Qualifications in the reality-based world

Have you heard this story? It seems that Jennifer Keeton, a young woman studying for a Masters in school counseling at Augusta State University, has found that the profession is not a good fit for her. Under normal circumstances, such a student would chalk it up to experience and change career paths. But this is more of a “Chuck Colson says I have Special Rights” situation.

Apparently, “in written assignments and classroom discussions,” Ms. Keeton has insisted that a person’s sexual orientation and gender identity are “the result of accountable, personal choices,” and not “a state of being.” Understandably, these statements have caused those charged with conferring professional counseling credentials to question Ms. Keeton’s “ability to provide competent counseling to gay men and lesbians.” I would say that’s putting it mildly. Cue the tiny violins:

The grounds for the threatened expulsion are not poor grades or misconduct – they are Keeton’s beliefs.

I suppose that’s true, after a fashion. Say that you were applying for a job doing web development in PHP, and you firmly told the interviewer that you “don’t believe in” using functions. You would not get the job. You could make a semantic argument that it was because of your beliefs, but the argument would be meaningless. Regardless of the underlying reason, the failure to use functions would render you unable to perform the job.

I’m sorry, but the bottom line has to be this: If you cannot for whatever reason meet the basic requirements for a profession, you need to choose a different one. No, you can’t make up different professional requirements for yourself. This is not a violation of your religious freedom, nor does it represent a lack of “respect for religious values”; it just means that your beliefs are incompatible with the requirements for performing that job. If your beliefs don’t allow you to fill some of the prescriptions doctors write for their patients, you can’t meet the basic requirements for being a pharmacist. If you reject the established scientific consensus of the professionals in your field of study, if you refuse to believe that some of the students you will encounter are gay, lesbian, bisexual and/or transgender, and that this is a state of their being, you cannot meet the basic requirements for school counseling. In fact, you would be a danger to those students. Quit whining and choose a different career. People do it all the time.

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6 Responses to Qualifications in the reality-based world

  1. Truth is absolute.

    Unlike what your TV tells you, there really are not two sides to everything, but with enough observation, analysis and through demonstrations of experiments, we can find the truth.

    If Miss Keeton’s program was truly an academic pursuit, and not a political indoctrination program, the students’ personal beliefs upon entry to the program are irrelevant.

    If students are selected on their academic MERIT and not for social engineering purposes (aka for so-called, diversity goals) then regardless of any superstitions or religious dogma they hold upon entry, their will be trained to observe the facts, to analyze the facts and to form conclusions, based only on observable facts and the inferences that can be drawn from such careful observations.

    If the program was truly an academic program, this issue would never have arisen. The fundamental question that remains unanswered is why the supposed professors in Miss Keeton’s program could not provide sufficiently academically rigorous explanations to counter Miss Keeton’s position that, “…sexual orientation and gender identity are the result of accountable, personal choices…”

    Personally, I thought that this issue was settled with the acknowledgment that some people are homosexual by some genetic anomaly, while there is a segment of those who exhibit homosexual behavior, that do so entirely by choice. That being said, I suspect that someone will isolate specific genes and perhaps even have gene therapy that could reverse homosexual inclinations. That will certainly create a conundrum amongst those whose militant gayness has defined their every breath, but I digress.

    In a real university, rather than an institution of indoctrination, Miss Keeton’s professors would have used Miss Keeton’s challenge as an opportunity to demonstrate current research related to the topic. In a real university, you prove your point, you don’t ban people with differing views, like they do at the “University” of Richmond, here in Virginia.

    If there should be anything banned, Augusta State should be banned from using the title, “university.” since they clearly do not qualify as an institution where truth is the paramount pursuit.

  2. Jonathan says:

    J. Tyler Balance,

    Ms Keeton is pursuing a degree in educational counseling. In order to earn that degree, she must meet the minimum requirements.

    I earned a degree in Mechanical Engineering and had to pass coursework in mathematics, physics, chemistry, structures, machines, materials science, control systems, fluid mechanics and thermodynamics. I was required to pass all of this rudimentary coursework and would have been kicked out of the program had I failed a single sub-discipline.

    That’s how the real-world works. In an accredited professional program – like educational counseling – a graduate MUST pass all mandatory courses. In his piece, Chuck Colson refers to the term “re-education” for good reason. Apparently, Ms. Keeton did not learn her human sexuality fundamentals and was graciously offered a chance to redo that learning by her school. In my discipline, If I failed to grok Newton’s second law (F=ma) and couldn’t solve my fluids formulas, I would have flunked, period, no redo.

    Ms. Keeton doesn’t get the “special right” to redact the portions of her schooling that she doesn’t like or can’t grok because, as David says, she “would be a danger to those students”. The whole point of an accredited professional program is give graduates a strong foundation so that they can do their jobs well, and to weed out people who, for whatever reason can’t develop the foundation required to perform their professional duties.

  3. David says:

    @J. Tyler: Yes, there is objective reality, and we humans are engaged in a process of discovering and describing it, inevitably having to discard mistaken beliefs and assumptions along the way. Some things are a matter of opinion, but other things are not. On this we agree. If you meant to convey something else by “Truth is absolute,” I’m sure you’ll let me know.

    Counseling is an applied domain within psychology. I don’t know the specifics of the Augusta program, but a Masters level program would typically include some sort of supervised practicum in addition to coursework. The student would be required to demonstrate competency in the actual practice of counseling before they are granted credentials which would allow them to present themselves to employers and the public as having a certain level of knowledge and training. Anyone can hang out a shingle and call themselves a “counselor” with no training or education at all. A particular degree or license is understood to be a guarantee – the responsibility of the program granting the degree – that the individual has certain skills and competencies. To grant credentials to someone who has failed to demonstrate the required competencies would be a breach of that responsibility. Ms. Keeton, in the judgement of her professors, has failed to demonstrate the required competency in counseling a segment of the student population she is sure to encounter professionally. Therefore, allowing her to have contact with these children in the role of a counselor would be endangerment.

    Imagine if a child coming to terms with an intersex condition were sent to her. Ms. Keeton simply believes (she says) that people “were created male and female,” end of story, all she needs to know about the subject. She dismisses all of the medical knowledge concerning neurological development and gender identity in favor of her belief. She is, in other words, actively denying reality – but you seem to think she should be in a position in which she is assumed to have knowledge about this area of life, but in which she would likely tell this vulnerable child something that is completely false and harmful.

    As to the responsibility of her professors to convince her that her beliefs in the area of human sexuality are without foundation, I can only say that they obviously are trying. Why else would they have offered her additional training? The fact is that she rejected this offer. The fault lies neither with the professors nor with the evidence presented. Ms. Keeton came to this program with the attitude that she already knows everything she needs to know about human sexuality. If a student has that attitude, first of all, why is she even going to school? Education is an opportunity to learn things you don’t already know. Secondly, if a student has that attitude she is, by definition, unconvinced by empirical evidence. She has come to class with the intention of dismissing information that contradicts her beliefs, something for which her professors can hardly be held accountable.

    The Augusta program is doing the responsible thing by preventing this young woman’s willful ignorance from endangering other people’s children. She has no right to do that, and shame on anyone who would try to invent such a “right.”

  4. David says:

    I think I’ve found the answer – at Volokh, of course. This explains the behavior of Ms. Keeton and Mr. Colson (who charges us a fee for putting up with his antics):

    People Who Disagree With Me Are Just Arguing In Bad Faith

    I explained before why brilliant people agree with me. I want to talk about the other side of the picture. I’ve come to the realization that people who disagree with me are just arguing in bad faith. How do I know? Well, when I get into an argument, no one who disagrees with me ever says anything I find persuasive. They never even come close. It seems to me that if a person who disagrees with me were smart and acted in good faith, surely he would say something that persuaded me (even if only a little). But since that never happens, people who disagree with me must be either stupid or acting in bad faith. I’m a generous person, so I won’t assume the other guy is stupid. And that leads me to conclude, reluctantly, that people who disagree with me are arguing in bad faith.

  5. Jonathan says:

    Eugene has entered the fracas. What a… I know he’s a smart guy. He must be arguing in bad faith.

  6. Pingback: Tolerance for child endangerment? No. |

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