The thing which has struck me the most about some of the reaction to my various posts on Kevin Jennings is the thing which disappoints me the most about blogging, that people deliver form responses to the posts, as if reacting to the standard conservative line on that issue or, more likely, their interpretation of what that line is. To be sure, there have been notable exceptions, particularly the commentary from Jody.
Perhaps, he has been more civil and has taken more care to address the actual ideas I expressed because we know each other. He is aware I’m not some rabid right-winger spouting the party line. And on this issue, as on many others, I have offered a different view on the situation than have other conservative bloggers who have addressed it.
From the outset, I indicated I’d be wiling to cut Jennings some slack and reconsider my call for his resignation if evidence emerged that the Obama official had publicly said he wished he had handled the situation (he related in his oft-repeated anecdote) differently. As I wrote in my first post on the topic.
It is troubling, to say the least, that the Administration would tap such a man to serve in the Education Department who detailed the boy’s confession in a book One Teacher in 10, yet did not express regret until long after his appointment.
Recall that he is the one who brought up the subject in various public fora, including a published book. Recall that he had said the boy was fifteen at the time. Recall that he never expressed regret that he didn’t discourage the teen from picking up adults in public bathrooms.
Shouldn’t a gay teacher, concerned for the welfare of his gay students, want to tell his charge that there are better ways to meet men?
What troubles me more than anything about Jennings’s anecdote is not the story itself.
First, a personal. Had I been a young teacher in a similar situation, I believe I would shared with the youth the anxieties I felt when I first realized the attraction I felt for other men set me apart from my peers. And told him as well that our situation was not unusual and did offer us, should we be true to ourselves, the potential to lead a fulfilling life. I hope I would have discouraged him from meeting men in public lavatories.
But, as I suggested in previous post, as a young teacher with “a nervous teenager in front” of me, I don’t know for certain how I would have reacted. None of us do. Not even the bloggers who criticize Jennings most harshly.
Had the actual events of that day in 1988 been all there was to the story, I would not join those bloggers in criticizing Jenkins. I would chalk up his failure to his own period of professional cnihtwesende, being a youth.
So this (as I’ve said before) is what troubles me more than anything about this story: Jennings talked about the issue repeatedly, yet never indicated he wished he had handled the situation differently—not until he was serving in the Department of Education and the issue became a political hot potato.
Now, all that said (and once again, as I’ve said before) I will revisit my call for his resignation if information comes forward indicating that prior to his appointment to the Department of Education, he had questioned his actions as a young teacher in the same public manner he discussed them.