Thursday, February 07, 2008

An example of Canadian freedom

Here's a story about a British Columbia school teacher, Chris Kempling, who risks losing his job because he has published, in various journals, critical comments on homosexual behaviour, and because he is a member of the Christian Heritage Party, a registered and legal political party in this country. The College of Teachers would rather protect us from hearing words critical of homosexuality than protect a professional's right to engage in public debate on basic questions of human nature and ethics. Because, you see, they already know what is right and wrong - they have seen the light hidden from Western culture for much of its history - and are freaked out by someone who thinks differently, someone with some small audience in marginal publications. Who do you want teaching your kids?

The teachers' College has, in effect, asked the courts "how can we continue to live among people who hold views critical of others, those others who today freely and openly do things for which people have been victimized in the past?" And the courts have been sympathetic to their cry. Because, it seems, we Canadians cannot be trusted to speak our minds, on our free time, without this freedom creating more victims, somewhere somehow. My ears hurt. Free speech must be sacrificed to the fear of (or is it a positive desire for?) more victims.

Not surprisingly, those who want to speak in public find it increasingly necessary to claim victimary status to justify their speaking position. Where can this mimetic cycle, fueled by a need for victims and victim status, end?


Mikey said...

If you really think, in this day and age, that homosexuality is an "ethical" question, and that people who openly espouse viewpoints that are prejudicial to one specific group should be teaching young, and possibly gay, students, you have not evolved out of the 1950s.

covenant said...

Whatever you think of homosexuality, your thought is still ethical in nature. Ethical questions never go away; they are about what is fundamental to our human, as opposed to animal, nature.

As far as I can tell, this is not about what this guy has taught students, but about what he writes and what political party he belongs to. No doubt if he were being so treated for having fashionable views, you would call this McCarthyism and say the College had not evolved out the 1950s.

All teachers are prejudiced to specific groups; it's just that some are too dumb to know or admit it, living with a fantasy about their "progressive" thinking. There is no perfect neutrality in this world; we can't escape from ethical debate and sexuality will always be central to this. Those who can't see this and think they know who shouldn't be teaching the young are the real problem. What we need are transparent and accountable teachers, not people who think they are in a place where all the questions have been settled and who teach from righteous myopia.

truepeers said...

I put this Frank Beckwith quote up a couple of weeks ago; it seems a propos:

"In many ways, the typical Evangelical Protestant and conservative Catholic exhibits the virtue of tolerance in a much grander sense than the liberal religionist who thinks that no religions are true. For it is only when you believe that you are right and others wrong that the virtues of graciousness and respect become real, manly, virtues. The liberal religionist is like a man without genitals bragging of his chastity."

Anonymous said...

I went through elementary and high schools as a gay kid. No homophobic teacher (and there were many) actually told me that I was evil or wrong - but the distain was unmistakable. Ask any Aboriginal person whether it requires an explicit racial slur to experience being hated or excluded. It happens when a teacher doesn't address homophobic bullying in the classroom. It happens by being ignored, condesended and made feel invisible. These have real consequenses on kids growing up. It is directly related to higher drop-out rates for gay students; to the higher incidence of teen suicide; etc.
This teacher needs to leave his profession in the public system and go teach at some private, religious school in Bountiful. He should not take public dollars to inflict damage on our children.

truepeers said...


I was frequently taunted in school. I know the hell it can be. But I also doubt the current bullying fashion of attacking alleged bullies will build any kind of Utopia since it is more a renewal in new form than an appreciation of the problem of scapegoating: I don't think I knew a greater hell than the victimary political show trials of the 1990s Canadian universities. It drove even some gay people on its vanguard insane.

The original sin of humanity is scapegoating, or sacrificial violence. And the more you learn how it works, the more you appreciate how difficult always will be our struggle to see it and minimize it in ourselves. We can and do minimize it over the course of history, but only in degrees. It requires much personal effort to see what we are doing and about.

I would only note that you seem to condemn this teacher and call for him to be cast out, without knowing very much about him, e.g. how he treats people in class. That, it seems to me, is precisely the problem, and I imagine it won't have the desired effect that gay people hope it will have on those who watch it happening.

Childhood will always be a tough time, I believe, because when kids are learning language and culture they, in some sense, must learn by recapitulating the more simple, primitive or violent and sacrificial forms of culture that try to set all against one in search of meaning and the sacred. We don't want teachers that encourage stupid scapegoating; but by the same token we don't want society treating teachers in a way that encourages just that and dresses it up in all the finery of the high state bureaucracy.

When I was in school, I had a nascent personality that took on more and more identity over time until eventually, after my experience in 1990s academic hell, I learned that in becoming a more complete individual we begin to shed much of the substance of identity that is associated with sacrificial rites of scapegoating. Our identity becomes at once less certain and more free.

This all leaves me with a very curious attitude towards those who profess they know they were gay in elementary school, a time when I didn't have much of any grasp on the mysteries or full possibilities of sexuality. No doubt I had the seed of a character and nature that when matured could be looked back on so as to constitute, in adult life, a stage in the genealogical story of the person I became. I could tell my story as if I were always this or that, because some seed was there at the beginning. And yet, I don't believe that in human life the flower we become can be rationalistically reduced to the seed and other naturalistic determinations. We are free beings and constituted by all kinds of historical contingencies.

I take from my own adult experience and from my reading of history, the assumption that most if not all people are capable of homosexual desires and actions - as is demonstrated in certain places and times. There are cultures today where male homosexuality is clearly very common. And such cultures of pederasty always have consequences and limits for their societies, something to which the Judeo-Christian critique of homosexuality, polygamy, etc., is a reaction. History is dialectical in this way; but it doesn't take us to a more final or purer truth. Just to ever more reactions and reactions.

So I don't think we can resolve this issue by insisting on the reality of fixed and innate identities. I think the original understanding of "homophobia" - which presumed that the homophobe is someone who represses his own natural homosexual potential and desire - is more accurate than those who now profess homophobia is a resentment of something innate to only a small minority of people.

The appeal of the latter claim is that it serves better within the world view of victimary thinking, something I critiqued in my comment on this story at Beyond Robson.

Those who think a great peace will come by casting someone out need to explain to me how this can work, because my understanding of history is that this never happens for very long; it is the wishful thinking that the mythic imagination imposes on us with its only ever temporary deferral of violent desires. I can imagine that in twenty years we will have lots of horror stories from kids who suffered under a highly feminized and maternalist form of political scapegoating in the schools: how dare you do or say that, Johnnie, to Bountiful with you, until you learn to live with us in Paradise!