Friday, April 14, 2017

You May Not Be a Nazi. You May Still Be a Bigot.

 I don't know what to say when I see stories like these. I don't condemn people for how they vote, but I may object to some things they believe. Of course, you're entitled to your beliefs, and they don't need to jibe with mine. It's a little upsetting to see that teachers who post signs of welcome to students are asked to remove them. What on earth is controversial about expressing sympathy for the plights of those you serve? 

Of course there are other points of view:
Another public-school teacher in Brooklyn said she was warned to stop expressing her political beliefs to her middle-school students. A Trump supporter, she said she was harassed by teachers who disagreed with her politics.
“I was called a Nazi,” said the teacher Ann who asked that we not publish her last name. "They never had that complaint until they knew what my political affiliation was."
I don't think you should call people Nazis with no basis, and I don't think you're a Nazi because you supported Trump. I don't think Trump is a Nazi, even though he's appointed rabid anti-Semites like Bannon. I think Trump's a bigot, a pathological lair, and a malignant narcissist, but I don't think he's a Nazi.  
Ann said most of her students were Muslim and she stood by them. 
“Whether they’re here illegally or not, they're my kids and I love them," she said. "Once they come into my classroom, I don’t really care.”
But before or after they come in, it appears different:
 Yet, in her private life and on Twitter, Ann has said the U.S. should "ban Islam," and deport all immigrants. She said she considers activists with the Black Lives Matter movement "terrorists.”
How do you serve Muslim students and support a ban of their religion? How do you "stand by" them when you publicly demand a whole lot of them be deported? How do you serve students of color when you consider a movement to protect their lives "terrorist?" I don't think teacher Ann is a Nazi. But it's hard for me to argue she isn't a bigot and a xenophobe. How do you argue to ban a major religion? If most of your students subscribe to that religion and you find it unacceptable, how do you serve them?
Of course it could be that you hold those beliefs privately and don't express them in public. And "Ann" did indeed withhold her name. But she says in the interview that she encourages discussion in her class, and offers students the choice to hear her real opinions or not. Knowing that her real opinions include banning her students' religion, I'm not altogether sure that's a good idea. In fact, were I to advocate against a student's religion in my class, I'd be opening myself up to charges under Chancellor's Regulation A-421. I'm not sure what Ann does in hers, but I'd advise her against that if I were her chapter leader.
Advocating to ban a religion is textbook intolerance and I wouldn't want a teacher promoting intolerance to any child or student of mine. I don't rightly see how we distinguish Islamophobia from anti-Semitism or any other garden-variety strain of bigotry. For me, when I think of teachers, I think of role models. And when I think of role models, the word "bigot" is not the first one that enters my mind. 
I don't impose my politics on my students. I don't tell them who to vote for, or to support what I support. But like Popeye, I yam what I yam. I'm pretty sure my students know it. I'm pretty sure they know that I judge their effort and ability, and that their religious, or sexual or ethnic background is not my business. Like Ann, once they come into my classroom, I don't really care.
Unlike Ann, before they come in and after they leave I still don't care. And whether I'm getting paid or not, I am their advocate. I don't spend my free time condemning their backgrounds or advocating against them. And frankly, speaking just for myself now, I wouldn't want anyone who advocated against the students I serve teaching my kid. Or yours. Or anyone's.
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