Thursday, February 01, 2007

Matthew LaClair = Badass!

This is the 16-year old New Jersey high school student who recorded his history teacher telling the class, among other things, that they belong in Hell if they don't accept Jesus Christ as their savior. So, we knew he was badass from the earlier coverage, and just by definition, but I didn't realize until I looked into it further this morning the degree to which he's exposed himself by taking on this fight. And I hadn't listened to the recordings, so I didn't realize how fearlessly he confronted his teacher on the hypocrisy of a loving, merciful God that cannot tolerate dissent. "Why would a loving God give up on someone after just one lifetime?...As a parent, if your child did something wrong, would you throw them in an oven and leave them there forever?" BADASS. He should join Carlton Pearson's church.

To me, the fact that LaClair's classmates and community don't support him strengthens his claim that without the recordings he would never have persuaded the school, district, and community that Paszkiewicz was doing something wrong. I mean, the man is teaching an 11th-grade history course about the US Constitution, and he says the following:

[God] did everything in his power to make sure that you could go to heaven, so much so that he took your sins on his own body, suffered your pains for you, and he's saying, 'Please, accept me, believe.' If you reject that, you belong in hell....If you reject his gift of salvation, then you're going where you belong.''

Yeah. People are defending that. Now, to be fair, Paszkiewiscz makes one (1) feeble attempt (on the NYT recordings at least) to say that this is his belief, and he makes a couple of references to interpretation of scripture being "your prerogative," which is good. But he still presents salvation, the sacrifice of Jesus, and the condemnation of the unsaved to hell as incontrovertible facts. Not so good.

Other highlights include the penetrating distinction that "Scriptures aren't religion," by way of arguing that all Christian religions believe in one book, "The Bible -- you should be able to bring that into the classroom and read it."

Another hilarious moment: Paszkiewicz asks the class, sarcastically, if "anyone ever observed" the evolution of simple life forms to complex life forms, like it's a ridiculous notion. Then he goes on to say, sarcastically again, "You can collect some the fossil record." ....hmm. Yeah, that pesky fossil record, with its overwhelming mountain of observed data supporting evolution. Oh, also comparative anatomy, molecular genetics, geographical distribution...there's some observation going on. But, damn, scientists can't prove that life spontaneously generates, and they can't repeat it in experimental conditions, so it can't be a scientific fact! Wait, whoops, that's
completely wrong because they can and have. It's one thing to present the scientific argument for evolution in an unbiased manner, then express your belief in another explanation of life, but lying about what's out there is just a shameful, criminal action from any teacher, especially a public school teacher.

Also good: Paskiewicz distinguishes faith from blind belief, saying that his faith is "rooted and grounded in Scripture" because of "Prophecy," which came true. What's his example? Moses says in Genesis (right) that Israel would endure 400 years of slavery, and, lo and behold, it happened!...When? In the next book of the Bible. Not really a prophecy so much as a clunky piece of foreshadowing.

I was disappointed to see that the most aggressive response from the school district was to ban unauthorized recording in class...which, okay, that's fine, but isn't there a larger problem here? If students have to surreptitiously record their teachers in order to fix drastic Constitutional problems with the curriculum, maybe the district can do better than a memo and some teacher education. Here's some evidence that they're on the wrong track. Paszkiewicz recently compared global warming scientists to Hitler repeating a lie often enough that people believe it. The school board's lawyer reported that the board didn't investigate the report (???) because the comment wasn't religious and didn't break any kind of law.

Um. I don't know where to start with that. He didn't break a law (assuming New Jersey doesn't have a statute requiring public school teachers to represent scientific and historical truth to the best of their ability). But come on, you've got recordings of this guy endangering your school district by violating the Constitution in a class about the Constitution, and you didn't feel the need to investigate an incident wherein that same teacher discredits science some more?

Leaving aside the wildly inappropriate nature of the Hitler analogy, global warming isn't a lie -- calling it one is. Also, much as we might like to believe it, Hitler's use of the "big lie" theory is widely misinterpreted. In
Mein Kampf, Hitler attributed the "big lie" strategy to a conspiracy of Jews in media, bent on convincing the German people that they lost World War I (they did). Goebbels later appropriated it for his attacks on Churchill's "Lie Factory." So, Nazi leaders obviously believed in the effectiveness of the "Big Lie," and it may seem like the "Big Lie" concept played an obvious role in Hitler's propoganda strategy, but that latter point hasn't been substantiated. So, giving Paszkiewiscz the benefit of the doubt, we'll assume that he's not implicitly associating global warming scientists with an evil conspiracy of "Big Lie"-telling Jews. Instead, we'll just assume that he's adopting the common "Big Lie" myth that surrounds Hitler, and he's ignorant of WWII/Holocaust history.

That's cool, though, it's not like he's a history teacher or anything.

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