Cheat-Seeking Missles

Friday, April 06, 2007

Two Schools, Two Teachings, Two Results

My friend John Gillmartin assures me this story is true; he checked it through Urban Legends and I've confirmed -- they say it's true.
In September of 2005, a social studies schoolteacher from Arkansas did something not to be forgotten. On the first day of school, with permission of the school superintendent, the principal, and the building supervisor, she took all of the desks out of the classroom. The kids came into first period, they walked in; there were no desks. They obviously looked around and said, "Where's our desks?"

The teacher said, "You can't have a desk until you tell me how you earn them."

They thought, "Well, maybe it's our grades."

"No," she said.

"Maybe it's our behavior."

And she told them, "No, it's not even your behavior."

And so they came and went in the first period, still no desks in the classroom. Second period, same thing. Third period. By early afternoon television news crews had gathered in the class to find out about this crazy teacher who had taken all the desks out of the classroom. The last period of the day, the instructor gathered her class.

They were at this time sitting on the floor around the sides of the room. She said, "Throughout the day no one has really understood how you earn the desks that sit in this classroom ordinarily. Now I'm going to tell you."

She went over to the door of her classroom and opened it, and as she did 27 U.S. veterans, wearing their uniforms, walked into that classroom, each one carrying a school desk. And they placed those school desks in rows, and then they stood along the wall. By the time they had finished placing the desks, those kids for the first time I think perhaps in their lives understood how they earned those desks.

Their teacher said, "You don't have to earn those desks. These guys did it for you. They put them out there for you, but it's up to you to sit here responsibly, to learn, to be good students and good citizens, because they paid a price for you to have that desk, and don't ever forget it."
It's particularly appropriate that John sent this today -- for two reasons.

First, I heard this morning about a New Jersey high school that wanted to train kids for a terrorist attack, and decided to use Christian, not Islamist, terrorists in their drill. Here's how the American Center for Law & Justice summarized the event:
On March 23, 2007, the Burlington County Times reported that Burlington Township High School conducted a simulated hostage drill to test the reactions of the police, faculty and school administration. Officials were quoted as saying, “We need to practice under conditions as real as possible in order to evaluate our procedures and plans so that they’re as effective as possible.”

According to the article, two officers, playing the role of the armed intruders, invaded the school and pretended to shoot several students. Although the full student body was not present for the drill, several students volunteered to act as hostages or wounded victims. The officers barricaded themselves in the school’s media center with ten student hostages. The school resource officer and the Burlington County Joint Tactical Team worked to secure the school, and faculty members simulated a school lockdown and evacuation.

While preparing for a potential hostage situation is certainly a legitimate and important activity, the school went far beyond what was necessary to fabricate an outrageous story-line for the mock attack. According to the Burlington County Times,
Investigators described [the gunmen] as members of a right-wing fundamentalist group called the “New Crusaders” who don’t believe in separation of church and state. The mock gunmen went to the school seeking justice because the daughter of one had been expelled for praying before class. (emphasis in original)
Do you suppose the Burlington Township High School's administrators would have allowed the demonstration that was allowed in the Arkansas school? Most certainly not!

Rather than teach respect for the military and an understanding of the Judeo-Christian principles of honor, sacrifice and the protection on innocents, they would have their students think the biggest threat we face is evangelical Christians. Because they are so tolerant, they are blind to the real threat, and unfortunately they are in a position to spread the blindness with an evangelic fervor that outpaces that of most Evangelicals.

Put another way, they do not feel an obligation to teach the students entrusted to them anything truthful about their nation and the threats it faces. They might as well teach their students that on Dec. 7, 1941 American warplanes attacked Pearl Harbor.

Schools are obligated to teach more than reading, writing and arithmetic. More important than any of those skillsets to the furtherance of Democracy is the teaching of cognitive skills, analysis, discernment and something that is becoming all too uncommon today: common sense. How can we expect future citizens to analyze the world and act appropriately, to have the courage to defend what others have fought for, if we allow students today to see an ongoing onslaught of news about Islamist acts of terror around the planet, then ask them to accept Christian terrorists for their drill?

It's cognitive dissonance, and it destroys learning.

The other reason John's post is timely is that it's impossible to read what the Arkansas social studies teacher said of the soldiers ...
These guys did it for you. They put them out there for you, but it's up to you to sit here responsibly, to learn, to be good students and good citizens, because they paid a price for you to have that desk, and don't ever forget it.
... without thinking of Christ on the cross. Sure, there are differences of a cosmic scale between His sacrifice and theirs, but there are also similarities so close and profound that one can only stand in mute awe of our troops. God bless and protect them!

Two school districts, two teachings, two results. Which one would you rather have your children attend? And if you lived in Burlington Township, how terribly frustrated would you be knowing your tax dollars are supporting a school that does so very much worse than merely teach poorly?

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