LGBT Bigotry Through Academic Intolerance

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This is the story of Dan DeLong, an honors English teacher in Piasa, Illinois. Last month, Mr. DeLong gave his students an assignment that asked them to read a paper on homosexuality in the animal kingdom. His quick suspension brought the issues of LGBT bigotry and academic freedom to the forefront.

The paper titled “The effeminate sheep and other problems with Darwinian sexual selection” was written by a professor at Stanford University, published in a popular science magazine, and readily available in most public libraries. The article is an interesting analysis of the evolutionary ramifications of homosexuality in the animal kingdom.

For the record, over 450 species of animals have exhibited homosexual behavior, including some celebrities. This is just as natural with other species as it is with our own. None the less, in more monotheistic religious countries like the United States, it is often viewed unfavorably by the greater culture. Thus, social conservatives in the district pressured school administrators to suspend Mr. DeLong without pay.

This was nothing more than gay discrimination wrapped in academic intolerance. Luckily, some brave folks fought this injustice and publicized what was going on. Crooks And Liars was quick to pick the story up, and from there it spread to other parts of the internet, although the only MSM traction appeared to be in the local news of Piasa. A support page was started on Facebook, which generated over 3000 followers in a few short days.

After a closed door session of the school board, they reached a compromise. Mr. DeLong apologized for subject material that some may not have deemed ‘age inappropriate’ in exchange for a full reinstatement.

This sets a dangerous precedent however. If he were to attempt assign another article on the subject, the suspension and likely more severe actions would result. Thus, academic freedom has been sacrificed in order to appease a small minded but vocal minority who fail to understand that while homosexuality is quite natural in the animal kingdom, bigotry has to be taught.

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6 Responses to LGBT Bigotry Through Academic Intolerance

  1. +1 Vote -1 Vote +1SJD
    December 1, 2009 at 1:21 pm

    Great article! As a teacher, myself, I can sympathize with much here. Thanks for writing it…

    But I’d like to elaborate on one minor point. The end of this article states:

    “This sets a dangerous precedent however. If he were to attempt assign another article on the subject, the suspension and likely more severe actions would result. Thus, academic freedom has been sacrificed in order to appease a small minded but vocal minority”…

    I would say that the ethical core of this statement is dead-on, and that a legitimate public discussion on the role of education is long overdue. But the idea that the events in this article “sets a … precedent” in academic freedom is slightly misleading, given that the “precedent”, indicative of this case, was set long ago in the US, long before the “Scopes Trial” even.

    Intellectual-minded teachers live in constant worry, in the US, that a discussion of such mundane topics like “human evolution” or “US foreign policy” or the problems of “religious fundamentalism”–Islamic, Christian, or otherwise–will get them fired, because it offended a student or parent…. The Socratic method of inquiry towards Truth is still very much under attack today.

    We like to pretend that we live in an “open society”… but in many ways, US culture is still stuck in the Dark Ages and is as close-minded as the Islamic fundamentalist theocracies Americans love to say they have culturally surpassed.

    The amount of ignorance in America is deeper than most realize. Even last year, Peter Enns, a professor of Old Testament at Westminster Theological Seminary in Glenside, was suspended for publishing a book that suggested the Bible was a collaboration between human writers and “God”–as opposed to the notion that Biblical scripture had magically materialized by “divine will” alone….

    The US government may not be a theocracy, but large elements of US culture has always (sadly) longed to live under a Dark Ages theocratic code of its own irrational designs.

    • Vote -1 Vote +1Ole Ole Olson
      December 6, 2009 at 1:22 am

      Thank you for your insights SJD. You have a unique lens on which to comment here.

  2. Vote -1 Vote +1Lary9
    December 4, 2009 at 8:20 pm

    I just read the article. It’s interesting but why assign it in an Honors English class? It’s clearly an advanced biology concept. OK. So what, right? English…Schmeng-lish.
    But the Stanford Professor cannot defend her/his scientific detachment in this matter since ‘she’ used to be a ‘he’ which at the very least raises questions of professional objectivity. It reminds me of the gay researcher who found data supporting a ‘gayness’ marker in an anomalous chromosome pair that no one else could replicate in follow-up experiments.

    • Vote -1 Vote +1Ole Ole Olson
      December 6, 2009 at 1:25 am

      Although this is just speculation, I would guess he was not teaching biology, and just thought an honors class should be able to handle content like this. As for the research into the broader topic of homosexuality in animals, I think that is pretty solid and quite well documented. In fact, while doing research for this article, I was surprised how extensive the body of knowledge is that came up with a simple google search.

  3. Vote -1 Vote +1Lary9
    December 4, 2009 at 8:25 pm

    But listen, Ole, my concerns are strictly about pure science .I’m cool with it.
    I wouldn’t even care if my dog, Harry, came out of the closet as long as it was what he really wanted. OK? I’d still walk him and take him to the park.

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