Like many people, I’ve been trying my hand at freelancing here and there for extra income over the past few years. In my case, it’s nothing glorious – just writing (or rewriting) web content explaining the benefits of regular eye exams, how a reverse mortgage works, or where Eddie Murphy’s net worth ranks him compared to other actors or comics.
I’m not magical or a genius or better than every other educator out there. (I mean, I’m better than a lot of them… but that’s really not the point.) What I am is available and willing, with a decent track record and a belief in most teachers’ potential vs. the realities beating them down week after week. It’s something I’d like to spend more time and energy on, in fact.
So here’s what I’m offering - for those of you still kinda interested, or at least still reading.
1. The Equal Access Act of 1984 prohibited any public school which permitted “non-curricular” clubs to meet on school property from picking and choosing which clubs they allowed based on ideologies or beliefs. The trick was figuring out what counted as “non-curricular.”
2. Bridget Mergens was a student at Westside High School in Omaha, Nebraska. In 1985, she asked her principal for permission to form a Christian club at the school.
3. The school said no, arguing that organizations like Chess Club and Scuba Club were essentially (if not directly) curriculum-related in that they were extensions of the sorts of things the school promoted as a whole, and thus inadequate to trigger the requirements of the act. Bridget didn’t buy it.
Eventually, the case ended up in the Supreme Court. You probably won't be surprised how it turned out.
Bridget Mergens was a student at Westside High School in Omaha, Nebraska. In 1985, she asked her principal for permission to form a Christian club at the school. They’d read and discuss the Bible, pray together, and enjoy what those on the inside call “fellowship.” Membership would be open to anyone, however, regardless of their beliefs – because, you know… school.
The school said no. That was a mistake.
Five score years ago, a great Republican (let’s not ever forget he was a Republican) signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This largely symbolic decree verified the great beacon of hope already guiding millions of Negro slaves who had been freed by the fire of American greatness. It came as a joyous reminder of their long flight from their REAL captivity (which started in Africa - let’s not ever forget that slavery started IN Africa) to the glorious shores of America.
But 100 years later, the Negro is even more free. One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is far better than the manacles of tribalism and the chains of paganism. One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a prosperous continent in the midst of a vast ocean of freedom and prosperity… And so we’ve come here today to celebrate our ever-improving condition.
I surveyed thousands of teachers and students (well, OK – I asked, like... seven or eight of them) which topics were hardest to teach, care about, or remember, and selected two dozen of the most common responses. The Whigs. The Bessemer Process. The Interstate Highway System. All real knee-slappers in their own way, but so few Crash Course videos or feature films to substitute for an actual lesson plan.
Many of the responses were variations of “trying to remember stuff about the original thirteen colonies.” Most of us do pretty well with Jamestown, at least in its earliest incarnation, and we can fake our way through the Puritans or Roger Williams. Somehow, though, we’re expected to juggle things like joint-stock company charters vs. proprietary charters or remember which sections relied most heavily on the export of natural resources and how that shaped their feelings about potential rebellion.
After what feels like several millennia of wrestling with it, I have a rough draft of what might be the chapter about the thirteen colonies. At the moment, it’s subtitled “Three (or Four) Regions – Three (Evolving) Formats – Three Approaches To Religion.”
I know. Even the subtitle needs work.
Three Big Things:
1. The Bessemer Process made better steel more quickly and more cheaply.
2. Better, affordable steel played a significant part in the Second Industrial Revolution. It may have been its primary cause; it was at least a major catalyst.
3. Bessemer steel made it possible to build skyscrapers, massive bridges, and reliable railroad tracks, as well as lots of other cool stuff. That makes it way more interesting than it sounds.
Of course, certification is one thing; being able to actually teach ELA effectively is something else entirely. I could read and write well enough, and I considered myself respectable enough when it came to analyzing literature or composing a coherent argument. But a real English teacher? Hardly.
I worried I’d show up to my first department meeting and we’d all be taking turns reading from The Dubliners in the original Greek and discussing how James Joyce Carol Oates used it as inspiration for his adaptation of Undercover Brother, Where Art Thou?
I needn’t have been concerned. We haven’t had a department meeting in the entire two years I’ve been there, so the danger seems fairly minor at this point.
There are certainly plenty of wonderful individual people of faith around, including many Christians.
I feel obligated to open with this acknowledgement (disclaimer?) because my next several posts are going to focus on clashes between religious folks and public education which have been in the news recently, and it seems like every time you come across a story about someone asserting their Christian beliefs via legislation or the courts, they’re doing it for one of three reasons: (1) they want more government money for something without having to follow the same rules as everyone else, (2) they want the government to like their religion best and tell everyone about it more often because that’s “freedom of religion,” or (3) they want to be horrible to some group of people everyone else is supposed to be kind to.