I went with my 4th grade nephew to his public school for Grandparent's Day. This is his first year there after attending a horribly expensive and distant religious private school (high academic standards, lowball on the dogma). Got the tour by Dear Nephew where he mostly pointed out his appreciation of the building's architectural sensibilities, which were darn nice.

We visited his art class and met the teacher, a nice if somewhat frazzled young woman. The first thing I noticed was a poster by the classroom door that read, more or less, "Enter class quickly and go directly to your assigned seat. Do not talk -- only the Teacher and Special Helpers are allowed to talk except during discussion assignments. You will be given your assignment... I'm thinking, "Cripes, if this is art class I wonder what it would be like if they had ROTC at this school?"

The art teacher was nice enough and of course praised Dear Nephew profusely. We looked at twenty-some nearly identical student art projects and I asked her if all of what the students did was directed, or whether there was any free-form art. She replied, "Oh yes, at this time of year we have to do a Christmas gift project for the parents and each child is told that they can create whatever they want to be fired onto a mug. Of course, most of them are inappropriate for a Christmas gift, so I have to guide them". The room was filled with windows, and all the blinds were closed.

Next we went to his main classroom and met the teacher responsible for science, math, English, social studies, etc. Another very nice if somewhat frazzled young woman. Assigned seating again, but this time along four long tables named for local college football teams. Above the door was a reproduction painting of blue-eyed Christ wearing a cross necklace (?) and in 60-point font "IN GOD WE TRUST". The teacher talked about curriculum and how the students were prepared for testing and how the school had come so far in testing results. She proudly showed the social studies project underway, generously sponsored by Ingles supermarket (complete with take-home coupons), that attempts to show value among various product brands.

I asked her, "What do you think that a parent should ask their child each day when they come home about what they learned in school?" She replied. "Oh we give them a printout of the assignments". I said OK, well as a teacher, what question do you most want a parent to ask you." She replied, after some thought, "Gosh, I never thought about that. I guess it would be if their child was doing OK".

We went out into the hallway to the trophy case where the most prominently displayed item was a student letter to a congressman laying out the successful case for the praying mantis to be the official state insect. Quote: "We must all be reminded every day that prayer is our first priority...".

I suppose that it goes without saying that I was not impressed with what my nephew is being taught. It is several small steps above what I was taught in Carolina public school so long ago when our days started with the Pledge of Allegiance followed by duck & cover drills to protect us from the godless communists.


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Good work!  I married a Southern Baptist and didn't have much success at enlightening her.  Last I heard she was a Mormon.


My girlfriend is agnostic, so I'm doing well.

I thought of that too, but the thing is, you have to have standing to sue. So I think it'd have to to be his sister or nephew who asks FFRF to intervene.

Thanks y'all!  I might make some comments to FFRF, but really even affecting some change at this particular school would be like trying to stop a flood with a Dixie cup.  It's not that this school is especially bad by regional standards -- it seems to be one of the better ones in this profound trough of ignorance and superstition.

I don't want to cause my young nephew to be ostracized more than he already is as the son of an agnostic lesbian.  He attends the local Unitarian Church, which many in this area equate with witchcraft.  And anyway, I'm a tired old man who has already fought all of his major battles.  Nephew Case has a good head on him, and I offer any encouragement I can.

This sort of thing will hopefully continue to fade, though it seems to have strengthened here in the redoubts of the South as it is challenged elsewhere.


Ted, I taught in Texas for a couple of years and I would have the kids outside under the live oak writing about what they saw, heard, smelled, tasted, felt, and wanted. Get those senses involved in their lives, imagine what it would be like to be a Native American before Europeans came, or how they would do things if they were able to do things they needed to do. Body, mind and emotions all included in the lesson plans. 

Kind of an interesting way to teach about the ground upon which they walked, the water they drank, and the air they breathed and imagine a time other than the present. Then bring in an imagined conquistador or a RC Friar, and the imaginations just soared. Imagine the cattle ranchers and sheep herders fighting over whatever, or the claims for water of the Native population and the demand for water of European farmers. What would it feel like to be a Native watching as land was fenced with barbed wire. Oh yes, and we had a project to collect barbed wire. We also made a cooler in the caliche soils and built fires using only dry woods and tender. We grew  a crop of corn, pole beans and squash in caliche soils and then made dried corn pone from corn meal we ground on a metate, and pemmican.  

Memories! Sweet and bitter memories! Teach self-reliance and cooperation, use imagination and ingenuity, figure out solutions to problems and find ways to resolve conflicts. All just in a day's work. 


Thanks -- enjoyed reading your comment.  I've been a teacher a few times, and always was taught more than I taught.  One of those times was on the Nisqually Rez in western Washington.  I told stories to and heard stories from a bunch of kids ranging from 4 to 20 years old.  Most of the time class was held in a musty trailer, but on the rare sunny day we'd meet by their namesake river,  Sometimes we'd just walk through persistent Pacific Northwest drizzle and talk about what we were doing now.  I was a Scotsman/Cherokee with no real insight into the lives of those kids, and we taught one another a lot.


Ted, what an interesting heritage: "I was a Scotsman/Cherokee with no real insight into the lives of those kids, and we taught one another a lot." Story telling, especially with Natives, is an enriching experience.

How did a Scotsman and Cherokee come together?


Thumbnail history of Appalachia: Part of my family came here from Scotland in 1740 and part of them were the Cherokee already on the land who had earlier displaced the Creek who had earlier displaced whoever was here before them. Because of the matrilineal succession of Creek & Cherokee societies, and the Indian Removal Act of 1838 notwithstanding, our family still owns the bit of high ground overlooking Town Creek Indian Mound near Mt. Gilead, NC.  When I go back there to Grandma's dilapidated cabin I like to think about my kin who were on that hill thousands of years before.  I hear that our family has a similarly dilapidated castle in Scotland, on land granted by King James some time before he re-wrote the Bible, but I've not yet been there.

And yes, storytelling among Native Americans is different from what we do here.  Pre-literate societies placed far greater value on verbal communication, and especially on precision and veracity.  When it's all you have to bear culture you try not to screw it p.


Ted, your Scotish ancestors arrived 100 years before my Irish ancestor came to Indian Territory in Oklahoma and married a Cherokee. I am so glad you have been to the Appalachian area and know the migration pattern of your ancestors? I have not been to the North Carolina area but have been to Oklahoma places of my ancestors. Do you have stories handed down to you of family traditions? We didn't know of our Cherokee ancestry until after my grandfather dies because he was ashamed of that heritage. If only he had known of the proud and noble people from which he came, he could have stood tall and claimed to be who he was. We cousins have learned a great deal from old documents and journals. We have a photo of Grandad's mother and she was strikingly beautiful. She made all her clothes and her husband's and children's.

Town Creek Indian Mound near Mt. Gilead, NC.and a cabin sounds like a good place to rest and renew ... after a fix-up of a decaying building. That would be a good project for a young person.

I hope you can visit your Scotish ancestry home.

I misread this the first time as a christian school. I was transplanted to Ky when I was in the fifth grade.  The first time the teacher had prayer in the morning I didn't know what was going on. I had never heard of prayer in school.That was so many years ago it was common in the south.  Aren't they breaking the law?



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