Venn Librarian

Reflections about the intersection of schools, libraries and technology.

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Just a little sensitive

Posted by lpearle on 5 April 2007

This is one of those “been mulling it awhile” posts.

A couple of months ago at MPOW we had an emergency meeting of all middle school faculty. The reason? A teacher felt that he had been harassed by other faculty, based on race and presumed sexuality. I was a little shocked that this had happened, as were most of my colleagues. One of the official responses has been to set up a session for all employees in which we were taught about appropriate (and inappropriate) speech and actions.

The thing is, it didn’t go far enough. Some of the examples were the obvious ones (aka “quid pro quo harassment“) and some were less obvious (how many times can you ask another person out before it goes over the line?). We also learned about protected classes.

What was left out? What I can only define as “political harassment”. At MPOW, as at many/most educational establishments in the Northeast, it’s assumed that you’re a liberal, a Democrat, that you think that Bush is an evil, venal, stupid man and that anyone that votes Republican is equally stupid and wrongheaded. It’s ok to wander around in T-shirts that read “A village in Texas is missing its idiot” and to have bumper stickers that read “2008: end of an error”.

The reality is, that’s not true. Not everyone believes these “facts” or shares in this mindset. Me, for example.

  • I don’t think that Bush is evil. Saddam Hussein was. Bush may be wrong (Done with Mirrors: here, here and here), but that’s not an indication of stupid.
  • I don’t think that Bush “stole” the election. Gore lost.
  • Gore’s movie has interesting ideas, but he’s not pure himself nor does “An Inconvenient Truth” present a balanced view.
  • Voting for a Republican is not the sign of a deranged mind.
  • Not everyone in the National Guard and the military are without options or from “flyover” country.

One colleague told me – to my face – that many of my relatives are stupid and ignorant. Why? Because despite the fact that they’re Jews and live in Massachusetts, many of them are Republicans. And this is acceptable… admirable even… because clearly he knows better (by dint of being a Democrat).

Hand-in-hand with this is the idea of faith. Thing Two believes that people of faith – any faith, any flavor – are somehow suspect. Why? Because Faith leads to Orthodoxy and that’s wrong. No. Some orthodoxies, some extreme examples of faith, can be destructive to others. Not all. The idea that I might want to keep my First Day (Sunday, to non-Quakers) free for Meeting and contemplation is somehow misguided and “wrong.” Not just to Thing Two, but to many of my friends.

These ideas and opinions can been freely expressed in public, without fear of reprisal. And that’s wrong. It’s just as wrong as having the opinion that someone is stupid because of their color, or that they’re wrong/evil because of their sexuality. It would have been nice had that come up during our training session.

ETA: here is another example of it being acceptable to slight (ok, downright insult) people of faith

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