More on school controversy

If you are so inclined you can go to The Pilot’s web page and look on the left-hand side for the Opinions Page. There are several very interesting letters to the editor around June 11, and a very interesting – actually a not-bad editorial from June 8.

However, the editorial writer left out an important consideration, in my (never) humble opinion: schools are not the arm of government, but of the people of the community. At least, that’s how they started out to be in this area.

When I was growing up, each town school had its own School Board. My uncle was on the School Board for West End School for a number of years, and my ex-father-in-law ran for the School Board for Southern Pines (I don’t remember whether he won the election). The schools reflected the needs and expectations of the communities they served.

I grew up, until at least the fifth grade, with a daily devotional – a reading from Scripture, a prayer, and the Pledge of Allegiance. In the third grade, Mrs. Pullen required us to memorize the whole first chapter of the Book of Genesis, which I can still recite, mostly accurately, today.

I also remember the third grade vividly as the year we seemed to do nothing but conjugate verbs and memorize multiplication tables – sans calculators, of course! and we probably got a good start with fractions that year, too. There were no ubiquitous calculators in 1964-65, nor were there spell-checking and grammar-checking word processing programs; we had to learn the principles of both arithmetic and grammar in our own little heads.

We also learned Civics – the value of responsible American and community citizenship. Along with the Pledge to the Flag every morning, we learned to treat that symbol of American liberty with respect – how to honor it from saluting it to retiring it.

Somewhere in the mid-1960s, Mrs. O’Haire, that famous atheist, began her campaign to remove prayer from the public schools, and about the same time, governance for our schools was transferred to the County and State levels. Mrs. Pullen’s rigorous morning devotionals were pronounced “Un-Constitutional.” Grammar became an outmoded and unnecessary exercise, Civics was replaced with a succession of increasingly watered-down “heritage” courses, Math became largely a matter of preference… and somewhere along the line the Latin classes I’d heard people proudly brag of hating (even while they would show off by declaiming Virgil) also disappeared from the curriculum.

Discipline also began to change. At Aberdeen school, paddling was allowed, and standing in silent, straight lines in the hallway as we processed from our classes to another class, the library or the cafeteria was required. When a local bully made noises on the school playground and in the underpass under U.S. 1, parents informed the principle with the solid expectation that the bully would be dealt with – and he was.

But by the time I got to Pinecrest High School, corporal punishment – like grammar, systematized mathematics study, Civics and Latin – was pronounced decidedly passe. We had a smoking area! and cutting class and other shenanegans were met with … were there any consequences? I don’t recall any. We didn’t have standard classes; we met in large open classrooms: on Monday, Wednesdays and Fridays we had “Small Group” with a small class; and on Tuesdays and Thursdays we had “Large Group” where we all gathered together to hear a teacher give lectures, usually with the aid of the overhead projector, from which we were supposed to take notes. We didn’t have textbooks; chapters were reproduced in mimeographed packets called “LAPS” (Learning Activity Packages), and courses were theoretically self-paced.

We were supposed to be part of a great educational revolution – which failed, obviously. Some time between 1975 and 1996, each of the large rooms was divided into four smaller ones, books returned to the classrooms, and more traditional methods were re-instated. However, calculators had been introduced and become de rigeuer for all students (in 1975, only the really advanced students would have invested the couple hundred dollars for a calculator), and an appalling number of students had to use the damned thing to figure out simple addition – I’ve seen them, literally, adding 2+2 on a calculator; they swear it’s easier than thinking.

And grammar has been re-introduced – but it is really nothing more than Parts of Speech, which 9th grade teachers scramble to work in because it’s usually part of the 9th grade State End of Course exam; forget the beginning differentiations between nouns and verbs that we experienced as early as the first grade. The systematic study of how words work together in order to convey meaning is unheard of – in fact, most high school students demonstrate an appallingly inadequate stock of words (vocabulary).

Education used to be the community’s means of preparing children for a responsible, productive, active adulthood, in which that child was expected to grow up to make responsible moral and civic decisions. In those days, education was what we’d now call “wholistic” – academic, intellectual, moral and spiritual. Nowadays, removed from the community and consolidated into larger, “more useful” geographic units, it is merely the passing on of a few basic skills (how to operate a calculator and use a computer) and the instilling of certain bits of information, mostly geared to render graduates incapable of rational independent thought and wide open for propaganda ploys from a liberal intellectual elite.

God help us.

And I have my say again…

Amy Lorber’s husband has written an op-ed piece for The Pilot to further promote his wife’s position about religious-based service at the local high school.

I sent the following email to Steve Bouser, Editor of The Pilot, in response. It’ll be interesting to see whether I receive any response:

Since I’ve had my letter to the editor published just last week, would you please be so kind as to forward this to Mr. Simon in response to his editorial about religious inclusiveness in school?

Mr. Simon:
While I appreciate your concerns about religious inclusion and exclusion in the schools, I do believe you have missed some very important points. Actually, you had my sympathy up until the point your wife threatened to involve the ACLU. Then you lost me. Completely. But I’d like for you to consider a few things, here.

First of all, you’re in the Bible Belt now. The Jewish community is quite new to the Sandhills. When I was growing up, in Aberdeen, in the ’60s, “religious diversity” applied to the friendly (and sometimes less-than-friendly) competition between the Methodists and the Baptists (or the Baptists and everyone else). Catholics were few enough we didn’t even think about them, most of the time, and the “holy rollers” were in a class completely by themselves.

No one intends to be snobbish or offensive in matters of religion around here (I speak as a native whose family has been born and raised within 100 miles of Pinecrest High School for at least five generations on all sides, and a known eight generations on one). We just aren’t used to you folks of different faiths being here. We’re accustomed by l-o-n-g habit to think in terms of Baptists, Methodists, and Presbyterians… and once in a while we remember there are Episcopalians, Congregationalists, Quakers, and Catholics. And LDS… when we see the nice young men on their bicycles… And now we get to become accustomed to remember there’s a Jewish community here, too.

In fact, if I didn’t sub at Pinecrest, where I know a teacher who is a member of your congregation, I might not have even known a Jewish community exists here, now.

You also need to remember that the event held in the Robert E. Lee Auditorium was not a school event. A local cooperative group of (Protestant) churches rented the facility. You can rent the auditorium. Heck, the Zoroastrians can use the space, if we have any of them around here. All it takes is a few procedural steps with Moore County and appropriate rental fees… there’s nothing discriminatory on the schools’ part, in the event held last week for graduating seniors.

What we locals do have a problem with – and it is a very big one – is when people move here from other parts of the country – usually up North – and decide that we’re a sorry, backwards bunch of so-and-so’s who have to be fixed and brought into the Modern Era and taught how to think like you want us to think. We’ve never had a Jewish community before you folks came to Foxfire – but you have accused us of being deliberately discriminatory. We have men and women here who fought Hitler to liberate the Chosen People from concentration camps in Germany and Poland – and you accuse us of being bigots. We have people here, Christian men and women, who support the Nation of Israel as the political expression of God’s Chosen People – but your wife wants to sic the ACLU on us because a group of long-standing Protestant churches got together, informally, to hold a religiously-oriented service – at the only venue in the area large enough – to bless our graduates as they officially cross the threshhold into adulthood.

Mr. Simon, anti-Catholic sentiment runs strong in the Bible belt (in fact, although I never heard anything derogatory about the Nation of Israel or about Jewish people – quite the opposite! – I grew up hearing anti-Catholic cant) but you don’t see a bunch of Catholics screaming “foul!” over this Protestant endeavor, or threatening legal action against area Protestants, do you?

Now. Don’t you think the nice and effective thing – the neighborly thing to do would be to have called Deborah Richardson, who coordinated this event (and is another long-time native to this area, and a very nice lady – I graduated from Pinecrest with her), and said, “Hey – next year, can we work together to do something that includes non-Christians, too? Like our Jewish kids?” Dollars to donuts, Mrs. Richardson would have said, “That’s a terrific idea! I’m so glad you called!” And if there are still those Christians in the area who prefer a Christocentric religious observance, that doesn’t mean there can’t be more than one celebration – does it? I don’t think so.

So – I find serious fault with your tactics. If I could get past your tactics, I might have some philosophical differences with the forced “inclusive” rhetoric you use; but for now I’ll settle for ironing out the tactical offenses.

Wishing you all the best –

Rant, part 2

The more I think about it (having slept on it, of course!) the madder I am at Amy Lorber’s protest against local churches providing a religious service for our local high school seniors (see previous entry, just below).

I grew up in this community; in fact, most of my family has been born within 100 miles of where I now sit, for at least five generations. This IS the Bible Belt. Protestant Christianity is the long-held norm of religious expression, until the past ten years or so fairly exclusively so (except for a growing number of transplanted Catholics).

I’m not sure which makes me angrier: one woman’s attack on religious freedom in our community, or her flagrant contempt for this community, its citizens and its customs.

Hell, blast and damn! if she doesn’t like it here, why did she MOVE here?

Insanity hits the Sandhills

It was only a matter of time before the paranoia over religious observances hit our little community.

A parent has lobbied a protest against a religious service to be held at our local high school on Thursday.

Our superintendent has caved to loud-mouthed tactics backed by no sense whatsoever before. I expect that she’ll work now to prohibit the free exercise of Religion as guaranteed by the First Amendment of the Constitution.

I’ve written to her and to our local paper. You may certainly do the same if you are so inclined.

Mid-Life Crisis?

The woman at the web forum was talking about her mid-life crisis, evidenced by her sudden and irrational yearning for a red sporty convertable.

My mid-life crisis is being answered very practically, in going back to school, in giving way to latent ambitions and longings.

ROME is my “red convertable.” I hope to be there in less than three years, studying, not just being a tourist visiting all the touristy spots, but really living there in a little apartment, shopping in local markets, cooking – the whole nine yards.

I’m going to spend the rest of my life alone, I believe. There’s the inner knowledge that there’s only one man in the world for me, and recent events cause me to question my vision of him, make me wonder whether he is only a beautiful construct of my imagination – and I know I’d not be satisfied with less than I saw him to be. Better to be alone than “bound in chains of law to one I loathe.” (thanks, William Blake, for that wording) –

Meantime, I live out my midlife crisis by ordering some clothes in online outlets and buying three new pairs of shoes to support my poor falling arches – LOL – and wearing perfume even when I’m home alone and splurging on a sweet variety of flowers at the Fresh Market this week because I know I need them for my very spirit, and wearing skirts and tops to work this week, not the slacks and plain and practical tops I’m accustomed to wear because they’re so “practical.”

My new glasses proved their worth as I was driving home from Raleigh, last Tuesday, the day I picked them up. The anti-glare coating is an extravagance, but it was raining and nasty, and I could really tell a difference in how things looked and felt and my fatigue level (from squinting and being tense) was hugely reduced.

It’s slow going, but I really am enjoying this life revision process very much. Since receiving the notice of the nullity of the marriage to The Fairie Prince, I’ve enjoyed a new decisiveness about myself – an ability to walk into a room, target an item (say, certain clothes I’ve been wearing for ages, or the hairdryer Rusty had before we were married, or even the broken stereo that only plays radio any more) and say “This has GOT to go!” – no prevaracations, no guilt for the extravagance and impracticality of the decision… just relief and joy.

I’m learning this new computer – will take and download some journalling type photos soon.

Gosh! it’s good to be me!


Doin’ the Happy Dance – well, my heart is; my knees simply will not cooperate. I’m afraid I’m looking at surgery – will have to see an orthopedist when my financial aid disbursements roll in.

But I’m not blogging about my yucky knees. I’m blogging about –

My first three courses arrived on Wednesday, and I’ve listened to the first two lectures in all three and begun reading the assignments in Plato’s Republic and in Henri de Lubac’s (the very name has me in awe) The Splendor of the Church.

This same course that requires de Lubac also has a supplemental package containing… POETRY – T.S. Eliot (Four Quartets), Tennyson, John Henry Newman (“Dream of Gerontius”) –

Poetry in a theology class!

Which got me thinking – and of course poetry belongs in a theology class. Theology is poetry, the only possible medium for speaking of the Eternal, the Ideal, the Beautiful, the Ineffible. Prose is the language of pragmatic things, the delineations of rules, regulations, and measures. Only Poetry can move beyond the practical to the glories of the Mysteries of vast, eternal things.

I’ve now got a new medium for reading the Catechism (required in two of my courses- Theology of the Church and Sacraments) – although that great work is arranged in Paragraphs, it is no more Prose than Aquinas’ Corpus Christi hymns; it is Poetry, through and through. And suddenly it is ever so much friendlier to my heart.