Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Otto – 1; MOE – 0

I found RI science teacher Otto Fong’scoming out’ blog touching and well-written. Unsurprisingly, it has attracted support from several netizens, including former students.

Most of them agree that there is nothing wrong with having a gay teacher. Being gay does not equate to being promiscuous, or a pedophile. Yet, the general assumption is that Otto is risking his teaching career with his post.

There are already indications that such fears may be realized. Otto was asked by MOE to take his post down, and he has compiled.

One question is whether MOE will be taking further action against Otto. Will he be fired? How will his career be affected?

A more important question, however, is what Otto really hope to achieve with his ‘coming out’ post.

It is not a personal announcement, since Otto had already ‘come out’ to his family and friends. Instead, the post seems calculated to force MOE to shows its hand – i.e. if you fire me, it shows you have an anti-gay policy (despite what MM Lee has said); if you don’t fire me, it means you condone having teachers who are openly gay.

Coming as it does in the wake of the Alfian Sa’at case – and coupled with other information from some bloggers that Otto may already have been planning to leave teaching – it is quite clear that Otto has a deeper agenda.

At this point, it would seem that Otto has come out ahead. His post will arguably attract far more eyeballs now that MOE has asked him to take it down (and since his post has also been replicated on sites such as Tomorrow and Fridae which have a much larger following).

As with the Alfian case, MOE is stuck between a rock and a hard place. I don’t think MOE has any issue with gay teachers per se. The problem, from MOE’s perspective, would be gay teachers who decide to push the envelope.

You see, MOE also has the unenviable task of accounting to parents. Responses to Otto’s post suggest that some parents have no problems with their children being taught by gay teachers, but we cannot assume that 100% of parents feel this way. So, while the trait of honesty is to be admired, when a teacher openly declares that he/she is homosexual, he/she leaves MOE with a PR headache.

(Lest I be misconstrued as an anti-gay, pls see this earlier post)

My own guess is that Otto will soon leave the teaching service on his own accord, and this is probably something that he has been preparing for. His post was meant to gather maximum mileage to sensationalize the gay issue and put pressure on the establishment, and we should see it in this light.