Declaration of Independence Banned at Calif School
November 25, 2004 3:46 AM   Subscribe

Declaration of Independence Banned at Calif School? WTF? That's what I thought when I first read it. I read more and again I said: WTF? This can't be right! So, I looked around a bit and I realised some people had already a different perspective on this.
posted by acrobat (38 comments total)
it's those extremist democrats.
posted by muppetboy at 3:51 AM on November 25, 2004

"a different perspective", you know, actually looking at what really happened and who is involved. So the truth is just 'a different perspective'. The new PoMo age in the US.
posted by Space Coyote at 4:24 AM on November 25, 2004

Does this count as a lie or as a damned lie?
posted by Joey Michaels at 4:26 AM on November 25, 2004

From the article:
A California teacher has been barred by his school from giving students documents from American history that refer to God -- including the Declaration of Independence.

Doesn't say that he was barred from handing out the DoI or what exactly the nature of the offending material was.
Probably meaningless to get worked up about this unless you know what exactly was barred.
posted by sour cream at 4:28 AM on November 25, 2004

Probably meaningless to get worked up about this unless you know what exactly was barred.

True, but how many fundamentalists are going to follow that advice? And how much damage are they going to do before this story dies?

The fundies operate on mob mentality - unfounded fears or misinformation is their fuel, and they work up crowds of otherwise sane folks with it to further their own agenda. By the time enough people realize what is really going on and put a stop to the mob, the damage is already done.
posted by GhostintheMachine at 4:48 AM on November 25, 2004

Don't get me wrong, Space Coyote. I rather see the bigger picture but I didn't want to ram it down anybody's throat, ok?

sour cream, the second link has quite a few more links that point toward a possible explanation.
posted by acrobat at 4:51 AM on November 25, 2004

For that matter, the referenced AP article goes on to state that the teacher did not hand out the entire Declaration of Independence, just excerpts. The impression I'm getting is that he's pushing the revisionist "America was founded as a Christian nation" line and his principal won't let him.

I'd rather that he showed his students the Constitution and its amendments, given that they are the founding government documents, which the Declaration (wonderful poetry though it is) is not.

I'll bet that Article 11 of the Treaty of Tripoli isn't on his list of historic documents. Nor any of the pro-secular writings of Jefferson, Washington, or Franklin.

I've always found it amusing that the would-be theocrats grasp at such slim straws as the occasional reference to a creator, or that dates are sometimes followed with "year of the Lord". I mean, the founders were smart people, if they'd intended to set up a theocracy wouldn't they have just done it? Maybe put language into the Constitution that says "The United States is a Christian Nation", something like that?
posted by sotonohito at 4:58 AM on November 25, 2004

There's just enough information in this story to get worked up over without actually having enough information to know the whole scoop. You read the the complete complaint at the Smoking Gun. He wasn't handing out the whole Declaration of Indedpendence, he was handing out EXCERPTS. I'm sensing that his lesson might have taken the focus away from some big points of the Declaration in favor of highlighting references to religion. He also handed out papers like "What Great Leaders Have Said About the Bible" and "History of In God We Trust".
posted by HifiToaster at 4:59 AM on November 25, 2004

I'd like to see more American students get complimentary copies of the Declaration, Constitution and State Consitutions.

I remember when I was in high school, my English teacher gave every student a complimentary copy of "The Constitution" published by the Assembly of California. I still have it, contained within are The Magna Carta, Mayflower Compact, Declaration of Rights, Declaration of Independence, Articles of Confederation, Consitution of the United States and Constitution of the State of California.

As a taxpayer, I'd pay to see that.

All that being said, that Alliance Defense Fund really rubs me the wrong way. And the PAC is funded by some very powerful Evangelical organizations. Where's the ACLU when you need 'em?

On preview: What sotonohito said.
posted by Colloquial Collision at 5:02 AM on November 25, 2004

Trust me, you don't want to see Texan schoolchildren given copies of the Texas Constitution. It'd produce back injuries. The thing is 174 pages long (109 without the index). Texans have to amend the state constitution to do much of anything, so the document is labyrinthine, and huge.

Back in the early 1980's the Ledge decided to pull a rewrite of the state constitution, which just about everyone thought was a good idea. However, at the time the Ledge was badly split and after eight months of bickering they never actually produced anything. Both sides kept trying to insert provisions to screw the other side. Having seen recently what the Ledge does when one side is all powerful, I can't say that gridlock is a bad thing.
posted by sotonohito at 5:28 AM on November 25, 2004

Presumably, this is all because the school doesn't want the kiddies to find out about the hidden treasure map.
posted by greatgefilte at 5:43 AM on November 25, 2004

Judging from the original article, the teacher was seems to pushing an overtly Christian agenda. He's probably using certain quotes to prove certain points.

I'd love to know what the kids in his class of his teaching.

This is the kind of thing that should have thoroughly documented by the principal, in order to deal with the rather obvious lawsuit that was due. did the principal just starting banning things or did he actually sit down with the teacher, explain what was being done wrong and and explain how to do things better with a clear statement of consequences if the teacher proceeded down this path?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:00 AM on November 25, 2004

Don't worry, the neocons are drafting a new document.
posted by fleener at 6:20 AM on November 25, 2004

My gut feeling so far is that the principal got suckered by troll bait.
posted by inksyndicate at 6:30 AM on November 25, 2004

Looking at just one incident might not be much. But, add this to lots of other little things (stickers in schoolbooks against evolution, change of medical schoolbooks to describe marriage as a "lifelong union" between "man and woman" instead of "two persons", please add more as you go along) and then you might see a pattern emerging. I said, you might, ok?
posted by acrobat at 6:58 AM on November 25, 2004

Perhaps the school should pay this teacher with currency that does not feature any references to God on it.
posted by flarbuse at 7:13 AM on November 25, 2004

As long as he is Fair and Balanced(tm) about it, let him try to convince the kids, as long as he uses these supplemental materials as well:

One of the embarrassing problems for the early nineteenth-century champions of the Christian faith was that not one of the first six Presidents of the United States was an orthodox Christian.--The Encyclopedia Britannica, 1968, p. 420

Persecution is not an original feature in any religion; but it is always the strongly marked feature of all law religions, or religions established by law.--Thomas Paine

I consider the government of the United States as interdicted by the Constitution from intermeddling with religious institutions, their doctrines, discipline, or exercises.--Thomas Jefferson

Religion I found to be without any tendency to inspire, promote, or confirm morality, serves principally to divide us and make us unfriendly to one another.--Benjamin Franklin

And I have no doubt that every new example will succeed, as every past one has done, in showing that religion and Government will both exist in greater purity, the less they are mixed together.--James Madison
posted by Enron Hubbard at 7:16 AM on November 25, 2004

Hmph. If he was really such a big fan of the framers, you'd think he'd hand out copies of the Jefferson Bible.
posted by Vidiot at 7:17 AM on November 25, 2004

Thanksgiving will be ruined!
posted by DrJohnEvans at 7:32 AM on November 25, 2004

Excellent, Enron Hubbard. Nice name, too.
posted by loquacious at 7:59 AM on November 25, 2004

No, no, no.

Banning the Declaration altogether is going much to far.

What the schoolboard should have done is required that all copies of said Declaration have a sticker attached that reads, "This Declaration contains references to God. God is a theory, not a fact, regarding the origin man's equal creation. The material should be approached with an open mind, studied carefully, and critically considered."
posted by rafter at 8:00 AM on November 25, 2004 [1 favorite]

Nice one, rafter!
posted by acrobat at 8:18 AM on November 25, 2004

Smart people understand that context is everything.

I miss smart people.
posted by rushmc at 8:25 AM on November 25, 2004

"Principal Fires Teacher for Cherrypicking Bits and Pieces of Founding Documents to Support a Right-Wing Christian Agenda. Right-Wing Christians Sieze Opportunity to Pretend to be Appalled."

I can't even think of anything witty to say here.
posted by Faint of Butt at 8:37 AM on November 25, 2004

Yep, I agree with most of what has already been said. But it takes careful reading to recognize what's actually happening here, and most people won't do that. They'll swallow the version spun by Drudge, et. al., and be outraged.
posted by pmurray63 at 8:41 AM on November 25, 2004

The complaint mentions these documents: (The complaint says that "true and correct copies of these handouts are attached," but they're not in the Smoking Gun version of the complaint.)

Also, according to the Smoking Gun, "he distributed an example of a presidential proclamation. The document he chose was one issued by President George W. Bush dealing with a National Day of Prayer."
posted by kirkaracha at 8:50 AM on November 25, 2004

But it takes careful reading to recognize what's actually happening here, and most people won't do that. They'll swallow the version spun by Drudge, et. al., and be outraged.

my born-again brother will arrive for thanksgiving dinner shortly, i guarantee you he's going to mention this over the meal. i can't wait.
posted by quonsar at 9:37 AM on November 25, 2004

change of medical schoolbooks to describe marriage as a "lifelong union" between "man and woman" instead of "two persons"

OK, I don't want to derail, but I saw this mentioned in another thread too. I have no problem with the "two persons" part, but why shouldn't marriage be described as a "lifelong union"? Why does everything have to be so temporary and disposable these days? Why is it superior to say that "marriage" is just an excuse to have several big parties in your life, add to the pool of half-relatives, get a tax-break for a few years, then move on to the next in a series? Why? Why?

/inappropriate rant

(don't hit me)
posted by Hal Mumkin at 9:45 AM on November 25, 2004

Why is it superior to say that "marriage" is just an excuse to have several big parties in your life, add to the pool of half-relatives, get a tax-break for a few years, then move on to the next in a series?

we'd have to perhaps wait until someone actually said that to know.
posted by quonsar at 10:43 AM on November 25, 2004

Re: marriage. I can't answer that question since I have never been divorced. You might consider asking Rush Limbaugh's first two wives, Newt Gingrich's first two wives, and Bob Dole's first wife. They probably have valuable insight into the subject of disposable marriage, and especially the subject of how their husband's are able to keep ranting about moral superiority without dying of hypocrisy poisoning.

Less snarkily, I think that the main problem with defining marriage as "lifelong" is that the definition does not match the reality. Many marriages do not actually last until one partner dies. A definition is supposed to reflect reality, not what we think reality should be.

Don't misunderstand, I think that things like the Brittany Spears 24 hour marriage are ridiculous. But that isn't the same as a couple who discovers that after years of marriage that they don't like each other much. Marriage shouldn't be undertaken lightly; but neither should it be used to keep people miserable.
posted by sotonohito at 11:08 AM on November 25, 2004

"husbands" not "husband's" First learn how to spell, then snark.
posted by sotonohito at 11:10 AM on November 25, 2004

So.... everyone heading to quonsar's for Thanksgiving? Sounds like it'll be an interesting show.
posted by GhostintheMachine at 11:54 AM on November 25, 2004

People who want to change the national discourse should take notes from people (like those that started this story) like this.

There is one reason above all others that Republicans and their allies (evangelicals, tax-cut proponents, gun-rights folks, etc.) have been able to ascend: media management. They are absolute masters at shaping the discourse in such a way that their message is emotional, fits into a soundbite, and trumps all others. Often times (as in this case, I'd be willing to bet), the facts be damned.

The idea that the Declaration was banned in complete malarkey. Yet the damage is already done -- there is no way to get that back. In the minds of many Americans now, liberals want to ban the Declaration.
posted by teece at 1:09 PM on November 25, 2004

Thank you, teece. That's always been the m.o. -- spread an emotion-based, reaction-based fire. In fact, what's clear is that not only is this how the right-wing stirs up the masses, but that this is the core dynamic of right-wing life itself.

Also, adding to what teece said, they also quite clearly possess the biggest, loudest megaphones.
posted by scatman at 4:32 PM on November 25, 2004

The idea that the Declaration was banned in complete malarkey.

Like the Democrats planning to ban the Bible in West Virginia.
posted by rushmc at 4:42 PM on November 25, 2004

drudge seems to have dropped the story. I guess twelve hours of headline was enough.
posted by telstar at 7:29 PM on November 25, 2004

My family seemed to make through the entire day without seeing anything about this.
posted by scalz at 7:47 PM on November 25, 2004

This guy was a pawn. Another battle in the 'cultural' war enjoined.

Traveling home for the holiday, I got one of the burgeoning 'Christian' FM radio stations on the dial (anyone besides me noticed that these things are multiplying?) and decided to listen to a call in radio show for a while to get a sense how some of these people think.

They had a writer who talked about how now was the time that 'Christians' were finally going to get a place at the 'table' and be able to influence everything.

Culture, politics and even art were no longer just something to hope to change, but something to use government power to change. They even talked about a 'Christian Renaissance' in art and music.

Expect a lot more of this kind of thing.
posted by UseyurBrain at 8:56 PM on November 27, 2004

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