I remember when, I remember, I remember
When I lost my mind
There was something so pleasant about that place
Even your emotions had an echo in so much space
And when you’re out there without a care,
Yeah I was out of touch
But it wasn’t because I didn’t know enough
I just knew too much
Does that make me crazy?
—Gnarls Barkley, Crazy
WARNING: THIS ARTICLE DISCUSSES MATURE THEMES. READER DISCRETION IS ADVISED
I saw these two stories separately, but h/t to Glenn Beck for helping me make the connection.
Meet Giovanni Rubeo, a Fifth Grade student at Park Lakes Elementary School in Broward County, Florida (yes, that Broward County). It seems that his class sometimes gets “free reading” time during first period.
Well, by now we know that some are more free than others, and you can see the next part coming a mile away, can’t you?
Young Master Rubeo had the audacity to break out his new Bible—a gift from his church—as his choice of reading material. His teacher, one Swornia Thomas, caught him red-handed with the inflammatory, racist, homophobic, and otherwise patently offensive literature, and ordered him to put it away. In a voicemail to Giovanni’s father, Mrs. Thomas explained that “He [Giovanni] had a book, a religious book, in the classroom. He’s not permitted to read those books in my classroom.”
Imagine for a second the global outrage and rioting that would have erupted had the book in question been the Koran (also—so I’m told, anyway—a “religious book”). We’d have petitions in the U.N. for sanctions, and President Obama would probably have had to dispatch Secretary of State John Kerry to Florida to genuflect before some Imam just to stem the carnage.
The school district later clarified that Giovanni was of course allowed to read his Bible before and after school and during lunch, but conveniently made no mention of the “free reading” period during class. Mrs. Thomas, for her part, has apparently refused to comment, although the schoolteacher’s husband reportedly told CBS Miami “She ain’t got nothing to say to you . . . get the [expletive] out of my yard.”
I’ll just let that speak for itself.
So we have a public elementary school teacher telling a Fifth Grader that he’s not permitted to read “those books”—i.e. the Bible—in her classroom. Keep that in mind as we move to the next story.
Meet William Baer, whose daughter is a 14 year old Freshman at Gilford High School in Gilford, New Hampshire. He learned that his daughter was assigned to read the book 19 Minutes by Jodi Picault. The book’s defenders claim it has “important themes,” that it’s thought-provoking and appropriate for 9th graders, and that it’s been assigned at the school for years.
Among these “important themes” about which it’s appropriate for a public school to provoke 14 year olds to devote so much thought is an unbelievably graphic sex scene—one could read it as rape, in that the girl at one point says “no” although she soon becomes an enthusiastic participant—complete with a description of climax and ejaculation. As Beck pointed out on his radio program, the book’s account is so graphic that if you filmed it as written and gave the film to a 14 year old, you’d be arrested for distributing pornography to a minor. Even to read it on the air he was forced to substitute euphemisms in many places. It was that bad.
Now, I’m not about censorship, for all I know the book may very well have some redeeming academic merit; Atlas Shrugged, and even the Bible have sex scenes, albeit not nearly in the same titillation universe as this one. But to not only make this book available but in fact compel 14 year olds to read it without notifying parents first or providing an alternative assignment is beyond shocking.
And I haven’t even gotten to the good part.
When Mr. Baer learned of the book and its contents, he was understandably concerned, and he took his concern to a meeting of the school board.
Where he got himself arrested.
For what heinous crime, you ask? He exceeded the two-minute speaking limit. Yep, he went over his two minutes, so a police officer put him in handcuffs and hauled his ass to jail. Do not pass Go. Do not collect $200.
I am, of course, taking a little bit of dramatic license here. Mr. Baer was asked to stop or leave, and apparently he dared the officer to arrest him, so you might argue that he brought it on himself. But that’s really beside my point. Hold these two situations next to each other and ask what it says about where we are as a society.
On the one hand we have a child—a child—attempting to use his free reading time to, I don’t know, read freely. But he is precluded from doing so because his choice of literature happens to be the Bible. How ridiculous is that? There is no contention that he was preaching or proselytizing; he wasn’t trying to win any converts, and he wasn’t disrupting class. He was just reading his book—a book that not that long ago would have been required reading in most households in the U.S., and that is still a fundamental academic tool for understanding history and Western literature (try reading Milton or even Lord of the Rings without a grasp of the Bible).
There is no conceivable objection to a child using time designated for reading to read his Bible. The book itself isn’t objectionable as long as you don’t force it on others. Any appeal to “separation of church and state” is simply moronic—(a) the concept doesn’t exist in the Constitution, contrary to ignorant common belief, and (b) the proper 1st/14th Amendment application is the preclusion against government entities—like a public school, Mrs. Thomas—from erecting any barrier to the free exercise of religion. Yet here we are, with a teacher telling an 11 year old he is forbidden to read the Bible in her classroom.
One wonders if he’d been OK had his choice of reading been 19 Minutes, Playboy (only for the articles, of course), or Lady Chatterley’s Lover.
On the other hand we have a public school forcing a child—yes, a child—to read material that includes scenes better suited for the erotica aisle, or hidden behind brown paper wrapping. If you choose to allow your kids to read that kind of stuff, that’s not for me to judge; Ms. Picault, the author of 19 Minutes, brags that she reads that book to her own kids, and I think it tells you all you need to know about her that she would not only expose them to that material but wants to share in it with them. Ew. But when the school makes it a mandatory assignment without telling the parents, it deprives the parents (and the school assumes for itself) of the right/responsibility of determining what is/is not appropriate for their own kids. I know my daughter better than the school district does, and I know better than they do what she’s ready to handle.
I damn sure know I want a say in to what my kids are exposed, and at what age.
But this is where we are now. Children are forbidden to read the Bible, but forced to read what amounts to porn. And if a parent objects too loudly (strictly speaking, too long), they go to jail. There are people out there—people in charge of your kids—who actually think this way.
Think about this as you watch the debate over Common Core—a favorite of Jeb Bush’s, by the way, and that tells you all you need to know about him—which is essentially a nationalization of academic curricula. You know, because everything else we nationalize works so well. If you think it’s bad now, what’s it going to look like when your kid’s school curriculum isn’t even determined by your local school board, but by some bureaucrat from California?
Or New Hampshire. Or Florida.