Friday, June 20, 2008

The American Way

I am a little bit reassured by today's report that the outside consultants who investigated whether the science teacher in the local public school system was teaching his peculiar brand of religion in the public schools have reported to the school board that "there is a significant amount of evidence that Mr. Freshwater's teachings regarding subjects related to evolution were not consistent with the curriculum of the Mount Vernon City Schools and state standards." Now the school board has to decide what to do about the man who would be a martyr. They're under intense pressure from Freshwater and Daubenmire's supporters, many of whom must have been educated in Freshwater's classroom.

What still disturbs me is that any child in our school system who claims to be "disturbed" by the teaching of evolution can go sit in the hall while it's being taught. (The same is true for kids who claim to be nauseated by dissecting a worm or a frog--they can go sit in the hall.) What's wrong with this picture?

This morning I was rereading Gregory Corso's poem "The American Way." Like most of his poems, it's very long and is best read out loud. Here's the section that caused me to look up the poem, after reading the newspaper:

They are frankensteining Christ in America
in their Sunday campaigns
They are putting the fear of Christ in America
under their tents in their Sunday campaigns
They are driving old ladies mad with Christ in America
They are televising the gift of healing and the fear of hell
in America under their tents in their Sunday
They are leaving their tents and are bringing their Christ
to the stadiums of America in their Sunday
They are asking for a full house an all get out
for their Christ in the stadiums of America
They are getting them in their Sunday and Saturday
They are asking them to come forward and fall on their
because they are all guilty and they are coming
in guilt and are falling on their knees weeping their
begging to be saved O Lord O Lord in their Monday
Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday
and Sunday campaigns

Why is this poem reassuring? Because it was written in 1960, the year of my birth, and published the year after Nemerov's Boom! appeared. This stuff has been going on all my life.

My family just watched Inherit the Wind, with the recurring singing of "Gimme that old-time religion" on the soundtrack. We found it ironic how much the current situation in our small town resembles the situation of the small town during the Scopes Monkey Trial. It's discouraging to see how little some things have changed. We need to be singing some better songs. I dislike the one "patriotic" song that says something about being an American "where at least I know I'm free." At LEAST? I'd like to be able to say that my community is at least trying to educate middle-schoolers who can't tell the difference between a philosophic and a scientific theory, rather than allowing them to sit in the hallway and perpetuate that old-time ignorance. It isn't good enough for anyone.

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