All Politics is Local
By Brittany Yurkovitch on 11/18/2013
Last week, Richardson High School students overwhelmingly rejected a district approved guest speaker, the “bestselling author” of Christian inspired books on dating, Justin Lookadoo. Lookadoo caused an uproar among students which has now gained international attention. As a Richardson district AP Government and Macroeconomics teacher in Berkner High School’s STEM Academy, I am enjoying the teaching opportunity and I am hoping the district learns to do its homework a bit better before approving such an unpopular speaker. There are so many things wrong with this story, where to begin?
According to the Dallas Observer,
“Justin Lookadoo can’t figure out what all the fuss is about. He showed up at Richardson High School yesterday to give the same motivational speech he’s given to students thousands of times only to have his name desecrated on Twitter and be pilloried by the media.
The message was simply “empowering the student to actually take control of their relationships,” he told the station.
Still, Lookadoo found himself in full damage-control mode after students discovered his advice online…”
Lookadoo should not be baffled at the backlash from the Richardson community. RISD is a technology rich district and kids can easily do a quick google search on their phones to figure out who the school has deemed so important as to warrant leaving class to hear them speak. Not surprisingly, they easily found Lookadoo’s website and were appalled once landing on his website and found his bizarre rules for dating.
According to Lookadoo, “Men of God are wild, not domesticated. Dateable guys aren’t tamed. They don’t live by the rules of the opposite sex. They fight battles, conquer lands, and stand up for the oppressed. Keep it covered up. Dateable guys know that porn is bad for the spirit and the mind. They keep women covered up.”
For females, Lookadoo explains, “Accept your girly-ness. You’re a girl. Be proud of all that means. You are soft, you are gentle, you are a woman. Don’t try to be a guy. Guys like you because you are different from them. So let your girly-ness soar. Be mysterious. Dateable girls know how to shut up. They don’t monopolize the conversation. They don’t tell everyone everything about themselves. They save some for later. They listen more than they gab. Let him lead. God made guys as leaders. Dateable girls get that and let him do guy things, get a door, open a ketchup bottle. They relax and let guys be guys. Which means they don’t ask him out!!!” Need him. Dateable girls know that guys need to be needed. A Dateable girl isn’t Miss Independent. She knows we are made for community. Needing each other is part of faith. She allows him to be needed at times, knowing he was called to serve just as much as she was.”
The sexism is obvious and has been explained in numerous blogs and news stories so I will not beat a dead horse. I will simply note that his rules encourage only male independence and perhaps recklessness while women are expected to always think of others and the community, rather than her own personal development.
Justin Lookadoo is associated with the now defunct Exodus International, an anti-gay summer camp that claimed it could heal gay youth. The group creeped out the summer camp goers and their leader issued an apology to the gay community for their offensive message.
Seriously, why didn’t the Richardson school administration scrutinize this guest speaker?
Ironically, many teachers in the Richardson district, including me and others here in the STEM Academy, have taken several Texas Instruments sponsored professional development trainings to encourage more females to enter the STEM fields while promoting gender equity in the public school environment. Although the STEM career fields have a high income earning potential, many young women do not pursue these math and science intensive careers. We work diligently, being careful of how we treat males and females to be sure we don’t discourage anyone from entering these desperately needed careers. Unfortunately, Lookadoo’s dating advice contradicts the spirit of independence needed for a woman to commit herself to an academically rigorous path like a STEM major and/or career field.
Although Lookado claims he is the “Michael Jordan” of motivational speaking, he clearly hasn’t researched his audience. He should know that Richardson is the heart of the technology industry in Dallas and the residents come from a diverse international community. My STEM classes are like a mini United Nations. I have many students from Africa, from various Middle East countries and from parts of the vast Asian continent. First amendment freedoms of religion and speech are especially important in a community whose population is so diverse. Richardson High School should know better than to invite a speaker who promotes a narrow vision of Christian values.
Furthermore, Lookadoo’s website is patronizing to his teenage audience. He looks desperate in his sad attempts to appeal to young people with his dumbing down of the English language (R U Dateable?), his choice of words “cool stuff” to link students to his sexist rules, and his sensationalist photos featuring him posing as a skydiver with ridiculous facial expressions.
Almost everything concerning his image and website is condescending to his target audience. Lookadoo claims his book is on several best-selling lists, but does not describe which best-selling lists. Students can see through his desperate marketing and are not impressed.
Some are asking whether Richardson students and parents are simply overreacting to this Lookadoo incident. We do live in a society where parents are arrested and strip searched when their kindergarten-aged child draws a picture of gun, so it is important to question the public’s reaction.
To be clear, we supposedly live in a free society and Lookadoo can certainly hold whatever beliefs he chooses. I support anyone who freely chooses to associate with Lookadoo; in fact, I will defend to the death any person’s right to believe and say anything he or she wants except in cases where government officials force others to absorb a particular message. Government coercion is where I draw the line and thus, I am mostly concerned with the school’s negligence on this matter.
I have had to chuckle at the news reports claiming “students were skipping regularly scheduled math or science classes to attend an optional PTA-sponsored assembly.” The article makes it sound like kids had a choice and were merrily hopping along to the assembly, happy to have an excuse to leave their challenging courses to listen to a guest speaker. I have been teaching in this district for a few years now and have never heard of a situation where kids had the choice to leave their class to listen to a non-academic lecture.
All public schools are managed like prisons. Kids cannot go to the bathroom without written permission and some of these news stories are implying some degree of freedom exists within these public school walls. Perhaps when it became clear that people were becoming offended, a message implying choice to attend was emailed/texted to parents. Clearly, Richardson High School is trying to do damage-control but I’m not buying their story.
Since the story has gained global attention, you may think the district itself would want to step in and address all RISD families and employees of the situation by sending a mass voicemail or letter. However, no authority from the district has emailed employees about the Lookadoo incident nor has it offered any apologies. Although the Richardson High School administration sent some information to its students, the rest of the district must learn the school’s reaction either through the rumormill or via a local Dallas News blog.
This lack of professional communication to concerned parties within the district should come as no surprise.
In September, on Friday the 13, someone hung a dead goat from the goalpost here at Berkner High School. Despite the questions and outrage from students and teachers, no one from the high school or district sent any information about the incident to us. Morbidly, the high school band practiced on the field as the dead goat hung above the marching students. How ironically Satanic.
Nothing to see here. Keep moving along.
We in the Richardson district shouldn’t have to find the school’s apology through an internet scavenger hunt. An apologetic letter and an assurance that speakers will be vetted would provide some needed closure.
It is unfortunate how we teachers are blamed for every student testing failure and must document every intellectual flatulence or else face some kind of bureaucratic punishment while the administration may take the students out of our classes to listen to non-academic controversial speakers and never apologize for the international backlash resulting from their mistake.