A former history teacher, Tom is a columnist who lives in Lovell, Maine. His column is published in Maine and New Hampshire newspapers and on numerous web sites. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Name: Tom McLaughlin
Monday, November 21, 2016
Racist, xenophobic, homophobic, Islamophobic, misogynist — all these epithets now aimed at Donald Trump and his supporters used to be directed my way. Why? Because I was a teacher who taught students to think critically. I was “poisoning young minds,” said leftists who believed they knew better how issues should be covered in public school — their way and no other. I didn’t just offer “both sides,” because seldom are there only two. I offered multiple viewpoints on controversial issues, encouraged each student to pick what sounded best and defend it. I fostered the kinds of diversity that genuinely improve education: diversity of thought and opinion. To many on the left — and it may now be accurate to say most — the only kinds of diversity that count are those of skin color, sex, or ethnicity. However, Those don't help if everyone thinks alike, and that’s how it is throughout academia now, kindergarten through graduate school.
About once a month, I wrote up classroom Socratic dialogues and published them, maybe two hundred or so. Most of my other columns expressed my own opinions on the issues of the day and after about 1993 or ’94 those opinions were increasingly conservative. Many readers on the left assumed I was pushing my opinions on students and tried to have me disciplined, silenced, fired, or have my teaching license pulled. All along the way, letters to the editor appeared with the slurs listed above. I read them in class and students were surprised.
“But you don’t tell us what to believe,” they responded.
“Evidently they don’t know that,” I’d answer.
“We should all write letters back and tell them,” some suggested.
“You can if you want,” I’d say, “but not in class. You have to do it on your own.” Several did.
There were classroom dialogues on affirmative action in which I’d explain how racial quotas worked in college admissions, hiring, and awarding public contracts. After publishing those, I was “racist.” There were discussions about jihad and Koranic verses encouraging Muslims to kill infidels, etc. After them came “Islamophobic” slurs. We discussed illegal immigration and I described what I saw after flying down to the Mexican border. After those came out, I was “xenophobic.” We discussed referendum questions on Maine’s ballot about gay rights, gay marriage, partial-birth abortion, Indian casinos, and others. After writing up them up, I was “homophobic”; “misogynist” ; “racist”; and so forth.
When I read those letters aloud in class, students asked: “Don’t they bother you?”
“They did at first,” I responded, “but they don’t anymore. Calling me ‘racist’ or ‘misogynist’ doesn’t make it so. Name-calling indicates the writers have run out of arguments, and slurs are all they have.”
I enjoyed playing devil’s advocate with students. It was easy to parrot arguments from left, right, or middle because I held them over the years. Like Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, I had been an Alinskyite radical. Then I moved right to become a liberal before finally emerging as a genuine conservative in my forties. My evolution, as described first by either Georges Clemenceau or Winston Churchill, went thus: “If you’re not a liberal when you’re twenty, you have no heart. If you’re not a conservative when you’re forty, you have no brains.” Unless they read my column regularly, students didn’t know what I really thought.
Efforts by leftists to have me silenced or removed from teaching flared up sporadically for ten or twelve years and I kept a file throughout. After retiring, I wrote it up and tried to shop the manuscript around to various agents with no success. Times are a-changin’ however, as witnessed by the evening and morning of November 8 and 9. Liberals controlling media were shocked to discover that, like me, there are millions out here who have become inured to their ubiquitous slurs. They shot everything they had at Donald Trump and others who didn’t march in lockstep, then sat back expecting their favored candidates to win as they always had, and were shocked when they didn’t.
From 9:00 pm Tuesday night and 1:00 am Wednesday, I flipped through the liberal news channels: NBC, MSNBC, CNN, CBS, and ABC. Pundits were all lined up but gone were the smug expressions of election nights past. They were ashen — all of them. How could we have been so wrong? they asked each other. Why did all those “working class” white guys switch to Trump? Did they not listen to us? Well no, they didn’t. They heard you cry wolf for decades and they’re not listening anymore.
Maybe it’s time to shop my manuscript around again. I had been calling it “Poisoning Young Minds,” but maybe it’s time to call it something else. “Teaching While Deplorable” perhaps? “Irredeemable Instructor”? "Privileged Pedagogue”? I have to think about this.