Tuesday, September 26, 2006

The Lassen County Times Strikes Back!

Our weekly paper came out today and clearly the cream of the Susanville's intellectual anti-teacher populace over-exerted itself in response to my editorial praising teachers. "Mike Smith" writes:

I give kudos to the paper for printing O'Brien's letter, especially since it shows what a self-righteous person he is.

Wow, I'm stunned. I guess I should give up writing because Mike Smith thinks that when you come to someone's defense, you're being self-righteous. Gee, got me there Mike! Then comes some nonsense that the issue is how much a teacher is required to work versus what they want to work. But the real zinger is at the end:

Thank God for a paper that does not expose O'Brien's anti-God views and humanism. People like you need prayer.

How Mr. Smith logically leaps from an editorial on the worth of teachers to my being anti-God and a humanist escapes me. It could be that he's referring to other articles I've written (in which case, questioning creationists and doubting that geology is governed by Gay Pride Week must automatically make you anti-God). Ok, I'm feeling thoroughly chastened....
(I'll make a bet here: there are several "Mike Smiths" in the community, but what do you suppose that this intellectual giant comes from the same fundamentalist church the Lassen County Times editor attends??).

Next letter is from retired school teacher Pam Montgomery, who apparently doesn't think much about her career:

After reading the September 12 editorial [this is the one blasting teachers - see the previous link], I was amazed as a former teacher how right on the comments were. Where do teachers get off thinking that their profession is better than anyone else's and they deserve to be canonized as saints?

I'll spare you the details, but she then goes on to rant and rave about the "good old days" when teaching was what it should be. Here's some snippets (right out of the conservative "hate teachers" play book):

...Too many kids drop or graduate as illiterates...(meaning: teachers are to blame);

...If we are so perfect, why is the homeschooling community so strong?...(maybe because they prefer their kids are taught midiaeval creationism and not modern science?);

...Why do we force our kids to listen to our agenda and not think for themselves?...(let me guess: evolution, global warming, consequences of war, forefathers not being Pat Robertson Christians, conservation...all are "agenda" items and not considered "critical thinking"???);

...Why do we censor what they read through mindless programs like accelerated reader? I was happy if children read and many chose the Bible...(critical thinking at its finest!);

...Calling the paper was stupid, idiotic and shameful...We teach children not to make prank phone calls and even at times have had police officers counsel children on the right way to use a phone... (meaning: if the paper calls you lazy, part-time employees with a lousy work ethic compared to "average" workers, you're supposed to just sit back and take it like good public servants);

...My only disagreement with the editorial was to say teaching is a calling. I don't think so, not anymore. It is an easy way to earn a living and summer off...(I guess if all you need to do is teach kids not to question the Bible then life would be pretty easy - thinking is such hard work after all!);

Finally she gets to me:

As for Dr. O'Brien's piece of mind, what dribble from a man who claims to have a Ph.D. He is the same man who said the Pool of Siloam was not discovered in Israel, but did he apologize to all the Lassen County readers when the discovery made national news. [no question mark at the end of the sentence - good punctuation for a teacher...].

Well, what to say about Mrs. Montgomery? Well, she can't read for one thing. I NEVER claimed the Pool of Siloam wasn't discovered in Israel [editorial last year, no direct link]...I claimed that the paper got many of their facts wrong about the discovery (and archaeology in general) and questioned how the Times led its readers to the conclusion that Carl Baugh is a bonafide archaeologist who led the excavation.

That's the sum total of the negative response. I guess they showed me. I should probably dismiss a week of getting contragulatory and thankful emails, phone calls and pats on the back for standing up to those who demean teachers.

On the other hand, it's also possible that Mike and Pam have the combined intellectual capacity of a dead beaver.

[Update: well, I can tell you that Mike and Pam provided a lot of hilarious laughter around my house this evening. My wife commented that perhaps Pam meant "drivel" instead of "dribble" - perhaps because she has a lousy command of the English language, although I suppose she could have been commenting on my basketball skills! Not only is the running joke around our house the idea that my wife works only 6 hours a day teaching, but now I sign my letters "The Self-Righteous, Anti-God, Humanistic Dribbler"]


Carl said...

The world can always use more atheist basketball players, so dribble away! :)

I've read several of your posts regarding the Lassen Co. Times and I have to add my virtual pat on your back for taking your time to speak out and dissent with them. It is not within the best interest of newspapers to obviously censor public opinion; nor is it in the best interest of fundamentalists to allow inquiry, criticism and dissent. You've created quite a dilemma for the Times editor(s) and rightly so.

Christopher O'Brien said...

Thanks Carl! Yeah, what's most interesting is the large number of people who are so thankful that someone takes the time to call them on their "facts"; I don't think the Times staff is used to that...I was really taken aback by how positive a response I've received from the local community for something as simple as voicing an opinion. I attended a local event shortly after my editorial came out and almost couldn't buy a drink myself. These smaller communities in northern California are really culturally schizophrenic and the cultural conservatives don't know how to handle it. Thanks for the compliment...keep blogging yourself, as I find your blog insightful and informative (I finally got around to adding your blog to my list...sorry it's taken so long, but this new blogger makes it much easier than before).

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