There has been a lot of talk recently about tolerance and how appalling it is when schools are ‘intolerant’ of certain views. The outcry has been deafening.
Years ago, I helped my 1st-grader with his diorama project.
He was supposed to take a cardboard shoe box and turn it into a scene. My son created a miniature living room with characters sitting on the couch and walking toward the ‘kitchen.’ The back wall of the box looked kind of blank, so I suggested he had his personal touch with a photo.
When he didn't go for my scribble idea, we had a little brainstorming session of photos he could put in there.
One suggestion got an immediate kibosh from my son.
“That’s NOT allowed,” he said.
We finally settled on a noncontroversial self-portrait.
(Which I no longer have to show you.)
In a recent letter to the school who disinvited Phil Bildner, R.J. Palacio writes, “…the message you are sending to those of us who have ever visited—or plan to visit—your schools is the same: unless every comment that comes out of our mouths is in ‘alignment’ with your belief system, we will be subject to the same treatment as Phil.”
Really? Because long before Phil was disinvited for his views, my children have been disinvited from sharing their own belief systems in school. My first-grade son knew he wasn’t allowed to post certain pictures in his work because it might offend other students in the class.
This picture wasn’t obscene. It wasn’t vulgar. It was an expression of free speech. Just like Phil Bildner.
Fast forward a few years, when I volunteered at my children’s school library. Between classes, the librarian and I re-shelved books while we talked about our weekend activities. Both of us were church-goers from different faiths. I finally asked her what church she went to. She answered and then said, “Legally, I’m not allowed to ask you about your faith. But you are welcome to share that information if you want.”
I’m glad she told me this, because we were the only ones in the room and neither of us were soliciting religion. But I didn’t know that she would be breaking any laws if she’d asked me about my church.
Oh, by the way, want to see that picture my son so adamantly insisted wasn't allowed at school?
Here it is:
So Phil was banned from school visits ostensibly because he expressed the belief that gays and lesbians should be allowed to marry. But I have to be equally careful in that school setting not to mention that I believe in traditional families, in case it offends children who came from nontraditional families.
And I also have to refrain from mentioning that God created the earth because it supposedly goes against the theory of evolution. (It doesn’t really, but that’s another blog post entirely.)
The only difference is I don’t say anything so that I won’t be disinvited.
But maybe I should start.
Because if Phil shouldn't be banned, then I shouldn't, either, for having an opposing view.
Where do you think the line should be drawn on free speech? Let me know in the comments!
I write about, with, for, and around kids all day. (Well, maybe I do the dishes too. Sometimes.)