Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Our kind of nation

News from inside the Department of Education:

A senior official of the Department of Education expressed regret today for an incident that happened when he was a young teacher in the late 1980s, saying he should have handled it differently, but that society could benefit from his error.

Kevin Jennings, director of the Department of Education’s Office of Safe and Drug Free Schools and founder of the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network (GLSEN), has been criticized by social conservatives for a passage in his 1994 book “One Teacher In Ten.” At the time, only a few people knew that Jennings, then a 24-year-old teacher at Concord Academy in Concord, Massachusetts, was gay. In the Spring of 1988, a young woman who knew Jennings was gay, brought to his office a high school sophomore whom Jennings called “Brewster” in the book.

As Jennings wrote:

“’Brewster has something he needs to talk with you about,’ she intoned ominously. Brewster squirmed at the prospect of telling, and we sat silently for a short while. On a hunch, I suddenly asked ‘What’s his name?’ Brewster’s eyes widened briefly, and then out spilled a story about his involvement with an older man he had met in Boston. I listened, sympathized, and offered advice. He left my office with a smile on his face that I would see every time I saw him on the campus for the next two years, until he graduated.”

Jennings in 2000 told a GLSEN conference that Brewster told him he “’met someone in the bus station bathroom and I went home with him.’ High school sophomore, 15 years old. That was the only way he knew how to meet gay people. I was a closeted gay teacher, 24 years old, didn’t know what to say, knew I should say something quickly. So I finally, my best friend had just died of AIDS the week before, I looked at Brewster and said, ‘You know, I hope you knew to use a condom.’ He said to me something I will never forget, He said ‘Why should I, my life isn’t worth saving anyway.’”

That Jennings knew of a sexually active 15-year-old, of any gender, involved with “an older man” and didn’t take steps to report that relationship to the student’s parents or to authorities has made him a target for criticism -- long before he was put in charge of the Office of Safe and Drug Free Schools. [...]

Administration officials point out that Jennings has received accolades from the National Association of Secondary School Principals, the National Association of Independent Schools, the National Education Association, and the Massachusetts Counselors Association, and he has been named to a commission by former Republican Massachusetts Gov. William Weld.

And people think it would be a good idea for children to go to school for more days and longer hours? Really?

Let's get this straight: a "safe" school is, apparently, one where a 15-year-old can be counseled on his gay relationship with an older stranger he met in a public bathroom, a 14-year-old can get a ride to Planned Parenthood so her parents won't find out about her abortion, a 13-year-old can get free condoms--but nobody can hear a passage from the Bible, not even at a graduation ceremony, lest they be scarred for life by hearing a religious message on secular ground.

What kind of nation enables kids in their premature sexual endeavors but shields them from anything smacking of religion or morality? Sadly, our kind of nation.


Irenaeus said...

I keep thinking, what if the Armada had won...

Anonymous said...

Benignly incendiary observations simply beg to be challenged.

Though seemingly sad facts are put together in an essay, the collection cannot necessarily be made into a whole argument against increasing length of school terms.

Evidently there is no strong compelling argument to become part of the solution, therefore (since we're throwing around idioms and soundbytes, or in this instance, 'image' bytes) that makes one part of the problem.

In the spirit of tossing idioms into the melee, how about a quote from a fellow from down the road a piece in Ft Worth, "We can choose to throw stones, to stumble on them, to climb over them, or to build with them." Wm A. Ward

And, now, that my offensiveness, shouting and my name-calling, are out of the way, the thrust of the argument is that schoolteachers are first cousins to Sodom and Gomorrah. I completely disagree. There are doofuses in any profession, as well well as differences of accountability in every situation.

It was the late 70's. I was a sophomore in college far from home, still a teen-ager in fact. We had a widely popular priest at the Newman Center, a hometown boy returning to the state after seminary. My future husband was courting me, and we went through Pre Cana (Catholic marriage preparation classes). My future husband had a lot of doubts about a strange western religion, set against traditions of coercion in the middle-eastern desert mindset. Not long after we married, across the grapevine we hear dear Fr. Bill was arrested in the big town 150 miles away for soliciting young men. Not a public word of apology nor note of regret about his role as pastor and priest in the campus Church community. No, just hush, hush, sweep it under the rug. (For shame, those young men had conspired to entice the shepherd of his flock away with them to a place of deviancy and selfish irresponsibility. Fie! Those lewd young boys in the big town.)

Needless to say, much of my hard-won gains were quickly lost, as well as other impressionable minds participating in Catholic community activities in the religious setting. One would hardly have room to suggest that public schools are any worse than what was insidiously going on in our own Catholic parishes, not that very long ago, and under the auspices of an institution whose focus is instruction in morality.

With regards, then, to opportunity for education in the setting of public schools, my kids participated in the best public education system K-12 in the US. (And, if I am the only one to say so, I still believe it. Did you hear me say it was perfect? I did NOT say that.) My kids were not brainwashed with hogwash; I know because I was there.

Parents in our school system are welcome and encouraged in all aspects of education (as both a means for closer educational purpose and support, and as teachers' helpers). The Bible as Literature was an optional class for English credit counted toward graduation.

Young people of every religious persuasion attended the school, and some without any religious persuasion at all. If citizens in the area wanted to go to a school favoring a specific prejudice, there are parochial schools from many religions, which of course requires fees for tuition, but as with any of the home-schoolers in the area, there is some form of tuition assistance or credit based on school tax contributions. Some other schools in outlying districts do not have the concentration of dedicated parents, and their students may not be as intellectually challenged to succeed academically.

Parents did not set up vociferous and belligerent demonstrations to ensure participation in their students' lives. They just did. The day that we would've been refused would've been the day the teacher would've gone to court. But, of course, it didn't happen.

freddy said...

Respectfully, Anonymous @ 12:36am, what was that even about?

I mean, is there some kind of fill-in-the-blank form letter to use when someone mentions the transgressions of a public school teacher?

1. Mention evil vow breaking priest.
2. Blame the Church.
3. Sing the praises of local public school.
4. Miss the point of the article in question.
(Poor misunderstood/chip-on-shoulder routine optional, but advisable.)


Seriously, I don't think anyone would argue that parents working together with teachers and administrators produce the best schools teaching the happiest and most successful students, whether that takes place in the home or at a public, private or parochial school. The point is, if you're happy with the way things work at your school, how would you feel about the federal government making decisions for your school? Don't you feel that those decisions should be made by you as a parent along with the teachers and administrators? Especially when the some of the ideas floated come from someone who has made at least one very poor decision in the past and certainly has an agenda even now.
Makes you think.

CrimsonCatholic said...

I keep thinking, what if the Armada had won...

Would've been even worse. The defeat of the Catholic Church's secular allies may have been the best favor that could have been given to Her. There's an element of asceticism in that loss that I doubt could have been achieved any other way.

Put it this way: I have no internal conflict about a Pope like John Paul II or Benedict XVI. Could I have said the same at other times in Church history? I doubt it, and I suspect that the holy men achieving the pontificate today has everything to do with the deprivation of secular power.

That doesn't mean that the totalizing ambitions of the state are any less daunting because of it. But I certainly think it makes us more spiritually ready to bear that cross.

eulogos said...

Anonymous, I don't think you realize this, but your convoluted writing style makes you very difficult to understand. You also make errors of parallelism and dangle subordinate clauses from the strangest places!

A particularly mystifying statement was this one: "My future husband had a lot of doubts about a strange western religion, set against traditions of coercion in the middle-eastern desert mindset."

I understand that your future husband had doubts about Catholicism, but why do you call it "a strange western religion"?
Was your husband from the Orient or the Near East? And I can extract no meaning from the rest of the sentence. Whose traditions of coercion? What traditions of coercion? Who had a middle eastern desert mindset? Your husband? Was he Muslim? Orthodox? Jewish? A secularized person from one of those traditions?

You did make your point that the sins of this priest and the lack of response and follow up by his superiors, gave scandal to your husband and others. They made him think ill of the church. You are saying that if it is wrong to reject the church based on the sins of a few priests and bishops, it is also wrong to reject the public school system based on the actions of one counselor. Fair enough. I think the question is whether the belief system behind this counselor's actions is pervasive in the school system.
There is certainly a subset of people in this country who think that teenagers not only can be expected to be involved erotically, but should be encouraged in this as a psychologically healthy activity. This same subset of people believe that homosexual behavior is normal, and I think, a subset of those accepts the older man teenage boy pairing as a homosexual norm just as did ancient Greece. How many such people are in any particular public school might not be easy to find out. Until recently the superintendant of schools in my Republican voting rural small town was a "partnered" gay man, who my son (not a minor)tells me tried to pick him up while he was working as a waiter. I think it is pretty clear, anyway, that one's children in a public school are likely to be exposed to a pervasive world view radically different from the Christian world view, and that this is increasingly more and more true.

Susan Peterson

Anonymous said...

Not English (jarring verbiage), nor history major; interest in humanity is based on career education, parenting reality, travel, and reading historical novels such as Simon Schama's Landscape and Memory and History of Britain.

How can one think that public school teachers influenced by society mores, and dictates of governmental officials should ascribe to a higher set of standards to help set a child’s moral compass than the Catholic clergy? This seems to be the point in suggesting public schools are bastions of immorality with gay teachers and superintendents and amoral lesson plans. Why should public schools be considered compasses of morality in the US (under the Constitution laws clearly separate Church and State) while the Catholic Church perpetuates an extensive history of perpetration of deviant sexual practices despite an inherently universally accepted, and non-negotiable role as moral compass for members?

St. Peter didn’t authorize ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ and no mention of the policy in either Old or New Testaments. With regard to why there was no public flogging in priestly wrongdoings nor attempts to right wrongs on discovery, we are reminded that sins of omission i.e. failure to provide and care for each other properly, are as evil and reprehensible as sins of commission.

Discrediting roles of public school teachers and characterizing a few ‘rotten apples’ does the educational system a greater disservice comparable to idea that kids should avoid parish activity involvement (and potential exposure to pedophiles).

Even before my folks retired from teaching in the public schools, in the 80’s there was much discussion how teachers were expected more and more to provide a role similar to that of parents their students’ lives.

Red, hits the nail on the head in expressing problems in society associated with young, single-parent families taking care of children, with remarks regarding ‘governmental’ influence in childrearing practices, but when there is responsible parenting, is it really a matter of governmental interference? Who is to care for children without adequate parental support? I see no great push by the Catholic Church to enroll rudderless kids in programs that take up the slack as parent substitutes, nor do I see current proposals from the Christian segment of the population encouraging continued parental support roles in their kid’s lives such as free Catholic after-school programs, nutrition and health programs.

It’s one thing in bemoaning the fact that immoral politicians might a say in raising kids, if it’s not your child without access to high quality educational resources that only you can provide. I thought it was plain the importance of parent involvement in my education. If any teacher had denied access to a class, I would’ve been within my legal rights to gain access. I was present during religious education classes as well, passing out scissors and picking up crayons. Most parents in my kids’ school district had similar common sense.

My concern is with a majority of kids without similar educational expectations, nor cared provided by well-grounded parents. Some might suggest that my situation provides privileged parental involvement—it’s a matter of priorities and motivation, and spirit of ‘can do’. However, it’s my impression that blog respondents are involved in their kid’s education.

To those of eastern religious traditions there is a dichotomy of what is promulgated by the religious leaders in interpreting Jesus Christ’s message and how we faithful carry out our call to sainthood.

I’ve not studied anthropological origins of homosexuality. I'm sure it existed far longer than what I’ve observational access in my life. I’d be interested to know whether arguments against public school enrollment are based on perceived numbers of homosexual educators. I wasn’t pleased to know my child’s high school language teacher publicly acknowledged his preference as a member of my parish.