By Ann Ivins
The Thin Chalk Line (coll.) in a public school system, the institutionalized reluctance of teachers and administrators, for reasons of loyalty, fear or guilt, to report and/or prosecute the misdeeds of their colleagues. (see Cosa Nostra, plausible deniability, Thin Blue Line)
Down here in my particular patch of the Bible Belt, there is technically no such thing as tenure for public school teachers. In practical terms, however, the average pedagogue latched onto the taxpayersâ€™ teat can do pretty much as he or she likes, provided those activities fall on the safe and self-righteous side of the Thin Chalk Line. Teachers donâ€™t rat on teachers, friend, and a school district is an incestuous, potentially vicious community with a siege mentality and a hellishly long collective memory. Veterans educate new recruits with apocryphal tales muttered around the faculty lounge – surprisingly accurate accountings of what will and will not be tolerated by the powers that sign the paychecks. Itâ€™s a labyrinthine collection of accumulated experience tinged with paranoia that can bewilder the new teacher… until he learns the underlying principle behind every decision made by an administrator, from the ranks of lowly assistant principals to the exalted, rarely-glimpsed superintendent to the hallowed halls of the state board:
What happens in the system, stays in the system.
Alcoholic? Keep that flask hidden, stock up on TicTacs, and pass out in a sitting position: youâ€™re in. Get a DUI and wind up in the newspaper: youâ€™re out.
Rage issue? Scream obscenities at your students with the door closed, kick holes in your own walls, and take a swing once a year only at a known troublemaker: no problem. Lose your temper on camera at a board meeting: sorry, canâ€™t help you.
Sins of the flesh? Make sure youâ€™re male, have sex with post-pubertal female students, and choose marginalized victims unlikely to testify in court: well now, nature will take its course *wink*, although we might have to transfer you for everybodyâ€™s comfort. Proposition a handsome undercover officer in a local park at night: get thee from thy job, sodomite, and donâ€™t let the door hit you on your hell-bound ass.
Science curriculum director at the TEA? Tiptoe around the rabid Bible-thumping twits on the State Board of Education, swallow your intellectual integrity on a daily basis, use the idiotic term â€œintelligent designâ€ without wincing, and try to sneak a little science into the upcoming curriculum review: tolerable. Pass on an e-mail about a relevant and beautifully researched presentation critical of the aforementioned â€œintelligent designâ€: you are a contract-breaking, TEKS-leaking, PowerPoint-abusing, non-neutral, evolution-endorsing secular humanist blight on the shining face of the TEA, the State Board, and the Great State of Texas herself.
May God have mercy on your Darwinist soul, Chris Comer. You crossed the Line.