This morning we met with one of the theology teachers to talk about the presence of antisemitic slurs at our sons' Catholic high school. I think it went well. The teacher was not surprised to hear about our concern. "I just gave somebody a detention for that," he said. The kid pushed back, apparently, arguing that he didn't deserve a detention ("there's nothing wrong with saying that!") (for real, he said that to a teacher) (in the year 2017) (can you even?) (my even-er is fried), so the teacher was also not surprised to hear that our son's efforts to make it stop hadn't gone anywhere. On the plus side, he said the kid in question was in a group of 5 other kids at the time, all of whom winced and said, "You can't say that!"
In the car afterward I said to my husband that it seemed serendipitous that this teacher had just seen firsthand the very same issue and the very same resistance that have been worrying us. "I think you mean horrifying," said Elwood, which is also true. But it's a serendipitous kind of horrifying, because the theology teacher is going to talk to the rest of the theology department and to the principal today, and say, "How can we address this problem that I myself have observed with my own eyes and ears?" And maybe his detention write-up will satisfy part of the principal's need to know who exactly is saying this stuff.
We talked with the teacher for about 20 minutes, and he mentioned a lot of the same issues that have been weighing on me. He tells his students about Church teaching on social justice and preferential love for the poor, and hears "but they didn't earn it!" He is married to a woman whose grandfather immigrated from Mexico, and so immigration questions have particular resonance for them. I said, "There are some pockets of alt-right nastiness here that concern us," and he nodded in agreement. "Before the election..." he began, and trailed off, shaking his head. We talked about possible responses together. (And oh, you guys, thank you for your comments here! I pulled some of my suggestions straight out of your comments.) This teacher wants to do the right thing here, I am certain. I don't know what will happen from here. I don't know how much influence the school can wield if some kids are getting a steady diet of Breitbart and worse at home. But if they're willing to listen, and willing to try -- that's all we're asking.