Friday, September 07, 2007

What Do You Think?

I just read this report about an art teacher in Fox River Grove, Illinois (just a few miles from where we used to live) who may lose his job because he refuses to stop teaching the students about animal cruelty and about why he's a vegan.

Personally, I have nothing against vegetarians. I actually have a lot of respect for people who choose, and are able, to abstain from eating animal flesh. And the fact that vegans also abstain from eating dairy products and eggs is a small miracle in itself. Just typing the words 'dairy products and eggs' immediately conjured up a mental image of a breakfast buffet that made my stomach growl. I guess I could become a vegan if I became convinced by a doctor that ingesting another gram of animal flesh would result in instantaneous death, but I wouldn't like it one bit.

This quote by Chris Rock pretty much sums up my views on meat consumption:
"If you are one of the chosen few people on this earth lucky enough to get your hands on a steak, BITE THE SHIT OUT OF IT!!!"

When I read the report, I immediately thought of my sister's oldest daughter. Back when she was in kindergarten or first grade, so we're talking about six years old, she suddenly started saying that she didn't want to eat meat anymore. Up to this point, she would gladly eat pretty much anything that was put in front of her, so I thought her sudden desire to no longer eat meat of any kind was rather strange. Then it hit me: the only logical explanation for this was that either a teacher at her school, another student, or one of her friends' parents was putting this idea into her head.

I'm not sure why, but it really bothered me a lot that somebody would be promoting their own agenda to a six-year-old kid. I told my sister that she should bring this up at the next parent/teacher conference to find out if it was indeed a teacher, and...put a stop to it immediately. I don't mean to just single our vegetarianism; a teacher telling children that "...the Bible says that animals were put on this earth for the nourishment of humans" would cause me an equal amount of disgust...probably more. Teachers promoting their personal views on abortion, gun control, or any other of a multitude of today's "hot topics" has no place in the far as I'm concerned.

As it turns out, my sister never brought the issue up with the school. She handled it her own way, and I thought the way in which she handled it was absolute genius. Whenever meat was served at dinner, and my niece would ask if it was meat, my sister would just say "'s pork!", or "'s sausage!". My niece would eat it without any hesitation.

So, do I think that the teacher should be fired if he refuses to stop teaching the students about animal cruelty and why he's a vegan?

Yes! He can talk about these things with his own children all he wants.

What do you think?


Sara said...

i dont know about this specific case, but "promoting their own agenda to a six-year-old kid" seems to describe quite a lot of what happens in the world (religion, politics, values, morals, etc.) of interacting with kids. why is this one more disturbing than a parent making their kid go to church?

(for the record I am part of an organized religion, and used to be a vegetarian, but now occasionally eat meat.)

rswb said...

In my opinion, if the teacher is doing his job and he's not doing anything illegal, then he shouldn't be fired. Discussing animal cruelty and non-mainstream lifestyle choices at school hardly seems so outrageous as to be a sackable offense.

That being said, I don't think that an art class is necessarily the place for an informed and balanced discussion on veganism. I doubt this dude has the time to spend (after teaching his art curriculum, as he should in order to satisfy the point I made above about doing his job properly) on discussing the ethical and medical ramifications of veganism, nor on the foods you need to make sure you eat in order to be a healthy vegan. And even if he does I don't necessarily have enough faith in school kiddies (especially not if they are 6 year olds or slacker teenagers) to pay enough attention to embrace it in a thorough, healthy way (which you really have to if you want to be a healthy vegan in your childhood years. Or even in your adult years, but more so when you're a growing youngster type).

And so my opinion is - don't sack him, and don't necessarily get him to shut up either. Maybe he should start some sort of cruelty-free lunchtime nerd group and all the interested kiddies can come along and read "diet for a small planet" and bring a plate of tempeh burgers and debate the relative merits of veganism vs vegetarianism vs the joys of McDonalds (blergh).

And to think I didn't even mean to leave a comment.

The Big Finn said...

Sara - The reason I find it more disturbing is specifically because it is a teacher and NOT a parent.

rswb - I guess whether or not he is sacked should depend on the school districts' policy/code of conduct. I guess he could start his "cruelty-free lunchtime nerd group", but then another teacher might want to start a "hunters killing animals for food" group that would promote the benefits of putting on the neon orange clothes, going into the forest, and shooting Bambi. Where would it all end?

Anonymous said...

Hmm. I am not sure. If I tell the kids at school that "gay people are not dangerous and they are human and friendly", is that putting my agenda in their heads?

Anonymous said...

i have NO memory of that whatsoever

The Big Finn said...

tobson - No, because a person can choose whether or not he/she wants to be a vegan.

fiona - That's because your mom and I spoke about this stuff behind your back. adults do!

...and, you're too young too remember.

Anonymous said...

was it you that let me chew on a crayon? ;)

Jul said...

Not all vegans are wackjobs, and sometimes a dietary choice is just a dietary choice, not a political agenda.

This particular guy? Wackjob who happens to be vegan (and only since January - so he's been a meat-eating wackjob for most of his life). I'm not clear on exactly what he did, so it's hard to say whether he should be fired for it.

Here's my question - regardless of where the idea came from, why trick the niece into eating meat? It's not like sausage is good for her...

The Big Finn said...

Fi - Yes it was! That's why I am not put in charge of babysitting very often.

Jul - I don't think the idea was really to trick her into eating meat per se, but rather just to try to encourage her not to be a picky eater. All things in moderation.