Friday, June 23, 2006

Ms. Hoover

Responding to another post by Miguel Guhlin.

My perspective on this particular case is simply that posting naked photos of yourself on the internet is not wrong.

Yes, there are some moral perspectives that hold that it is wrong - though interestingly these same voices have no particular problem with nudity on film, in magazines, at fashion shows, and so on.

But it does not follow that teachers should have to follow a particular moral code, much less that particular moral code. Morality is a personal choice, and a society that values freedom should respect the personal choices of all of its citizens, yes, including teachers.

Indeed, from my own perspective, I am much more concerned about children being exposed to McDonalds commercials, being exposed to the brutality of shows like CSI, and seeing cities firebombed on the evening news (to name but a few things).

But I also recognize that I cannot protect children by removing all of these from the air - and I would point out that probably the only protection of children from nudity in today's media environment is a blindfold.

Singling out the teacher as the carrier of a special brand of morality (one often not even respected by her accusers) is in my view a disturbing form of hypocrisy. I have much more respect for people who say, "These are my values, this is what I live by" than by people who seek to impose their particular morality (as they understand it) on others.

You may think that the lesson the teacher is teaching her student is to "live naked." But it is not, and the current opposition and sanctions makes that perfectly clear.

No, the lesson she is teaching her students is, "live honestly."

That's why they fear her, and that's why they want to see her fired.

2 comments:

  1. "Live honestly."

    Powerful. It's different than morally, though. Live honestly can mean the depraved person can perhaps, not be proud of his/her depravity, but at least, be honest about it. What is honesty but seeing who you are, as you are? Whether it is judged wrong or not, isn't that dependent upon which mores and folkways you were raised in or subscribe to?

    As a teacher, "live honestly" is great, but the truth is something that is feared, and not just by administrators. We would rather cling to our particular world view and judge from the throne. Ultimately, the truth can set us free...although Ms. Hoover is already free-er having undergone this experience, it remains to be seen if the Board and their constituents will be freed by the truth, or frightened into punishment.

    However, let me attempt to argue this from a conservative point of view. Make no mistake, I'm adopting a role for the next few paragraphs. I am interested in possible responses to the controversy.

    A conservative might argue that Ms. Hoover failed to control her basic desires, honestly appraised or not, to pose naked in "photographic art." That she even posed for the pictures in the first place makes her worthy of punishment. What responsible, moral person poses naked for a photograph? Isn't the idea repulsive to you as a Christian? The body is the temple of the Holy Spirit. To abuse it is...an abomination.

    The community of those disciplined enough NOT to pose for art or photos that are "honest," especially since some of the photos depicted Ms. Hoover in bondage (spiked collar for example) which is considered deviant, are entitled to punish Ms. Hoover for violating their code.

    Teachers, they argue, should be strict, not nurturing as Ms. Hoover was. Since art has traditionally been perceived as an elective, something extra to the curriculum, it should be art that teaches conservative values, should highlight the ideals we must all be disciplined enough to reach for. To allow Ms. Hoover--who has a "girlfriend" and same-sex partner--to continue to exist in K-12 environment means allowing the AntiChrist to sit on the Altar in the Temple of God.

    Ok, dropping the role now, stepping out of the conservative's shoes...

    The School Board is in a tough spot. The Texas government/legislature is controlled by those who hold conservative values, who control the purse strings. The Board can terminate Ms. Hoover and affirm conservative values in our schools, but they also decide to take other steps.

    Stepping into a different role here...

    An open, two-way communication is needed. It means speaking the undiscussable:

    1) Naked photos of a teacher were posted.
    2) Students and faculty saw those pictures.
    3) How will relationships between those students/faculty and the teacher change?
    4) Will that change be beneficial or not?
    5) Will the teacher be able to do her job effectively if she stays?
    6) We didn't want to know she had a girlfriend/same-sex partner, who acted irresponsibly by posting the photos to public forums (Flickr and MySpace), and now how can we be assured that this won't happen again? That girlfriend is not subject to Board authority.
    What else?


    Wouldn't it be great if we could speak honestly as part of living honestly?
    Yet, such honesty involves knowing exactly where you are coming from, the role you've accepted to play on the world stage. Yet, playing a role is still dishonest, however convenient.

    In this play, the truth will set Ms. Hoover free...and the fallout may do the same for Board members as well.

    Either way, they all have my sympathy, for what it's worth.

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  2. Living honestly is is living moally - it is living according to your own morality rather than someone else's.

    Yes, one person's morality may appear as another person's depravity, and hence, from someone's point of view, 'living honestly' may mean that the depraved person may be proud of his or her depravity.

    What we have to understand in a contemporary society is that mere 'depravity' is not sufficient gounds for sanction. For, yes, blacks can celebrate their 'depraved' music, gays and lesbians can celebrate their 'depraved' sexual orientation, and artists can enjoy their 'depraved' photography.

    The point is, it is simply inappropriate for a community to impose sanctions merely on grounds of morality. It is inappropriate because this always presages a persecution of minorities, and societies that persecute minorities are neither productive nor stable.

    This is why modern democracies have protection against what Mill styled as the 'tyranny of the majority' in the form of charters of rights. The freedom of expression, the freedom of religion - these are values the very people thinking of punishing Ms. Hoover would be very hard pressed to abandon, because they know well their own standards and values may come do depend on them.

    When you say, "Wouldn't it be great if we could speak honestly as part of living honestly?" what I read is you saying, "Wouldn't it be great if everyone were free?" And I agree. It would be great. And it means that teachers, school boards, writers, and you and I, have to stand up for it, first and foremost, by living free, by being free.

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