Dressing Up Garbage

by Deborah HommerIn the fall of 2020 news media were highlighting the drastic increase in suicide/mental health issues among teenagers. Most accounts blamed the social isolation resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic.I think there’s more to it than that. Our 9th grader’s required English book last year celebrated two teens who had to learn the “art of killing” in a dystopian world. One teen stated, “It is the most difficult thing a person can be asked to do. And knowing that it is for the greater good doesn’t make it any easier. … The ending of life used to be in the hands of nature. … We are its sole distributor .. how necessary the work is.” (“Scythe” by Neal Shusterman).

Three years ago, our 12th grader’s required English book, “Jazz” by Toni Morrison, contained sexual activity between a man and an older teenage girl, a father stomped to death, a mother burned, revenge, obsession, and fantasy killing. The other required book, “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” by Tennessee Williams, contained alcoholism, homosexuality, sodomy, frustrated sexuality, infidelity, jealousy, seduction, lying, insulting remarks, and threats to kill.

Could there be a connection?

In an email to the school principal and others, I wrote:

I am well aware that in this area we have an abundance of students struggling with mental health and suicide. … As adults, when our mental health dictates that we not read certain materials, we can put them down. But how many vulnerable students in that class will be able to tell the teacher they can’t read the book for mental health reasons? How many students will take to heart that since the lives in this dystopia book don’t matter that their lives don’t matter?

A few days later the high school community received an email from the principal that a student had taken his life. I then emailed him, and others, an overwhelming amount of alarming, pre- and post-COVID statistics regarding the suicide/state of the mental health of our children and, implored them to substitute the required 9th-grade English required reading books.

Nothing changed. How can our high school claim to care about their students while displaying such blatant disregard for students’ mental health? It’s well-known that what we read affects our mental state.

Afterward, I FOIA’d the high school’s required English reading books for all grades. They have 56 books on their approved list. All except two — one being an alternate book that my child could have read and the other being Hamlet — has the caution to consider language, violence, implied or explicit sexual situations, mental health, and drug/alcohol use. Every book that my daughters would have been required to read was permeated with this type of content, not just a chapter or a few pages.

The stated objective of assigning all 56 books was for students to understand diverse perspectives and to reflect on the diversity of the school’s community. The goals may be worthy, but the books are debauched.

Last week Fairfax County Public Schools Superintendent Scott Brabrand distributed an email warning parents about TikTok clips that urge young people to engage in vandalism, assault staff, invade other peoples’ personal space, and display their private parts. Ending by threatening possible criminal charges, he encouraged parents to talk with their children to make schools a safe environment.

Synapses should be firing in the brains of principals, administrators, school board members — what students are reading in class helps to normalize such activities. Schools are failing students when they neglect to take into account their mental health and moral development.

The distribution of lowest-common-denominator books is inconsistent with directives of law. The Supreme Court has stated there is a “duty to inculcate community values in school.” And “[t]he importance of public schools in the preparation of individuals for participation as citizens, and in the preservation of the values on which our society rests, long has been recognized by our decisions.”

The Code of Virginia emphasizes moral and character education. In fact, the legislature does not need to show actual harm to ban materials in order to protect “the social interest in order and morality.”

Parents allowing their children to read such books in one thing; schools requiring the reading of such materials is another thing. Schools need to teach students to read critically while also inculcating community values. They can accomplish that objective without dressing up garbage.

Deborah Hommer resides in Fairfax County. She is founder, 501(c)(3) ConstitutionalReflections (Website under construction).

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11 responses to “Dressing Up Garbage”

  1. LarrytheG Avatar

    Someone may not be living in the 21st century if they do not understand the world of kids and social media and “content” not to mention the bullying and other bad actors on social media.

    1. Deborah Hommer Avatar
      Deborah Hommer

      My impression of your comments is that they consistently lack reflection and thoughtfulness. I consider them shallow.

  2. Afterward, I FOIA’d the high school’s required English reading books for all grades. They have 56 books on their approved list.

    I’d like to see the list. To save me some FOIA time, will you please post it here?

    I am by no means opposed to high school students being assigned challenging and controversial literature. For instance, it appears I am destined to disagree with you about the literary value of Cat on A Hot Tin Roof. However, I do find it somewhat disturbing that 54 out of 56 books on the approved list have “cautions to consider language, violence, implied or explicit sexual situations”. This makes it appear on the surface that educators could be intentionally seeking out the most violent, explicit and obscenity-laden books available. However, I cannot decide that for myself without knowing exactly which books are receiving these warnings, though, so I will appreciate you posting the list.

    In any event, I can think of several books right off the top of my head which will help students “understand diverse perspectives and reflect on the diversity of the school’s community”, and which I do not think would require any warning about objectionable content. For instance:

    Any of Frederick Douglass’s autobiographies.

    Pretty much anything by Richard Wright – perhaps Native Son and/or Black Boy. I recently read a previously unreleased novel-length version of his The Man Who Lived Underground which made a powerful statement about racism and the plight of blacks in the United States without a single foul word, explicit sex scene or drug use (apart from cigarette smoking). Mr. Wright was a supremely gifted writer with a deep understanding of humanity and human nature.

    The Autobiography of Malcolm X

    Galapagos by Kurt Vonnegut

    Other writers with diverse perspectives on humanity include: John Steinbeck. Langston Hughes, Ralph Ellison, W.E.B. Du Bois, etc.

    I think you get the picture.

    Then again, maybe some of these books are on the reading list and I will be surprised to find that someone thought they needed a “warning” attached to them.

    1. Deborah Hommer Avatar
      Deborah Hommer

      I appreciate the feedback, get the picture and your points.

      Another caveat: This is School Approval of Supplemental Instruction Print Materials for the 2019-2020 school year. There are books that my oldest read that are not on this list as they were years outside this school year.

      Here’s the list (since I can’t attach the files). I also provide any additional comments under the, “Consider: language or word choice, violence, implied or explicit sexual situations, cultural or ethnic differences, religion, disabilities mental health, and drug and/or alcohol use.”

      – City of Glass (1985) by Paul Auster
      additional comment: “Language, sensitive topics: reference to bodily functions, kissing, psychological testing, homelessness”

      – So Long a Letter by Mariama Ba Translated by Bode-Thomas
      additional comment: “Because much of this novel is about the narrator’s feelings after her husband leaves her for a younger woman, there is much talk about marriage and relationships, with some implied sexual situations. However, the narrator, Ramatoulaye, does not speak explicitly about any controversial subjects.”

      – From Eve’s Rib by Gioconda Belli (White edition)
      additional comment: “communism, sexual explicitness, war and revolution.”
      – Collected Fictions by Jorge Luis Borges (Hurley Translation)
      additional comment: “Besides some knife fights and historical context of war there is very little controversial content. Sometimes brothels and bars are mentioned, but Borges is notoriously clean of sexual content.”

      – Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
      additional comment: “This book features some violence, including murder and the burning down of houses. Characters also occasionally discuss violent situations as a way to explain how society has devolved. Some of the characters espouse unconventional perspectives (by 21st century standards) regarding diversity. There are some references to the Bible towards the end.”

      – Kindred by Octavia Butler (Beacon edition)
      additional comment: “Some depictions of violence towards slaves. Implied sexual situations.”

      – A Study in Charlotte by Brittany Cavallaro.
      additional comment: “The book references (albeit briefly) such topics as sex, alcohol/smoking, and gambling. Given that the book is a murder mystery, there is some depiction of violence. Additionally, it is implied that a sexual assault occurred in the protagonist’s past, and it is more explicitly referenced that the character struggles with opiate use/addiction.”
      There is an additional page and 2x mentioned “Students and families will be notified of sexual assault content to allow them to choose an alternate text or skip a section.”

      – The House on Mango Street (no caution of content)

      – Blessing the Boats by Lucille Clifton
      additional comment: “A few poems might be difficult to understand. One deals with abortion. Two deal with menstruation. One deals very subtly with hints of sexual abuse. One deals with the problems of cocaine in black communities. A few deal with history of slavery.”

      – Maraca by Victor Hernandez Cruz
      additional comment: “Violence, alcohol, curse words, sexual explicitness.”

      – Do Androids Dream by Electric Sheep (Del Rey Reprint Edition)
      additional comment: “The text takes place in a post-apocalyptic wasteland, where the characters are presented with a few scenarios of violence as well as death. There are some hints of sexuality.”

      – As I lay Dying (1930) by William Faulkner (Vintage International Edition)
      additional comment: “Language, sensitive topics, teenage pregnancy, socio-economic class.”

      – The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
      additional comment: “There are alcohol abuse, chauvinism, one instance of manslaughter, and a main character espouses theories on eugenics and white supremacy.”

      – Then What by Gintaras Grajauskas (Rimas Uzgiris Translation)
      additional comment: “mild atheism, postmodernism themes, depression.”

      – Refugee by Alan Gratz (YA edition)
      additional comment: “The book deals with some sad and sensitive issues (giving up a child, deaths of multiple people). There is some violence as the characters are all fleeing their countries during conflict and war. There are also some cultural/political issues that will need to be explained and discussed (concentration camps, communism, civil war, etc) since many of our students are not familiar with them.”

      – Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi
      additional comment: “Some vignettes depict violence/abuse (domestic violence, slave labor, etc) Several story lines include discussion of sex and consumption of alcohol. the n-word is used in some chapters. There is also the use (though relatively rare) of some profanity.”

      – A Raisin in the Sun by Lorraine Hansberry
      additional comment: “Some racist characters and discussion of alcohol and poverty.”

      – An American Sunrise by Joy Harjo
      additional comment: “References to conflicts with Christianity and white people generally. A few vague references to alcohol.”

      – Selected poetry from Gwen Harwood (Oxford UP Edition)
      additional comment: “Alcohol abuse by a recurring character, Krote; shooting of an owl and violence toward frogs; imagery related to Bosch’s porto-surrealist fantasy works.”

      – American Sonnets for My Past and Future Assassin by Terrance Hayes
      Additional comment: “Black Lives Matter, sexual content, challenging religion, criticism of Republicans.”

      – Eugene Ionesco, The Bald Soprano (Grove Press 1958 Edition)
      additional comment: “Alludes to existentialist themes.”

      – The Metamorphosis
      additional comment: “While there are struggles in the family, there is nothing controversial in the text.”

      – Human Acts by Han Kong (Deborah Smith Translation)
      additional comment: “Lots of war: violence, bloodshed, torture. One character describes his own rotting body. Sexual organs mentioned. Depressed characters deal with loss of friendship.”

      – Learning to Swear in America by Katie Kennedy
      additional comment: “As the title might suggest, there is some explicit language in this text, though it is very brief and mostly used in situations of high stress. The main character, a teenage boy, occasionally fantasizes about sex with his teenage female love interest, although this is never explicit.”

      – Chronicle in Stone: A Novel, Isail Kidare (Ashi Pipa translation
      additional comment: “The narrator observes, but doesn’t fully understand, that a girl goes missing after being caught kissing a boy, and may have been the victim of an honor killing. There is also reference to an effeminate man who is murdered on his wedding night (it is implied that this character could be intersex). As the story progresses, he hears about and witnesses violence related to WWII.”

      – The World for Word is Forest by Ursula K. Le Guin
      additional comment: “The novel contains a male character who explicitly espouses misogynistic ideals and employs sexualized language, and there are some explicitly violent scenarios.”

      – Trillium by Jeff Lemire (DC Comics collected edition)
      additional comment: “Some violent depictions. Apocalyptic scenario.”

      – Negative Space by Luljeta Lleshanaku (Translated by Ani Gjika)
      additional comment: “Conflict in the Balkans, critical of modern society, critical of religion.”

      – Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
      additional comment: “The antagonist is the leader of a cult with preteen/teenaged ‘brides’: no explicit sexual situations are shown, and this is not a significant detail of the plot. The protagonist, at one point, helps a young girls escape from the situation. Main characters are sometimes referenced carrying guns for protection. There are a few disturbing sequences involving characters coming across bodies of people who have died from disease and giving them respectful burials.”

      – All the Pretty Horses by Cormac McCarthy
      additional comment: “There is some violence when the protagonist finds himself in a Mexican prison. Additionally, the book opens with the death of the protagonist’s grandfather and references the absence of both parents.”

      – The Cartographer Tries to Map a Way to Zion by Dei Miller
      additional comment: “Rastafarian and Christian religions, vulgar Jamaican dialect, n-word.”

      – Look There by Age Mishol (Translated by Lisa Katz)
      additional comment: “Religion is explicitly questioned (Judaism, Christianity, Islam). Two mild vulgarities dropped. romance, sexual situation implied.”

      – Beloved (1987) by Toni Morrison (Turtleback Books Edition)
      additional comment: “Language, infanticide and sexual content (not graphically described but rather mentioned by characters), trauma, references to slavery and plantations.”
      2x note referencing that students and families will be notified. A parent has claimed they were not notified of this book.

      – Jazz by Toni Morrison (Reprint Edition)
      additional comment: “Adult Language; implied sexual situations; violence (recollections of violence); racially-motivated violence. There is sexual activity between a man and an older teenage girl. there is violence women do to men. there are descriptions of mob violence – a father pulled from a trolley and stomped to death; a mother burned in a house. The descriptions are not of that person’s experience, thought, so that makes them somewhat more remote to the reader. we support student by providing the factual context of these incidents (they occurred) along with instances of peaceful protest.”

      – It’s Trevor Noah: Born a Crime by Trevor Noah (Young Reader’s Edition)
      additional comment: “Scene describing bathroom use; themes of alcohol abuse, themes of racism/inequality; themes of religion/Christian values; themes of domestic violence; scene describing a shooting.”

      – Running in the Family by Michael Ondaatje (Vintage International Edition)
      additional comment: “The main character struggles with the memory of an absent and alcoholic father.”

      – “1984” and George Orwell (1949 (2017 most recent)).
      additional comment: “‘1984’ chronicles the grim future of a society robbed of free will, privacy, and truth. Some reviewers called it a veiled attack against Joseph Stalin and the Soviet ruler’s infamous ‘midnight purges,” and parents in Jackson County, Florida, have challenged the book in 1981 for being ‘procommunist.’”

      – Boy, Snow, Bird by Helen Oyeyemi (Riverhead Books Edition)
      additional comment: “One racial slur. Implied sexual situations. Discussion of transgender issues. One character is a domestic abuse survivor.”

      – It’s Fine by Me any Per Petterson (Picador; Grey Wolf Press Edition)
      additional comment: “The main character struggles with the memory of an absent and once-abusive father.”

      – The Catcher in the Rye by JD Salinger
      additional comment: “Mild vulgarities throughout the text, frank discussion about sexuality, smoking and alcohol, protagonist suffers from depression.”

      – Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi
      additional comment: “”‘Persepolis’ addresses the effects of war and the roles of women who live in religious fundamentalist societies, which may be difficult for some readers. He also addresses issues about class or socioeconomic conflicts that may open readers’ eyes to equity issues that pervade cultures.”

      – Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders
      additional comment: “Racial tensions. Implied sexual scenes. Vulgarities.”

      – Hamlet by William Shakespeare
      (no caution on content)

      – Frankenstein by Mary Shelley (1831 Edition)
      additional comment: “The creature’s physical deformity causes those around him to ostracize him, which could be seen as analogous to ableism. However, this ostracization is portrayed as an indictment of humanity’s prejudices, not encouraging of them.”

      – Buried Child by Sam Shepard
      additional comment: “Language, sensitive topics; death, socio-economic class, family struggles, infidelity.”

      – Scythe by Neal Shusterman
      additional comment: “There is some violence because it is about how the medical advancements in this society allow people to live forever, hence the need for scythes (who are charged with killing people to keep the population in balance). However, nothing is described in great detail.”
      – Of Mice of Men by John Steinbeck
      additional comment: “Use of profanity and n-word. by both white and Black characters; shooting death of character, differences of ethnic and mental disabilities.”

      – Angie Thomas, The Hate U Give (YA Edition)
      additional comment: “Race, violence, gang related issues, police brutally, cultural differences, racism.”

      – Walden and Civil Disobedience by Henry David Thoreau
      additional comment: “Discussion of Christianity and hypocrisy in religion. Very condemning of businessmen and railroads and corrupt politicians.”

      – The Half-Finished Heaven by Tomas Transtromer (Translated by Robert Bly)
      additional comment: “Sexual situations, cultural differences (discusses experiences in Africa), critical of modern society.”

      – Night Sky With Exit Wounds by Ocean Vuong
      additional comment: “domestic violence, sexual content, LGBT issues, Vietnam War.”

      – The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls
      additional comment: “Negative parental relationship including alcoholism and abuse.”

      – Cat on a Hot Tin Roof by Tennessee Williams (1st Edition)
      additional comment: “Alcoholism; homosexuality; misogyny; Adult Language; implied sexual situations.”

      – Fences by August Wilson (Plume, publisher)
      additional comment: “Racism, sexual innuendo, drinking, and verbal and physical altercations within the Maxson family. Wilson employs the use of the N-word in the play to offer authenticity to the characters’ language and show hoe the African American community took agency of the word and use the word in multiple contexts.”

      – American Born Chines by Gene Luen Yang
      additional comment: “The biggest objection from families and parents may come in the over-the-top stereotypical portrayal of Chinese immigrants in the form of the character Chin-Kee, as well as casual slurs hurled at the Asian main characters by their white classmates. There is also some crude toilet humor in places.”
      There are two emails memo on this book re problematic stereotypes and additional thoughts and resources.

      – Kitchen by Banana Yoshimoto (Washington Square Press 2006)
      additional comment: “One of the main characters has a mother who is a transgender. Her identity is simply presented, not politicized.”

      – The Book Thief by Markus Zusak (YA historical Version)
      additional comment: “genocide, death, suppression, social class disparities, Nazism, cultural and ethnic differences, religion.”
      My comment: This book is historically inaccurate.

      1. LarrytheG Avatar

        and your point?

      2. Stephen Haner Avatar
        Stephen Haner

        My fav: – Walden and Civil Disobedience by Henry David Thoreau. additional comment: “Discussion of Christianity and hypocrisy in religion. Very condemning of businessmen and railroads and corrupt politicians.” Can’t have American kids reading Thoreau! (At least Emerson didn’t even make the list.)

  3. Stephen Haner Avatar
    Stephen Haner

    If Hamlet is the tame alternative, the others must be really something. Violence, fratricide, mental illness, revenge and a bloody finale…not exactly one of the Bard’s lighter works….no trigger warnings on Hamlet? (No cross dressing in this one, though.) 😀 Certainly more problematic than Ray Bradbury! And oh, my Ursula K. McGuin, Faulkner, JD Salinger. The Horror.

    How about the Old Testament….R to NC17 all over the place! Noah’s daughters? David and Bathsheba? Don’t tell me Song of Solomon is an allegory about Christ and the Church! Careful where you set the bar, Hommer.

    I guess it was in Redlands CA, meaning probably sixth grade, that I went into the local library, roamed around the stacks but when I got to check out was told I couldn’t have those particular books. Adults only. I was directed to the juvenile section….Ever since then the bluenoses have concerned me. Hommer and others had a very valid point about the “illustrated pederasty instruction manual” that drew some of the initial complaints, but this lady has a much broader and more dangerous agenda.

    1. LarrytheG Avatar

      Well, it’s more than just “bluenose”. She is using this issue as one of many cudgels against public education.

      Right now, today, we have essentially a war against public education in a variety of areas, this being just one.

      academic performance SOLs

      And as you said earlier – it’s being reflected in the elections.

      Youngkin claims he will increase funding to education and teachers but he will listen to parents – which in his case are parents with the above issues.

      Is Youngkin talking about increases in funding to public schools or private?

      You can never tell with the GOP – they’re tap dancing around the issues for Dems, Independents AND THEIR own base who will be enraged if he wins and does not do what they want! He will be assailed for betraying them and pronounced as yet another CINO!

    2. Deborah Hommer Avatar
      Deborah Hommer

      You missed the point, Haner. And every syllable counts. Do not be adding and taking away points that I did not make. You seem to be quite amused. The point is that the large percentage of the books have the caution. I illustrated the disturbing books that my children would have been required to read. I FOIA’d the other materials to see what other books were in the curriculum. I was disturbed that only two books did not have the caution of language, violence, et cetera.

      You call it bluenoses as if there is something wrong with wanting morality in society all the while ignoring that Supreme Court has stated and state laws require the schools to inculcate morality. Are there any books you would think are inappropriate for those under 18? Or is it all fair game?

      You seem educated enough. You do realize that societies collapse due to social, cultural, and moral decay. Let me list a few of the major ones: Egyptian, Sumerian, Babylonian, Hittite, Mayan, Persian, Greek, Rome, Ottoman, et cetera. Do you think that America will be exempt?

      Do you see any correlation/causation between what the students are reading and their acting out? I bet when you were a kid you didn’t even need chaperones on field trips. Some of these required readings are pure garbage. If the reading content continually has violence, sex, mental abuse, drugs, these activities are normalized. If the students are in less than ideal homes and they’re only reading materials that are on the lower end of quality, where are they going to see good examples? How do you think they will behave? What type of citizens will they be? Why type of life will they have? Surely you’re not naive to believe that they would live the flourishing life of happiness that the Philosophers spoke of. The Supreme Court has stated that public education is for “inculcating fundamental values necessary to the maintenance of a democratic political system.”

      You surely know that I would be in agreement with Thoreau and civil disobedience. Numerous ancient Rome court cases, early modern period English court cases, and early American court cases until a decade or so after the Civil War were decided based on the principles of natural law. This means that if the case was contrary to right reasoning – in the U.S., add “contrary to the Constitution” – they were considered null and void.

      There are many laws on the books that violate the constitution. Some mild but some that are extreme. I wholly support and encourage civil disobedience when the government has gone way past its enumerated powers and steps into totalitarianism. This is the discussion that started in Ancient Greece of whether laws are by nature or by convention. Remember Antigone? She gives this powerful speech of having to obey the laws of Zeus over King Creon. The perennial question of unwritten law versus written law. Remember after WWII that there was a clear illustration that positive law failed the Jews so natural law was written into the Declaration of Human Rights.

      In addition, clearly the roots of this great country is based on civil disobedience. Think about it; the revolutionaries rejected the abuses of the Crown and dissolved the bands that connected us based on none other than natural law and inalienable rights.

      If you remember, Walden’s book is in large part why the 17th Amendment was passed. Right?

      So clearly I did not read every single book on the list nor find every one of them objectionable; again it’s the overwhelming percentage of books with stated cautions. The school clearly could get to their point without utilizing books that predominantly have these cautions. There are other options. Finding something worthy in some of these books is like finding a needle in the haystack.

      In addition, the English required readings do not have a balance. It’s as if the majority fall into their social justice agenda. It was around the 1920s that the educational system was transformed for a variety of different reasons with different goals. One of the reforms was a move away from a classical education.

      We are really missing out by not reading the classics. They are applicable to questions that governments and people have been asking since then to today.

      Here’s some thoughts of why the classics should be reincorporated into the curriculum. Plato, for instance, in the early dialogues and the Republic is trying to get the interlocutors to define the essence of justice, piety, virtue, courage, wisdom, temperance, beauty, not just give examples, He asked worthwhile questions of What is justice? What is equality? What is the good? What is beauty? What is happiness?

      He is criticized for writing the Republic as a utopian society that some blame communistic societies from emulating. Not a question I will address here. But if anyone understands Plato, they realize that he wrote these the same as finding the ideal society as one would find the essence of the words justice, piety, et cetera, not examples. If you can’t define the word, how can you live it or incorporate it into society?

      Then you read the Divided Line and the Parable of the Cave and it illustrates the differences between facts and opinions, between the intelligible world and the visible world. It has the goal of reaching a place where one sees the true essence of virtues and lives a life of wisdom. (And surely you know there is a difference between knowledge and wisdom – just look around. Lots of people with knowledge but zero wisdom, which is so sad).

      Plato was in his 40s when he wrote the Republic. Then go to the last book Plato (80ish years old) was writing before he died, The Laws – a book that has stood the test of time and is very applicable to the world we live in now. He is an old man and now has a different perspective. He leaves behind the ideal society (broad principles) and has 3 interlocutors discuss details of principles that belong in the best attainable city given the nature of man wherein he incorporates more citizens into the ability to live a virtuous life.

      It was the Harvard Professor Whitehead who stated something to the effect that the Western philosophical tradition consists of footnotes to Plato. As somebody who reads history and philosophy, I can tell you that if you understand Plato, his concepts, his terms, you can read almost anything in history and philosophy and understand its roots, concepts, and meanings. All the great philosophers – Aristotle, Epictetus, Cicero, Seneca, Marcus Aurelius, Zeno, St. Augustin, Thomas Aquinas, Hooker, More, Bacon, Newton, Locke, Montesquieu, et cetera – are building off Plato.

      So, Haner, which type of readings do you think will elevate the minds of the students? Plato saw the correlation between the individual and the city. Garbage in the individual equals garbage in the city.

    3. Deborah Hommer Avatar
      Deborah Hommer

      So, Haner, we need to also address your also missing the point of the Bible as you mockingly parroted the narrative of the ignorant.

      Civilizations have consistently desired to have a deity. Pre-Christ the Egyptians had Ma’at and eventually the pharaohs themselves became as gods. Mesopotamia had a slew of different gods. For example, Ahuramazda is Zoroastrianism’s highest god. The Babylonian king Hammurabi stated he had the divine mandate to protect the weak from the strong and to destroy evil-doers. The Greeks had the oracle of Delphi, the Tyche “Fortune,” and the gods of the poets; Romans also idolized these same gods as heroes. After Alexander the Great’s death in Alexandria, they had the new god called Serapis, the motionless mover of the universe. Zeno’s stoicism thought nature was divine; living in accordance with god was living in accordance with nature. The great statesman and orator Cicero stated that “the highest reason [is] ingrafted in nature,” catapulting Roman law into and obedience to natural law. The stoics thought all – men, women, slaves, greek, barbarian – had this divine spark in them bearing a likeness to god. A lot of this is still B.C.

      It was the pre-socratic Thales (620 – 546 B.C.) that started the conversation of science. He rejected the mythological explanation that the gods’ amoral passions (deceit, adultery, murder, theft, intemperance) decided the fate of humans, that gods took sides in human affairs, and that gods controlled and caused acts of nature such as rain, droughts, thunder, earthquake, volcanoes, and the solar eclipse. He came up with theories of why these acts of nature happened. Two fascinating stories about Thales: First, he became rich renting olive machines due to his understanding of astronomy and predicting the bountiful harvest of olives. Second, his prediction of an eclipse in 585 B.C. which ended a war between the Lydians and the Medes (a story that is in the Bible in addition to contemporary historical annals and, of course, Herodotus tells us this fantastic story.)

      The ancient Egyptians, Phoenicians, and Babylonians viewed science as tied to the gods. Thales and other pre-socratics came up with hypotheses, principles of science and methodology, representing the beginnings of the Western scientific tradition.

      Clearly this desire to have a deity is innate in mankind – well, at least probably half of us. But we can go back to the pre-socratics to flesh this out also. It was the Ionian philosophers who were materialists stating that all things that exist are material. There are no unseen spirits, so there is no supernatural world. It was the Sophist Protagoras who stated that “man is the measure of all things.” On the other hand, you had the Italian philosophers stating that the fundamental things are all spiritual. It’s the dualism of the body and soul. Think of numbers; you can’t touch them, but they are in the mind. In essence, this can be seen as the beginning of the rationalism/empiricism debate, the supernatural world/atheism debate. This even goes back to Biblical times. Think of Esau and Jacob and Ishmael and Isaac – the former was fleshly minded (and did wicked deeds) and the latter was spiritual minded and was praised by God.

      Now let’s forward to ancient Greece. They called this desire for a deity a parousia: Socrates was put on trial and had to drink hemlock due to his impiety toward the gods. See, Socrates didn’t worship the gods/heroes as depicted in the Iliad, the poets, as the city of Athens did. He was the gadfly who challenged those in the city who believed themselves so wise but were shown to be fools. At the trial it was stated he was corrupting the youth who followed him around and listened to him, which were no longer believing in the religion of the city (the poets) – scandalous! Plato and Aristotle both believed in an ordered universe in which there was a god that created it – Plato called it a Demi-urge and Aristotle called it an unmoved mover. Aristotle, as he dissected animals, stated the proof of an unmoved mover is in animals; also he saw the proof in the organization of humanity, in the ordered cosmos/universe, and it’s best for mankind to obey the laws of nature. You should also read Anselm and Thomas Aquinas’ proofs, in addition to the discovered scrolls and all the archeological evidence to date. And now even the theory of evolution is losing to the theory of creation as the evidence has dramatically piled up since then. See Eric Metaxas’ book “Is Atheism Dead?”

      Now let’s discuss your ignorance of the Bible. You cite all these horrible things that people did in the Old Testament while failing to acknowledge the rebuke of God for their sins – include discussions of the Fall and human nature. God told Joshua to kill the Canaanites due to their wickedness, the proverbial bad apple will rot the entire bushel. The House of Judah for its sins was carried off to Babylon in 585 B.C., and the House of Israel was scattered throughout Assyria in 721 B.C. due to its sins. By the way, the House of Israel (the Northern 10 tribes) ended up traveling west through the Black Sea, the Caucasus Mountains (where we get the name caucasian), and through Europe. The white people are the former 10 tribes of Israel. You’re an Israelite; some of us consider ourselves spiritual Israelites. Now read the New Testament and the directives of Jesus and the Apostles – the parables, loving God, ourselves, our neighbors, have good works. We still have human nature, but we strive to follow Christ and His directives. Think of David. He was full of sin but a man after God’s own heart due to his remorse and his love for God, and he surely paid the consequences for his sins.

      God stated that the rituals of the Old Testament Israelites (See Hebrews 8) did not turn their hearts to Him. Thus Christ came on earth and died for our sins, replacing the OT rituals with a spirit put in us. Now when we are baptized (as adults when we are old enough to comprehend the covenant we are making) we have the spirit in us.

      Christ transformed the world – think of the reformation, the age of enlightenment and the age of reason in the modern world. Our values in the Western world are half classical education and half Christendom. They are inextricably intertwined. Both St. Augustine (Plato) and Thomas Aquinas (Aristotle) synthesized the Philosophers with Christianity.

      Slavery has been among all civilization since the beginning of the 3 major civilizations – Egyptian, Sumerian, and Indus. We saw it in Biblical times. Jesus’ teachings were that he wanted to bring every human being to his Father’s kingdom, that all people were equal, which is contrary to slavery, although Jesus did not directly address the subject.

      It was St. Augustine who was the first Christian to condemn the entire institution as sinful. After Constantine christianized the Roman Empire there was a decline in slavery. In the Middle Ages slavery was sparse and it was taught that it was a sin and contrary to natural law as Christ died for us all; there was serfdom though. Muhammad and the Arabs had an abundance of slaves. In the 1400s there was a revival of slavery and an equally theological condemnation of it. As slavery became more inhumane in the 1700s, the Enlightenment philosophers severely criticized both the slave trade and its practices. It was the Christian abolitionists on both sides of the ocean who put the moral pressure on resulting in the end of slavery. According to Professor Jeffrey Russell, “it was almost exclusively Christian moral leaders who achieved the freedom of the slaves, just as it was Christian moral leaders who began and fostered the civil rights movement of the 1960s.” It was the discussions in the monasteries that began the development of the natural rights of man, eventually leading up to the natural rights that are exemplified in our founding documents.

      So, Haner, now that you have my full overview and explanation (my apologetics), hopefully you won’t be spouting ignorant statements about the Bible in the future

    4. LarrytheG Avatar

      She’s in your tent! She’ll vote the same way you do !

      But she really does represent a significant segment of folks who are at odds with public education and it’s really doubtful she (or folks like JAB and similar) will ever be happy much less supportive of contemporary public education in general – not just Virginia.

      For those folks, private schools are probably what they want and the real issue is should taxpayer money be provided for that and/or how much and on what basis?

      For instance, would a partial credit be allowed for schools that did not adhere to public education laws with respect to religion and other issues?

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