Macklemore’s successful underground album The Heist features a track titled “Same Love,” that discusses gay rights and the stigma attached to same-s-x marriage, and defends a demographic that’s chronically receives discrimination. Ironically, the very same song created to open the eyes of closed minded individuals is the sourceof controversy at Centennial Middle School of the South Lyon Community School District in Michigan.
Teacher Susan Johnson received a three-day suspension, two of which were unpaid, for playing “Same Love” during her eighth grade performing arts class at a student’s request. Another student was offended by the gesture, and made a complaint to the principal and assistant superintendent, who made the decision to suspend Johnson.
The school district defended their decision in a statement that reads:
“The district has an established practice, included in the staff handbook, that requires the instructor to first preview any taped material to be used in the classroom, including YouTube clips, then submit a completed form about the proposed clip to a building administrator for approval.”
“To ensure that the proposed material supports the curriculum for the class, the form requires the instructor to provide a brief description of the clip and how it relates to the lesson plan.”
“Further, the instructor is to identify the curriculum benchmarks that students will complete as a result of watching the clip. The employee neither previewed the YouTube clip, nor submitted the form for approval as required. Instead, a student gave the clip to the employee at the beginning of class and the employee showed the clip to the class. The clip had no relationship whatsoever to the instructional class content planned for that day. The purpose of this established practice is to ensure that instructional materials are appropriate for the course and its students. It is because we care about all students that we have this procedure in place.”
The letter can be found in its entirety below. Read the full account of the incident here.
I believe that Ms. Johnson getting suspended is completely out of line and unjust. However, I think it’s important for moments like these to be exposed and for us to pay attention and respond. This level of intolerance and fear is still very active in America, but at times is not completely visible. This incident is just one of tens of thousands that have happened across the country where schools have exposed a latent homophobia, preventing safe space for all young people to feel confident in being themselves. It’s clear that Ms. Johnson felt bullying and “gay bashing” were issues that needed to be addressed, and by doing so, was punished.
I wrote the song “Same Love,” not with the expectation that it would cure homophobia and lead to marriage equality across the US (although that’d be awesome). It was written with the hope that it would facilitate dialogue and through those conversations understanding and empathy would emerge. This incident demonstrates how too often we are quick to silence conversations that must be had. Even if people disagree, there is far more potential for progress when people are vocal and honestly expressing their thoughts about gay rights. When we are silent and avoid the issue, fear and hatred have a far greater life span.
It’s discouraging that a song about love and civil rights has led to a teacher getting suspended from her job. But that’s where we are at. For those of us who get a pit in our stomach when reading a story like this, it just makes it abundantly clear there is far more work to be done.