I sent this letter to the board of education this afternoon. Please add your voice, here is their contact page.
I am not your constituent, I’m not even from your state. What I am is a college graduate and a beneficiary of the public school system in this country. I am also appalled by the fact that this board allowed – let alone encouraged – David Olio to retire over the manufactured controversy around his reading of the Allen Ginsberg poem “Please Master.”
It is the role of teachers to expand the horizons of their students, to provoke intellectual growth, and to challenge them to think about things beyond their experience. In this essential capacity an English teacher MUST – if they are to be considered a teacher at all – bring into the classroom materials that make their students intellectually uncomfortable. Without discomfort, without struggle learning does not occur.
Now, a teacher is also responsible for the safety of their students and for judging the material that they are prepared to productively handle. I cannot categorically say that your 17 and 18 year olds are emotionally and intellectually stunted but you, by your removal of this teacher, are. You are saying that your young adults are not equipped to think about sex and sexuality – essential parts of the human experience that each of us must come to an understanding of before we can function in society.
David Olio disagreed with you. David Olio had the audacity to function as a teacher, to respond to the questions of a student, and to create an opportunity for his class to learn something about themselves and the world they live in. You should have given him a medal.
Few enough teachers in this day and age actually teach. Too many educators are terrified that if they challenge their students they will be fired. You, and boards of education like you across the country, are responsible for releasing uneducated, unchallenged, half-formed children into the world and you should be ashamed to have failed them so badly.
So here is what I am going to do; I’ve posted this letter to my blog and to facebook and attempted to reach out to David. I’ve also reached out to several award winning authors and educators. We’re going to raise money to support David while he is in between jobs, as people who care about education and art it’s the least we can do. I’ll also be campaigning against every sitting member of this board in November and donating money to anyone running against you if David Olio is not re-hired with a full apology.
Discount this letter as the fevered dreaming of an over-indulged millennial if you want. Pretend that I’m just a lone voice in the dark. Tell yourself that you’re doing your job well. Just know that David Olio is not alone, and that he will not be forgotten.