Saturday, September 26, 2009

A Factual Departure

I have an affection for my blog. I love it for what it is and also for what it simply isn't designed to do. I made it and I like it. More to the point, I've made it a somewhat less than controversial space. I have enough of the conflict in my regular life. I decided that my blogging existence would be a thing of happiness and peace.

Yet every once in a while, something comes up and I feel the need to speak to it. I usually give it a week or so to see if the feeling goes away. If it doesn't, then it is probably something I want to address. This is one of those times.

I will ask of you only a few things. First, please read the full post before scampering off to the comments to share your thoughts. There are some ground rules here. Some topics can inspire differences of opinion and I'm a great fan of diversity. What I don't tolerate is disrespect. As much as I love a spirited debate, it would be rather easy for hastily written words to create discord in my carefully crafted happy place. Please feel free to respond, but do so respectfully. I have gone to great lengths to write this post in that same spirit. Any and all comments designed to incite hurt or anger will be summarily deleted. Most (in fact, I might even say all) of my known readers have always been kind in the comments so I see no reason to worry but one never knows, does one?

OK. So here's the thing:

Maine residents will soon be casting their ballots on the matter of Question 1 and determining the fate of Marriage Equality in our state. As expected, this has created much in the way of feeling. Also as expected, that feeling has led to expression. It's part of the process. Recently, we have been seeing an ad that will probably be somewhat familiar, at least in content, to those who have had similar voting decisions before them in their own states. In this spot, those who oppose the law allowing for same sex marriages put forth a number of reasons why it should be repealed. It features a man in a suit. I have mixed feelings about men in suits. They represent polar opposites. Sometimes they show up at your house with balloons, a camera crew and a big check that lets you take early retirement. Other times, they come bearing a tax audit. For the most part, though, we tend to trust men in suits. This makes them a little dangerous.

The Suited Man in this advertisement focuses a bit more on one concern than the others from his list. He makes it a point. It is hard to miss. Essentially, he says this: If same sex marriages are granted continued validation under the law, then schools will be teaching this version of the union regardless of parental consent.

This year marks my 22nd year as a Maine educator. That is certainly enough time to see a number of changes in culture, economic trends, technology and the practice of the craft. I've taught many subjects and my classrooms have been comprised of students ranging in ages from 5 to 55. I've watched laws governing how we teach change to reflect the times and have worked with my colleagues to develop curriculum that meet the new needs. There is very little I have not experienced during those 22 years and in the variety of settings, both public and private, where I've worked.

What I have never taught is marriage. Ever. Nor has it ever been asked of me. Not once. In 22 years, marriage has not been a part of any school curriculum that I've been required to teach. Further, I do not recall it ever being an elective course or something students might study in-depth as part of an after school activity.

That's not to say that it doesn't come up every now and again. Of course it does. Children like to talk about their families and share stories. The odd wedding tale is bound to crop up in discussion. Sometimes one of my colleagues is engaged and the upcoming nuptials will invariably be mentioned. In my own classroom, the Cheerful Teaching Assistant is planning a wedding and we are being rather shameless in our efforts to recruit a couple helpful students to stuff the goody bags she's giving out as favors. Marriage is a fact of life and part of the culture. Kids are aware of the concept.

Mostly, though, they just want to know how to spell it. That's pretty much the extent of marriage education. Any questions I've asked regarding whether or not there are plans to add this to the report card have been answered in the negative. There will be no marriage classes in the foreseeable future.

When the day comes for me to head to my own voting booth, I think I will be waiting in line with two types of people: those who vote based on conscience, conviction or personal belief systems and those who vote based on their understanding of the facts. As to the former, I do not feel it is my place to forcibly impart my own belief system on anyone. That is not my way and, while I don't always agree with what others define as "moral," I will respect their right to express that belief on a ballot. I expect the same in return. I think that anyone who knows me can safely predict where I stand on this issue and how I will be voting. My own code of conduct is a personal thing and something for which this blog is not a forum. I will sit on my hands and keep my mouth closed on such matters as faith and morality.

However when voters are basing their decisions on fact and I see information that is falsely presenting itself as such, then I am obligated to speak. To the best of my knowledge, marriage by any definition is not currently being taught in the Maine public schools. Of course I cannot claim to know every curriculum in every school, but I do feel pretty safe in saying that my own experience has been similar to that of most in my profession. This is not an issue upon which to base a decision so serious as Marriage Equality and should be kept out of the debate.

On a personal level, I feel angry and hurt that the work I do could be so grossly misrepresented for the purposes of swaying a vote. It was irresponsible and disrespectful. As I said earlier, I do not tolerate disrespect. True to form, I sat on this for a while to see if I really needed to speak to it.

Turns out I did.



Julia G said...

A very thoughtful and reasonable post -- unfortunately, that ad and its ilk are not designed to spark reasonable discourse but rather to excite a gut-level emotional response. I know people have strong feelings on this and other issues, but as a friend of mine says, why can't we all just get along?

Anonymous said...

I have already donated to the Equality in Marriage group that Dr. Mel wrote about in his blog. That tells you where I stand on the subject. Thank you for setting the record straight.

Bridget said...

Well said! FWIW, I've worked in plenty of school and college libraries, and none of them had courses focused on marriage. As another commenter said, this is just a way to get some people all riled up, and not encourage them to do any research on their own.

Donna Lee said...

Ok, I've deleted what I wrote three times in this space. In keeping with your peaceful, thought out post, I'll just say that I hope the vote comes out the way you'd like. We've had some contention here in NJ (although I'm not sure what a marriage of women or men does that threatens my own marriage, that's beyond me)and settled for civil unions. I wish we had been brave and gone all the way.

April said...

Maybe if marriage was taught in schools there wouldn't be so many divorces!

Well probably not.

You rock, Sheepie!

=Tamar said...

Well written!

Kath said...

Sadly I am quite familiar with that commercial. It was in regular rotation on television channels in my state not very long ago. And (again sadly) you know how things turned out.

I share your concerns on this particular angle and I suspect you already know my views on the overall issue. I can only hope that the residents of Maine do better than we did at the polls.

Marcy said...

Thank you.

Mel said...

I'm not in favor of people who fabricate or dissemble, for any reason. And I'll just leave it at that.

Betsy said...

Trying to bring facts and logic into a political discussion can be really frustrating...I'm glad you made the effort!
This country was founded on freedom and equality...we have come so far from that ideal that it makes me sad sometimes...but we'll keep working on it.

Karen said...

Excellent post.

Magpie Woman said...

I'm a frequent reader from way out west in a state where it's practically guaranteed that this issue will never come to the ballot. In fact, one recent initiative was for an amendment to our state constitution that defined marriage as between one man and one woman (BTW, that emphasis on singularity is the big hint to where I'm from) and never shall be the privileges thereof be extended to any other combination. It passed with a huge majority after a very similar campaign. Thanks for your emphasis on a reasoned, factual approach--and thanks for generally keeping me laughing about the escapades of your sheepiness.

soxanne said...

I love the way you write whether you are just being silly, pointing out everyday ironies or, in this case, eloquently expressing an opinion on a hot political topic.

Thanks for all the fun posts - and for this thoughtful one too.

Anonymous said...

Interesting. And I love what April said in her comment.

Personally, I don't believe in it. At all. SOME things need to still matter.. Just sayin'.

But you're right, I don't really see how this has any impact on education either.

Deep thoughts.


JJ said...

I teach kindergarten and my children have been in public school for 13 years so far. I don't teach marriage. It wasn't included in the sexual education curriculum portion of middle or high school Health.

We talk about families in Kindergarten. We talk about our own families and who is in them. The students talk about their adults. When we look for similarities there are families that are married and those who are not.

I find equally disturbing the ads that say that allowing people who want to marry to marry threatens my marriage. The only thing that threatens my marriage is the people involved.

Those ads remind me of the statements some make about prayer not being allowed in school. I assure those people that my children pray in school every day. They personally and privately pray which is a good and separate thing from being told to pray.


Elaine said...

Thank you for an excellent post! I think all those rabble-rousers should just retreat back into their caves and the let intelligent people go about their lives. 'Live and let live' has always worked for me.
What do you think of the school consolidation issue?

anna.danielsson said...

I'm from Sweden, and I don't know the American schooling system -- which issues can't you address without parental consent? Is homosexuality one of them?

Anonymous said...

Well said!

Anonymous said...

Great Post Annie -- I HATE that commercial!


Yarnhog said...

Sadly, the same lies were used to pass a similar measure here in California. Some otherwise reasonable people I know were swayed by this argument. I hope things turn out differently for Maine.

My verification word is "rights"!

Cursing Mama said...

Sadly and happily this commercial has not made the rounds in my neck of the woods. Sadly, because I think MN is woeful in its position and happily because I can not stand dishonesty either.
You certainly have my respect.

Anonymous said...

I am sadly familiar with that ad. It was used in my state too. The people behind ads of that sort are not interested in facts, they just want to scare people and, unfortunatly, it worked here.

Too bad that so many people here were so worried that their children would be taught gay marriage in the schools. Going on the record of our graduates in recent years here in California, I don't see why marriage would be taught with any more success than reading or math appears to be.

Anonymous said...

This post needs to be an Op-Ed in the Portland paper....

debsnm said...

Too bad "you" (aka "they") don't teach marriage in school. Maybe there'd be less divorce. Heaven knows I could have used a marriage class! Congrats on your thoughtful post. Quite grounded and reasonable.

Georgi said...

Excellent and well said!