Ethics Quiz: Pronouns

 

(Why am I up writing at this hour? All I will say is that its is unwise to frustrate a Jack Russell Terrier. That’s all.)

Peter Vlaming, a high school teacher in West Point Virginia, refused to use the pronouns demanded by 9th grade student who had announced that she was a female transitioning to male, was fired this week.  The West Point School Board fired him after a four-hour hearing, and its position was that Vlaming was fired for insubordination.

Some news reports on the matter fail to note that there was no allegation that the  West Point High School French teacher insisted on referring to the student using female pronouns in class. Apparently he used her name only. No, he apparently slipped when when the student was about to run into a wall, and Vlaming told others to stop “her.” When discussing the incident with administrators, Vlaming said he would not use male pronouns, because  his Christian faith prevented him from doing so.

Principal Jonathan Hochman testified that he ordered  Vlaming to use male pronouns in accordance with the student’s wishes. Vlaming’s attorney, Shawn Voyles, says his client offered to use the student’s name and to avoid feminine pronouns, but Voyles says the school was unwilling to accept the compromise.

“That discrimination then leads to creating a hostile learning environment. And the student had expressed that. The parent had expressed that,” said West Point schools Superintendent Laura Abel. “They felt disrespected.” Although the school’s  policies were updated a year ago to include guidance regarding gender identity,  gender pronoun use was not included. Vlaming’s attorney argues that the school cannot require his clients to speak words that violate his conscience. This is undeniably true. Vlaming says he is being fired for for having views held by “most of the world for most of human history. That is not tolerance,” Vlaming said. “That is coercion.”

He has not decided on his next steps.

Yikes. I do not see how speaking words that are not blasphemy can qualify as a breach of faith. I do not see how calling a student by name rather than pronoun can be called discrimination or create a “hostile environment.” I do see how a teacher calling an apparently female student by male pronouns could confuse other students, suggest that gender is more flexible than it is healthy to believe, and be something parents could legitimately object to. I think that the First Amendment pretty clearly prevents a government institution like a school from demanding that a teacher use specific pronouns simply because a student wants him to do so, when using the opposite pronouns are still arguably accurate and the teacher is willing to use the student’s name only.

I think that’s sufficient background to ask this perplexing Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz question of the day:

Was it ethical for the teacher to refuse to use the student’s preferred pronouns in referring to that student?

24 Comments

Filed under Childhood and children, Education, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Etiquette and manners, Gender and Sex, Government & Politics, language, Quizzes, Religion and Philosophy

24 responses to “Ethics Quiz: Pronouns

  1. I’m afraid this is a little overkill. If I would demand that my professor called me the pope of clearwater is that a hostile act to not do so? What are the limits of personal accommodation in group settings? Should he have not yelled out a warning when the kid was in danger? Didn’t that emergency supercede the offense of a specific and wrong pronoun? My mother gets pronouns wrong ALL the time, for me, my sibling (both cis), and even the family pets (all fixed). The more she’s upset the more likely the first pronoun to come out is the wrong one. Mistakes happen, and the teacher has agreed to make an effort to avoid the old pronoun as a compromise.

    This is just beating on (unecessarily) slow adopters. Slow adopters will probably catch up eventually, so this is cruelty. Eye for an eye, leaves everyone blind. Anytime a once abused group tries to return the same abuses to those they believe oppressors to take away their speech and beliefs, gets my goat. (I half suspect the language will e dumbed down to call us all ‘it’)

    Do the progressives really WANT the takeaway to be that he should not have shouted any warning and let the student be hurt? The extra second to remember the correct pronoun is longer than you sometimes have. I personally think that’s nuts, I freely give blank permission here and now for any emergency warnings to me to be the wrong pronoun and I will not make a big fuss. I’d rather be a ‘him’ for a few seconds than have a broken leg.

    This is not accommodation to show civil tolerance, but people who are unwilling to reflect civil tolerance in the other direction in return. Change takes time, and social change takes far, far longer than a new generation in consoles. It will be more like a human generation or two, and if they push too hard, the pushback will be all the stronger as it will include moderates. (this quiz doesn’t have a yes/no. I think the teacher could be unethical to use she/her routinely and deliberately if asked not to. But I can understand how the teacher’s beliefs (free speech and religious) say that he/him cannot be used. Using the student’s name and avoiding pronouns seems a reasonable compromise. More importantly, I think that getting it wrong in any urgent situation should be no big deal. Why is compromise evil?

    • A.M. Golden

      Because, in this day and age, compromise means that you haven’t fully adopted the dogma and not accepting wholeheartedly the dogma of the left, even if there’s not really a consensus on the issue, means you’re evil.

      I don’t see this as an accidental slip of the tongue issue. He, of course, meant to use the student’s name and didn’t by accident, but he was never going to use the demanded pronoun, so the issue isn’t about giving non-woke people time to wake up, but to demand instant obedience to the creed without question.

      This issue could just as easily be about climate change science, President Trump, taking the knee or Confederate statues.

      • This issue could just as easily be about climate change science, President Trump, taking the knee or Confederate statues.

        Or race-realism, or sexual excess, or social engineering by government agencies, or the constructed narratives that hold up a false-view of WW2, or possible revisionism of the American Civil War, or a blanket condemnation of *fascism*, or the topic of ethno-nationalism, or hyper-liberal processes that destroy cultural foundations . . .

        Good Lord! if you get started on this you get giddy, like going down a slide…

    • Marie, I agree with you and I can offer another example from my own family. My Dad had a problem, not with getting pronouns wrong but with our names. Many a time, he’d be talking to one of us and have to go through all four of our names before he could get the right one out. We certainly didn’t shun him for it, although we did make fun of him (and still do, 18 years after his death).
      Yes, social change is very slow and can take generations. Look at the 13th Amendment — even after 150 years we’re still seeing racism in our society.

  2. Chris Marschner

    Let’s refocus the question. Is it ethical to demand a she to be referred to as a he before such time as gender reassignment surgery occurs?

    If we must do so then I want fetuses to be called babies because that is what they are developing as.

  3. Michelle Klatt

    My dog sometimes sits on the back of the chair, much like a 86 lb cat. She identifies as a cat. She is in fact a dog though, no matter how cat-like her behavior, nor how forcefully she insists on us treating her as a cat. She is biologically a dog, and we do not allow her to deny actual science nor do we encourage her delusions.
    The moral of the story: I don’t care what anyone wants to think or believe about themselves. I think it’s unethical to force others to believe as you do.

  4. Rip

    Ok if this person, dicides as a person, to avoid genders to go neutral as a compromise that should suffice, the persons Christian beliefs are irrelevant as on gender identity there is no biblical basis to found addressing those beliefs, so unlike using the book to protect bigotry against sexuality. Instead of following Christ’s command not to judge others least you be judged. One of Christ’s greatest commands and Jesus made few. But then came Saint Paul who judged everyone, despite of Christ’s command, yet we venerate much of what he said, even used it,to hold people in servitude for centuries. When Paul who was originally Saul came to join the church one he was originally charged by the leaders of his old faith to destroy the Christian faith. As a person Paul was called what Paul wanted to be called rather then called Saul. So Paul then when on to become not only regarded as one of the founders of then church, but a Bibilcal example of being called what you want to be called. Even though Paul’s teachings are often at odds with Christ’s teachings it, is almost as if Sauls mission was not forgotten. But we embrace Paul’s teachings often over Christ’s as they give us more excuse to exercise hate,and fear. You can guess I am not a fan Of Saint Paul’s. I preferr the gospels! I think I avoided any gender specific pronouns here! Hope I made my point.

    • Rip

      I hate typos even my own

    • I think Paul’s letters were for the edification of those who had declared their intention to disciple themselves TO Christ. If we wondered what Christ’s teachings are about correcting those *inside* the Church, he’s left a few teachings, all of which advocate believers to correct each other and bring each other back to a life aimed at sinning *LESS*.

      Had Paul written his letters to NON-believers (which he certainly didn’t), we might have an inkling if his teaching seemed contradictory to Christ’s. Interestingly, we have DO have Christ hanging out with “sinners” (as we all are), but we have that same Christ telling sinners, to “go and *SIN NO MORE*”, which is hardly a commendation or toleration of their lifestyles. He was patient with sinners as Paul indicates God is patient with sinners in several of his letters.

      Where’s the contradiction?

  5. Yikes. I do not see how speaking words that are not blasphemy can qualify as a breach of faith. I do not see how calling a student by name rather than pronoun can be called discrimination or create a “hostile environment.” I do see how a teacher calling an apparently female student by male pronouns could confuse other students, suggest that gender is more flexible than it is healthy to believe, and be something parents could legitimately object to. I think that the First Amendment pretty clearly prevents a government institution like a school from demanding that a teacher use specific pronouns simply because a student wants him to do so, when using the opposite pronouns are still arguably accurate and the teacher is willing to use the student’s name only.

    In the Hyper Liberal American present, thoroughly infused by emoted ideas of Cultural Marxism (I use this word not in a loose sense but as a precise term), you will have to adapt to what the masses decide. That is, after all, the logical result of the system of ethics that you propose (at least if I have grasped it correctly). Ethics, you you, is a decision made within a social context, a participatory social context. It must be *democratic* it seems to me. Therefor, when this demos has defined meaning & value, truth & reason, and when they lay it out for you and demand that you conform to their dictates, you won’t (again as I see it) be able to argue against them.

    Your ethics has no moral nor metaphysical base. They are *contingent ethics* that are ever-shifting as the times shift.

    I do not understand your reference to ‘breach of faith’. Is this a religious High School? There is no God, there is no defining metaphysics, there is only a chaotic swirl of molecules that has arisen for no one knows what reason. ‘Reason’ is simply an agreement between a number of people.

    What is happening at that High School, it seems to me, is a direct manifestation understood at a philosophical sense and at the level of *predicates*, of the basic philosophy that you express. In the course of human events people will revise former ethics now no longer needed or wanted nor appreciated. It will be done in accord with some sort of reasoning, that is true, but can be and will be whimsical and self-defining. Who can oppose these shifts? No one who does not have access, and who cannot define, some basic structures within Reality itself. Not manifest and visible Reality, of course, but the Ideation as it is manifest in Reality.

    What is now going on in America — on a wide scale, in very dangerous and obvious ways — is not un-similar to what happened in the Soviet Union and in China. It is a manifestation of acute Materialist Philosophy and social scientism which will allow social and even biological engineering to occur and to be done as an expression of normalcy. It follows, as they say. One step follows the former step.

    In my view you have no solid argument against any of this. Just a *complaint* that will soon be drowned out in a far more encompassing noise which subsumes Meaning & Value.

    Just as you say that it is cruel and arbitrary to propose that limiting homosexual activity, or the spread of it, the ‘selling’ of it as an option, so to it is similarly cruel for you — and on what basis?! — to insist on a solid definition of gender difference. What is ‘health’ and what is ‘healthy’? Who defines? You seem to indicate that you can do this, that you have a special right, but how would you defend that view? Only on the basis of a democratic agreement! If the demos changes how it defines things and chooses something else, you have no choice (it follows from your own predicates) to go along with them. On what basis could you oppose it?

    At a certain point, at least if I am seeing correctly, the First Amendment becomes nearly irrelevant. In your Radical America, given over to American Hyper-Radicalism, steeped in Cultural Marxism, you have a growing group that will soon overtake you. They will simply relegate you to an area of irrelevancy. If you speak up they will silence you, as they are now silencing US. If you continue to speak they will jail you, or embroil you in lawsuits: all the tactics of a State with access to infinite resources.

    This is what is developing in our present. It is as obvious as a pimple on a giant nose.

    I honestly have not been able to see how your basic orientation, philosophically, can oppose any of this. I also have noticed (or believe that I have noticed) why your own philosophy — which is anti-metaphysical — could hold and maintain a line against the horrors of the encroaching present. And I mean that your won philosophy, as it seems to me, is similar to the one that is now encroaching.

    To oppose this, I suggest, we have to be able to define more solid foundations.

    • Correction: “I also have noticed (or believe that I have noticed) why your own philosophy — which is anti-metaphysical — could not hold and maintain a line against the horrors of the encroaching present. And I mean that your own philosophy, as it seems to me, is similar to the one that is now encroaching.”

  6. Alex

    If this ever happens at my kids’ school I will teach them to ask to be called by their preferred pronoun: “His Royal Majesty”

    • Joe Fowler

      Go gender-neutral. That would be :’Your Majesty”, or simply: “Majesty”. Raise hell if anyone takes issue with it. Sue the district, or at least get someone fired. If anyone complains call them a ‘Monarchist’, no, wait, that won’t work…’Monarchist-phobic’, or ‘Anti-Monarchist’. Shorten it to ‘A-M’ for greater news appeal. Point out (constantly) that monarchists are under-represented in our society, and at the highest levels of our government, they’re completely excluded. Demand that this change immediately. Claim that some largish percentage of Americans are Monarchists, (something in the 10%-20% range seems to work well), and that everyone works with one, knows one, or probably has unresolved monarchist tendencies. No proof of these claims is needed, just repeat ad nausea. Point to the vast yet unheralded contributions monarchists have made to America, back to it’s very founding.

    • Mark

      H.R.M pronounced “herm” would be a great solution. He, her and misc.

  7. It is not ethical to continue humoring a mental illness that is increasingly manifesting with militancy and often in child-abusing ways.

  8. My first opinion is that the teacher will see a large settlement from the school, one way or another.

    I believe it is unethical to demand how another speaks, thus negating the question about the teacher. Oh, if pressed I will say that resisting coercion is ethical, and that makes this teacher’s stance ethical in this case.

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