First, a comment to everyone who’s been following this drama… thank you for your support. Your emails and comments have been incredible. Your offers to pitch in for legal defense if needed are so very appreciated. It’s a wonderful feeling to know that so many people have your back in a situation like this.
Laurie Higgins of the Illinois Family Institute has issued an open letter to me.
It’s tempting to just ignore it… but if she’s going to go after my character, I feel like I should defend myself.
Dear Mr. Mehta,
You wrote, “The Illinois Family Institute’s Laurie Higgins is going after me (and my job) again.”
I have never in any context suggested that you should be fired or that you should resign. In fact, I don’t believe the school has any legal right to fire you. You should have fact-checked before you posted that inaccurate statement.
In addition, I have repeatedly stated that you have a First Amendment right to make whatever public statements you want on any topic. I have also made it abundantly clear that my goal is to provide information to District 204 parents–particularly IFI readers-about the nature of the ideas you express and endorse on your public blog so that they can make informed decisions as to whether they want their children to spend a school year under your tutelage.
In my first brief email to your administrators and school board, I did not, as one of your blog commenters suggested, call for you to be fired. I notified them that you made the public, vindictive, irresponsible, and unprofessional suggestion that the Kiss-In would be even better if it took place in front of my home.
I guess sarcasm doesn’t work for everyone, but if you had a problem with a comment I made on this site, you could’ve contacted me. Instead, you told my employers: “It’s unfortunate that [students at the high school] have math teacher Hemant Mehta as a role model… What more could parents hope for in their children’s teachers than a little old fashioned vindictiveness.”
If all that doesn’t scream “fire him,” I don’t know what does.
You say you want to inform parents about me, but your email didn’t go to them. It didn’t go to the IFI mailing list. It went only to my superiors.
Maybe you expected the district to send an email to parents on your behalf, informing them of my religious and social beliefs.
You fail to acknowledge a central point that I addressed in my two articles, which is that many teens are unduly influenced by emotion or the cult of personality and are therefore predisposed to look favorably on the ideas of teachers whom they find cool or charismatic or funny or kind or iconoclastic.
And what would you like me to do about this… Be bland, boring, and cruel?
If students respond well to my teaching, it’s all the better for them. And, apparently, all the worse for you.
If students search your name and come upon your blog, they will be exposed to your endorsement and promotion of ideas that some parents may find deeply troubling. If students have you as their teacher, like you, and develop a relationship with you–as happens often in high school–they will be more likely to look favorably on and be influenced by your ideas than those students who have little or no personal connection to you. This is the reason that many parents care deeply about role models.
Maybe that’s a key difference between us. My definition of a teacher/role-model is someone who tries to lift all students up and makes them feel confident and good about themselves. You seem to think a good teacher/role-model should share your exact mindset, which involves making students fear thinking for themselves and being honest about their sexuality.
I don’t know why my students would be Googling my name, but if they do, they will see a person who uses his free time to pursue his other passions, a person who has opinions and isn’t afraid to share them, and a person who has done some pretty cool things in his life up to this point.
Why you think that would be bad for my students to see, I don’t know.
There are plenty of teachers in Illinois (and elsewhere) who work closely with their churches. They, too, are “charismatic and cool.” Students love them. I know teachers who used to be counselors at Vacation Bible Schools. They’re openly proud about their work with the church and, by extension, what their church teaches. I often find that disturbing. Do you see me whining to their employers about that? Of course not. As long as they keep their beliefs to themselves while they’re at work, it shouldn’t matter.
I don’t recall your press releases against those teachers. Perhaps you’re only angry because I don’t share your conservative religious and social views…
It’s the reason there were some recent stories about parents being upset that a high school cheerleading coach posed in her private life for Playboy magazine, and why some parents would not want their children in the class of a teacher who in their free time on a public forum promotes racist views or denies the historicity of the Holocaust.
Personally, I don’t care if a current coach posed for a magazine many years ago in her private life. My concern is with what she’s teaching now and if she’s doing her job well. The reason you hear about those stories is rarely because the teachers are discussing their past in the classroom.
You mentioned a cheerleading coach. If we’re talking about the same story, the charge to fire the teacher was led by a mother, miffed by the fact her daughter was kicked off the cheerleading squad for missing practices. Looks like the mother wanted revenge. What happened to the teacher was sad and unnecessary.
As for teachers who harbor awful, bigoted viewpoints, I have no sympathy for them. But again, my concern would be what they’re teaching. If those views don’t come out in the classroom, it’s frankly none of my damn business.
It’s probably the same reason that three years ago a well-known homosexual blogger informed my former superintendent that I had been interviewed on Moody Radio on the topic of homosexuality. During my last three years at Deerfield High School, there were more than a few supporters of the normalization of homosexuality who wrote publicly and contacted my administration about what they believed was my unfitness as a role model for students–and I worked in the writing center where I had no classes.
So you thought it would be a good idea to harass me the same way that person harassed you? To be honest, as long as you weren’t pushing your own views on students, I’d be on your side. The blogger had every right to challenge your faulty and absurd beliefs. But he had no right to go after your job. I would’ve defended you then.
Since that experience seems to have bothered you this much, I don’t know why you felt the need to act the same way against me. Sounds like you and the homosexual blogger have more in common than you might think.
As many commenters noted, two wrongs don’t make a right.
In my second article about you, I concluded by saying that some parents may not view teachers as potentially influential role models for their children, and therefore those parents will be fine with you as their children’s teacher.
I assume you’re a parent. I don’t know a single parent who doesn’t view every teacher as an influential role model for their kids. But at a public school, you’re a role model for your ability to educate and inspire. I am thankful that plenty of parents feel that way about me. Including Christian ones.
I said that other parents may believe that teachers are potential influences but agree with your public promotion of polyamory, homosexuality, and the non-existence of God, in which case they may love for you to become a role model in their children’s lives.
I never personally promoted polyamory, for what it’s worth. I just allowed for discussions on the topic to take place on this site. Is that not allowed anymore?
Anyway, believe it or not, the subjects of polyamory and homosexuality don’t come up during parent-teacher conferences.
I guess I have to remind you that the parents who can vouch for me include ones who share your faith.
But other parents, perhaps some Jewish, Muslim, or Christian parents, may have concerns about the adults with whom their children spend time, develop relationships, and who may potentially influence their children and may also have significant disagreement with the ideas you promote on your public blog. Those parents are entitled to sufficient information to make informed choices about the very public activities of their children’s teachers–something that for some odd reason seems to offend you.
I’ve taught for a few years now. No one’s ever complained. They’re usually more concerned with what they can do to help their children succeed in Geometry.
Other have said this, but if an atheist organization told all of its members to pull their children out of a public school classroom because the teacher happened to be a Christian (who never discussed his faith while at work), you would cry foul, call it discrimination, and complain of victimization.
If the atheist group wrote to all its members that this teacher believed homosexuality was a sin and that evolution was a lie, and justified their email by saying parents just needed to be able to “make an informed decision” about who teaches their children, you would be working overtime on behalf of that teacher.
You would defend that Christian teacher.
Yet you still attack me.
Hell, some teachers even wear a cross around their neck. I don’t see you going after them. I’ve seen Catholic teachers wear a cross of ashes on their foreheads on Ash Wednesday. I don’t see you going after them. Would it be cool with you if I wore a pin with the atheist A symbol on it?
You also erroneously stated that I sent “out an official press release” about you which I did not. We sent out an Illinois Family Institute email to our subscriber list, which we do once or twice a week.
Mr. Mehta, you have now made two more inaccurate statements(the first was in your blog entry following your attendance at a presentation I gave at Wheaton Bible Church). If you cannot produce any proof from my writing to support your claim that I am “going after” your job, please retract that statement.
Ooh. You got me. I stand corrected. It wasn’t an official press release. It was just an email to every single one of your subscribers. Which, I should point out, media outlets have contacted me regarding. So I don’t really see the difference. It’s all up on your website, anyway.
Speaking of which, you still haven’t mentioned my book in any of your emails/press releases/e-alerts/tirades. I’m getting kind of impatient here. Please ban it already.