Death before truth: Political correctness in America

Paul A. Ibbetson

If you want to see the pervasive nature of political correctness in America today, the national public outcry following the Rigoberto Ruelas suicide in California is a salient example. Ruelas, a fifth grade teacher at Miramonte Elementary School in south Los Angeles, is believed to have committed suicide after receiving poor ratings in a teacher-rating database that was posted in the Los Angeles Times. Specifically, Christina Hoag of the Associated Press reports that Rigoberto Ruelas was described by friends as being distraught over scoring “average” in his teaching effectiveness in English and scoring as “less effective” in the area of math. Ruelas had an overall score of “less effective.” As Ruelas’ body was found in the Big Tujunga Canyon area in the Angeles National Forest by law enforcement officials, the question, “who is to blame?” cascades across the nation.

The apparent suicide of Rigoberto Ruelas brings about the usual pain and anguish of such events. Having worked numerous suicide investigations as a criminal investigator, I understand there are many common elements that family and friends suffer through when individuals choose to take their own lives. One of the common themes is an attempt to rationally explain how such a tragedy could take place. With the attempt to find explanations for such traumatic events comes the common quest to assign blame. This is when the politically correct operatives step out of the woodwork to point the public toward those they wish to be held accountable.

I feel true sadness and sympathy for the family, friends and students who grieve Ruelas’ death. However, the attacks on the L.A. Times for reporting Ruelas’ sub-par teacher ratings are not deserved justice, rather the implementation of political correctness. Within political correctness, value judgments of almost any kind become taboo, especially those that account for personal conduct. Ironically, it is politically incorrect to even talk about political correctness.

The Ruelas case brings the point home. Who is to blame for the death of Rigoberto Ruelas? If we take the example being modeled by the teachers union, it is not only the unfairness of the evaluation system that found Ruelas lacking as a teacher, but more so the audacity of the L.A. Times for reporting his deficiencies. Nowhere in the teachers union’s politically correct assessment of this incident do we hear them talk about holding teachers accountable for their own actions. As is the case with political correctness, those who publicize a value judgment are treated as the offenders while the problem itself is allowed to grow and build. Following political correctness, no problem is too big to ignore. The Ruelas case reflects this. As reported in the Associated Press, it was not just Ruelas who had teaching issues at Miramonte that the L.A. Times made public. The Miramonte Elementary School itself ranked as “least effective” in raising test scores, and only five out of 35 third to fifth grade teachers at the school were ranked as high as “average.” The problem was widespread but would have remained hidden from the view of parents and the public without publication. So, is the L.A. Times the culprit in this story, or is it some really bad teaching? You won’t hear any apologies from the teachers union United Teachers Los Angeles for Miramonte’s poor teacher performance. Instead, they are demanding that the L.A. Times stop posting teacher evaluations. Without the now-controversial publication, educators such as Ruelas would still have been evaluated on the criteria of respect and likeability. Is this the yardstick of evaluation that is in the best interest of the students of Miramonte? It certainly would have been more politically correct.

Taking political correctness to the next level, the teachers union has called for a boycott of the L.A. Times. The idea that teachers should have their own report cards and accountability made public will now be put to the test. The unfortunate reality in this case is that the students of this school have lost a teacher, and their pain is justified. Family and friends are without someone they care about and their mourning is difficult to bear witness to. However, in the case of suicide, the responsibility falls with the individual, as this is a personal act, and a very selfish one at that.

If this teacher truly killed himself in reaction to a poor teacher evaluation made public, a politically incorrect truth needs to be accepted. It was not a poor evaluation or the L.A. Times’ decision to publish it along with other educators’ results that ended the teacher’s life. It was Ruelas’ personal decision to leave this world instead of addressing it that is causing the pain felt by family and friends today. It was his decision to run from a poor performance evaluation instead of improving himself or challenging the criteria by which he was evaluated. In the end, it was a very selfish decision of this teacher to abandon those that held him in such high regard for the false belief in escape. This is an important lesson that the teachers union could be addressing, instead they are obscuring true issues of accountability by evoking political correctness.
Paul A. Ibbetson is a former Chief of Police of Cherryvale, Kansas, and member of the Montgomery County Drug Task Force. Paul received his Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in Criminal Justice at Wichita State University, and is currently completing his PhD. in sociology at Kansas State University. Paul is the author of the books Living Under The Patriot Act: Educating A Society and Feeding Lions: Sharing The Conservative Philosophy In A Politically Hostile World. Paul is also the radio host of the Kansas Broadcasting Association’s 2008, 2009 and 2010 Entertainment Program of the Year, Conscience of Kansas airing on KSDB Manhattan 91.9 f.m. For interviews or questions, please contact

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