People should and is entitled by law to promote any kind of idea they want. Having a plural society ––a society where everyone can live according to his own ideals–– is a very healthy thing, and this should be reflected in the classroom, allowing each student to have and stand their own opinions and ideas. Not everything in a classroom should be a matter of being “correct” in a certain way or “incorrect” in a certain way. There can be many ways to be correct, and there can be many ways to be incorrect too. However, there must be a clear limit at the time of affirming what we believe and at the time of make our life’s choices: respecting human rights.
When a society is truly democratic, it is organized in order to honor everyone’s human rights, all of them. That democracy also applies in the classroom, of course. However, we are seeing more and more in our society the imposition of ideologies ––nationalism, socialism, ideology of gender…–– in ways that clearly are a violation of human rights.
No matter what I believe, I can’t tell anyone what to believe or what not to believe, and this includes my students. That is not my duty as citizen, as public server or as teacher. I have the right to believe, to give an example, that marriage can be only between a man and a woman, because according to my faith marriage is not only a civil union: it is a sacrament. That belief is only one of the many beliefs that imply a true Catholic faith. There are many other “unpopular” beliefs that I embrace to live according to my faith: I do not use contraception (I’m abstinent because I am not married and the Church teaches that people that are not married are called to live a chaste life, so I don’t need it anyways, but I what I mean is, wherever I get married I won’t use them neither), I pray the rosary everyday, I have a spiritual reading everyday, I read the Bible everyday, I pray by writing contemplative poems and contemplative dialogues everyday, I do not use clothes that show more than the appropriate, I live a consecration to charity everyday, I go to daily mass wherever it is possible… so on, so on. I don’t think this is the moment to explain explicitly how I live my faith.
Yes, I believe all this. It should be my human right to have the functional freedom do so. However, I do not have the right to impose my belief to others. I simply have the right to live according to my faith and to share it in a way that is respectful and appropriate. With “respectful” I mean that I honor other’s human rights when I share it. With “appropriate” I mean that I do not practice proselytism. To say an example: I do not talk about my faith to my students if they don’t ask me, and even when they ask me, I am very sure to talk about how I live in a way that I won’t enforce on them my way of living my faith due my authority as teacher. That is simply not appropriate, period.
However, we are seeing more and more people in our society that believe that they have “the power” to impose their beliefs to others via what I would call… functional slavery. Let’s explain.
Let’s say that I am a Christian that believes all the things that I said before (what is true) but people in “power” to do so want me to live according to their ideology… but because they know that they can’t explicitly forbid me to live my faith ––that is clearly and explicitly illegal–– what they do is creating circumstances in which the only way to function normally in a physically and mental healthy way is… if you behave according to what is convenient to their ideology. Considering that if you behave according to their ideology, you would act against your faith, the Christian must choose between living a healthy life ––this includes a healthy social life, a healthy professional life, a healthy academic life–– or being forced to live a life without being able to function normally ––as an equal citizen would be able to do––.
That is what I call functional slavery: circumstances in which the only way to function normally is through being ideologically slaved. If you don’t comply with the ideology of “power” and choose to life according to your faith, prepare to have all kind of “malfunctions” in your life. Literally, all kind of “malfunctions”, everywhere: in social life, in medic life, in academic life, in professional life, in familiar life, in economic life, even in ecclesial life, and also in the life of your pets.
Some could say: well, that is not a violation of human rights, they are not technically physically restraining you and forbidding you of living your faith (actually, when a person is forced to be medicated and hospitalized, that can be considered physical restraining, but I won’t talk about that now…). Well, if some people create environments in which the only way to function normally is behaving according to what is convenient to certain ideologies and believing in certain ideologies… those are functional chains that make impossible to the Christian to function as an equal citizen, and so it is a violation of human rights: a violation of the human right of religious freedom. What changes here is the form of doing it: this way of violating human rights consists in promoting only the human rights of some, of those who behave according to the ideologies in “power”.
So, let’s say that because I believe that a marriage can only be between a man and a woman, I am given certain instructions that can imply that I must “follow instructions” of the ideology of “power” and implicitly comply to define marriage as they do, or I am being exposed to certain circumstances and situations that are only caused because the way I live my faith, in order to cause stress that make me more difficult to live according to my faith, and so I would need to define myself according to the “stress” that surrounds me or according to the “trauma” that is being caused to me and not according to the faith I strive to life. That is functional slavery, people. That is a violation of human rights: “malfunctions” are provoked in my life just because I choose to live according to my faith.
This is a very sensitive example ––and I used it on purpose, actually there could be many examples to explain this–– because some could try to “twist” this according to their ideological agenda and say that the true problem is that I am “homophobic”. It could even be implicitly said that it is “just” to violate my human rights because I’m “homophobic”. That is not the issue here. What I am doing is living according to my faith in all aspects of my life, including in what I believe about marriage, not acting against anyone ––including homosexual people––. The true issue here is that when the human rights of everyone are respected, you can believe that homosexual people can be “married” and I can believe that they can’t, because for me “marriage” is a sacrament, not only a civil union, and we would be treated equally. We can agree to disagree, and that is all right, I have no interest in imposing my faith. The issue here is that imposing certain ideologies via functional slavery ––creating environments in which the only way to function properly is by living according to certain ideologies–– IS a violation of human right. I am not saying that you can’t believe that homosexual people can be married. What I am saying is that you can’t impose your ideology with violation of human rights. No matter what is your ideology, if you promote it through violating human rights of those who don’t live according to them, that can’t be allowed in a democratic society. Period.
Let’s see some examples here. You can believe that Puerto Rico is a nation, and that is all right, but if you impose your nationalist ideology via functional slavery, that can’t be allowed in a democratic society. You can believe that socialism is the answers to all capitalism’s disasters, but if you impose your socialist ideology via functional slavery, that can’t be allowed in a democratic society. You can believe that there are more than two genders, that people can change their genders, that homosexual people can be sacramentally married ––among other common statements of the ideology of gender–– but if you impose your ideology of gender via functional slavery, you are violation human rights. You can believe that liberation theology (I know this can be a VERY twisting thing to say, because technically no “liberation” can be preached through slavery, whatever kind it is, but this is just an example…) is the best way to live the Catholic faith, but if you impose your liberation ideology through functional slavery, you are violating human rights.
How this can be applied to the classroom? If a student, in order to receive the education he or she needs, must allow to be instrumentalized ––used as an object in order to cause malfunctions on those who does not live according certain ideologies, or in order to promote behaviors that are convenient to promote certain ideologies–– that is functional slavery too, besides being exploitation and a violation of human rights in other sense: every kid has the human right to get an education “directed to the full development of the human personality and to the strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. It shall promote understanding, tolerance and friendship among all nations, racial or religious groups” (That’s a quote from the Declaration of Human Rights, Article 26).
Read that carefully: it doesn’t says “an education directed to the full development of certain ideologies.” It says “full development of the human personality”. I won’t talk too much about what is being human now ––I have done that in the past–– but let’s remember that a human being can’t be instrumentalized, period. All instrumentalization of a person is dehumanization, and that can’t be allowed in a democratic society neither.
This is something that every teacher must strive: the full development of the human personality of his of her students, the strengthening of respect for human rights and the fundamental freedoms, the promotion of understanding, tolerance and friendship among all nations (and cultures), races and religions… whatever costs. That ––among other reasons–– is why being teacher is also being a public server: a true teacher must have the disposition of serving the common good beyond his or her own convenience, no matter how dehumanized the circumstances could be, how many human rights could be violated once and once and once again via functional slavery… and although this is a call that not everyone can embrace, it is a necessary call that some people must answer generously.
Yes, we need people that is able to choose to serve the common good no matter how difficult it could be, because that is how we build a better culture and a better nation: making possible that every person can grow in communion, as a human being, as an equal, as a free person, as a brother and a sister that is helped to grow unconditionally.
I dare to say that teaching this everyday in my classroom ––that we can all grow as human beings, as brothers and sisters that grow in communion, as equal and free people–– is as important as teaching whatever I am teaching about language arts.
So, see around you carefully, and if you see any functional slavery, do what an honorable citizen would do: do not commit, promote or consent any form of violation of human rights and make what is possible for not allowing them. That is what I do every day, not only because it is what a Christian would do, but also because that is my way to serve my culture and my nation, my way to serve the common good everyday and help everyone to grow according to the dignity that God has given to them: free, equal, in peace and in fraternity.
This is what true power is about: about transforming our culture and our nation into a society that honors all human rights of everyone, into a society of life that grows in communion, into a more human and free society for everyone.
Let’s keep growing!