granny, I might’ve returned the book immediately to the library desk, wrapped in my crocheted afghan (blushing if possible) to whisper I was sure some awful mistake had been made, probably due to my granddaughter’s innocence and total trust for the school — thank goodness I personally unpack and inspect her school things every day to keep our home tidy between the maid’s afternoons, because her virginal young eyes hadn’t yet opened up the “thing” to behold such unsuitable reading material. AS a daughter of the confederacy, I knew what I had to do to protect her, and took it upon myself to get it OUT of the house. I will stand here while you blot her name from the borrowing record for this book at once, and assure me of your discretion!

IN Alabama, that would be so much classier than branding the girl for the world to gawk at, as having been sullied by sexual exposure!

OTOH, if I were the southern school librarian in this story, I could tell the newspaper that I am delighted the whole family cherishes the book and can’t part with it! Why, poor Lysa must’ve been so starved for knowledge of the real world that she’s ready to endure this ridiculous charade to cover up her fascination with it, and keep the book for herself. But don’t be so ashamed darlin’ and make up stories hoping the town will still believe you’re a “nice” girl! It’s okay, really! And so I’ve decided to make her a present of it and replace it out of my own pocket for the school. And oh, wait’ll she hears this! I’ve had her schedule changed, to assign her to the check-out desk twice a week, where she’ll see EVERYTHING and help other girls learn more about sex!

And of course I am buying five more copies of this book for the library. Even better, my sorority alumnae chapter is adopting our school library, to send us another title for young women every month! We’ll put them all on a special shelf right out front, with a little gold plaque thanking Lysa for being so brave about her own budding sexuality . . .heck, we might even honor her at graduation and put a letter in her file so the bible colleges she’s applying to, will know what a worldly, feminist, independent-minded young woman she is. . .

5 11 2009
Nance Confer

Really, CW? You think that’s what English literature class in public high school is? Reading only “literary masterpieces” (as defined by?) and never using any current magazine articles for anything? No comparison of writing styles? No interest in how different issues are treated through the ages? Even as extra credit?

And if this had been in a science class, you don’t think the same parent would have had the same hyper-vigilant objection to their precious darling being exposed to the idea of animals having sex, let alone gay sex?

And, yes, it will be the atheists who go last in the march toward freedom. Even though I’m sure many gay people are feeling that they are at the end of the line today.

Nance

5 11 2009
JJ

And I won’t climb up on my interdisciplinary soapbox for the moment, but what about this “age appropriate” thing — the school board extracted a public apology from the teacher and formally reprimanded him, for treating honors sophomores as scholars rather than factory fodder or a uniformed army for god or country.

High school sophomores are generally about sixteen years old, old enough to choose to be in college rather than high school, stop going to any school, have sex and/or a crisis of faith, discover they and/or childhood friends are gay, get married and/or become a parent.

If that’s still not old enough for public education to purposely challenge their thinking, then age-appropriate looks like a false front, a disingenuous argument meant to delay long enough to keep most kids from EVER being old enough to get a real liberal arts education rather than mere training for duty, work, law and order.

So what do the experts (from Harvard, let’s say) see as appropriate literature study for honors students? Funny you should ask — look how controversial THIS is!

Harvard University Press’s major new tome, A New Literary History of America, is getting significant publicity—both praise and controversy. Edited by the Harvard scholars Greil Marcus and Werner Sollors, with its own Web site* and a kickoff party in Cambridge featuring symposia on aspects of the book, it’s a 1,122-page collection of essays that unpack cultural topics broadly defined—not just literature, high and low, but the Salem witch trials, W.E.B. Du Bois and his relation to Booker T. Washington, J.F.K.’s inaugural, Linda Lovelace’s Ordeal, the screenplay as genre, Alcoholics Anonymous.

It is history, literature, art criticism and more, all rolled into one . . .

*I clicked on the Gone With the Wind card at the website above, oh boy, what a read! (is it fit for high school English scholars though, or is it dangerously inappropriate? Who decides?)

The movie that appeared in 1939 heavily tilted the story of Ashley and Melanie, Scarlett and Rhett toward the nostalgic end of the spectrum, largely ignoring the constitutive ambivalence at work in the novel between the traditional legend of Southern ladies and courtiers and the reality of the capitalist entrepreneurial spirit that actually drives Scarlett, and with her the novel’s plot. In the novel, Tara appears without columns, and the Wilkes plantation has no grand double staircase, as in the movie. The grand Wilkes family of the novel is widely understood to be peculiar, exceptional in its habits of marrying cousins to each other, reading foreign books, and listening to classical music. The rest of the county is populated by a variety of nonaristocratic classes, both black and white, among them smaller landowners, yeomen from the hills who show up after the war trying to make a living, and hard-headed country women such as Grandma Coulter, who instructs Scarlett on the will to survive. The social spectrum is Balzacian.

More important, Scarlett’s family is a mere generation away from the scene of immigration . . .

5 11 2009
JJ

Speaking of Maine, that’s not far up the coast from Gloucester, where teen pregnancy by choice is the (inappropriate imo) high school theme despite whatever schools and parents think they’re teaching about any sort of sex gay, straight or immaculate, and about which CW and I have had the conversation before:

**********
From Pregnant teens gone wild:

Hi CW, I think I very much agree with this view.
Teen pregnancy is dysfunctional in this culture and economy, a major threat to any girl’s opportunities for true life, liberty and pursuit of happiness. So teen pregnancy certainly makes no sense for girls to “want” or for us to dream of and work toward for our society. It is not a good thing.

And yet I imagine you and I also agree that the changes leading to a better life all around, are not something we can inflict on teens or their families and community. Society cannot decree that the people of Gloucester are dysfunctional so we will force them and their teens to live and choose and work our prescribed way.

We the public will not step in and retool the failed fishing economy of this town by assigning the boys to certain jobs and making them stay in residence there for their whole lives, and produce for the common good. No government local or federal can by public policy terminate these dysfunctional pregnancies against the girls’ own choice, nor require every girl in high school next year to take the pill, etc. Nor sterilize the girls and put them to work too. We won’t pass laws based on our ideas of what is best, forcing OR forbidding all teens to have sex, get pregnant or stay pregnant, get married or stay married, keep their babies or give them away, etc.

The contraceptives and sex education issue — “birth control” — interested me as public policy because it was all there in the school and community already, but so clearly ineffectual. I’m thinking this tells us more about how ineffectual if not irrelevant, the whole “public education” system is to this community, how it just doesn’t change lives for the better no matter how good the intent or the tax money spent. (All the academics I mean, all the professional teachers, not just health and sex ed.)

If a Gloucester generation had been really educated rather than merely schooled, wouldn’t it have helped this community in all sorts of ways we could agree would be better for everyone than girls getting pregnant and having babies?

5 11 2009
JJ

But today Urinetown’s power of story . . . sadly, is about stifling and smothering the arts rather than vigorous competition for the chance to show what we know and can do on the cutting edge.

It’s about small-minded people fighting to keep this challenging musical AWAY from their schools and students (and worse, even justifying their small-mindedness by claiming to be broad-minded! Read on.)

This is especially jarring for me after the lovely Julliard education experiment I blogged the other day, in which school music is being elevated to its real-world range of expression rather than being dumbed down to force-fed school pabulum, for aspiring artists stuck with nothing else to sink their teeth into.

I guess no school budget ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of its kids or community. Here are two of these very backward stories, and there are others. The only apparent good news here is that the Catholic school is apparently less repressive than the public school!

5 11 2009
Crimson Wife

“One parent objecting to any academic resource shouldn’t even get the resource removed, much less the TEACHER.”

Never? What if it was an African-American parent in an overwhelmingly white school objecting to a resource perceived as being racist?

Schools go out of their way to be sensitive to the feelings of certain minority groups. Why are traditionalist Christians (who are very much a minority in this country at the current time) not accorded the same courtesy?

In general, I feel that government-run schools ought to err on the side of avoiding controversial materials unless there is a compelling enough educational argument in favor of including them. So Huck Finn in an English class, yes. Evolution in a biology class, definitely. Some parents likely will object, but the educational value of those topics is widely accepted.

An agenda-driven pop science article in an English class doesn’t meet that criteria IMHO. I don’t think the guy ought to be fired over the incident, but I do think the school ought to institute a policy of requiring administrative review before teachers assign materials touching on “hot button” issues.

5 11 2009
JJ

Nope.
Do that and we might as well stop even pretending it’s education, and just crawl back into the primordial ooze.

5 11 2009
NanceConfer

Why are traditionalist Christians (who are very much a minority in this country at the current time)

**************************

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Religion_in_the_United_States

Although there is always a cry of persecution from the religious right, I have never seen numbers to support the claim.

Nance

5 11 2009
JJ

What’s traditional about Sarah Palin’s pentecostal evangelical witch-hunting and wolf shooting, anyway? Never mind Bachmann who is just traditionally loony tunes . . .

5 11 2009
JJ

And however much of a minority Christians might claim to be even as they also claim this is a traditionally Christian nation of which they are the rightful heirs, atheists as we just established are the true persecuted minority at less than 20% — and openly, systematically unprotected from discrimination in every sphere.

6 11 2009
Crimson Wife

I could not find any more recent numbers, but the Barna Group did a survey back in 2001 asking respondents how they came to make moral decisions. Only roughly 1 in 4 said it was based on religious principles. A similar percentage indicated that all 8 of the following behaviors were morally objectionable: cohabitation, homosexual relations, explicit sexual behavior in movies and videos, explicit sexual behavior and nudity in magazines, use of profanity, getting drunk, and sexual fantasies about someone other than one’s spouse. And those numbers included not just Christians but everyone.

3/4 of Americans may claim “Christian” as their religious affiliation, but only a minority of those are traditionalists. Certainly I can see evidence of this among my extended family. All of them would claim to be Christians (even my middle brother, the self-proclaimed “Christian Deist”) but only my grandmother and I are traditionalists.

6 11 2009
Nance Confer

So the first paragraph is the test of who is and who isn’t a TC?

And, according to a 2001 survey, only 25% of the population meets that (imo stringent) standard?

While 75% claim affiliation with some of the items in the test?

That’s not a minority. That’s a movement within a majority.

Nance

6 11 2009
JJ

A ruling, arrogantly self-absorbed majority trying to pull the ladder up behind itself.

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