Squaring the Culture




"...and I will make justice the plumb line, and righteousness the level;
then hail will sweep away the refuge of lies,
and the waters will overflow the secret place."
Isaiah 28:17

04/13/2008 (7:11 am)

D-Y High, School for Radicals

While I’ve been developing my skills as a writer, I’ve hired myself out as a substitute teacher at a couple of the local high schools here on Cape Cod to bring in some extra bucks. One of them is the mid-cape trade school, which is perhaps a little weak academically but does a remarkable job preparing kids for useful careers. Kids learn hands-on PC troubleshooting, cosmetology and hair styling, auto mechanics, and the like from qualified instructors; they even have a restaurant school with a functioning restaurant that serves the community, and folks come daily from local businesses to eat nicely-prepared lunches at very reasonable prices, prepared and served by the students. It’s a great school.

And then there’s the local public school, Dennis-Yarmouth High School. D-Y High.

The first week I was requested to come and manage a class there, an English teacher instructed me that the seniors in G period could choose, if they liked, to attend the Issues Day presentation in the auditorium instead of having a study hall in their usual room (I think that’s what the day was — Issues Day. I don’t recall precisely). They chose to do this, so I followed them down to the auditorium. I was surprised to hear them instructed by what had to be a local political activist about “Peace Tents,” which get painted with radical slogans and set up at demonstrations in major cities around the coutry. He had a Peace Tent there, and bragged about the D-Y students who had helped paint it as a school project. Then he called on students who were prepared to talk about the horrible conditions in Darfur, and after that they heard a brief lecture from an operator of a local homeless shelter from the Salvation Army. To wrap up the presentation, the young activist (who turned out to be one of the teachers there at D-Y) solicited suggestions from the students about how they could petition the local government to fund more shelters for the homeless.

He never mentioned political parties, and he never mentioned other points of view. This was pretty much training for social activists. I was a little surprised; this is the People’s Republic of Massachusetts, after all, but I didn’t think they’d be performing unveiled political rallies at school, and it occurred to me to wonder, after the fact, about what other topics they’d welcome the Salvation Army to speak there.

About a week later, I got to sub for a history class. They were studying the Scopes trial, and the teacher made it easy for me — all I had to do was run a movie, Inherit the Wind. He had already run the trial portions of the film, but since he wasn’t going to be there, the kids could watch the rest of the film, or as much as we could get into 50 minutes. I was appalled. This was a history class, and the film Inherit the Wind is not in any way accurate history; they even use fictitious names for the historical characters, arguably to avoid defamation lawsuits. Worse — Inherit the Wind is the most bigoted film one can still see in a public venue, written specifically to make Christians look stupid and hateful. The Reverend Brown, played by Claude Atkins, in particular is a masterpiece of rhetorical demonization; if I met a man with his characteristics in real life, I’d argue for involuntary commitment at the local mental health center. I watched kids feign shooting him in anger as he played control games on his daughter by praying loudly in her presence, a vicious mockery of Christian piety. (Note that Brown is an entirely fictitious character — and recall that this is a history class. And did the teacher even know that the trial as portrayed in the film is wildly inaccurate?)

Just this week I got to listen to a teacher’s aid lecture her special needs kids about a poem they were reading, called the Ballad of Birmingham by Dudley Randall. It presented a tear-yanking scenario about a mother forbidding her child to participate in the children’s marches because the police might shoot at them or sick dogs on them, and sending her to church instead where it was safe — only to have her child disappear in the explosion. I listened to this aid paint lurid word pictures for her charges about the vicious dogs that the police used to attack little children, how they used fire hoses that would tear the skin off the children’s arms, and about the horrid Ku Klux Klan.

I have no objection to helping the homeless, though I favor private over public expenditures; Constitutionally, charity is not the government’s job, and there are good reasons for that. I have no objection to kids learning about civil rights marches, so long as they’re presented factually and in proper context (this one wasn’t). My problem is that since my appearance at the high school is random, I would not expect to hear so many presentations that sound like the rants of leftist activists — unless those were actually going on all the time. It appears to me possible that public funds are being spent at D-Y to run a public, partisan school for leftist radicals.

As I said about the Muslim grade school in Minnesota, so I say here: if public funds were available for all parties to teach their children as the parents want them taught, in a completely neutral system that didn’t ask and didn’t care what slant the schools took, I would not object to a politically partisan school, or even a religiously sectarian school. I favor such an approach; it solves lots of problems, and encourages innovation and liberty. I cannot, however, tolerate my tax dollars funding a local public high school that teaches political partisanship that I oppose. Forcing me to fund partisanship that I abhor is precisely the tyranny Thomas Jefferson warned about in his letter to the Danbury Baptists, from which we obtain the phrase “wall of separation between church and state.”

I’m going to keep a journal about my visits to D-Y, and if the pattern persists (I’m pretty sure it will), the legislature will hear my complaints; and if they won’t, then the courts might.

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14 Comments »

April 13, 2008 @ 5:13 pm #

Hi Phil,

I only have to go on what you’ve given here, but I am missing what is “leftist radical” about the following:

“They chose to do this, so I followed them down to the auditorium. I was surprised to hear them instructed by what had to be a local political activist about “Peace Tents,” which get painted with radical slogans and set up at demonstrations in major cities around the coutry. He had a Peace Tent there, and bragged about the D-Y students who had helped paint it as a school project. Then he called on students who were prepared to talk about the horrible conditions in Darfur, and after that they heard a brief lecture from an operator of a local homeless shelter from the Salvation Army. To wrap up the presentation, the young activist (who turned out to be one of the teachers there at D-Y) solicited suggestions from the students about how they could petition the local government to fund more shelters for the homeless.”

I see a demonstration to the kids on how to show if you value peace over war (unless it was unspoken by you that they actually were making some overt statement about a particular conflict). I see a battle with the selfish nature of young people by pointing out a tragic situation halfway around the world that is a cause of grave concern. I see a very reasonable concern for the homeless that these kids are being taught to address in ways that private parties are currently not.

This is not an unamerican activity. If you think you would like to balance the message there (of course, not by teaching them to value war over peace, selfishness over charity, or unconcern for the homeless, right?), then DO so!

April 13, 2008 @ 5:44 pm #

Huh. Interesting. Did you say anything to the kids after watching the video? (or after any of the other activities?) Please keep us updated about this. Yikes.

April 13, 2008 @ 7:47 pm #

darkhorse,

After the noise you’ve made to me regarding trying to remain non-partisan, I think you’re being hypocritical here.

I see a demonstration to the kids on how to show if you value peace over war (unless it was unspoken by you that they actually were making some overt statement about a particular conflict).

Do I really have to state specifically what conflict the “peace tents” are for? Really??? Give me a break, Jim; that’s just flat-out disingenuous of you, and you need to repent. You’re better than that.

I see a battle with the selfish nature of young people by pointing out a tragic situation halfway around the world that is a cause of grave concern.

Here I can understand a little confusion, so let me explain:

Usually, the political left is highly selective over which tragic situations they decide to show grave concern. The thing that makes it “leftist” in many of these cases is not that they’re showing concern, but that they fail to show concern for other instances that are equally tragic, but don’t fit the leftist criteria for attention.

Darfur is a great example; the left started showing concern about Darfur around 2003. In actual fact, the government of Sudan has been committing genocide against its own citizens since 1983. The difference between the genocide then that the left ignored, and the genocide now that they’ve gone activist over, is that the earlier genocide was against Christians, and genocide against Christians is justified in the eyes of the left, because Christians are so overbearing in their self-righteousness and because they’ve committed so many murders throughout history. I’m not making this up — I actually tried to get leftists interested in the Sudan situation back in the 1990s and heard that explanation several times.

I see a very reasonable concern for the homeless that these kids are being taught to address in ways that private parties are currently not.

Actually, it’s private parties that are doing the most for the homeless on Cape Cod. The best-known and most successful so far is called the Noah Shelter, run by one of my wife’s friends, a Christian man. Second is the Salvation Army, another Christian venture. A few of the local governments here allocated sheriff-attached housing to local activists to refurb and make available to the homeless. The activist very specifically encouraged, not support for the existing, successful (but overburdened) private concerns, but pressure on local governments for more such publicly-funded housing.

Now do you understand why I thought this was a leftist presentation?

April 13, 2008 @ 7:57 pm #

Did you say anything to the kids after watching the video?

I mentioned at the beginning that the movie was fictional and inaccurate, and that in the real Scopes trial, nobody was in serious trouble of any kind, it was just a show trial for test case.

I’m pretty limited in what I can do. I’m not faculty, I’m a substitute. In fact, if anybody from D-Y happens to read this article and report it to the right people, I probably won’t get any more calls to sub there.

April 13, 2008 @ 9:38 pm #

Phil -

“After the noise you’ve made to me regarding trying to remain non-partisan, I think you’re being hypocritical here.”

Think through this, and I challenge you to show, just once, where I challenge you to remain non-partisan. I can only expect so much : ) What I’ve always been asking of you is that you be fair-minded about it.

You:
“Do I really have to state specifically what conflict the “peace tents” are for? Really??? Give me a break, Jim; that’s just flat-out disingenuous of you, and you need to repent. You’re better than that.”

I have no blooming idea whether they addressed the current conflict or not…remember, I only can go on what you have given – if you check, you’ll find not much.

But further: the voice of peace and not war should ALWAYS, and I mean ALWAYS, be very present during a war where many more civilians are dying than combatants. This is especially true during this conflict that was begun when many were thirsty for blood after 9/11. It is not out of whack to balance current action with opposite thought – is it impossible to imagine that we may overstep just action in our bloodthirst? Come now, student of history.

You:
“Usually, the political left is highly selective over which tragic situations they decide to show grave concern.”

I really don’t care about “left” and “right”. If you recall, I am calling you to add an extra dimension to the single one you’re operating in. Darfur is well worth the concern (I wept over the situation just TODAY, for crying out loud).

If there are others that are worth concern, BRING THEM ON, buddy! Why say, “Shut up, libs, because you’re not willing to say everything.”, when you COULD say, “Yes, that is tragic, and so is this. Why don’t we see what we can do, if anything, about both?” ?

You:

“Actually, it’s private parties that are doing the most for the homeless on Cape Cod. ”

Bravo! May it continue to be so (though you will admit a willingness to highlight the private over any public action, right?). My focus was not only on Cape Cod. I enjoy when the soft-hearted and shrewd-minded figure out ways to solve these kinds of problems…

…but the question still floats out there – if the private sector does not cover all the bases (and they don’t), does the public sector sit back and watch some die because of your constitutional understanding?

April 14, 2008 @ 7:15 am #

Jim –

You’re losing sight of the point. Yes, concern over Darfur is better than unconcern, even if those concerned are inconsistent — but my point was “These are leftists teaching their ideology.” I think I’ve proved that.

Beyond that, I think it’s proper to disregard the policy recommendations of those whose criteria include such things as “Christians deserve genocide;” their concern about genocide in general is clearly feigned, which suggests they’re pursuing some agenda other than the one they’re claiming. We can USE their faux concern, but we can never trust it.

Regarding the war, extending the feigned ignorance isn’t helping your credibility. Drop it. Who’s out there organizing anti-war rallies that are simply general statements? Did you suspect these were QUAKERS making the presentation? Sorry, I left most of them behind when I left Pennsylvania, and the PA Quakers were too wealthy to be prone to public demonstrations.

Where you challenge me to remain non-partisan is in your wholehearted disapproval of war, and inclusion of “peace vs war” alongside “selfishness vs charity.” No, anti-war voices are NOT always required (although usually, a few cooler heads are a good idea). If you disagree, don’t just argue with me, take it up with the author of Ecclesiastes.

And let’s not hear any “warmonger” nonsense. You’re bright enough to distinguish between approval of war as a general tool, and approval of the carnage that occurs as a consequence of war. War is horrible; sometimes, war is necessary. The Bible even says so.

And by the way, EVERY war costs more in civilian suffering than in military — granting you for the moment the insane metric that the suffering of soldiers doesn’t count as suffering.

The war that was begun while many were thirsty for blood was the invasion of Afghanistan and the deposing of the Taliban. There was little opposition to that war because of proximity to 9/11, although the reflexive anti-war types started kicking up when it wasn’t over 3 weeks into the conflict, a displaced public display of the infantile “Are we there yet, daddy?” The Iraq war began in 2003, about 18 months after 9/11, and the opposition was reflexive, unthinking, and grossly inconsistent.

April 14, 2008 @ 12:16 pm #

Phil:

Each time I post something here for you to address, I come back to find you having the conversation with someone else. When I look more closely, you are actually speaking with my shadow as it’s cast into your one-dimensional world of liberals vs. conservatives. In the end, we always end up better, but speaking to you is beginning to make me feel a bit like Sisyphus. Hey Phil, I’m over here…still.

You:

“Where you challenge me to remain non-partisan is in your wholehearted disapproval of war, and inclusion of “peace vs war” alongside “selfishness vs charity.” ”

Huh? Where did I even hint that I oppose war at all costs? I assure you, I do not. I do hold, however, as I feel all Christians should, that support for any war should be granted more carefully than for nearly every other public policy. And, as often as possible, decision makers should be called to reflect whether war continues to be the most reasonable way to achieve justice.

This is disturbing:

“No, anti-war voices are NOT always required (although usually, a few cooler heads are a good idea). If you disagree, don’t just argue with me, take it up with the author of Ecclesiastes.”

Since war always involves the destruction of bearers of the image of God, fear and trepidation should be behind every last decision to move forward. The military complex should never be allowed to gain uncheckable momentum, because war can only be allowed to continue as long as it is absolutely necessary. To believe otherwise is inhumane horror.

You:

“And by the way, EVERY war costs more in civilian suffering than in military — granting you for the moment the insane metric that the suffering of soldiers doesn’t count as suffering.”

I didn’t ask for you to grant me that. You are projecting me again. But your statement here seems to point toward MORE caution, not less. Thus, I would always hold to the value of those who respond to their own horror of war, even if they are out-of-balance in their thought process.

April 14, 2008 @ 1:59 pm #

Jim: Huh? Where did I even hint that I oppose war at all costs?

Phil: Here –>

This is not an unamerican activity. If you think you would like to balance the message there (of course, not by teaching them to value war over peace, selfishness over charity, or unconcern for the homeless, right?), then DO so!

I compared the matched pairs:

selfishness vs charity
concern vs unconcern
war vs peace

Selfishness is never appropriate; charity is always right.

Unconcern is never appropriate; concern is always right.

I take the third pair to be balanced with the first two, ergo: war is never appropriate; peace is always right.

I disagree with the last statement. War is often necessary, even when “peace” of a sort is possible.

If you didn’t mean for war vs peace to be considered in the same class with selfishness vs charity, why’d you include it in the same class?

Jim: I didn’t ask for you to grant me that (the insane metric that the suffering of soldiers doesn’t count as suffering). You are projecting me again.

Phil: I think not. Consider what you said –>

But further: the voice of peace and not war should ALWAYS, and I mean ALWAYS, be very present during a war where many more civilians are dying than combatants.

This suggests a standard in which the suffering of civilians is of greater concern than the suffering of combatants.

I don’t think I misrepresent you at all, Jim. I think I see the logical implications of your positions more clearly than you do. That’s why you keep thinking I’m not responding to you, when I’m pretty sure I am.

April 14, 2008 @ 3:02 pm #

Phil -

“Selfishness is never appropriate; charity is always right.

Unconcern is never appropriate; concern is always right.

I take the third pair to be balanced with the first two, ergo: war is never appropriate; peace is always right.

I disagree with the last statement. War is often necessary, even when “peace” of a sort is possible.”

That was a very well-constructed straw doll that you knocked the stuffing out of! It allowed you to ignore who you know me to be as a person in order to show here that you “won”.

Yes, war is necessary – a necessary evil that is sometimes smaller than the evil it defeats. Nobody in their right mind values “war” as a concept over “peace”, except the criminally insane. And this sense of keeping these two straight is the value of the balancing voice during the time of war.

On this:

“This suggests a standard in which the suffering of civilians is of greater concern than the suffering of combatants.”

Okay, you are right. I will adjust my horror of the death of those who are uninvolved (directly) in conflicts to include combatants. I will be just as horrified by combatant infants and women who lose their lives as the non-combatant infants and women.

April 14, 2008 @ 6:50 pm #

darkhorse,

This has gotten out of hand, and we need to end it.

We agree that war is horrible. We also agree that it’s sometimes necessary. And I think we can agree that the death of anybody (male, female, adult, child, combatant, non-combatant) in a war is a tragedy.

I think I proved my point about the D-Y assembly presenting nothing but solidly leftist points of view. The “peace tents” were, in fact, for contemporary anti-war protests, which are Iraq war protests.

Please try not to forget that you and I have never met, and have only haggled over certain political topics and read a few of each others’ opinions regarding church topics. I don’t know you, really, so I’m asking that you not be offended if I err in assuming I know who or what you are.

I’m sorry if you found my statements offensive. I did not intend to offend.

April 15, 2008 @ 7:56 am #

Fair enough, Phil. My only feeling of offense came in puzzlement, in that it is so hard to point out the possible good motivations and valuable things said by those you call leftists without being immediately presumed to be a card-carrying neo-Marxist myself.

I see little reason to try and shut them up, either through congress or court; it seems much more American to gain access for a voice of completion or balance, or even better, just being that voice in the public square.

April 15, 2008 @ 8:52 am #

I see little reason to try and shut them up, either through congress or court; it seems much more American to gain access for a voice of completion or balance, or even better, just being that voice in the public square.

Hence, this blog.

And hence, my support for vouchers, which would allow parents a voice in what sorts of biases are permitted in their kids’ schools.

Again, we agree. But surely you see the difficulty in a publicly-funded school system that produces a consistent philosophical product that favors only one party, don’t you? Do you see how a government-managed school system can become a mechanism to effect government control? This is why I say that government schools are corrosive of individual liberty, and that a nation that values liberty as a founding premise should champion an all-private school system.

April 15, 2008 @ 11:34 am #

Oh, don’t stop carrying on for my sake. That was one of the more amusing comment threads I’ve read recently.

I find it pretty hard to take this seriously: Reading the Ballad of Birmingham, watching Inherit the Wind, and painting a peace tent=a radical political education of any kind. The Salvation Army? Please.

I’m waiting for the real fireworks: Subsidized school lunches= communism in action! Bake sales= the work of imperialist capitalist lackies!

April 28, 2008 @ 9:09 am #

[...] few weeks ago I wrote about the preaching of leftist dogma at D-Y High in Yarmouth, MA, where I’ve served a few weeks as a substitute teacher. One of the comments following that [...]

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