My son’s ninth grade English class is reading the short story The Most Dangerous Game. His teacher asserts as fact that the view that human life is more valuable than animal life is erroneous. In fact, this is the view of the villain of the story so it must be wrong. My son objects stating that he believes human life is more valuable than animal life. He told me he didn’t want to get in to the fact that humans have a soul and animals don’t so he just put forth that humans have an intellect and can choose right from wrong (free will) and animals do not. His teacher then put this idea up to a class vote. Of course, since she had already said this position was in error, not a single student agreed with my son. She then pointed to this lack of support as evidence that my son must be wrong. My son stood firm and told her that his faith taught that human life is more valuable than animal life. She then dismissed him with a “Fine. Believe what you want. I don’t want your parents emailing me to complain.”
There is so much wrong on so many levels with this scenario. First of all, declaring that values are voted on to determine their veracity is absurd. Secondly, subjecting a student to this kind of public scrutiny is insensitive at best and cruel at worst. Obviously, this teacher has no interest in diverse opinions and rational discourse. She seems more interested in indoctrination than in education. After seeing the ridicule my son endured, do you think many students will step forward to disagree with her in the future? I do believe she may have sensed that she had crossed the line of propriety because she pointedly told my son she didn’t want to hear from his parents about this.
The incident obviously bothered my son because he brought the subject up with me. I told him I am very proud of him for standing firm in his principles. He told me that he couldn’t believe one thing during English class and something else the rest of the day. I know this test will strengthen him for future trials, but I still think a good teacher would not have created such a situation.
UPDATE: I did follow up with the teacher. You can read about it here.