Big Anti-Catholic Love for School at Home

9 07 2007

So the middle mom (the one from the polygamist compound) on HBO’s Big Love, is suddenly doing “school at home” instead of parochial school for her little boy, because the nuns seemed superior and their belief in “transubstantiation” seemed wacko to her, and the other moms looked at her funny.
Oh dear, now the little boy has run away. And the Baby Mom is saying to Crazy Insecure Mom, “He LIKES the school, what is the matter with you??”

But there’s a happy ending because the child’s cry for help from “the outside world” is heard, Crazy Insecure Mom is subdued, and the boy gets to escape home education and go back to Catholic school.

School Rule From Bong Hits 4 Jesus to the New Harry Potter Movie

9 07 2007

Here’s a high-stakes reading comprehension test item for Thinking Parents and Citizens. Is this fictional or real-world, the witch Dolores Umbridge or the muggle lawyer Stanley Fish?
“That enterprise [School] is not named democracy, and what goes on within it – unless it is abuse or harassment or assault – should not rise to the level of constitutional notice or any other notice, except the notice of the professional authorities whose job it is to keep the educational machine running smoothly.”

Today we’re discussing Stanley Fish, blogging for the NYT about Clarence Thomas being constitutionally correct in the latest student expression SCOTUS ruling:

If I had a criticism of Thomas, it would be that he does not go far enough. Not only do students not have first amendment rights, they do not have any rights: they don’t have the right to express themselves, or have their opinions considered, or have a voice in the evaluation of their teachers, or have their views of what should happen in the classroom taken into account. (And I intend this as a statement about college students as well as high-school students.)

One reason that students (and many others) have come to believe that they have these rights is a confusion between education and democracy. It is in democratic contexts that people have claims to the rights enumerated in the constitution and other documents at the heart of our political system – the right to free speech, the right to free assembly, the right to determine, by vote, the shape of their futures.

Educational institutions, however, are not democratic contexts (even when the principles of democracy are being taught in them).

. . .What this means is that teachers don’t have First Amendment rights either, at least while they are performing as teachers. Away from school, they have the same rights as anyone else. In school, they are just like their students, bound to the protocols of the enterprise they have joined. That enterprise is not named democracy and what goes on within it – unless it is abuse or harassment or assault – should not rise to the level of constitutional notice or any other notice except the notice of the professional authorities whose job it is to keep the educational machine running smoothly.

So think about that without howling a minute. This is perfect timing, what with the new Harry Potter movie playing! The central character is a power-mad, government-approved school administrator named Dolores Umbridge, all the more insidious for being so prim and soft-spoken and sweater-wearing.

MisEducation presciently critiqued the wizarding world’s lessons about everything wrong with School in December 2002, a good six months before the book that’s now a movie first arrived in the real world, before Umbridge herself set fictional foot in Hogwarts and our collective consciousness.

So by the time this cautionary tale of School “spelled” it all out for us, there was nothing left to conjure thus not much left to say, harumphed MisEducation. JJ as muggle mom though, howled all the way through Order of the Phoenix, via email list magic in summer 2003:

Here is a passage that had me racing around the house looking for someone to share it with (unschooled children were all I had handy, and while they laughed, I think they were mercifully incapable of fully understanding why I as a former public school person found it so pithy.)

In chapter 12, “Professor Umbridge,” the new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher, tells the class they will be reading from the text only, not actually practicing defensive spells. The students rebel, whereupon they are told in a dangerous voice:

“I’m afraid you are not qualified to decide what the ‘whole point’ of any class is. Wizards much older and cleverer than you have devised our new program of study. You will be learning about defensive spells in a secure, risk-free way — it is the view of the Ministry of Magic that a theoretical knowledge will be more than sufficient to get you through the examination, which is, after all, what school is all about.”

(Furious since he has great need of practical knowledge to stay alive, Harry Potter asks what good theory’s going to be in the real world, and Professor Umbridge primly replies):

“This is school, Mr. Potter, not the real world.”

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