I don’t think about Proposition 8 much because it troubles me and I live far from California. But I was surprised when I read this forwarded e-mail and some of the ensuing conversation. This particular thread makes clear that some people are very concerned that, if the amendment passes, their children’s elementary school teachers would be forced to express consent or tolerance for gay-parented families.

As an elementary school teacher, let me make something clear to you: I (and we) do not diss any family. Indeed, our students come from all sorts of situations, some we know a lot about and others we simply don’t, and we try not to make waves. No matter how I felt about a 5-year-olds particularly unsavory background, I would never express anything more controversial than: some families are like that.

Your parents are Republicans? Some people are like that.

Your sister dropped out of school and is having a baby at 15? It happens.

Your cousins live in a family with two men and one woman? That is interesting.

Dad is AWOL and all you have is Mom? Isn’t she a great mom?

You worship Satan on the weekends? How about that?

Mommy and Daddy fought last night? That’s too bad—no one likes to fight.

Your parents feed you candy for breakfast? Well, that explains a lot.

Your family is part biological and part adopted? Cool.

Your uncle loves a man? Some people do.

Daddy spanked you? He must have been mad (that I might have to report—teachers are mandated reporters).

Your parents aren’t married and just live in sin? I have heard of it.

Your cousin gets homeschooled? Sometimes people choose that.

You live with your grandparents and your parents haven’t been seen in years? Lucky for you to have grandparents who love you.

Your Mom is Asian and your Dad is Hispanic? How fun.

Your dad is old enough to be your mother’s father? Wow.

Parents are divorced? That happens quite a bit.

No matter what my curriculum defines a “family” as, my students will always inject their own experiences, and no amendment to a state constitution is going to control for all the variables.

I am just never going to criticize a family to my students. Nope, no matter how illegal the situation. And I never even got any special training on that. In my 7 years of formal teacher education, and in countless hours of “professional development” since, I have never been instructed about which families are OK and which we should condemn for the sake of the children. You see, the students are little people who won’t be able to make decisions about their family for many many years (discussions of families with high schoolers would be much more interesting), so why should I make someone feel bad about a family they cannot change? This is not political correctness or the liberality of teachers, this is plain old kindness.

I wonder, what do people think teachers ought to do? Do you really want your kid’s elementary school teachers critiquing the individual families of their students? If so, then watch out, because some teacher somewhere is sure to feel that your baby-laden, single income, ever-growing, Mormon family is at least questionable.