Tolerance for child endangerment? No.

“Tolerance” is one of those mealy-mouth words that gets tossed around, often, it seems, as a strategy for avoiding something that really needs to be said. Let’s just be clear: Some things should never be tolerated. The reckless endangerment of children is one of them.

A reader suggested to me backchannel that my response to this comment deserved to be a post in its own right. Then we learned that Loudoun’s resident sociopath Eugene has wormed his cynical fundraising circus into the fabricated Jennifer Keeton/Augusta State Univesity “controversy.” As usual, his message is silly, devoid of even the pretense of truthfulness, and – in a closely related detail – intended to extract money from the least intelligent members of our society. We can skip over the rest of it and go straight to this: A supposed interest in “preserving diversity that includes toleration for a strong belief in moral values.”

What is it, exactly, that Eugene “you would have to treat ‘it’ like a normal person” Delgaudio is demanding “toleration” for? Regular readers of this blog will know me to be a fierce advocate of “diversity” that includes people who believe things that do not comport with reality and “toleration” especially for abhorrent ideas, because that is what sets this nation apart from all others. Our First Amendment guarantees the right to express any belief, however offensive, stupid or unhinged it might be. But what the First Amendment does not guarantee is the “right” to access any venue for such expression. There is no First Amendment “right,” for example, to employment as a licensed school counselor if you do not meet the criteria for a license.

When we send our children to public school, we expect that those responsible for their well-being in that setting have met an established standard of competency, and will not do and say things that may do them harm. Do not confuse your right to express an abhorrent (or just plain false) idea with the imaginary “right” to gain access to other people’s children.

@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.”

In the case of Eugene, this is just one more example of an amoral, fake “Christian” putting his own selfish desires before the well-being of the most vulnerable children in our community, as he did when attempting to block the collection of bullying data. He doesn’t care who gets hurt, as long as the checks keep coming. It is beneath contempt.

Kudos to Augusta State for insisting that basic professional standards based on scientific consensus are not to be thrown out in order to accommodate a student’s personal beliefs. And please get in touch with PFLAG and GLSEN to see how you can help make schools safer for all kids.

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3 Responses to Tolerance for child endangerment? No.

  1. There are doctors who still hold the belief that Adam and Eve was the beginning of human life, yet they still provide quality medical care. There are raging debates in the professional literature over myriad issues, yet the practitioners, in general, provide their services in accord with the standards established for their profession.

    When someone doesn’t adhere to a convention of a particular academic discipline, and challenges the validity of that convention, the academic solution is to have those making the challenge prove their case with thorough research built on empirical data. Those who profess the existing “convention” are also obligated to cite the data used to support that convention and, if it is not strong enough to convince even a Master’s candidate, then that convention is either too weak, or has just been poorly defended.

    You don’t ban someone from an academic community for holding an unpopular view, or theory. You ask them to defend their ideas with real science.

    Making superfluous allusions that children might be endangered by some idea held by a counselor that is outside the current convention, does not address the underlying issue: The current convention held by the school is not sufficiently supported by fact to withstand even the challenge of one student.

    The premise that you seem to be offering is that graduates of a counselor’s program should have some sort of mono-cultural set of values with which to approach every case. This is neither true nor a realistic goal. We will always have some variations, especially in such a wobbly field as the so-called, “social sciences.” Someone could very easily hold the belief that homosexuals are bad for society, yet provide compassionate and effective counsel.

    The citizens are wise to get both a second, third and perhaps, fourth opinion, when dealing with, “counselors.”

  2. David says:

    There is nothing superfluous about harming children who have the right to expect help and support.

    You’re trying to make this much more complicated and abstract than it is. It’s simply a matter of being able to perform a job. The job of a school counselor is to provide appropriate help and support to ANY student who seeks her out or is sent to her. This is not about an abstract “idea,” but rather actual things said and done to a real child. Ms. Keeton’s behavior indicated to her professors that she would not be able to say and do appropriate things when counseling gay or gender variant children.

    A medical doctor’s job performance may or may not be affected by her beliefs, it depends. A doctor might, for example, believe that “life begins at fertilization,” an objectively false belief, and that belief could easily have consequences.

    I’m not disputing that someone could hold false beliefs about GLBT people and yet still provide compassionate and effective counsel in many circumstances. That’s hardly the point here. No adult would be compelled to see such a counselor, and would be free to seek “a second, third and perhaps, fourth opinion.” Children in a school setting do not have that freedom. The adults in charge are responsible for making sure that vulnerable children are not made a captive audience to someone who believes they shouldn’t be who they are.

  3. David says:

    Well, Keeton was handed a defeat in court on Friday. Echoing the Prop 8 trial, the anti-gays presented no witnesses, and Keeton herself didn’t even bother to testify.

    Since then, we haven’t heard a peep, not even from the Alliance Defense Fund. Maybe they knew they had no case and were just hoping for an activist judge?

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