Friday, November 26, 2004


What they teach in DC public libraries:

She adjusts her glasses and holds up a book. "Now we are going to read a story about Thanksgiving. "'Twas the day before Thanksgiving, and all through the trees." the librarian begins, slowly unfurling out a story about a group of children who are taken to a farm to meet menacing farmer Mack Nuggett and his flock of happy turkeys. The children frolic with the joyful birds until they encounter an axe - and the farmer explains its meaning. A few minutes later, with the farmer distracted, the children waddle, strangely stuffed, back into their bus and are driven away.

With a significant smile at the children, the librarian continues, "The very next evening, eight families were blessed. with eight fluffy Thanksgiving turkeys as guests. They feasted on veggies with jelly and toast."

" - song!" the librarian says, standing up and wiggling her fingers. "It has movements, so you move your fingers, but I've forgotten the words so let's listen to the tape." She reaches behind her and after some difficulty we hear the sound of distant high-pitched gobbling. Then perky recorded voices pipe up: "Five fat turkeys are we - " The librarian pauses the tape, and waggles the fingers of one hand. We adults copy her actions, smiling encouragingly at the hot children. She punches the "play" button again. "We spent all night in a tree - " The librarian hits pause, and waves one finger, as if pointing to a high branch. Then, unbelievably, comes the Message, a neat little North Korean-motivational-calisthenics-cum-vegetarian touch: "When the cook came around/We couldn't be found/Five fat turkeys are we!"

"Now let's sing it all together." The librarian rewinds the tape and plays it as the children chant, "Five fat turkeys are we - "

"We have one more story for you today," the librarian says, with a glance at the clock. "It's a nice story about an old woman who finds - A turkey egg! Yes! It is large and speckled. "We'll have a nice fat turkey for Thanksgiving," the old woman promises her cat, but I am on to her game. Reading from the book in her lap, the name of which I don't catch, the librarian puts felt pictures up on a black felt board beside her by way of illustration. Up goes a picture of a cracked eggshell and an adorable turk-chick. Next we see a youthful turkey eating healthful vegetables. Then comes a large, fine, fat roaster nibbling seeds. "You sit down at the table," the old woman tells the cat in the penultimate picture, "and I'll bring in the turkey." The suspense! The pathos! Will they eat their friend? The children do not see it coming.

"I told you we'd have a nice, fat turkey for Thanksgiving!" the librarian reads triumphantly, and sticks to the felt board a picture of the cat, the turkey, and the old woman tucking companionably and non-lethally into cornbread and cranberry sauce. The end. The librarian beams around at the stupefied children. "That's my favorite kind of Thanksgiving story," she tells them. "The kind where the turkey doesn't get eaten."

More here


In a season typified by lawsuits against manger scenes, crosses and even the words "Merry Christmas," a California case is taking the "separation of church and state" one step further - dealing with whether it's unconstitutional to read the Declaration of Independence in public school. Attorneys for the Alliance Defense Fund filed suit Monday against the Cupertino Union School District for prohibiting a teacher from providing supplemental handouts to students about American history because the historical documents contain some references to God and religion. "Throwing aside all common sense, the district has chosen to censor men such as George Washington and documents like the Declaration of Independence," said ADF Senior Counsel Gary McCaleb. "The district's actions conflict with American beliefs and are completely unconstitutional."

Patricia Vidmar, principal of the Stevens Creek School, reportedly ordered the teacher, Stephen Williams, to submit his lesson plans and supplemental handouts to her for advance approval. Aside from Williams, a Christian, no other teachers were subject to the advance-screening requirement, says the ADF. Just what documents did Williams submit that were deemed unfit for the school's students? "Excerpts from the Declaration of Independence, the diaries of George Washington and John Adams, the writings of William Penn, and various state constitutions," said the public-interest law firm representing Willliams.

"Less than 5 percent of all of Mr. Williams' supplemental handouts distributed throughout the school year contain references to God and Christianity," McCaleb said. "The district is simply attempting to cleanse all references to the Christian religion from our nation's history, and they are singling out Mr. Williams for discriminatory treatment. Their actions are unacceptable under both California and federal law."

California's Education Code does allow "references to religion or references to or the use of religious literature . when such references or uses do not constitute instruction in religious principles . and when such references or uses are incidental to or illustrative of matters properly included in the course of study."



I am actually rather in sympathy with this one. I have never understood how it is a great joke to mock women on the basis of their hair colour but deeply offensive to mock anyone on the basis of their skin colour

Blonde jokes to be banned? "Blonde jokes are set to be banned in Hungary after blonde women staged an angry protest outside parliament. The protestors handed in a petition claiming they were being discriminated against in every walk of life by bad taste blonde jokes. And spokeswoman Zsuzsa Kovacs said: 'Blondes face discrimination in the job market, in the workplace when they get a job, and even on the streets.'"

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