Truth is an Indispensable Pillar of Education
A lot of time has passed since it was determined that public schools must be “neutral” on matters of religion. Many of us continue to bemoan the removal of one of the great pillars of civilization from the formal education of young citizens. But, we reason, there are at least some good pillars remaining.
The nation’s public schools may not be giving our kids much instruction in religion, morality, or philosophy, but we should be covering those topics at home anyway. At least we can rely on the schools to give our kids some history, math, and science. The “softer” subjects may be fraught with controversy, but facts will always be facts. Right?
Lying to Avoid the Facts?
Last week French teacher Peter Vlaming lost his job at Virginia’s West Point High School because he refused to comply with an order to refer to a female student as a male. According to witnesses, the firing was prompted by a “slip-up” when the transgender student was about to run into a wall, and Vlaming reacted by telling others, “Stop her!”
It seems apparent that the poor teacher was doing everything he could to avoid making an issue of this inescapably uncomfortable issue. When he taught this same student last year, she “identified” as a female. But this year he is expected to refer to her only as “he.”
Vlaming offered to simply avoid using pronouns and refer to the student by her prefered name, but this won’t satisfy school officials. According to them, unless teachers actually agree to use male pronouns when referring to this female student, they are creating a “hostile learning environment.”
So unless West Point teachers confess with their mouths that this student — who, as a matter of known scientific fact, is a female — is a male, they will be fired. In other words, school officials have made it a job requirement for teachers to deny what is undeniably true.
A Tough Legal Case
At a meeting on December 6th, the West Point School Board voted unanimously to fire Vlaming for “insubordination.” Vlaming may appeal the decision, but in doing so he faces an uphill battle, for a couple of reasons.
First of all, teachers’ First Amendment rights are extremely limited in the context of their teaching duties. When they are teaching, they are not just speaking as citizens. They are speaking as employees being paid to do a job.
Second, school board decisions are notoriously difficult to overturn. When they are appealed, the legal standards courts must apply weigh heavily in favor of the board.
There is a good reason for this, at least in theory. Community members chosen by their neighbors to serve on the school board are generally better suited than a court to make decisions about school operations. We want communities to decide how their schools will be managed. As members of the community, that places an enormous responsibility on us.
Where Do We Go From Here?
While this is a tough legal case for Vlaming, it should be a simple policy issue for self-governing Americans to resolve.
Step one is for the voters in West Point to oust every one of these school board members for the ludicrous decision to fire Vlaming.
Step two is for communities to tell their school boards that they will not stand by while Truth is completely expelled from school. Some individuals may choose to deny what is objectively real and true, but we must not allow government officials to force teachers, of all people, to help them do so. This turns the whole concept of teaching on its head.
A sound education has a number of important pillars. When any of them — like religion, or morality — is removed, the structure will be compromised and weakened. But the acknowledgment and pursuit of Truth is a non-negotiable pillar of any real education. Without it, the whole structure crumbles. And all that we’ll find in the ruins are the broken cisterns of liberal dogma.
There is a third step that we may find more difficult to take. We must resolve to follow Mr. Vlaming’s example, and stand up for Truth even when it costs us dearly. When enough of us do so, maybe a society obsessed with “choice” and “self-determination” will take notice. Maybe they will see the joy and beauty of life in a world that we did not make, with truths we cannot change, and moral laws we cannot erode.
But even if they don’t, we must stand firm. Our integrity, and our love for our neighbors, requires it.
Rita Dunaway is a constitutional attorney, author of the soon-to-be-released book, Restoring America’s Soul: Advancing Timeless Conservative Principles in a Wayward Culture, and co-host of the weekly radio program, “Crossroads: Where Faith and Culture Meet.” She serves as National Legislative Strategist for the Convention of States Project. Her book is now available for pre-order at www.RitaMDunaway.com.