No longer are the views of leftist teachers a surprise. They view their publicly subsidized jobs as opportunities to disseminate their moral and political views as objective, inarguable truths. They believe they are entitled to absolute autonomy. They view other people’s children as their own. And they have little professional humility, having long ago lost a sense of themselves as public servants. Case in point: Sarah Bonner, an eighth-grade English and Language Arts (ELA) teacher at the Heyworth Junior High in Heyworth, Illinois.
She recently held a “Book Tasting” day in her classroom. Included in the books she selected for the event was the notoriously inappropriate book titled, This Book Is Gay, a
homo-sex manual written by “Juno” Dawson (formerly James Dawson), a sex-obsessed man who pretends to be a woman.
As should have happened, parents learned about the book, and, as should have happened, a controversy ensued.
This Book Is Gay discusses the positive aspects of “gay” hook-up apps like Grindr; defines fetishes like “scat” (“eating poop”); describes in detail “blowies,” “cumming” in the mouth of a “guy,” and the use of dildos; and includes a passage on how to convince Muslims that homoeroticism doesn’t conflict with Islam.
Dawson’s book also asserts that the reason 10-year-olds are not taught about “gay sex” when they’re taught about “straight sex,” is “institutionalized homophobia.”
In contemporary partisan parlance, Dawson is saying that treating homoeroticism differently from heterosexuality is hateful, which is not an objective, factual statement. Rather, it is an arguable moral belief.
Does anyone think Bonner would have included on Book Tasting Day any book that called leftist beliefs about homosexuality hateful?
Bonner was permitted to include this book without seeking permission from a department chair or running it by any kind of review committee.
A defender, friend, and mentor of Bonner wrote to noted education historian Diane Ravitch to plead for the “amplification” of the Bonner boondoggle. This person explained more of the story, which I am happy to amplify:
Sarah consulted NCTE, ALA, and Good Reads to find award-winning and notable books that would reflect her students’ interests.
What this anonymous letter-writer didn’t mention is that the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) and the American Library Association (ALA) are also notoriously controversial, far left organizations. And Goodreads, which is owned by Amazon, is a “social cataloguing” site on which readers review books. Goodreads has no criteria for determining whether books are suitable for junior high schools.
Bonner offered several unconvincing defenses of her decision to include an obscene book that condemns the moral beliefs of many families. In a statement to the school board following the exposé of her inappropriate book choice, Bonner openly acknowledged her commitment to edgy teaching:
Being an innovator in teaching means that boundaries, perspectives, and ideas need to be pushed. When I realized years ago that our kids who would receive these amazing scholarships to these Big 10 schools were coming back the following year because they couldn’t adjust to life outside of a rural small town, I knew I needed to do something. I knew I needed to disrupt traditional learning practices to embody the needs of today’s world.
Approximately, how many kids permanently left Big 10 schools after one year? How many of those returned because “they couldn’t adjust to life outside of a rural small town.” Did Bonner ask any of her former students who allegedly left Big 10 schools after their freshman year, why they did? Was the reason for their alleged departure related to not having been taught about “gay sex”?
That seems improbable, but let’s go with it for 30 seconds.
If a huge number of Heyworth college students returned home after their freshman year because they couldn’t adjust to life outside of a rural town and that was because they hadn’t learned enough about “gay sex,” how did Bonner arrive at the conclusion that the solution was for middle school English teachers to teach students about the subject?
Bonner now views herself as a martyr for the cause of preparing kids for global citizenship:
Our kids deserve learning experiences that prepare them for our world and not just our town. However, being a changemaker often comes with a cost…especially if you’re one of the only ones willing to take risks and think differently.
Bonner thinks she’s one of the only ones to teach about homosexuality to students in public schools? And she believes her thoughts are unique? Seriously? Her apparent views on homosexuality are monolithic in virtually all public schools and virtually all education-related institutions.
Bonner implies that This is Gay is necessary to prepare other people’s children for “our world.” Here’s an alternative idea: Perhaps normalizing what many people view as perversity harms children and creates a world inhospitable to human flourishing. Perhaps respect for the diverse beliefs of everyone in “our world” should dictate exclusion of books that undermine, violate, or condemn those beliefs.
Quoting fictional TV character Ted Lasso who quotes Walt Whitman, Bonner again reveals her overweening sense of herself:
London’s favorite soccer coach, Ted Lasso – the man who makes us all believe in the power of believe – said it best ”You know, people have underestimated me my entire life. And for years, I never understood why. It used to really bother me. But then one day, I saw this quote by Walt Whitman. It said, “Be curious, not judgmental.” All of a sudden it hits me. Of all those that used to belittle me, not a single one of them was curious. They thought they had everything all figured out. So they judged everything, and they judged everyone. And I realized that their underestimating me… who I was had nothing to do with it. ‘Cause if they were curious, they would’ve asked questions.”
In her eyes, steadfastly fixed on herself, those who criticize her decision to include an inappropriate book are guilty of myopic incuriosity.
Maybe they didn’t ask questions because Bonner’s reasons for including such a book were irrelevant. Maybe they knew that there are no good pedagogical reasons to include such an obscene book.
Bonner concluded her statement with jargon-filled suggestions for the board and community:
Sometimes things need to break in order to rebuild it stronger. Encourage curiosity. As you enter a space of healing, I hope the district and Heyworth community can find a place to listen and understand that you all want the best for our kids. Our teachers especially deserve to be heard and questioned in responsible ways.
Remember to support your teachers moving forward. If I were them at this point, I would feel scared, unsafe, and paralyzed knowing that I could be next. Our teacher community needs reassurance that innovation is still supported and protected as time moves on.
Let’s hope Bonner remembers some things:
It’s not the role of teachers to unilaterally decide to break things, or what to break, or how to break things. Sometimes breaking things leads to suffering, and sometimes ugly things are built from the rubble. And if things need to be broken, conservatives have some outstanding ideas on what should be broken. How about breaking the Department of Education, teachers’ unions, and the ideological monopoly leftists have within all education-related institutions. When Heyworth Junior High is in its healing space, let’s hope they remember conservative parents who desperately hope and deserve to be listened to and understood by school administrators, leftist teachers, school boards, and teachers’ unions, instead of dismissed or mocked.
Moving forward, let’s hope will turn their attention to conservative teachers who have felt scared, unsafe, paralyzed, and demoralized for years. They have long known that expressing their moral or political beliefs as openly as their leftist colleagues do in the classroom, in department meetings, or on social media risks both personal and professional repercussions. Maybe one day, they will feel supported, protected, safe, and included.
Bonner concludes by taking credit for all sorts of things students have accomplished:
And, remember the good I brought to our kids and community by taking innovative risks in Language Arts. While I’ve been here, I have witnessed students … fight against racism, organize trash clean ups … advocate for safe spaces … shape their own personal identities, and critically think about the world around them. With the work I’ve been able to do with students, I’m reminded on a daily basis that our kids will be the hope our future needs.
Note that the “good” Bonner claims she brought to Heyworth includes kids advocating “for safe spaces” and shaping “their own personal identities.” Americans are well aware that in Newspeak, the terms “safe spaces” and “personal identities” mask leftist ideas about homosexuality and cross-sex impersonation. Surely, that’s not what Bonner was hired to teach. Come to think of it, she probably wasn’t hired to teach kids to fight racism or clean up trash either.
Bonner co-authored the book Igniting Social Action in the ELA Classroom: Inquiry as Disruption on teaching students to be activists in the service of leftist causes. She writes,
If we, as teachers … stay silent in … these moments of social injustices … what is the point of doing what we do? … We don’t want our students to have to wait until college … to disrupt systems that oppress many in the world. And this is especially important in the predominantly white spaces we work within. … So, we began to evolve our work to disrupt the forces we … were seeing as harmful to our world. We became even more selective in the books we chose.
There you have it. Bonner openly admits to using her taxpayer-funded job and books to create leftist activists to disrupt “systems” she views as oppressive.
The 2022 Illinois Assessment of Readiness scores show that only 23.2 percent of Heyworth eighth-graders “met” performance levels, and only 5.8 percent “exceeded” them. Maybe less time spent disrupting systems and normalizing “gay sex” and more time spent on language arts would help improve test scores.
The good news in this unfortunate story is Bonner has resigned.