Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Note to Self: Do Not Take a Teaching Job in CA

Not that that was any great possibility anyway: but this loyalty oath nonsense has now cost another teacher her job.

For the unfamiliar, last February, a teacher was fired from her position at Cal State-East Bay because she refused to sign a loyalty oath to the government. This is evidently legally mandated in CA, due to a McCarthy-era amendment to the state constitution which requires all public employees (excepting non-citizens) to swear an oath of loyalty. The oath reads as follows:
I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the State of California against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the State of California; that I take this obligation freely,without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well andfaithfully discharge the duties upon which I am about to enter.

She placed an asterisk after the word "defend", and footnoted the document with the words "as long as it does not require violence." She's a Quaker, you see. So her religious beliefs prohibit her from using violence in any situation. But, we can't have subversive shenanigans like that going on, so she lost her job. After the deserved internet firestorm this story raised, she was eventually reinstated.

But now they've gone and done it again. This time it's Cal State-Fullerton. The teacher in question, Wendy Gonaver, is again a Quaker. As in the earlier case, she is willing to sign the oath as long as she can attach a brief statement explaining her objections as an addendum to the document. Not a chance, said CSF, and gave her the heave-ho.

When asked about it, the university had this to say:
California State University officials say they were simply following the law and did not discriminate against Gonaver because all employees are required to sign the oath. Clara Potes-Fellow, a Cal State spokeswoman, said the university does not permit employees to submit personal statements with the oath.
I just about did a spit-check on that one. It's not discrimination because all employees are required to sign it?! What utter nonsense. That doesn't mean it's not discrimination, you towering boob. It just means that there are more cases of discrimination out there. (Though admittedly, I think that the discrimination issue is secondary here: my primary objection is forcing a teacher to take the oath in the first place. It's nationalistic crap.)

But what really relegated my shiny new irony meter to the scrap heap was this:
When Wendy Gonaver was offered a job teaching American studies at Cal State Fullerton this academic year, she was pleased to be headed back to the classroom to talk about one of her favorite themes: protecting constitutional freedoms.

But the day before class was scheduled to begin, her appointment as a lecturer abruptly ended over just the kind of issue that might have figured in her course.
So she loses her job as a teacher of US citizens' liberties for exercising one of those liberties.

Poor, poor little irony meter.

To California's credit, they have made attempts to remove the amendment in question from the state constitution. Unfortunately, those attempts have failed. I have little doubt that it would have been stricken down long ago had it been normal state legislation rather than an amendment. Unfortunately, in post 9/11 America, it's even more unlikely such a change would make it past a popular vote.

But I just don't get Cal-State's position on this. Other state institutions allow signors to attach personal statements to the document. Challenges to the legality of doing so have failed, with courts allowing them as long as such statements don't render the oath invalid. So why is it that an institution of higher learning would object to such expression? And, of all things, a member of the California State University System? That's like Hillary Clinton objecting to socialized medicine.

I could understand requiring an oath of loyalty if someone is in a position of protecting the public and/or public institutions, or if a person has access to sensitive information. I don't see how anyone is served, however, by forcing such an oath on a teacher. Especially while allowing other teachers who are not citizens to get the same job without doing so.

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