CENTRE DAILY TIMES
Now It Doesn’t Pay To Be Honest
(Editor’s Note: The following editorial, published in The Centre Daily Times on June 5, 1973, was awarded second place in the annual Pennsylvania Press Conference contest for newspapers with 15,000-49,000 circulation.)
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Some interesting points have been raised as a result of the U.S. District Court decision which denied Joseph. Acanfora’s request that he be reinstated to his classroom in a Rockville, Md., junior high school.
Perhaps the most challenging one is, simply, this:
Does it pay to be honest?
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Mr. Acanfora, it will be remembered, was suspended from his practice teaching post in the Park Forest Village Junior High School because he went to court in an effort to get recognition for the Homophiles of Penn State.
The action resulted in a lot of publicity. Subsequent actions by the State College Area School District and the University were traced directly to the fact that Mr. Acanfora had become a public figure because of his private beliefs.
The University couldn’t decide on whether or not to certify the young man as a teacher and the ball was bounced to the State Department of Education, which ruled in his favor.
Given a teaching job in Maryland, he was then transferred to an administrative job when his personal beliefs were made public.
In rendering his decision. U.S. District Court Judge Joseph H. Young said that “mere knowledge that a teacher is a homosexual is not sufficient to justify transfer or dismissal,’’ but, he added, the teacher’s explaining his homosexual tendencies on television had shown “indifference to the bounds of propriety.”
It seems to us the judge is saying; that if Mr. Acanfora had kept his mouth shut and had hidden his personal beliefs, he’d still be in the classroom.
The case is not unusual. The National Education Association reports scores of incidents where teachers have been dismissed because they expressed their beliefs publicly. Ranging from discussions of the Vietnam war to school board policies to hiring practices and the like.
Is Judge Young saying that it’s better to be dishonest?
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The case is symptomatic of the illness which is crippling our nation.
We tell our children that there’s only one way to go -- to be honest in all their dealings, to speak their minds, to keep nothing hidden.
Now our educational system seems to be dictating just the opposite. Teachers, it would seem, can do anything they want to do privately as long as they don’t get caught or just so long as they don’t talk about it.
Free expression, then, is being stifled and the training of our young to be sneak thieves, rather than admirable citizens, is condoned.
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This is not a brief for or against Mr. Acanfora, nor is it one for or against homosexuals and their public or private activities.
It is, rather, an expression of fear that our values are continuing to decline.
We see it in the current tendencies to blame the messengers for bad news, seemingly saying that it’s okay for bad things to happen but we don’t want to know about them.
We see it in some of the objections to frank and open movie advertisements. Would it be better to hide the subject matter and let the kids sneak in to see movies meant only for adults?
Forgotten in this whole, rotten mess -- and other similar incidents – are two key points:
Is Mr. Acanfora a competent teacher?
Did he keep his personal feelings completely out of the classroom?