They got that.
“If we didn’t believe there was such a thing as objective truth, we wouldn’t bother to pursue it, would we?”
Some looked at me as if they were disappointed that I’d be wasting their time teaching something they already knew, and I should have realized they’d be bored. “Bear with me, please,” I’d say. “America’s founding fathers believed in a Creator who had a purpose, however mysterious that might be. Eighteenth and nineteenth-century Americans did too. They believed they had a God-given right to pursue happiness as individuals, and they could practice any religion they wished in that pursuit, unimpeded by government and America prospered. The 20th century can be viewed as one in which that gradually changed.
“At first it did,” I’d explain, “but after a year or so I started looking forward to letters like this because when I’m getting flak, I know I’m over the target.” Then I’d tell them the superintendent directed me to tell my students “from time to time” that it was all right for them to disagree with my views or what they thought my views might be - just like the letter writer did.
Inevitably, a student would say: “We already know that, Mr. McLaughlin.”