Let Your Freak Flag Fly: A Classroom StoryAUGUSTINE R. C. MAZZEO
Even the most steadfast egalitarian institution betrays itself in practice.
For those with the ears to hear, the airwaves bring ominous echoes of reports from all corners of the western world. Good hard working people are being fined for not baking cakes to celebrate same sex unions, for not photographing gay weddings and for preaching against the sins of homosexual activity. A 14-year-old boy in Texas was suspended from school for stating that "homosexuality is wrong." A teacher in Indiana was suspended for making anti-gay remarks outside the classroom. A teacher in Florida was suspended and could be fired for making remarks against "gay marriage" on his personal Facebook page.
These occurrences are beginning in build up like a ground swell and it is doubtless that soon we will be inundated by a tsunami of pro-gay rights activists who call "good evil and evil good." They are already clamoring for the silence and approbation from those of us who rightly recognize that we are made in the image and likeness of God. Those of us who claim that all souls are due proper respect for their intrinsic dignity that comes from a rightly understood Christological anthropology are considered the enemy. The homosexual agenda, a synonym for the Culture of Death, is reaching its ubiquitous tentacles into all spheres of life and intruding on the free speech of honest hard working Christians everywhere. It is beginning to encroach on our most basic freedoms and threatening our very livelihoods.
I teach 6th grade in a Hispanic migrant farm labor town with 4 schools. In November our class walked to a neighbor school to watch a student production of a play called Shrek. The GATE teacher at this school put on the play.
The public schools have been systematically eliminating real standards for decades. The vertical order of things in the real world is artificially and forcefully turned to horizontal. Research shows that when one group excels, the rest of the student body may suffer attacks of envy and low self-esteem. This response to excellence is not tolerated. Aside from the utter absence of artistic standard of the performance, the GATE teacher and his students correctly divined the theme of Shrek: "let your freak flag fly." In honor of their stout discovery, they distributed a flag for each student in attendance with the motto written on it "let your freak flag fly."
Every morning I have a reading class in which 20 students from the GATE class at my school come to me for 45 minutes. We had been illegally reading the Chronicles of Narnia and speaking of such prohibited topics as philosophy, logic and ethics. I involved them too in a conversation about the message conveyed by the producers of Shrek.
It was an engaging conversation. A little girl raised the topic of "gay marriage." I gladly displayed both sides of the issue for and against looking at arguments from pathos, logos and ethos, all undergirded by our Catholic understanding of same sex attraction. The pro-"gay marriage" stance looked good from a few pathological arguments, but fell dreadfully short on logos and ethos.
Three months later, after five weeks of winter break, three weeks spent in Italy, I returned to work to find that I was in the middle of a controversy. The little girl who asked me about "gay marriage" organized a mini-revolt. Kids were talking, parents got involved, phone calls were made and a remnant of revolutionaries resolved to come forward in the name of social justice and marriage equality.
The little girl wrote a two-page letter that read like a 'dear diary' affirmation of the homosexual agenda. What she reported was largely true, only skewed as is common when a victim needs to be perceived. Evidently she has a beloved gay Uncle Jessie. He opened a bar and a nightclub. He is so happy and so well liked that she and her family could not fathom why a teacher wouldn't endorse the gay lifestyle. I was surprised to read from an eleven year old "I think if somebody wants to be a lesbian, or a homosexual or bi-sexual that it is ok. Everyone should just follow their heart." Further she accused me of mentioning God in the classroom. She accused me of five or six other offenses my confessor would encourage. I was perhaps most perplexed by a sneering parting accusation that ended the letter with "he even quotes C.S. Lewis."
In this past year alone, three male teachers at my school have been accused of sexual misconduct, put on administrative leave for weeks while investigators followed dead end leads in semi-witch hunts. The results have been consistent, no evidence to support the alleged crimes. The crisis in the area of sexual morality that Chesterton warned us about has certainly come to fruition.
Four weeks ago my boss came unexpectedly to my room, pulled me out of my class to take me to a disciplinary meeting. On the way he gave me a full rundown of the accusations and possible outcomes. I took that inopportune moment to give him a rosary I had brought for him from the Vatican. He laughed nervously and a little ironically. Good angels must have intervened, because he fought tooth and nail and negotiated with the band of angry parents and managed to keep their complaints informal and thus I avoided administrative leave.
I did however get a disciplinary write up forbidding me to express my opinion in the classroom. I wanted to ask him whose opinion that was but as Falstaff might have warned me "The better part of valour is discretion." It must occur to us all that there really isn't such a thing as a teacher that doesn't reference at least some kind of standard of truth; even if that standard is one's own mind. This is the case for the modern relativists who must comprise nearly the entire body of public school teachers.
Luckily, the students that complained were not my own. As teachers, our moral duty is to lead our students to objective notions of goodness, truth and beauty. I can serve God in this matter or my boss, but I can't serve both. The disciplinary action I suffered is less than a dead letter. I have since not held back a single opinion with my own class, but I will think twice before I speak freely to those particular GATE students. It occurs to me that the better students in the public schools suffer the most soul damage.
The homosexual agenda is making great advances in our society. I think this is a cause for serious consideration. The most basic freedoms and self-evident truths upon which this great country was founded are in grave peril. The homosexual lobby would trade them all for sexual license and that is a tragedy for the entire world. It is certainly right and true that teachers who commit acts of sexual misconduct ought to be removed and properly dealt with by the authorities. But I am left wondering, how long will it be before I lose my job for the sexual misconduct of others?
Augustine R.C. Mazzeo. ""Let Your Freak Flag Fly": A Classroom Story." Crisis Magazine (March 5, 2013).
Reprinted with permission of Crisis Magazine.
Crisis Magazine is an educational apostolate that uses media and technology to bring the genius of Catholicism to business, politics, culture, and family life. Our approach is oriented toward the practical solutions our faith offers — in other words, actionable Catholicism.
Augustine R.C. Mazzeo is a 20 veteran teacher in the California public school system. He is married with 3 daughters. He is a catechist who speaks regularly to adults and teenagers about the Catholic Faith.
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