National Education Association Fails Tolerance Test

July 8, 2003 | by | Topic: The Battle for the MindPrint Print

Class, let’s match wits with the NEA. Answer the following multiple-choice question:

Tolerance can best be defined as:

a. the acceptance of the differing views of other people and fairness toward the people who hold different views

b. active suppression of objectionable views in favor of other preferred ideas and opinions

The NEA bills itself as “the nation’s largest professional employee organization, representing 2.7 million” school personnel. It also claims to be a most diverse and tolerant group. But is it? Last week (July 1-6), during its annual conference in New Orleans, the NEA was tested on the subjects of tolerance and diversity. Alas, it failed the test.

To be sure, the NEA is home to many causes – from pro-abortion views to gay activism. However, some views are not welcome in the NEA. For instance, support for sexual abstinence only programs is rarely heard in the NEA. Instead, it promotes school-based “health” clinics that would dispense all kinds of things, except perhaps the advice to remain sexually abstinent.

Perhaps lesser known is the rejection of any idea that youngsters confused about their sexuality should be exposed to a diversity of opinion concerning the flexibility of sexual orientation. The NEA is a signatory to the propaganda piece, “Just the Facts About Sexual Orientation.” I say propaganda because the document gives the reader no idea that the views expressed are scientifically controversial and unsettled. This authoritative sounding piece rejects the possibility that sexuality might be changeable or that students experiencing same sex attraction have options other than identifying as gay, lesbian or bisexual.

Enter Sissy Jochmann and New Business Item 15. Jochmann is a second-grade teacher from Pennsylvania and chair of the Conservative Educators Caucus (www.ceccentral.org). In New Orleans last week, Jochmann gave the NEA a pop quiz on tolerance that seemed like a no-brainer.

She reasoned if the NEA is as committed to tolerance and diversity as the organization statements declare, then surely the assembled delegates would vote to include mention of ex-gays in literature and teacher training materials concerning sexuality. And further, she suggested that students be told about resources designed to assist those struggling with unwanted same sex attraction.

Certainly tolerance would dictate an affirmation of the lives and dignity of ex-gays and their chosen paths.

Right?

Not so at last week’s convention.

Jochmann introduced a proposal that would have required the NEA to “include the term ‘ex-gay’ or ‘those with unwanted same sex attraction’ in all policies listing sexually diverse groups and offer unbiased information on resources for sexually confused youth.”

Sadly for teachers and students that would have benefited from a more balanced view of sexual orientation, the assembly voted not to consider the item. Jochmann was surprised to learn that many of her colleagues had never heard of ex-gays. Perhaps, they had been reading “Just the Facts….”

Well, if the NEA material on sexuality was the study guide for Tolerance 101, it certainly didn’t yield passing grades. Apparently, the delegates were fairly intolerant of the notion that children should be exposed to both sides of this controversial matter. Rather, many schools will continue to withhold unbiased information concerning the fluid nature of sexuality, especially during adolescence.

Is this simply an ideological issue?

While such issues are involved, the debate is also about what is best for children. Some research points to negative outcomes for teens prematurely labeling themselves as gay or lesbian.

Since nearly 26 percent of teens in one large survey were uncertain about their sexuality, but only about 3 to 4 percent of the adult population identifies as gay or lesbian, there is much room for such premature self-labeling. Leaving aside ideology, wouldn’t children be better served by following the common sense of Jochmann’s balanced proposal?

So how did you answer the definition of tolerance? If you said “b,” then you understand tolerance NEA style. If you said “a,” then you and the dictionary are on the same page.

Now class, what word is defined by letter “b?”

Warren Throckmorton

Warren Throckmorton

Dr. Warren Throckmorton is an associate professor of psychology and fellow for psychology and public policy with The Center for Vision & Values at Grove City College. Dr. Throckmorton is past-president of the American Mental Health Counselors Association and is co-author (with Dr. Michael Coulter) of ”Getting Jefferson Right: Fact Checking Claims about Our Third President.” He can be contacted through his blog at www.WThrockmorton.com..

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