A Voice of Reason: Sane Views for a Crazy World

April 4, 2007

Hate Speech – Does the Silence About it Matter?

Neil had a thought provoking post, which inspired me to make my own.

A typical incident in a school atmosphere, kids teasing each other.  It’s part of the deal, not that it is correct, but you may as well want kids to not be kids if you want teasing to end.  I also am not sure of the role of the school when speech – even repulsive speech takes place out of the classroom, even if the people interact in the classroom.  I don’t know if I want the school to start having as part of their job description to actively participate with law enforcement outside the school’s domain. That sounds like a plan that the Gestapo or the KGB – see we’re reasonable and don’t like tyranny from the left or right – would have put into play.  As a matter of fact they did.  I remember well raising the ire of some on the Board of Education and Administration, when I was a coach and would not act on parts of the “Athlete’s Code of Conduct” as it  involved incidents that may happen in the private life of the athlete away from the school.  If you want to kick a kid off the team because he cut, was rude to a teacher, or beat up a student in the hallway fine, but I’m not going to become the heavy hand of retribution if a kid gets drunk at a party off of school grounds, and not on school time.  That’s the parent’s job, not mine.  Anyway, I digress.

Hate speech in the classroom, is something that I have issues with.  I’m one of those uncool teachers who when a child cusses, I imitate Ruth Fisher of Six Feet Under and say “Language”.  Heck, I even do it at home when my son is playing “Gears of War” and the F word among others, flies through the airwaves.  Typically when a teen cusses and gets caught the “Got you” look from a teacher is enough.  However there is other speech, terms like, “That’s so gay” that bother me a bit more.  Now, I believe that the vast majority of those who use this term are not being homophobic, but to me, it does minimalize a group of people who are what they are, whether by choice or predisposition is not really that important.  I guess I was offended when the popular term was “That’s Phat”.  I thought they were talking about my middle age spread, but was soon enlightened.

Enter the classroom and see the boy sitting with the two girls around him.  He’s twelve, maybe thirteen, and is truly a sweet boy.  He comes from issues at home, but he is a good student.  He does his work on time, he smiles when you greet him, he doesn’t pick on other kids, he’s a bit chubby, and I wish he wouldn’t miss so much school – we’ll get to that later.  He’s really just a sweet little boy, who doesn’t have the animosity of most twelve or thirteen year old boys.  He tends to be quiet and sits with girls rather than other boys.  He gets along remarkably well with them, and is never rude to them, or anybody else.  He’s called an F***ing Queer faggot by the other boys.  The other boys, who are good kids generally, start to say these things, and it comes to my attention as well as one of the teachers with whom we partner.  She makes the incident report to the administration, and we expect something to happen.  The result, they are talked to.  Can you imagine what would have been the result had the discussion been about the religion, the skin color, or the relative evident stage of puberty of some of the female classmates?  At the least some sort of consequencing would have occurred, yet for this horribly damaging words, and if you saw the pain after the boy who was so insulted evidenced on his face, after the incident, how he was made to be ashamed of himself for nothing – it wasn’t as if this kid was making passes on the other boys – not that it would excuse those comments, but which would have made them understandable – it should break your heart.  If it doesn’t, I don’t think you have one.  Thankfully, my teaching partner talked to the boys about their words, and they seemed to show remorse, however, there should have been a consequence.

St. Paul talked about the nature of love in his letter to the Church at Corinth.  The word love that is used, the value placed on a being because of their existence.  This love is not based on any other factor than merely being alive, and it is when evident the best of human nature.  The antithesis of this quality is shown in hate speech.  It is devaluing based upon some aspect of a being’s existence.  The nature of that difference to me is not a material factor.  As long as a person exists, they are worthy of value, even wrongdoers, and in this case this boy did nothing wrong.   This incident has caused me to realize I have reframed my thinking about some hate speech.  Some speech is so defiling that it is worthy of special note.

This reframing or maybe awareness is also causing me to end my silence, by being silent.  I plan on asking permission of my administrators to actively support “A Day of Silence”.  On that day I will not speak with other students or with staff.  I will make sure learning goes on, a good deal of the time I have found that teachers do often get in the way of real learning anyhow.  I also belive that my students will learn far more than my words on this subject could ever do.  I will be participating in this silence to voice my sadness at the hatred that man shows towards his fellow man, even if I am not fully comfortable with some of the behaviors they exhibit.  Although I am not in favor of homosexual marriage, and am not personally attracted to its practice, and do admit to being uncomfortable when I see it, I am much more uncomfortable from my sense of what is Christ-like to hatred, whether in action or in word, and I must ask to speak out, by being silent.

6 Comments »

  1. What happened to that boy is truly heartbreaking and I think the school dropped the ball in a major way. Someone needs to defend that boy and discipline the others. I would never permit bullying to go on in my presence and if I was aware of it I’d do something about it, including confronting the bullies directly.

    But the issue there isn’t “hate speech” as defined by the PC police and in the sense of making an assault on a straight person a misdemeanor and an assault on a gay person a felony. The issue is bullying. The mean boys could have used different words and been just as hateful.

    I think they need a day of silence for bullying and hateful comments in general, not just a thinly veiled pro-gay acceptance day as is currently being promoted.

    Comment by Neil — April 4, 2007 @ 8:25 pm | Reply

  2. I agree with your assessment that their is some need for sanity with those who preach about hate speech. Decent people know what is right and what is wrong, and it is sad that this would need to be qualified. A pretty sad commentary on our society.

    Comment by avoiceofreason — April 4, 2007 @ 8:36 pm | Reply

  3. ah great read as always..hate ..sigh..the parents pass on the “gift” to their innocent children..sigh..
    Ty for the comments at my humble abode !..:)

    Comment by Angel — April 5, 2007 @ 1:10 am | Reply

  4. Sad. I have a friend who uses “gay” insults all the time. It sickens me because this man purports to be a Christian, yet insinuates this about other guys who are clearly straight. (His circle is pretty much the same as mine, and nobody is anything close to gay.) It saddens me because he is mocking what is a real problem for some people, and at the same time is insinuating that we are engaged in a “lifestyle” that is forbidden in the Bible.

    Yet, at the same time, hate speech is overreacted to often. In this instance, I believe you are right. The school failed miserably. However, this is the exact thing that laws against hate speech are supposedly supporting. In reality it is a thinly disguised attempt to squash anyone who says that their viewpoint is right. Read: Christianity. Christianity is the major world religion that insists it is right. So therefore, it must be bad. “Hate speech” as a crime is merely another step on the dangerous road to all-inclusivism, where everybody’s opinion counts and no one’s matters.

    Comment by thelonedrifter — April 5, 2007 @ 5:37 am | Reply

  5. There is always a view about the dangers of egalitarianism – where everyone counts equally in a sense. In many ways I find it hard to disassociate that from democratic principles. There is always a smack of aristocracy – intellectual or monetary by those who oppose more democracy. Hopefully all become enlightened, which is not going to happen, but the more who do, the more participation in life is accomplished. In the end, opinions are just that, however, one has to hope they are tied to some basis, and not just non-sequitors.

    Comment by avoiceofreason — April 5, 2007 @ 1:57 pm | Reply

  6. Hate speech would be hate speech regardless if it was directed at people of a different sexual orientation, a different race, a different size or anything different.

    When I was in high school (a LONG time ago) we had a student that had a big head. That was his nick name – “Big Head”. That is just as bad as calling someone a queer or some of the racial terms that we used.

    I agree, the students engaged in hate speech need to be disciplined. Their particular hate speech is no worse than any other type.

    Incidentally, I was called “Bony butt” due to my extreme skiny-ness, a problem I have now over-compensated for…

    Comment by Randy — April 5, 2007 @ 3:00 pm | Reply


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