By definition from its first English appearance in 1250 CE, a teacher is an individual who instructs by seeking out knowledge that known or not imparted. It is the individual who leads in a course of study to learn that which is not only known but not yet known. A teacher is a subject-matter expert in the continuous pursuit of inquiry to test and evaluate, re-test and re-evaluate all things in quest of what is–not what one wishes there to be in existence. Just because for more than three thousand years people thought that the water planet was fixed and the sun orbited around the Earth (geocentric Ptolemaic system that achieved its full expression in the second century), it was a teacher, a searcher after knowledge, and a sage, the Catholic monk Nicolaus Copernicus who rejected the memorized thesis and advanced heliocentricism (from the Greek ἥλιος or helios “sun” and κέντρον or kentron “center”). Viki Knox, it appears, prefers a marriage to the discredited past.
Viki Knox, a 49-year-old teacher at Union High School in Union Township, New Jersey, is the antithesis of a teacher. Sadly, she teaches special education, but ignores that the prerequisite for a teacher is to present information that can be scientifically investigated and not rely on fantasy or mythology unless it is used in a course in literature. No teacher has the right to interject her or his religious beliefs in any classroom without full tolerance of divergent and differing opinions.
A poster in Facebook, as noted in the New York Times, Knox wrote that while she had friends and loved ones who were gay, she believed that the way they lived was “against the nature and character of God” and that the high school was “not the setting to promote, encourage, support and foster homosexuality.”
Knox posted on Facebook a photo of a school display recognizing October as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender History month. It included photos of Virginia Woolf, Harvey Milk and Neil Patrick Harris.
According to the Star-Ledger Knox declared, furthermore, that homosexuality is “a perverted spirit that has existed from the beginning of creation,” and a “sin” that “breeds like cancer.” What was generated by Knox was the cancer of hate that now fills entries on Facebook in the Garden State and throughout the nation.
Viki Knox’s full text is here, including bad grammar (I note only the worst parts of her incorrect use of the English language):
“Homosexuality is a perverted spirit [sic] that has existed from the beginning of creation. The word of God refers to it often. That’s if you believe the Word to be truly God’s intended blueprint for his people. I have friends and loved ones who are practicing/ living as homosexuals. Yes[,] I love [and] can care about them. We hug and exchange gifts. We have family dinners. But [sic: it is incorrect to begin any sentence with a conjunction] how they live and their actions, behaviors [sic] -CHOICES are against the nature and character of God! Do I [sic] tell me so? Yes, of course. Do I treat them bad? If course not! Jesus never did that to ANYONE he meant [sic]. He spoke to them of their situation and offered them life eternal. He didn’t say it was okay[,] but we’ve all sinned and come [sic: tense agreement] short if [it is] God’s will for us[,] daily. That’s why we Christians [who are] true followers pray, repent, and spend time with Christ daily. The Word of God instructs us to die daily to our flesh-meaning our will. What we want; what feels good to us; what we like; what we can rationalize and justify [run-on fragment]. I do not pretend to know ALL things. Nor [sic] do I pretend not to have biases, failings and faults. But I know sin and it breeds like cancer!”
The local newspaper responded, in an editorial, noting:
She might as well have hopped on a soapbox across the street from the school and screamed her anti-gay rant into a bullhorn. Or [sic] stapled posters to telephone poles around town.
While we all should be allowed an inner circle with whom we can speak freely, Knox gave up those protections when she posted her comments on the most public forum there is — the internet. She created a fearful, hostile environment for students. That’s unacceptable.
Knox has the right to a hateful view, but once her beliefs are made public, she doesn’t have the right to a taxpayer-funded, $70,688-a-year job in which she is expected to treat all students equally and with respect. She should absorb the harshest action possible, suspension or firing.
The problem is not with Ms. Knox’s freedom of speech, when it was in a classroom or the private homes of others, but when she made it public by ranting on Facebook–which is accessible by any member or others who have access through friends with accounts on Facebook. Ms. Knox’s poor judgment goes further, however, for she wrote copiously about various perceived infractions without any documentation. For example, Knox wrote about her relationship with her colleagues and her employer. She openly admitted that she was “pitching a fit.” Her poor writing makes some of her comments difficult to parse, but she at one points seems to accuse colleagues of “talking behind backs, calling names, laughing in faces and stabbing in backs.” She appears to suggest that past faculty and administrators were openly racist. Perhaps worst of all, she wrote that “lesbian gym teachers introduce and experiment with female students/athletes.” These sorts of remarks may well provide grounds for discipline at the school and in a civil court as being libel.
Viki Knox’s lack of sensitivity that is essential in a teacher, especially of young people, was non-existent at one point. It has been reported by Scott Weingart, that “Viki Knox spouted her bigoted and ignorant ideas in the classroom and violated a student’s First Amendment rights by ordering a student who wore a rainbow bracelet to leave the classroom.” There was no harm done by wearing the bracelet–it only signified solidarity with a specific group. It could have been worn by a supporter of LGBT rights; the adornment used was not a statement of being heterosexual or homosexual, and there is no reference to the individual wearing it being LGBT.
There is no tangible proof nor observation by any student that the school was “setting to promote, encourage, support and foster homosexuality.” The school was only recognizing the existence of the LGBT community and allowed posters to display diversity. As for homosexuality being “against the nature and character of God”, there is no proof in any Bible, Torah, Vesta, or other holy book that any deity was against homosexuality (cf. Conner, Randy P.; Sparks, David Hatfield and Sparks, Mariya (1998). Cassell’s Encyclopedia of Queer Myth, Symbol and Spirit. London, UK: Cassell), although most volumes portray the god(s) as being sexual: heterosexual, bisexual, and even homosexual (especially in ancient Greece and the ancient Near East) as with Zeus and Ganymede (Γανυμήδης, the word translates as “rejoicing in virility” and is Etruscan in origin; ref. Homer, Iliad, 5.265ff), or in ancient Egypt with Seth and Horus (Plutarch, De Iside et Osiride).
Ms. Knox is not a trained nor registered psychologist and has given no evidence of education in human character appraisal. Psychologists and psychiatrists agree that homosexuality is natural and normal in all species. It is also nature’s perfect method of natural birth control.
To argue that homosexuality is against the character of God implies that God has the psychology of a heterosexual and thus must have mortal attributes: a penis, scrotum, anus, breath, muscle, and so forth–which is taking a quite liberal literal interpretation of ancient Hebrew scripture. This is taking biblical literalism to new heights where the deities of the bible sit on clouds on thrones that defy the laws of gravity (Psalm 46:8, cp. 110:1) or will ride horses out of the heavens to conduct war with swords (Revelation 19:11) as Jesus came to earth to bring a sword and wage war, separating families and friends (Matthew 10:34).
To introduce her comments for public consumption lessens her effectiveness as a teacher. The State of New Jersey has a strong anti-discrimination statute, a law that Viki Knox defied. By promoting hatred in a public place, Ms. Knox forfeited her right to freedom of speech, and on that charge could be, and in my opinion, should be dismissed from public teaching. I am confident she would be far more comfortable teaching in a parochial school that shares her own biases and bigotry. Knox’s comments are tantamount to bullying, and New Jersey has one of the strongest anti-bullying laws on record in the USA, adopted last spring in the wake of the suicide of Tyler Clementi, a Rutgers student who killed himself after learning he had been watched, via webcam, kissing another man.
As I wrote in previous blogs, bullying leads to more suicides than most other reasons, as seen with the bullying of Phoebe Prince, age 15, in Massachusetts, and Jamey Rodemeyer in New York. If a suicide (singular or plural) should result because of her ill-chosen words that were not open to rejoinders, she should be considered an accessory to that person’s death.
Ms. Knox, by 2010, had 12 years of experience in the district and earned $72,109 in that year. In addition to teaching courses in special education, the New York Times reported on October 13, 2011 (published on October 14, 2011, on page A28), that some residents and parents said that she also advised a student prayer group, an evangelical extremist group known as The Seekers Fellowship. In her Facebook profile, Ms. Knox considers herself more than a teacher; she sees herself also as a preacher–and her gospel alone has value.
The only positive incident was that Ms. Knox was escorted off of the campus. She is under investigation.