A Tale of Two Teachers, Part 2: They Got It Right

After a personal introduction last time, I promised we would speak of Hadleyburg (not its real name), and so we shall.

Last year, about this time, the administrators at Hadleyburg Valley High School (HVHS) needed to find a new math teacher for the coming (now the current) academic year. They didn’t just post the job, then sit back and wait for whatever applications might come in. Their commitment to their students and to academic excellence demanded more. They went out looking for the right candidate.

They found a teacher who was highly regarded not only for his mastery of math and math curricula and his creative command of the teacher’s art, but also for his diligence and his care for each student. They persuaded him to leave his comfortable position in the big city, move his family to Hadleyburg, and take the job.

SB 296, SB 297, Religious Freedom, and Nondiscrimination

My readers may know two things about me, based on statements in public meetings, private conversations, or what I wrote at this blog’s predecessor, LocalCommentary.com.

First, for a long time I have supported local and state legislation to prohibit discrimination in housing and employment based on actual or perceived gender identity or sexual orientation.

Second, the level of my confidence in the Utah legislature is perennially low.

These two themes came together last year at about this time, as the Utah legislature sat on its hands and refused even to debate last year’s version of a non-discrimination law (SB 100). I wrote:

It’s an extraordinarily discerning litmus test, where Mormon Utah Republicans are concerned. It tells us where people land on the freedom-versus-using-my-power-to-compel-universal-righteousness spectrum, which sometimes seems to be the primary axis of Utah politics.

Beyond the moral principles on which society generally agrees, and finds suitable for regulation by law, I believe that sinners as I define them and sinners as you define them deserve political, economic, and religious freedom. I believe that a person’s violation of someone else’s sectarian principles (or his own) should not jeopardize the roof over his head or his means of earning his daily bread, assuming he doesn’t work for an organization with a primary mission to promote those principles. . . .

I . . . believe that the greatest and most constant threat to free and healthy society and good government in Utah is the subset of Mormons who think the law is a suitable tool for imposing their principles on all people — and who think that this is somehow a proper exercise of their religious freedom. (“I Am Unfit for the Utah Legislature,” February 5, 2014. See also “Rights and Rites and Right and the Rights” and “Tonight in American Fork.”)

When the Utah Legislature took up the topics of nondiscrimination and religious freedom this year, I was skeptical of their competence to produce wise legislation on such a topic, and skeptical of their good will, too.

A Tale of Two Teachers, Part 1: Teachers Are Heroes

Within a few hours’ drive of my small city is a much smaller town. I’ll call it Hadleyburg. That’s not its name, but I read of a noteworthy town by that name in Mark Twain (which wasn’t Samuel Clemens’ real name either, but I digress).

Human nature varies little from place to place, so Hadleyburg’s location probably doesn’t matter. And perhaps its size matters only to the extent that it is large enough to have its own high school. We will call that institution Hadleyburg Valley High School, because we have to call it something.

My major purpose today is to describe the vantage point from which I will tell my tale. That vantage point may not be precisely what you might suppose, if you know my politics.

My title tells you that my theme includes some happiness. Since long before the iPad first twinkled in Steve Jobs’ eye, I have enjoyed hearing and talking about great teachers. I had my share in the public schools. There are plenty more in the public schools my children attend. I’ve tried sometimes to find ways to thank and honor them, publicly and privately.