I don’t waste energy pretending to be someone I’m not at work. I know a lot of people who make very clear distinctions between their personal selves and their professional selves, but I am in the fortunate position of not feeling compelled to do that and, as a result, I don’t. I’m actually proud to be a very what-you-see-is-what-you-get kind of person; my students would recognize me out in public because I’m exactly the same person at work as I am at home. It just so happens that this person identifies as a strongly liberal, enthusiastically progressive rational Humanist.
Part of how I express myself in my professional life is through words (no, really, Chili?!). I have a plethora of bumper stickers and posters and hangings and magnets and quotables stuck on vertical surfaces all over my room, and most of them express decidedly progressive, liberal values. Clearly, the students see (and appreciate) this, because not long after the school year started, they began coming in with things to add to my collection.
Around the second or third week of school, a student printed out this picture and gave it to me. I taped it among a bunch of other things in what I thought was a relatively non-prominent section of a filing cabinet.
I was fully expecting to have to take it down in short order. The image is a little pushy for the classroom, even for me, and even if the kids didn’t object, it is a fact that the school’s board meets in my room. I know for sure that board members often peruse my collection of sayings while they’re milling about drinking coffee and eating pastry while waiting for their meetings to begin; I was certain one of them would express concern or raise an objection or ask my boss to talk to me about it.
September… October (when a student came back from the Rally for Sanity with the Less Condos / More Condoms sticker for me)… November… December… January… February… March… April… nothing. No one mentioned it, no one even brought it up.
Yesterday – YESTERDAY – I get a message from my boss asking me to take it down. Someone complained (I have no idea who – and, honestly, I don’t want to know – but I suspect it’s one of the same kids who’s been complaining that we’re not validating his or her Christian beliefs) and, as a consequence, I’ve been told to take it down because we can’t be “advertising” sex.
My boss, to her credit, made it clear that she has no issue with the image. She’s responding to pressure from outside the school, and it’s just not a fight worth having.
I have chosen not to make a stink about this, but it is a very near thing. I think, if I hadn’t just spent the last month raging and despairing about the state of our culture, I would likely have the energy to protest. I’m just tired. I’m tired of people being too closed-minded to understand that the KIDS brought this in, that this is an image that expresses positive ideals. They would understand that this isn’t about sex; it doesn’t represent an advertisement for sex but rather is a First Amendment right to dissent, and that the message the image is sending is that while the closed-minded and ugly have a right to free speech, so does everyone else. I would fight for this if I thought it wouldn’t give my boss any more stress than she’s already getting from the person/people complaining about it. I WILL fight for this if a student notices it’s gone and raises questions. As it is, I’ve transferred the image to the other side of the cabinet where I can see it, and where students who come to conference with me will see it. I like the positive message it gives (notice who’s smiling in the picture?), and I want the kids to know that I support fully their right to dissent, but not to silence those who have something to say.