Social mores in the United States are changing so fast, it’s hard to keep up. If you fail to conform to the latest turn in politically correct thinking, you’re toast. You could lose your job. Not just in California, but here in Virginia.
Peter Vlaming, a high school teacher in West Point, was fired yesterday by the West Point School Board for resisting administrative orders to use male pronouns to refer to a ninth-grade student who had undergone a gender transition, reports the Richmond Times-Dispatch. Here are the details:
Vlaming, 47, who had taught at the school for almost seven years after spending more than a decade in France, told his superiors his Christian faith prevented him from using male pronouns for a student he saw as female.
The student’s family informed the school system of the transition over the summer. Vlaming said he had the student in class the year before when the student identified as female.
Vlaming agreed to use the student’s new, male name. But he tried to avoid using any pronouns — he or him, and she or her — when referring to the student. The student said that made him feel uncomfortable and singled out.
Administrators sided with the boy, telling Vlaming he could not treat his transgender pupil differently than he treats others.
Vlaming’s unwillingness to use the officially sanctioned pronoun created a “hostile learning environment.”
Bacon’s bottom line: I can see both sides of this controversy. On the one hand, if the West Point School Board has declared it to be school policy to refer to transgender students by their preferred pronouns, Vlaming should get with the program. If he doesn’t like the policy, he’s free to find a job teaching in a school that allows him to address students as he pleases.
On the other hand, I respect Vlaming’s right to hold his religious beliefs. I don’t share them, but I respect his right to have them and his tenacity in sticking to them. The RTD article does not illuminate his thinking, but I can hazard a guess. As a Christian, he might reason, if God created the transgender student as a female, that switching to a male gender identity is unnatural, or even ungodly. If you believe in God as an underlying premise, that’s perfectly logical.
It’s too bad Vlaming couldn’t bring himself to honor the student’s request to use male pronouns. From what I glean from the RTD story, he didn’t actually refer to the student as “she.” Apparently, he structured his speech to avoid using any gender-specific pronouns in connection with the student. That may have created some awkard situations, but it’s too bad that the student took great umbrage and complained to the administration. There is no evidence that Vlaming meant any ill will. But the cult of victimization and perpetual outrage now defines our society, so confrontation was probably inevitable.
Language confers the ability to shape how we think. The power to define language is the power to define the public discourse. Ultimately, incidents like Vlaming’s firing are a demonstration of power. Politically correct vocabulary and thought will be enforced. Dissenters, including those who dissent out of religious convictions, will be crushed. Some peoples’ rights matter more than others’.