Friday, October 14, 2011

NJ teacher and Facebook

Just a few minutes ago, I received a email from the Human Rights Campaign to sign a petition to have some sort of action taken against a teacher in New Jersey. I guess the teacher posted a bunch of anti gay comments on her Facebook page. And my internal answer to them was no way in hell will I sign a petition to stop free speech.

Whether we agree or not with what this teacher was saying, she has the right to say it. It is in the First Amendment, the freedom of speech. As far as I could read, she did not direct it at any one person and commit slander. She did not incite anyone to cause violence, and there is no clear and present danger to what she is saying.

I am glad the ACLU see's it my way. The woman has freedom to say what she thinks. But the counter point some people are making, is that she is a teacher and a role-model by the fact that she is a teacher and should not keep her job because of what she said. I find this ridiculous. It suggests that only certain people can have free speech and if you want to have free speech, you need to choose a career which will allow it. I also disagree that you are a role-model just because you are a teacher.

I try to teach my students that democracy and freedom are difficult concepts for people to fully understand. If you are to practice democracy with civil liberties such as freedom of speech, one needs to accept the fact that not everyone will share your thoughts, feelings and desires. Democracy is all about allowing diverging opinions to come forth and create a space for differing opinions. The better opinions and ideas win out the debate and is what becomes policy and law. It the called the Marketplace of Ideas. And democracy, any democracy, needs a marketplace of ideas to function. There needs to be debate.

Freedom is hard work. To ensure we have the right to say what we feel and think, we need to give others the right. And times, the freedom of speech will be uncomfortable, like in NJ and this school system. Sometimes it will be scary or painful. But it is the right of Americans and a right we need to hold fast to. It is so easy for the government or any group to try to take your freedom of speech away. Do you know that if you are a minor in this country, you really do not have the freedom of speech? Well, that is what the Supreme Court has said when they rule in favor of schools suspending or expelling high school students for speaking their mind. Check out Morse Vs. Fredrick (

Therefore, as citizens, we need to be vigilant and say no to others who want to stifle free speech. Even if it means saying no to an organization you usually support and allowing speech you abhor. And you should not fear losing your job because of what you say, regardless of how many students may look to you as a role-model. Yet, I am pretty sure her anti-gay sentiment has not made her a favorite teacher and now she has made herself an enemy of an entire segment of the student population.

Please remember the freedom to say what you think without dire consequences by the government or other powerful organizations is what people in other countries across the world fight for daily. We should feel relieved if the NJ teacher does not lose her job. Because who knows when the wind will change and people are unpredictable. What you say tomorrow can be viewed as anti something and people across the country maybe calling for you to be arrested/lose your job. I would only hope there will be vigilant people who will fight for your right to speak.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Welcome and What You are Getting Yourself Into

As some of you know, my husband encouraged me to do this blog. I believe he wants to give me a place to vent because I lost my office soapbox. And a 1 year old does not engage in a coherent political discussion, no matter how much reading material you give him. Therefore, I have joined the world of bloggers. 

Before we move on, I want to share my political perspective. I am a Liberal Democrat. I would not of said this 5 years ago. I would of said I was a middle of the road Independent. But the political spectrum has changed so much in the last 5 years or so, that being a Liberal Democrat now is basically the same thing as a middle of the road Independent years ago.

I have lived in a socialist country, although for only a short time. I loved it. Single payer healthcare, mandatory vacation, and less day to day stress imprinted on my heart and helped shaped how I view people. I believe everyone has value. Call me a humanist if you want. Or anti-corporation. Or even socialist. I don't care and you would probably be right to some degree. If you call me a communist, please look up the definition. I am not a communist. I believe the private sector does not have the best interest of people and the only instrument we currently have to protect people from corporations is the government. Which essentially is us.Remember "We the People"?

I picked the title of the blog based on a concept I have been teaching my Intro to American Government class recently. The idea that a democracy can not function properly with out a knowledgeable and active citizenry. It is even an essay question on the test they have tomorrow. I see my goal in class and here on this blog to help others be better citizens.

A word of caution!! If you comment on this blog, please be respectful. If you disagree, speak your mind. But no name calling or mean comments. See, my Father taught me a wonderful lesson in life. You can disagree and argue, scream and yell at each other until you make your mother cry, but at the end of the day, we are all family and you hug and say thank you for the political discussion. Needless to say, my Father and I have been banned from "discussing" politics around my Mom.