Shut up and teach, Amen

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 taxpayers’ 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 don’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. It’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.

That’s it.

Alcoholic? Keep that flask hidden, stock up on TicTacs, and pass out in a sitting position: you’re in. Get a DUI and wind up in the newspaper: you’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, can’t help you.

Sins of the flesh? Make sure you’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 everybody’s comfort. Proposition a handsome undercover officer in a local park at night: get thee from thy job, sodomite, and don’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 “intelligent design” 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 “intelligent design”: 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.


7 replies »

  1. “Plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose,” as the saying goes.

    This sounds not particularly different (okay, the idiocy of “intelligent design” is recent – “intelligent design” is surely a textbook example of what we in the English building call an oxymoron – and speaking of oxymorons, that word seems to describe the people supporting ID, doesn’t it?) from when I taught in public ed in the ’70’s….Good to know progress has been so assiduously avoided….

    This horse shit explains to some degree why I wound up a professor – because, after all, life in the professoriate is sooo much better and the problems aren’t swept under the rug….unngh, unngh – sorry, had trouble getting my tongue out of my cheek….

  2. I’ve often wondered why we don’t just teach every religious conflict with every scientific Theory, from every religion? For instance, the Bible says that pi is equal to 3. Why not just teach that beside the theory that pi is equal to 3.14159 etc? The Bible says that there are four pillars of the earth. Fair enough. That should be taught alongside the theory that the earth is spherical, surrounded by vacuum, and orbits the sun. For that matter, the Bible says there are waters above and below the earth. We should teach that alongside the theory that there is nearly empty space above and below the earth, if we could figure out what’s “above” and what’s “below.”

    And that’s just the Bible. Wait until we get into the earth being on the back of a great turtle and the like.

    I really think this would be good for our children.

  3. Sweet Jesus, JS, would you keep your voice down!

    “In 1897 the Indiana House of Representatives unanimously passed a measure redefining the area of a circle and the value of pi. (House Bill no. 246, introduced by Rep. Taylor I. Record.) The bill died in the state Senate.” (Source.)

  4. I just heard about the whole “resignation” thing on NPR yesterday. They had an interview with her on Science Friday. What a funny, sane, smart, competent, well-adjusted and well-spoken woman.

    No wonder they had to get her out of the Texas Educational System.