Sunday, January 26, 2014



You've got to be taught
To hate and fear,
You've got to be taught
From year to year,
It's got to be drummed
In your dear little ear
You've got to be carefully taught.
You've got to be taught to be afraid
Of people whose eyes are oddly made,
And people whose skin is a diff'rent shade,
You've got to be carefully taught.
You've got to be taught before it's too late,
Before you are six or seven or eight,
To hate all the people your relatives hate,
You've got to be carefully taught. from South Pacific

I grew up in an Oregon logging town. I don't think I even knew there was such a thing as a musical much less that there was one called South Pacific. It was 1967-68 and I was introduced to these song lyrics in a most unlikely place. The text book for my senior year Modern Problems class. Do they even do anything like Modern Problems anymore?

When I was in school and college I expected to be challenged. I expected to have my foundations rocked a little. I didn’t expect to be spoon fed pabulum that would reinforce my prejudices.

My folks may have blinked a little when their fifth grader went to Ben Hur and promptly brought home the novel, unabridged, from the local library. They didn’t tell me it was probably too hard for me. Somehow I ploughed through the nineteenth century prose and even understood most of it.

They probably really blinked when, after watching Judgment at Nuremburg on the movie of the week, I promptly brought home Shirer’s Rise and Fall of the Third Reich. I finished that one too. That one really rocked my foundations and I’ve been trying to understand the human animal ever since. But, again, nobody tried to tell me that I was too young to read it.

Now it’s two generations later and the schools are getting hit from both directions. One side believes that the schools should be responsible for teaching love, peace, brotherhood and all the virtues. On top of the academics. Then there’s the other side. There’s a movement to allow students to question curriculum that conflicts with the prejudices they already have. Especially the religious ones.

Little Johnny and little Susie should not only be allowed to stay in their little, personal bubbles but, they should be allowed to tell their teachers that they’re wrong. Now, I’ve never believed that students should sit there and take what they’re told, but playing the “Bible says so” card isn’t on my radar. Actually some of the supporters of the movement are pretty up front. They admit that they're afraid that little Johnny and little Susie just might get their horizons broadened a little. Can't have that, now can we? I'll tolerate a lot, but I refuse to put up with willful ignorance. 

Unfortunately the Home Schooling and Charter School movements are doing a pretty good job of insulating the kids until they graduate from high school. After that it's up for grabs. Some hang on to their prejudices like a dog with a really juicy bone. Some manage to break free. Some not only survive their fundagelical childhoods but end up going off the reservation all together.  Others shed their fundie skins while finding that their basic faith is stronger than ever. 

So, give me a freakin’ break. If your faith is so fragile that being exposed to new ideas at school gives you problems don’t blame me, or your teachers, or the president if the foundations start to crack. Go look in the mirror. On the other side. I know from personal observation that kids absorb the prejudices of the adults in their lives earlier than most of us realize. By the time the kids hit kindergarten and first grade it may already be, if not too late, like trying to change course on the Titanic just before she hit the ice burg.

I was incredibly lucky. My parents weren’t that prejudiced in the first place. And dad was just cantankerous enough that he wouldn’t let anyone dictate his prejudices in the first place. The KKK was pretty active in Oregon back in the Twenties. We didn’t have very many African Americans. But we did have quite a few Catholics. And the Klan hated the Catholics almost as much as the hated the blacks.

Anyway, so the story goes. Grandpa Ernie was approached about joining the Klan back in the twenties. His reply is unrecorded. But nobody ever spotted him in a white bedsheet and hood, either. Good for you, Gramps. 

1 comment:

Lisa :-] said...

We need to make these fundamentalists understand that public schools are not Christian schools. It is expressly NOT the duty of the government to raise up American children according to the teachings of Christianity. If these folks want their kids taught Christianity, they need to set up private schools that will do that and then pay to maintain them. And NOT expect a tax credit because they have chosen NOT to take advantage of free public education. Public education benefits the society-at-large in which they live, and their tax money rightly goes to pay for that benefit.