***Update***: The slightly-altered PDF is now back up online. It’s now titled “Reject Teachers Who Exploit Position”
Every time the Christian Right says something crazy, liberals tend to quote them word-for-word, and the Christians get mad because their own words make them look silly. It’s a formula The Daily Show uses to perfection.
So you can imagine how upset the Illinois Family Institute was the other day after I wrote about their back-to-school warnings for Christian parents.
They’ve already taken down the original post claiming “it was not supposed to have been posted until it was reformatted with IFI’s new logo”… because that was the problem with the article. The logo. (***Edit***: I’ve been informed that the logo was left off the PDFs, not the article, and it will all be back up shortly.)
But Laurie Higgins is once again trying to pick a fight with me, unnecessarily citing my school’s name in the process and posting a badass five-year-old picture of me with Christopher Hitchens, while attempting to defend the garbage IFI puts out.
Let’s dissect some excerpts, shall we?
… not-so-friendly atheist Hemant Mehta… seems to spend a fair amount of time monitoring my writing.
Well, someone has to keep tabs on them. Plus, it’s not like this was some IFI Classified Document. They posted it on their website for everyone to see but they’re upset because I read it…?
He is particularly exercised by my suggestion that parents request teachers for their children who do not abuse their government-subsidized positions to promote their personal “progressive” views on controversial moral or political issues.
Saying LGBT students, just all students, shouldn’t be bullied is hardly controversial. Having students read and discuss challenging books isn’t controversial. Teaching evolution and set theory isn’t controversial.
(Don’t you love how these issues are only “controversial” if IFI takes a different position on them?)
What is most laughable about Mehta’s critique of my suggestions is that while mocking my reference to “cool teachers,” he tries to make the case that “cool teachers” are those “who challenge students’ thinking from all sides and make them see things in different ways.”
I would completely agree that the best teachers are those “who challenge students’ thinking from all sides,” which is exactly what does not take place in public schools on the topics of homosexuality, gender confusion, or Critical Race Theory. Can you imagine a public school teacher even using the terms “homosexuality” or “gender confusion”? Teachers who choose to address those topics will use only the rhetorical inventions of the Left: for example, gay, gender identity, or transgenderism.
So I should stop using words like “gay” and “transgendered” because… what, those students don’t exist?
Here’s the difference between the Illinois Family Institute and me: They show Christian love by demeaning LGBT students and telling them they’re just confused. I show Humanism by letting LGBT students know there’s nothing wrong with them, no matter what they hear from their parents or pastors. But in their eyes, I’m the bad guy for doing that.
The Huffington Post has picked up Mehta’s silly and dishonest critique and included in their post the Southern Poverty Law Centers’ canard that IFI is a hate group. What many don’t know is that the ethically impoverished Southern Poverty Law Center has an “educational” project disingenuously called “Teaching Tolerance.”
The “educators” at Teaching Tolerance, like so many agents of change, foster a peculiar kind of education that encourages students to “think from all sides” and “see things in different ways” as long as those ways conform to “progressive” dogma.
This is a classic argument from the Bigot Rule Book: “They claim to be tolerant, but they hate intolerance!” Damn right we do.
For what it’s worth, the SPLC doesn’t go after evangelical megachurches even though they condemn homosexuality. They focus on anti-gay groups who demonize LGBT individuals by calling them “perverts” and spreading untrue “facts” about them. That’s not religious belief; it’s pure hatred. And it’s something IFI (and its former leader Peter LaBarbera) practice all the time.
They don’t see young gays and lesbians. They only see little sexual deviants who need to be cured.
You tell me which group is “ethically impoverished.”
For someone who prides himself on his logic, Mehta, the atheist, uses little of it in his critique of my recommendations. Distracted by his own glib pseudo-cleverness, he ignores the substance of the issues I address. For example, in order to help parents know which teachers may be “agents of change,” I listed some of the symbols of the homosexuality-affirming movement, which activist teachers affix to their “spaces” to announce their moral and political beliefs, one of which is the lambda symbol (λ).
Mehta then mocked me for “going after physics and chemistry classes,” conveniently eliding the fact that the lambda is a well-known symbol of the movement to normalize homosexuality. While reveling in his ridicule, he forgets to mention that two homosexual advocacy organizations include “lambda” in their names: Lambda Legal and the Lambda Literary Awards.
Way to take a joke there, Laurie…
Yes, we all know λ is a symbol used by the gay community. (I even referenced the wonderful Lambda Legal organization in a post a couple of months ago.)
But, just like the Safe Space stickers and the rainbow symbol, the goal for any teacher who puts up a λ symbol in the classroom is to let LGBT students know our classes are safe places for them, where bullying and bigotry will not be tolerated. Even though there would be nothing wrong with it, it’s not “affirming” anything.
Isn’t it amazing how, when a Christian Right group sees teachers protecting victimized students, their focus is not on preventing further bullying but rather on vilifying the teachers who try to make things right?
… does Mehta actually believe that conservative Christian teachers have been using the classroom to promote their beliefs in a “much more egregious way” than have progressive agents of change, particularly on the topic of homosexuality? Can he provide evidence of conservative teachers assigning any resources that espouse conservative views on issues related to homosexuality?
… Mehta and I agree on one thing: Sponsorship of clubs is not the same as endorsement. But the reality in public schools is that the sponsors of gay-straight alliances are usually homosexuals or their ideological allies, and the sponsors of Leftist political activist groups like AWARE are usually Leftist political activists. Similarly, the sponsors of Christian groups are usually Christians. The difference is that conservative sponsors of conservative groups tend not to use the classroom as their personal platform for proselytizing.
Yes, Christian teachers proselytize in the classroom all the time. Church/state separation groups file lawsuits against them all the time. The book I’m working on has *tons* of examples of teachers preaching instead of teaching.
Bradley Johnson had these banners in his classroom:
David Paszkiewicz said all non-Christians belonged in hell in his class.
Jerry Buehl‘s syllabus said he “teaches God’s truth.”
We could go on for a while. IFI won’t condemn any of these people, by the way, because they’re promoting their form of Christianity.
But they think liberal teachers are the problem because we’re trying to stop bullying. (Incidentally, IFI spoke out against anti-bullying legislation in Illinois. I know that because, you know, I monitor everything they do.)
I… suggested that [Mehta's] very public blog reveals something of his character and his beliefs about which parents of impressionable teens may be concerned.
On his very public blog, he ardently promotes atheism, commonly uses obscene language, and has provided platforms for the advocacy of polyamory. I suggested that parents who believe that teachers are role models for their children and who recognize that adolescents can be mightily influenced by teachers may not want him as a role model for their children. Teaching is unlike other professions. Teachers, whether they want to be or not, are role models. Mehta has every right to express anything he likes on his blog, and parents have every right to decide they don’t want their children under his tutelage — even for math.
Hey everyone, did you know my blog is very public? Also, I promote atheism. And I think what people do in the privacy of their own homes is their own goddamn business. Oh. And sometimes, I swear on the Internet. (IFI must have some impressive investigative reporters on staff to pick up on all of this.)
I don’t have kids yet, but When it comes to role models, I’d rather put my kids in a classroom with someone who doesn’t look at LGBT kids as little perverts. I want a teacher who accepts those students and will stand up for them whenever people like Laurie Higgins try to make them feel like shit.
After five years, I’d say my record is pretty good. The last time IFI tried to get parents to remove their kids from my classroom, not a single parent complained. It’s almost as if they know I don’t bring my politics into the classroom and their only concern is whether I’m doing a good job teaching their children math… fancy that.
Mehta, implies that my concern with teachers posting symbols that indicate affirmation of homosexuality means that I want students to feel “isolated, abnormal, and lost,” which is an ugly lie.
I don’t think Laurie wants students to feel that way.
I’m saying she does make students feel that way, regardless — and that’s sad, because there’s no reason for LGBT students to think there’s something wrong with them. The only people who seem to believe that any more are religious conservatives. The rest of us know better.
Parents need to take a stand against public school employees using the classroom to advance their views on controversial moral and political issues. If school administrations won’t establish policy that requires teachers who assign resources on these kinds of issues to spend equal time on dissenting resources and if school administrations won’t establish policy that prohibits teachers from expressing their personal moral and political views in the classroom, then parents should request that their children be placed in the classrooms of teachers who demonstrate such integrity on their own.
Thankfully, homosexuality isn’t a contentious topic for most of us. It’s only a problem if you hold the warped belief that your God only likes straight couples.
Homosexuality is “controversial” the same way evolution is “controversial” — that is, the people who actually know what they’re talking about accept both of them because the evidence points to the fact that there’s nothing abnormal about homosexuality and all the evidence supports evolution. Just because a couple of bigots and ignorant Creationists hold different views on the subjects doesn’t mean their views are credible or that we should waste our time “debating” the issues.
When I’m in the classroom, we talk about math, not homosexuality. But if students can’t learn because people are harassing them about their sexual orientation and their minds are preoccupied, the least I can do is hang a Safe Space sticker in my classroom to let them know I won’t be adding to their struggles and that I support them as they are.
The funny thing is that if groups like IFI dropped their obsession with everybody else’s sex lives, we wouldn’t have to put those symbols up in the first place.
Side note: Considering that Higgins went through my whole article, I just want to mention how she (again) completely ignored the point about how IFI condemns the student-led Day of Silence (for LGBT students and their allies) as an example of “politicizing the classroom,” but remains forever-silent on the conservative Christian “Pro-life Day of Silent Solidarity.”
They still won’t admit they’re complete hypocrites on the issue.
I know she’s reading this. So what gives, Laurie?