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Really, Rick?

By Sara Mead — March 09, 2012 2 min read

“I’m Rick Hess, B@*#!” is in full-voice this week, at the level that can be provoked only by a discussion of the American Education Research Association. Now, admittedly, there’s a fair amount worth mocking where education research is concerned, and Rick’s previous skewerings of hypocrisy, sanctimony, narrow-mindedness posing as open-mindedness, and soft-headed thinking in the field have brought delight and illumination to many. But I’m afraid he may be falling prey to some of the same foibles in this recent blog post. In discussing AERA’s recent decision to boycott the states of Arizona and Georgia due to recent immigration-related legislation, Rick writes:

First, it's peculiar that AERA has never expressed any concern about holding conferences in venues like San Francisco, where state laws or city ordinances may make some members from Christian colleges feel "unwelcome" or "harassed."

Um, really, Rick? Can you actually identify a Christian college professor who felt “harassed” by city laws in San Francisco? Given that, as far as I can tell, the city has no prohibition on Christian practice and is actually home to a large number of churches including some that are clearly of the evangelical persuasion (not to mention a Jesuit University and Christian Colleges that sponsor programs there), I’m assuming that this is some kind of reference to the city’s gay-friendly reputation and tolerance for what for lack of a better word might be referred to as alternative sexual practices. But anyone who’s been paying attention to the battles in the larger church over the past three decades knows that Christians are hardly a monolith in their views on sexuality, including a substantial number of younger evangelicals who support gay rights and marriage.

Moreover, you of all people should be able to recognize that there’s a clear difference between state policies that permit others to act in ways that offend one’s beliefs or even having one’s beliefs and opinions disdained, and being personally harassed or discriminated against by agents of the state. I’ve been to San Francisco many times, I’m going there again in May for the NewSchools Venture Fund Summit, and I have absolutely no concern that a police officer is going to stop me because I “look Christian.” An individual of Latino descent considering visiting Arizona or Georgia may not be able to say the same. Reasonable people can disagree about Arizona’s and Georgia’s policies, or the value of boycotts and proclamations of censure as action against them. Such actions often feel more like acts of personal sanctimony and self-aggrandizement than anything else (I somehow doubt that the censure of the AERA will smite the legislators of those good states with remorse leading to legislative change). But the comparison you’re drawing here is ridiculous, lazy, and offensive, and I know you can do better.

The opinions expressed in Sara Mead’s Policy Notebook are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.