FOR A GOOD part of the '90s, I was a language teacher at several Philadelphia-area private schools.
One was secular, one Quaker, and one was a Catholic girls school similar to Notre Dame Academy, the subject of a Wednesday Page 1 Inquirer article by Dan Hardy.
Of the three, the school that gave me the most freedom (and the fewest headaches) was the Catholic institution. That goes for both the parents and the administration.
Elizabeth Collins would probably disagree.
While employed as an English teacher at Notre Dame, as the Inquirer story related it, Collins used her personal blog to lambaste a student for submitting an essay that, in her opinion, missed the point of the assignment by being "gloating" and "hostile." Apparently, the student wrote unfavorably about President Obama, something that the health-care-supporting, George Bush-opposing Collins couldn't quite stomach.
The parents of the child got involved, angered that their daughter's performance had essentially been outed on the Internet, and asked for a conference. The teacher responded on her blog by characterizing the unnamed yet identifiable girl as, in essence, the simpleminded spawn of provincial archconservatives.
After that back-and-forth, it's not surprising that teacher Collins eventually ended up on the wrong side of a pink slip.
The online comments on the piece ranged from "the school was right to fire that commie" to "Catholic schools are like Islamic madrassas, only with nicer uniforms." But the real point is that if teachers want to be treated as professionals, not to mention adults, they can't conduct themselves as extras on "Gossip Girls."
Collins had every right to have a blog, although it might have been better to keep a private journal instead of presuming that anyone cared about the minutiae of her job. What she didn't have a right to do is drag into public view something that was a private matter between teacher and student. If she felt the student's work was mediocre, she should have given her a C. And if she disagreed with its viewpoint, she should've sucked it up. It's not for a teacher to shill for a specific political or social philosophy.
And, when confronted by irate parents who were justified in their anger at a teacher who ridiculed their daughter in a public forum, the last thing she should have done was whine about "dealing with some hard-core provincialism, not to mention intolerance of anything but ultraconservative views."
Hmm, no wonder she didn't like the kid's anti-Obama essay. Of course, she'd say that it wasn't the content that upset her professional sensibilities, but the fact that the girl seemed to be parroting the opinions of her parents. In Collins' world, it was a teacher's duty to coax children into thinking "independently."
She was ''annoyed" by the politics of the essay and "dismayed" that the student ignored her admonition on avoiding a hostile tone.
You want hostile? Here's hostile: What a total bunch of bull.
As someone who taught a wide variety of students from many different backgrounds, I understand how difficult it is to keep quiet when students appear to reject your own values.
At the Quaker school, I was one of only three conservatives on staff, and had to listen to my tots consistently talk about how pro-lifers hated women, how President Reagan ruined the country and how enlisting in the military was what you did when you couldn't get into college. My tongue was bloody from all the biting I had to do.
I also heard some things at the secular school that raised my hackles, like the suggestion that religion was anathema to any educational setting. I conjugated my verbs while thinking, "This too shall pass."
I felt a lot more at home with my fellow Catholics during my teaching career, although a few of the other instructors had a hard time dealing with some very tough-minded nuns.
But that is to be expected, and accepted, when you choose to teach in a private school. You leave your bias at the door when you sign up.
BUT IT seems that Collins wasn't able to do that, and tried to use the "I want the kids to be open-minded" mantra to hide her real goal: advancing a liberal agenda.
No one cares if she likes Obama. No one should care that she dislikes Bush.
But everyone should care that she didn't appear to know how to separate her professional duties from her personal prejudice.
Including us provincial arch-conservatives.