David Rodeback's Blog

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Tuesday, November 6, 2007
Respect vs. Political Expediency

On respecting some places too much to take our politics there.

This morning I picked up a "Vouchers Help Children" button from my dresser and put it on. I stopped at Wal-Mart on the way to work, and no one spit on me there or even, as far as I saw, fixed me with an angry glare. I proceeded to work, where everyone favors vouchers -- those logical thinkers I mentioned a while back.

My lunchtime errand was to haul approximately 500 lbs. of church curriculum materials to my church. They arrived at my house by FedEx Ground the other day, because I'm the bishop, and I left the heavy boxes piled on my driveway for a while, since the weather was dry and I was busy with other things. LDS doctrine is heavy stuff, even if you realize that that's a full supply for next year, and that much of the weight is books we'll use for two years.

Here's the thing. Before I entered the church building, I took off my pro-voucher button and put it in my pocket, even though I expected -- and ultimately found -- the building to be empty. This is because we Mormons don't use our church buildings for political purposes, and because I don't advocate political positions when acting in my ecclesiastical role. When I returned to my car to drive away, the button went back on.

I teach a Tuesday evening writing class at a technical college in a neighboring valley. Before I walked into the building to teach this evening, the voucher button went into my pocket, because I don't use my academic authority, intellectual influence, or whatever to advocate political positions in the classroom. (My pocket was not the best place to put the button, as things turned out. Later in the evening, the pin's pin came off its hook and entered my leg. I think that was about the time the polls closed, so perhaps it was symbolic.)

We did talk about the voucher debate briefly last week in class, in the context of discussing persuasive essays, sound reasoning, logical fallacies, and the like -- but we analyzed the spin and the flaws in both sides' flyers, not just the opposition's. We found plenty to discuss from both sides, and I told the class which side I was on, so they could allow for possible bias in my attempt to be objective. Some of the students favored vouchers; some opposed them. I didn't call any of them servants of Satan, because they're not.

Here is the other half of an essential contrast:

Today someone put up a sign for one of the American Fork City Council candidates on the lawn of the Alpine (LDS) Tabernacle in downtown American Fork, at a major intersection and half a block from a polling place. I believe it was there all day. This is not legal, and it is contrary to LDS Church policy, but it is not wholly unexpected, either. One can usually find a candidate who will -- or whose supporters will -- stoop this low without a second thought.

And some of my children's public school teachers -- not all -- have used their classrooms in recent weeks to present very unbalanced and inaccurate accounts of the school voucher referendum. This is not legal either, but it was expected. Unfair though it is, it's part of the home court advantage we know we face when we take on the teachers unions and the public education bureaucracy.

I have flaws enough of my own, but at least I remembered today -- as I somehow remember every day, actually -- that some places are more sacred than the political debate du jour. These include the school classroom -- the school where I teach is not even a public school -- and the church.

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