February 15, 2002
Recently in Chattanooga, Tennessee, a public school was told to stop holding Bible classes as part of the regular curriculum. Of course the classes weren’t mandatory, and students who objected were allowed to participate in "alternative activities". I’m sure this is the sort of decision a lot of five-year olds can make for themselves, along with which insurance company provides the best coverage, who their long distance phone provider should be, and what brand of cigarettes they should smoke. Besides, based on my own school experience "alternative activities" means sitting quietly in the cafeteria while the gym coach reads the newspaper and occasionally says things like, "Shut up or you’ll be doin’ pushups until your momma comes to get you." Even for those students who could decide for themselves that they’d rather do their math homework than go to a Bible class, it’s hard enough being a kid without having one more thing to separate you from your peers. Kids are going to pick on each other anyway, but it’s worse when schools promote segregation using something like religion that, supposedly, is supposed to be kept out of public schools.
Why not segregate kids based on skin color? Well, that was tried a few years ago, and although there are some people who’d like to bring that back, including some of the same people who think religion should be taught in schools, it seemed to create more problems than it solved. It’s not that I’m opposed to religion. A lot of people across the religious spectrum, from the Dalai Llama to Bishop Desmond Tutu, are admirable people who do great things. And they talk about things like the need for peace among people of different faiths, and tolerance. I’ve known people who were Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, and Pagan who considered being decent people to be the most important demonstration of their faith.
That’s just the point: different religions espouse being nice to other people, so it doesn’t make sense that some people think "Love thy neighbor" means, "Force your neighbor to accept what you believe, and if that doesn’t work, learn to make pipe bombs." Promoting one religion as superior to all others has been used to justify some of religion’s worst excesses, such as the Crusades, the Inquisition, the Holocaust, and Jerry Falwell. Of course it’s been said that the school wasn’t really promoting religion, which is probably why they never bothered to inform the parents about these classes. The parents didn’t even meet the people who were telling their children that Proverbs came before Ecclesiastes, and that the cafeteria kids were going to Hell, since the "teachers" were volunteers who came in from outside the school. I doubt the nice man in the powder-blue suit with the slicked-back hair who told the kids they should give their milk money to him or risk eternal damnation didn’t come to a lot of PTA meetings.
Okay, I’m exaggerating there: the "volunteers" were students from a nearby college, who came to teach the kids in between their own classes, Introduction to Theology and Snake Handling 101. Ironically all this happened in the same Tennessee county where, several decades ago, the infamous Scopes Monkey Trial took place. Hopefully evolution will eventually catch up with the rednecks and their ideas about education will move into the Twentieth Century. In the meantime, however, representatives of the school have said they’ll appeal the decision, but first they have to research complex legal concepts like "the Constitution", "the First Amendment", and "Hey Judge, we know where you live."
Enjoy this week’s offerings.
Quotes taken from actual Federal Employee Performance Evaluations
1. "Since my last report, this employee has reached rock bottom and has started to dig."
2. "I would not allow this employee to breed."
3. "This employee is not really so much of a has-been, but more of a definite won’t be."
4. "Works well when under constant supervision and when cornered like a rat in a trap."
5. "When she opens her mouth, it seems that it is only to change feet."
6. "He would be out of his depth in a parking lot puddle."
7. "This young lady has delusions of adequacy."
8. "He sets low personal standards and then consistently fails to achieve them."
9. "This employee is depriving a village, somewhere, of an idiot."
10. "This employee should go far, and the sooner he starts, the better."
11. "Got a full 6-pack, but lacks the plastic thingy to hold it all together."
12. "A gross ignoramus — 144 times worse than an ordinary ignoramus."
13. "He doesn’t have ulcers, but he’s a carrier."
14. "I would like to go hunting with him sometime."
15. "He’s been working with glue too much."
16. "He would argue with a sign post."
17. "He brings a lot of joy. . . whenever he leaves the room."
18. "When his IQ reaches 50, he should sell."
19. "If you see two people talking and one looks bored, he’s the other one."
20. "A photographic memory but with the lens cover glued on."
21. "A prime candidate for natural de-selection"
22. "Donated his brain to science before he was done using it."
23. "Gates are down, the lights are flashing, but the train isn’t coming."
24. "Has two brains: one is lost and the other is out looking for it."
25. "If he were any more stupid, he’d have to be watered twice a week."
26. "If you gave him a penny for his thought, you’d get change."
27. "If you stand close enough to him, you can hear the ocean."
28. "Takes him 2 hours to watch ’60 Minutes’."
29. "The wheel is turning, but the hamster is dead."