In my opinion, when Brian Bown decided not to observe Georgia's new moment-of-silence law ["Current Events,'' October], he was being a disruptive person and a bad influence on all students. Bown needs to take a basic training course in Marine boot camp. Perhaps there he would learn the meaning of self-discipline, although from observing his attitude I doubt it.
I would like to commend the Gwinnett County Board of Education for relieving Bown of his duties as a teacher. [See "The Ax Falls,'' page 13.]
Multiculturalism. Diversity. Pluralism. These words are being taught to our children by public schools as a way to cure the so-called evils of our society. The words are fully accepted by teachers, administrators, and education associations. Here, however, is a word that is not accepted: Christian. When the word Christian appears, it is often used with the words "radical,'' "religious right,'' or "propaganda''--words that were used in an advertisement that ran in the October issue of Teacher Magazine.
I believe an advertisement for a national conference sponsored by Americans United for Separation of Church and State is totally out of place in an educational magazine. Many of the articles in Teacher Magazine are about trying to bring cultures and ideas together. Obviously, the conference is going in the opposite direction, driving the wedge in deeper.
Would Teacher Magazine accept an advertisement for the North American Man/Boy Love Association? Where do you draw the line?
Editor's Note: The advertisement did not use the word Christian. It used the term "religious right,'' which is a synonym for conservative religious groups that are taking political stands. An ad announcing a conference by Americans United for Separation of Church and State on the actions of the religious right falls well within our guidelines for acceptable advertising.
Your fine magazine has finally gone off the deep end. I have been a long-time subscriber, but I can no longer support the terminal direction you have taken. Several issues ago, you profiled a lawbreaker who now teaches future teachers ["The Evolution of a Revolutionary,'' March], and then you profiled a teacher who brought his sexuality into the classroom ["Getting Personal,'' September]. Now, you have the audacity to report in your "Teaching & Learning'' section about a Los Angeles public school program that gives so-called "black English'' credence as a language and devotes precious curricular time teaching English for job interviews ["Talking the Talk,'' October].
The entire concept of black English, white English, Asian English, or any other kind of English is educational fraud and should be dealt with by state education departments and parents. Teachers of all people should refuse to participate in the fraud. Your profiling this ludicrous program as an "innovation'' goes beyond reason. If you ever wonder why the so-called religious right is attacking education, you need look no further than your own pages.
Associate Professor of Educational Administration and Adult Education
University of Idaho
In the layout for the article "The Right Stuff'' [October], you highlighted the following quote from a teacher: "This keeps you going as an educator. This kind of charges my battery. I'm ready to go into the classroom again and kill 'em.''
This comment, no matter how benign, is tragic in an age when so many children are literally killed with guns. You could have found a better word or a better quote for what you meant as enthusiasm.
The Woodlands, Texas
The letters from Gary Neudahl and Robert Wells ["Letters,'' October] regarding Rodney Wilson's dilemma at Mehlville High School ["Getting Personal,'' September] were just what I feared, hoped against, and numbly expected. Neudahl believes that a community's moral standards leave no room for a homosexual, especially one who "directs'' students' moral teachings. The same logic is used to censor libraries and textbooks: Exposure is contamination.
But in reality, Rodney Wilson's honesty exposes students to the world as it is--where a certain percentage of humanity is homosexual (as has always been the case), where discrimination is a fact of life, and where thinking people can better accept those who are different if they have the facts. Students will find that we are all pretty much the same, that our differences are what make us interesting, and move on. Those who don't have the facts never reach this level of maturity.
Robert Wells equates homosexuals with drunkards, thieves, tax evaders, and terrorists--a very curious and telling list-- and then falls back on what "God says'' as proof. But then, as those who have read the Bible know, in the same passage where Wells gets his proof, God also condemns anyone who touches pigskin, women who sit on public seats during menstruation, etc.--advice that hasn't been valid in our world for centuries. It is just an excuse to hate. Where this need to hate comes from, I don't want to go into here, but the Bible is certainly turning into the proverbial last refuge.
Hatred and bigotry won't die as long as the facts are kept from us or as long as leaders bellow disinformation into ignorant ears. Rodney Wilson's stand is an honorable one. It stands for the truth, and it stands for learning. I had such a teacher, back during the Punic Wars when I was in school, and I am a better person for it.
Letter writers Gary Neudahl and Robert Wells seem a little confused. First of all, as I understood it, Rodney Wilson was just doing his job. Wilson was not attempting to persuade his students to support his beliefs. He was simply stating a fact--that he would have been persecuted in Nazi Germany. Obviously, a person does not have to be in Nazi Germany to be persecuted, oppressed, and ostracized. All he or she has to do is exist in America in the 1990s.
Second, I'd like to inform these gentlemen that at least 10 percent of the population is homosexual. Therefore, at least one out of every 10 children they teach or encounter in their lifetimes will be gay. Homosexuality is not something people one day decide to be. It just is. People should start to accept this as fact and not as sacrilege or a crime.
I think the reason schools are "dangerous places'' ["Connections,'' September] is because of people like Neudahl and Wells, who bring their biases and prejudices into classrooms, opening up breeding grounds for hatred and segregation. People should not be condemned for their sexual preferences. Just because Wilson is different from Neudahl's "community'' morality does not make him a bad person. Nor do I think, as Wells does, that Wilson will be damned by God. From what I read, Wilson seems like a genuinely nice guy and a good teacher. He makes sure his students think critically and analytically about the curriculum and life.
I admire Rodney Wilson and wish him nothing but the very best.
David Ruenzel writes that Rodney Wilson "greatly resents that some Christians are taught to associate homosexuality and immorality. Hate, he says, is the ultimate evil.''
Ruenzel's juxtaposition of these two sentences implies an inevitable connection between hatred and those who argue that homosexuality is morally wrong. But does moral condemnation mean that hatred must follow? No, it doesn't. For example, because I believe that men and women are created in the image of God, as the Bible teaches, I oppose pornography on moral grounds. I vigorously condemn pornographers because they exploit men and women, but I do not hate pornographers.
By the same kind of reasoning, I believe that fornication, adultery, incest, and homosexuality, among other kinds of sexual misconduct, are morally wrong. That no more means I am a hate-filled bigot than would be a geneticist who argues, on scientific grounds, that homosexuality is neither genetically determined nor inevitable.
Wilson draws an analogy between the civil rights movement of the 1950s and '60s and the current debate over homosexual rights. On moral grounds, a more apt analogy is the 1960s movement for "sexual liberation,'' led by people like Hugh Hefner. Laws were changed. Many teachers then, and into the 1970s, added credibility to the sexual liberationists' "case'' for abandoning traditional heterosexual morality. They tried to present the case in an "unbiased'' manner. Students who agreed with those arguments, as fallacious as they were, now suffer the consequences: sexually transmitted diseases, broken families, heightened mistrust between wives and husbands, and children without self-discipline or structure to their lives.
I do not want similar results for the "homosexually liberated'' of future generations. That does not make me a hate-filled bigot. Rather, it makes me one who believes that immorality has sad and often tragic consequences.
I read David Ruenzel's article "Getting Personal'' with exasperated awe. Ruenzel may as well have brought Rodney Wilson up on stage to receive his medal of valor. According to Wilson's own words, students need to see "a human face behind the 'evil' word 'homosexual.' '' Let me tell you, none of my three children needs to see or hear that kind of perverted teaching. That is one of the several good reasons I am a homeschool teacher and coordinator. Wilson is a valuable person in the sight of God, but he is also perverted, on the wrong track, and going in the wrong direction. He may be able to talk about the Bible and God, but there is a world of difference between talking it and living it. He is definitely not living it.
I applaud Wilson's school district for taking the position that he "went too far.'' How are we to develop good character qualities and moral values in children when their teachers exhibit the opposite qualities. Ruenzel asks: "Just how much of themselves--their passions, their ideas, their personal histories--should teachers be expected to leave at the school door?'' The answer is: not a thing. A good teacher will have moral values and character qualities that are worthy of being passed on to the children they teach. A wise teacher will be careful not to flaunt or demonstrate those flaws in his or her nature that are less than commendable.
Homosexuality is not all right, just as stealing is not all right, just as murder is not all right. I pity the boys in Wilson's classroom who are being led down the primrose path. Shame on Wilson for helping lead them astray. And shame on Teacher Magazine for printing Ruenzel's article as if it were a teacher's right to teach this perverted lifestyle.
I would like to comment on the very touching story about Rodney Wilson, the teacher who announced his homosexuality during a class on bigotry. I believe that Wilson's actions were inappropriate because there was no apparent reason for him to state his sexual orientation to the class. The private lives of teachers should not in any way become part of the curriculum.
I believe that what Wilson is really seeking is validation--from the class and the community--that homosexuality is acceptable. I do not think the classroom is an appropriate forum to achieve that validation. We are teachers first and foremost. Our job is to impart knowledge to students, not to reach out for validation or to serve as sexuality counselors.
Wilson crossed the line and should pay the consequences for his action. I am not implying that homosexuals should be excluded from the classroom, but activist agendas, whether from a homosexual or a heterosexual, should be left at home.
Your obviously slanted and biased feature article on Rodney Wilson is a disgrace to ethical journalism and certainly disgraceful to my profession.
Not once in the article did you show the other side of the story. Homosexuality is a choice of lifestyle and sexual orientation, not a birth defect, not a right, and definitely not a reason to guarantee anyone legal, educational, or occupational rights and privileges. I understand that "how'' homosexuals became so oriented is not their choice, but I know and believe they can change; there is always hope. It is a treatable disorder.
As responsible journalists, you needed to research more carefully books, articles, organizations, and people who have come out of the gay life. Consider contacting Exodus International, New Creation Ministries, or another ex-gay ministry for real-life stories of human beings coming out successfully, happily, and freely. Some of these people are also teachers.
Albert Schweitzer said, "Example is not the best way to teach, it is the only way.'' If being homosexual is so vital to Wilson's being, if he is unable to face the truth, then he should change his profession. The two are not compatible. Parents have a right to insist that teachers not model immoral behavior. By admitting his homosexuality, Wilson is openly modeling immoral behavior. The students he is counseling are in danger because he is advocating the gay lifestyle. All adolescents have temporary same-sex longings, interests, or crushes at some time in the process of growing into adulthood. That does not mean they are gay.
The article "Rural Route To Success'' ["Current Events,'' September] was brief, but it seems to me that the rationale offered for the success of rural students was incomplete. Rural schools themselves are not by nature better or worse than nonrural schools. What makes the difference is that rural schools are in areas where families are not torn apart, where children still have responsibilities that benefit the entire family, where families eat together and share news of their day, and where residents support schools and teachers.
In my opinion, unless these special conditions of rural life can be duplicated, research on the rural school as a separate entity will not prove helpful.
Honor Hard Work
Is it unfair that some students work harder and are more focused than others? Mark Mlawer's essay, "My Kid Beat Up Your Honor Student'' [September], says it is.
Mlawer correctly addresses the fact that honor rolls, and the bumper stickers presented as rewards for attaining that status, do not address students whose principal interests lie outside of academics. Perhaps there should be bumper stickers that proclaim, "My Kid Collects Stamps And Is Good At It.''
That honor rolls do not take into account the myriad of reasons--personal, social, economic, etc.--for why some students do not achieve honor status does not invalidate the concept of the honor roll. After all, some people on honor rolls have overcome these "handicaps'' to achieve success and excellence. What would Mlawer have us honor? The thug who beats up the honor student? Would he have parents take pride in underachievement? Should we hold up mediocrity as the yardstick of achievement? Honor rolls are not flawless; far too many undeserving people are on them. But we must never allow anyone to take from us our pride in achievement, even if that pride is exhibited only on a bumper sticker.
Teacher Magazine welcomes letters. They must include your address and daytime phone number and may be edited for length and clarity. Mail them to: "Letters,'' Teacher Magazine, 4301 Connecticut Ave., N.W., Suite 250, Washington, DC 20008, or fax them to: (202) 364-1039.