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08/23/2007

Mr. Tompkins: Teach what to write, not what's 'right'

by Jeremy Hooper

So imagine someone expressed that by accepting homosexuality, we are "call[ing] what is bad 'good.'" And imagine that same someone says that it is a loving approach "to call [individuals] to overcome whatever complex mix of biological and environmental factors is causing homosexual desires." And imagine that same someone also classifies it as "standing up for the right" when someone denounces gay acceptance being taught in public schools.

If you are a gay person, such words might make you uncomfortable, right? You would of course respect the person's right to say such, but you would probably be a little less than comfy if put in the care of that person, no? After all, we gay are not bad or wrong. And any self-respecting gay person would surely defend themselves against such claims.

Well, now imagine that the above person is an English teacher at a local public high school, who is put in charge of students from all walks of life and backgrounds. And imagine that this teacher today posted the following comment on the Good As You website (using his school email addy, no less):

The post mentions that Laurie Higgins, like me, is someone who "works for a public school system, and is likely to come in frequent contact with gay kids who are in need of compassion and understanding." It is her approach--one that loves individuals enough to call them to overcome whatever complex mix of biological and environmental factors is causing homosexual desires--that is the truly loving approach. Our culture is beginning to think we can solve the problem by calling what is bad "good." But that can only lead to more problems. Good for Laurie for standing up for the right (and albeit increasingly difficult) response.

Yes, that is Naperville Central High School teacher Dan Tompkins responding to a piece we had written on Laurie Higgins, a fellow Illinois teacher who has spoken out from time to time on homosexuality in public schools. And again, Mr. Tompkins has every right to make such public declarations. However, if this gay writer had a kid in Mr. Tompkin's class, you best believe I would take great pause over the teacher's choice to make such public testaments! Or if I was a straight parent of a gay or questioning kid, I would take even greater pause. How could I not?!?

Now, obviously folks on Mr. Tompkin's side of the gay "issue" would say he is just expressing his religious freedom and his faith-based convictions. However, for those of us who view homosexuality as an unchangeable part of one's beings, his words cut straight to the core. Just imagine if he was calling any other potential student's innate characteristics "bad" or wrong! And what makes this even more disturbing is that Mr. Tompkins makes no bones about the fact that he is speaking about potential gay students. There is no attempt to disconnect his religious beliefs with his professional life (which, to her credit, Ms. Higgins has attempted to do in private conversations we've shared). He just puts it out there -- it's "good" and "loving" to encourage students to "overcome" "homosexual desires."

::sigh:: What are our schools coming to?

Original post with Mr. Tompkin's comment [G-A-Y]
Naperville Central: Dan Tompkins [NCUSD]

**UPDATE: We have been in touch with a few school officials, who assure us that this matter is being addressed. We'll keep you posted.

**UPDATE, 8/24: The aforementioned Laurie Higgins, who frequently shares information with Peter LaBarbera, has today posted to the Americans For Truth website a condemnation of Tony Kushner's legendary, award-winning, extremely literary Angels in America (which she trivializes as "primarily a pro-”gay” treatise with heavy-handed leftist politicking"). She has also contributed a piece called Answers to Liberal Teachers’ Arguments — for Parents Challenging Objectionable Books in Schools. No friend of our community, she.

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Your thoughts

I'm sure the religious right will be clamouring to defend Mr. Thompkins' right to exercise his religious freedom in expressing his views. However, were a teacher to express their views (religious or otherwise) that homosexuality is natural and good, or even that we need to be accepting and tolerant of all individuals, I'm sure the religious right would be even more zealous in crying for their ouster.

Oh, wait, I forgot...it's only the "right's" rights that deserve protecting. Silly me.

Posted by: Jessica | Aug 23, 2007 3:17:50 PM

It is not that its "loving" to call someone to overcome their nature but rather more loving to do it because I say and believe it is so! Make no mistake, these people will stop at nothing to dictate their religious beliefs no matter what scientific proof may come about. To them its only the Bible that they need to adhere to and everything else is irrelevant.

Does this sound like the time Galileo tried to tell the Roman Catholic Church that the Earth revolved around the Sun and not the other way around? That the Earth was not the center of the universe? It took the Catholic Church 500 years to apologize for their mistake.

I pray to God that it doesn't take the Church that long to apologize to the GLBT community.

Posted by: Ken R | Aug 23, 2007 3:20:08 PM

Jessica: Oh yea, of course they will. And nobody respects religious freedom than myself (and most every gay activist). But when it comes to using your school email address to specifically speak on a desire for gay students to "overcome" their desires, it crosses a line. And I would say the exact same thing if it were a gay teacher going on a 'pro-family' site and using his school-identified address to express a desire to convert all Christian students, who he implies are innately in opposition to what is "good" or "right."

Posted by: G-A-Y | Aug 23, 2007 3:25:07 PM

Overcome their desires? Sadly, this is the party line in the religious right rhetoric. It is cruel that anyone would advocate people to "overcome" their homosexuality after hearing the horror stories of those who have tried and failed. I would not wish that on anyone.

How many suicides would it take to get him to stop advocating people "overcome" this?

How many thousands of wasted dollars would it take to get him to stop advocating people "overcome" this?

How many destroyed families would he need to meet to stop advocating we "overcome this"?

For every success story he can give me of people who have overcome this, I will provide him with ten stories of disaster and pain from people trying to "overcome" this.

Asking people to "overcome this" is what is bad that you call good. I call it cruel.

Posted by: Joe Brummer | Aug 23, 2007 3:34:17 PM

It always makes me hang my head when some one with that sort of influence take "what’s right for them" to be "what’s right for every one." I am sure he acts in total sincerity, but it’s sad that his statements of "belief" do nothing to help the kids under his care and influence to deal with there struggle. Sad his "loving" message of "truth" is no different from the same degrading and hatful rhetoric that reverberate in the lives of gay youth threw out there life. I guess the idea of a safe, respectful, and understanding classroom environment as a place for fostering children was just too much for him. He had to serve the "greater good" and add his religious air to the message of care and understanding, making it neither.

I'm glad I didn’t have this teacher in my high school, would have only made dealing with depression worse. I guess it would come as a shock to him that some of us, even when young, never felt shame for our sexuality but for the society we had to deal with because of it.

Posted by: Patrick B | Aug 24, 2007 4:34:33 AM

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