controversies, education, modern problems, YouTube

Anal retentive school administrator in Hinds County shows her ass over “buttiful” children’s book…

The featured photo is a screenshot from the excellent YouTube video by Lindsay Out Loud, who expertly read this book aloud on YouTube.

This is a great book! Author! Author!

Educator and father, Toby Rice, used to be the assistant principal at Gary Roads Elementary School in Hinds County, Mississippi. Today, he’s no longer employed at the school. What caused Rice to lose his job? He ran afoul of the district superintendent, Delesicia Martin, who took exception to Rice’s decision to read what she considered an “inappropriate” book to a bunch of second graders.

The trouble started on March 2, 2022. It was Read Across America week, and in honor of the annual event, approximately 240 second graders in Hinds County were to be read a book by one of the school administrators. But the administrator who was supposed to read to the kids had forgotten it was her turn to read aloud on Zoom. So Toby Rice, who has twenty years of experience as an educator, filled in at the last minute. He read Dawn McMillan’s 2012 book, “I Need a New Butt!”

I dedicate this “buttiful” song by Eddie Murphy to all of the anal retentive assholes in Hinds County…

Mr. Rice had read the book at a previous school where he had been principal. The father of three also read it to his own children, who counted the book as one of their favorites. The kids who heard Mr. Rice read “I Need a New Butt” in Hinds County were also delighted by the book, which is about a boy who decides he needs a new butt after seeing that his butt has a crack in it and thinking it’s broken.

Sadly, humor challenged administrators in Hinds County were offended by Price’s book choice for the literacy promotion event. Fifteen minutes after Mr. Price read the book to the kids, he was called to his principal’s office. The principal told Price that he shouldn’t have read that book and that parents would probably complain. And then, Price was told that the superintendent wanted to see Price “immediately”. According to the Washington Post:

“They kind of just let me have it,” Price said. “She said, ‘Is this the kind of thing you find funny and silly? Fart and butt and bulletproof butts?’ And I said, ‘Yeah, I did until I walked in.’ ”

Two days later, Mr. Price was fired. According to the termination letter Mr. Price received from the evidently “butthurt” school superintendent, Delescia Martin, Mr. Price violated the Mississippi Educator Code of Ethics, Standards of Conduct. Below is a screenshot of the portion Mr. Price’s termination letter regarding why he was fired. The entire letter can be found here.

Some people got their knickers in a twist…

Regular readers know that I don’t have children. I also don’t live in Mississippi. I would not choose to live in Mississippi, because it is a place consistently placed at the BOTTOM (see what I did there) of many important “quality of life” listings. Public school education is one area where Mississippi regularly ranks at the BOTTOM. According to the US News and World Report, Mississippi is DEAD LAST in state healthcare rankings. Given that Mississippi is often placed “dead ass last” in so many “quality of life” rankings, is it any wonder that a superintendent would get sand in her undies over an educator reading a book that mentions farts and butt cracks? Of course, opinions are like assholes; everybody has one, and everyone thinks everyone else’s stinks. But I am of the opinion that Mississippi is close to the “bowels” of the United States, and “shitty” news stories like this one do little to sway my views.

Something really stinks about this…

I am a big fan of “inappropriate humor”, so if I had children who attended school in Hinds County, I would probably routinely “crack” lots of jokes about butts. I mean– it’s “HINDS County”, for pity’s sake. Where else would it be so funny to read a children’s book about butts? But in all seriousness, as Mr. Rice pointed out, there are a lot of “reluctant readers” in that county. According to Data USA, there are also a lot of poor people in Hinds County. In 2019, 21.3% of the county’s residents lived at or below the poverty line. Mr. Price said that a lot of students in Hinds County rely on free or reduced price school lunches, which makes teaching literacy especially important.

Many kids LOVE funny books with inappropriate “body” humor in them. A book like “I Need a New Butt” might be just the thing a young, beginner, “reluctant reader” needs to get hooked on reading, instead of more harmful things, like drugs and alcohol. Moreover, the book is marketed for children between the ages of 6 and 10. Second graders are usually about 7 years old, so this book was written expressly for them.

It sounds to me like the administrators in Hinds County allowed their personal preferences to dictate what is, and what is not, appropriate reading material for children. This book is very popular, and is used by educators and parents all over the country and, in fact, even worldwide. Below is a video posted by The Scottish Granny, who is reading a slightly altered version of Dawn McMillan’s book titled “I Need a New Bum”.

Look at her! She’s having a right good laugh at all the arse humor… How could anyone fault her for bonding with her grandchild over a funny book like this? Is this “inappropriate”? That child is a lot younger than seven.

We’re living in very serious times right now. We could all use a good laugh. Kids today have to face so many awful things– war, pandemics, political nightmares, school shootings, inflation, and the list goes on and on. Do the administrators of Hinds County really believe that reading a funny book about butts– which EVERYONE can relate to, because we all poop and fart, and the vast majority of us have cracks in our butts– is the worst thing a teacher or school administrator can do? Can Hinds County really AFFORD to lose an experienced educator who cares about children as much as Mr. Price obviously does?

Delescia Martin and her ilk may be educators, but I really think firing Mr. Price was a very shortsighted and decidedly *uneducated* decision. Now, if Mr. Price had read a book like Beavis and Butt-head’s This Book Sucks to the children, I might be more understanding about the decision to fire him for being “inappropriate”. But lots of excellent children’s books are about universal experiences that we all face– even unpleasant or unsavory topics like pooping and farting. Remember the popular children’s book, Everyone Poops? It was marketed to children aged 0 to 3 and is highly regarded as an excellent book for teaching potty training. As a matter of fact, a quick look at Amazon shows me that there are many other children’s books about pooping available. I don’t see how Dawn McMillan’s funny book about needing a new butt because of a “crack” in it is any more scandalous than a book like “It Hurts When I Poop”, by Howard J. Bennett, MD and illustrated by M.S. (Michael) Weber. And yet, that book also gets high marks from (probably) very grateful parents who use them to teach their children about life.

The people of Hinds County are definitely ready to give the administration a good figurative public spanking…

I read today that Mr. Price has retained a lawyer and will be fighting to get his job back. There is an appeal hearing scheduled for March 21, and a GoFundMe campaigned has raised over $100,000 to help Mr. Price plead his case to get reinstated. Above is one grandmother’s post on Gary Roads Elementary School’s Facebook page. Obviously, a lot of parents and grandparents are concerned and involved; quite a few of them would like to see the assistant principal be rehired. I would certainly hope that other school districts have taken notice of this case, especially if they need an experienced and dedicated educator who obviously knows and cares what children like. My many teacher friends tell me that teaching has been especially difficult lately, and a lot of well-trained and talented people are leaving the profession or not going into teaching at all. I’ll ask again. Can Hinds County really afford to lose Mr. Price?

Between this story and the one involving McMinn County in Tennessee and their stupid decision to ban the excellent book, Maus, I’m actually feeling kind of glad I don’t have any children to worry about. But I do have stepgrandchildren now, I really hope the education administrators in the United States remove their heads from their asses before younger daughter’s children begin their educational careers. And I’m also glad that I, myself, grew up in a less ridiculous time. I feel like a lot of people in the United States could collectively use a mental enema.

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disasters, education, politicians, politics

America’s teachers are under attack by Republican leaders…

Judging by the news I’ve been reading lately, I’m beginning to think that a certain segment of the population is determined to drive people out of the business of educating children. Republican lawmakers and leaders are trying to pass new laws that really make it difficult for teachers in public schools to do their jobs. It’s like conservatives want young people to be dumb. Either that, or they want to control their thinking… as they insist that they are trying to prevent teachers from indoctrinating their children with what they consider wrong-headed, progressive ideas.

For instance, recently, Virginia’s new governor, Glenn Youngkin, was under fire for announcing a tip line intended to encourage citizens to report teachers who are teaching “critical race theory” in school. Because I am a graduate of Virginia’s historic teacher’s college, Longwood University (which was Longwood College when I was a student), I have a lot of friends who are teachers. I also have friends who didn’t go to Longwood, but teach school. Quite a few of them were absolutely horrified by the prospect of Mr. Youngkin’s “tip line”, meant to identify and sanction teachers who promote ideas that offend Republicans.

Fortunately, a lot of Virginians, even the Republicans, still have a lot of respect for teachers and the very challenging work they do for too little pay. People were being encouraged to contact the tip line, but flood it with compliments instead of complaints. I’m not sure if the tip line has gotten off the ground or has actually received any complaints, but my guess is that this idea has gone over the like proverbial turd in a punch bowl. One of my friends, who is a teacher, and I know votes Republican, recently shared this excellent letter to the editor that appeared in a newspaper near where she lives. I think this sentiment is being echoed by a lot of people.

This gives me some hope for the future.

Mr. Youngkin has only been in office for a few weeks, but he’s already been sued by seven school districts in Virginia for writing an executive order unilaterally lifting the face mask mandate in public schools, and allowing parents to opt out of making their children wear masks. At this writing, a judge has blocked Mr. Youngkin’s executive order, at least for now. The school boards protested the executive order, because they claim it violates the Constitution of Virginia and Senate Bill 1303, which requires all school districts in Virginia to implement COVID-19 mitigation strategies as provided by the CDC. The school boards also claim that Mr. Youngkin’s executive order, which are supposed to be used in case of emergency, undermine their local powers of authority.

As I read about this, I can’t help but be a little surprised by Mr. Youngkin’s decision to act like tyrant, especially since he’s a Republican, and Republicans are supposed to be against government overreach. But he’s pandering to parents, many of whom are not exactly the most educated folks themselves. I think Youngkin must have designs on a much higher echelon of politics, since in Virginia, governors can’t run for consecutive terms in office. So he can’t be immediately re-elected when his term ends in 2026, which makes me think that maybe he’s eyeing a more powerful position someday. Perhaps he wants to be POTUS? Who knows? But, as a governor who can’t be re-elected, there is no incentive for him to try to work for all voters. He has nothing to lose by pulling the shit he’s already pulled, and taking Virginia back to the Dark Ages. Below is a screenshot of a statement his spokesperson provided to News Channel 6, out of Richmond:

Except that history has shown us that parents DON’T always know or care what is best for their children’s health…

Ironically, Mr. Youngkin’s own son attends an out-of-state private boarding school, where face masks are not optional. I wonder if this is the same son who is a minor and illegally tried to vote for his father… twice! As a native Virginian, I am not surprised to see that Glenn Youngkin won the election after Ralph Northam’s term. Although I liked what Governor Northam was doing, I could see that many of my friends and relatives couldn’t stand Northam’s liberal policies. And Youngkin’s opponent was Terry McAuliffe, who was governor before and was, evidently, not very popular. So I knew Youngkin was going to win… but so far, he’s not showing that he cares much about the citizens of Virginia. He’s just pandering to Trump supporters, many of whom, I am so sad to report, are not exactly educated or deep thinkers. Either that, or they like the status quo, which puts white Christian men on top of the power heap.

But it’s not just in Virginia where this attack on teachers is happening. This morning, I read an article about an Oklahoma’s senator’s attack on teachers. Republican Senator Rob Standridge has introduced a new bill that would allow citizens to sue teachers who present opposing views to religious beliefs held by students. I don’t know a thing about Mr. Standridge, but I’ll bet he’s a protestant Christian. I wonder if, when he came up with his Students’ Religious Belief Protection Act, he was thinking about students who aren’t Christians.

It seems to me that this proposed bill could really present issues for teachers, constraining them in ways that would make it difficult or problematic to discuss certain topics in school. If passed, the law would make it so that parents could demand the removal of any book with perceived anti-religious content within it. According to a news article by The Independent:

Teachers could be sued a minimum of $10,000 “per incident, per individual” and the fines would be paid “from personal resources” not from school funds, from other individuals or groups. If the teacher is unable to pay, they would be fired, under the legislation.

$10,000 is a lot of money, especially for teachers, who historically don’t make a lot of money… especially in public schools. But apparently, some lawmakers think it’s really needed, as it’s been referred to as “necessary for the preservation of the public peace”. If the Act is passed, the law would take effect immediately. So that means that teachers in Oklahoma had better get their shit together and get it in their minds to STFU about anything deemed “anti-religious”, or they could be forced to PAY. Also, it sounds an AWFUL lot like the anti-abortion law passed in Texas last year, right down to the amount of money teachers could be forced to pay if they violate the rule. What the fuck is up with these legislators, anyway? I thought Republicans didn’t like frivolous lawsuits and government overreach. I guess they don’t mind legal action when it comes to pushing their own warped interests.

I really think that these actions are a slap in the face to people who have devoted their careers to making sure children are prepared to be responsible and functional adults and who, let’s face it, are taking care of children while the children’s parents are, hopefully, earning a living that supports them. I mean, I don’t have any children myself, but I do know that there were a LOT of parents who struggled when their kids had to be homeschooled because of COVID-19. Parents ought to be so grateful for everything that teachers do. But these right wing lawmakers seem bound and determined to turn parents against the very people who work long hours for little pay and put up with their little darlings and their many issues in schools every day. I tried being a teacher in Armenia. The discipline issues alone were a challenge for me, and there, I didn’t worry about some kid going crazy and shooting up the classroom. My friends who work as teachers have a heavy enough load to bear without lawmakers attacking them with these policies that are intended to restrict them from actually doing their jobs and educating children.

A couple of days ago, I wrote about one of Michigan’s Republican governor hopefuls, Garrett Soldano, who thinks that rape victims should be forced to birth, since their unborn fetus could one day be the President of the United States. In the podcast where he talked about that idea, Mr. Soldano also attacked critical race theory, calling it “absolute hot garbage.” He continued on a lengthy diatribe about how teachers need to stick only to the subjects they teach– English, math, science, and the like– and students should never know what a teacher’s political or religious beliefs are. Just stick to what’s in the approved textbook. Don’t be a human. Don’t share anything personal. Just teach from the book. By that idea, maybe teachers should be robots, completely programmed by whomever is in charge, and promoting things that are approved by the state. Wait… again, I thought Republicans were against government overreach! In his comments, Mr. Soldano sure did talk a lot about God… who, again, shouldn’t be part of a discussion about the government… Separation of church and state, you know… something I learned about in eighth grade civics class, many years ago.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. I think the issue is, Republican politicians don’t actually want the rank and file children who attend public schools to be taught how to think for themselves. They are afraid that children in public schools could be introduced to ideas that make them challenge the status quo and knock them out of power. I think that’s the main reason why brilliant books like Maus, which provides a poignant and engaging account of the horrors of The Holocaust, and ideas on how that atrocity began, are being banned from curriculums. I think that white Christians who are running the government are afraid that children could be taught to think in ways that challenge their grips on power. It’s probably TERRIFYING to some of these people that young people’s minds could be opened to something beyond white, Christian, cisgendered MALES running things. And so, they want to offer a lot of negative reinforcement to the bright, sensitive, humanitarians who opt for careers in public education. It’s shameful and embarrassing.

Intelligent southern man named Beau talks about how the people in charge don’t want kids to be taught to think…

Some of you might be thinking that you don’t want teachers “influencing” your kids. To that, I would say you should take your children out of public school and educate them yourselves. And you’d better be prepared to keep your kids away from television, Internet, movies, music, books, museums, and other people who don’t think just like you do. Oh, and you’d better be prepared to live FOREVER. Because sooner or later, your kids WILL be influenced by someone other than you. Unless you intend to be there forever, you’d better resign yourselves to the idea that your kids are going to learn things that you’d rather they didn’t. Personally, I think I’d rather they learn from trained, educated, professional teachers who are prepared to answer their questions than some rando on the street.

And yes, I also realize that not all teachers are “good”. Some teachers do need to be removed from their positions. Certainly, if a parent has a valid complaint about a teacher, he or she should speak up and make their concerns known. I have read a few shocking stories about ill-conceived lessons that some teachers have come up with– things like asking Black children to participate in mock slave auctions. Actually, if you Google “mock slave auctions in schools”, you will find that this is an idea that has been used in a number of different states around the country! Last year, I read about a teacher who got in trouble for a lesson on chivalry that irked some parents. Several years ago, some school officials in Utah were under fire for requiring that girls dance with anyone who asked them at a school dance. Some of the lessons were certainly well-meaning, but parents rightfully pointed out that they could be damaging. I don’t think it’s wrong for parents to object in those situations.

However– I DO think it’s wrong for lawmakers to pass laws that are intended to make teaching harder than it needs to be. Some of these new policies being proposed are making teaching especially onerous for teachers. I know for a fact that teachers go through a lot to be able to legally do what they do every day. It’s not easy to get qualified to teach school. And right now, especially, teaching is difficult. I can remember growing up in the 80s. We never heard anything about issues like autism or attention deficit disorder. Children who weren’t “normal” in all ways, were simply put on the “short bus” and labeled special ed kids. Nowadays, children with special needs can get individualized education plans, which is surely better for the children, but more work for their teachers. In my day, teachers were allowed to use corporal punishment to control children, and I did have a teacher who had a paddle shaped like a whale that he used to paddle kids in front of their peers. Nowadays, doing that would get a teacher put on the news. And, of course, we do have a pandemic going on, which makes teachers have to enforce mask policies and the like, putting themselves at risk of contracting a potentially deadly virus.

I guess it all comes down to people disagreeing as to what society needs kids to know…

Do we really need for lawmakers to pass laws making it even easier for parents to harass teachers? I think not. I think these lawmakers ought to be ashamed of themselves. But most of them are Trump supporters, which only goes to show you that they have no shame… or critical thinking skills. And, once again, as much as I wanted to have children, I’m left feeling glad I don’t have them. I don’t have a dog in this fight, but I have a lot of empathy for my friends who do. I think they’re going to need all of the thoughts and prayers they can get, as Republicans desperately try to get back in control of the government and turn the United States into a dystopian theocracy.

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condescending twatbags, education, healthcare, stupid people, YouTube

A quick update on Mama Doctor Jones and her skewering in Alaska…

Merry Christmas, everyone… I just spent ages trying to write a travel blog post about our morning. I am now hungry and cranky, and I’m not so much in the mood to write a long post. However, I did want to post a link to Mama Doctor Jones’ latest video, which shows her reactions to the idiots (sorry, they are) on the school board in Fairbanks, Alaska, who are calling her content “pornographic” and/or “inappropriate”. I watched this video this morning and it really pissed me off… I should have blogged right then and there. But now I’m not in the mood to go off on a rant properly.

Anyway, here’s the video. I recommend watching it if you’re concerned about sex ed in schools. Kids do need it. Parents suck at educating their children about these topics. They do. Stop denying it. And doctors don’t have the time to teach this stuff during appointments. Unfortunately, this is a task that does fall to teachers.

Seriously… these people are DUMB. They are. Stop denying it.

Again, I want to remind people that Mama Doctor Jones HAD NOTHING TO DO with her content being used as supplemental materials in Alaska. That was a decision made by an educator who obviously is a realist and has good sense. These people on the school board are woefully out of touch with reality, and they are insulting the hell out of the students and parents in their community. They are also embarrassing themselves… or, at least they really should be.

I think the folks in Alaska and everywhere else should be grateful to Mama Doctor Jones for providing expert knowledge about how bodies work. And while not every video is appropriate for young people, young people are not as young as they used to be. As Dr. Jones points out, she’s delivered babies gestated by girls as young as 13. Some kids that young are having sex. They absolutely NEED TO KNOW HOW THAT WORKS. Or parents need to do more to prevent their kids from having sex. Or, they need to keep pervy male adults away from their girls.

Kudos to Dr. Danielle Jones for watching this travesty and reacting to it in a civilized way. It really is mind blowing how dreadful this is. These folks don’t like it when agendas are pushed… I say they are promoting their conservative, right-wing, religious agenda on young people who desperately need to know how their bodies work, how to identify abusive versus healthy relationships, and how to avoid diseases and unintended pregnancies.

Yes, it’s best if kids don’t have sex, but that is not a realistic goal. Young people have sex, and their bodies are primed to reproduce. So they should know how all of that works, and they should not have to hope that their parents properly teach them about sex. Because the fact is, a lot of parents don’t or won’t teach their kids about sex… and not every child has parents, anyway! And if people in Alaska think that Dr. Jones is posting anything akin to “porn”, they obviously haven’t seen much of the real stuff.

Maybe this isn’t the best topic for Christmas. I might even be back after I have some food. In any case, if I were Dr. Jones, I think watching that school board meeting would make my head explode. The mind boggles.

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education, law, mental health, music, narcissists, psychology

Repost: The clarinetist who dodged a bullet…

This is a repost from June 2018. I am working on finishing reading a book that I want to review. Maybe I’ll be able to do it today. Maybe not. Anyway, I thought this was an interesting story. It appears here mostly as/is, with a couple of new videos added.

I just read an infuriating story on the New York Times.  Eric Ambramovitz, a gifted clarinet player from Canada, was just awarded $375,000 Canadian dollars from a lawsuit he filed against his ex-girlfriend, Jennifer Lee.  Why?  Because she crushed his dream and cost him two years of a promising music career.

In 2013, Ambramovitz and Lee were dating.  Both were music students and Abramovitz had dreams of studying under Yehuda Gilad at the Colburn Conservatory of Music in Los Angeles, California.  But the manipulative and sneaky Ms. Lee did not want her beau of a few months to leave Canada.  So when Abramovitz received the rare, all expenses paid, highly prestigious acceptance to study under Gilad, who only takes on one or two new students per year, Lee intercepted the email, impersonated her ex boyfriend, and turned down the offer.  Then, she sent a fake email to Ambrovitz, indicating that he had not been accepted to study under Gilad at the conservatory.  Instead, he could attend the University of Southern California with a $5000 scholarship, which Lee knew would not be enough.  Abramovitz could not come up with the rest of the $50,000+ tuition charged at USC. 

Lee and Ambramovitz eventually broke up and Ambramovitz finished his bachelor’s degree in music at McGill University in Montreal.  Then in 2016, he traveled to Los Angeles to re-audition for Professor Gilad.  But Gilad was confused, because he remembered that Ambramovitz had already auditioned and turned down the chance to study with him.

It was at that point when Eric Ambramovitz came to the sickening realization that his ex girlfriend had committed some major league relationship fuckery.  He asked Mr. Gilad about the email he had received from “giladyehuda09”.  Gilad said that was not his email address.  At that point, Ambramovitz filed a police report.  Just an aside here, I’m not sure it would have occurred to me to file a police report if I had been victimized in this way, but now that I think about it, it makes perfect sense.  What Ms. Lee did was akin to identity theft.

This man has some serious musical chops! He is definitely no Squidward.

Fortunately, Ambramovitz won acceptance to the University of Southern California, where Mr. Gilad also teaches.  He completed a two year certificate, not on scholarship, and studied under the professor part time.  Professor Gilad testified in court that Ambramovitz made excellent progress studying under him.  However, Ms. Lee’s dishonest hijinks cost the gifted clarinetist two years of his career, as well as missed professional opportunities.  According to the article, 80 percent of clarinetists in North American orchestras consist of Gilad’s former students.

But he survived… and it didn’t crush his spirit.

Ms. Lee did not respond to the lawsuit and had no lawyer listed in the suit.  It’s doubtful that Ambramovitz will ever see any of the money he was awarded.  He has, however, found success as a professional clarinetist.  He just got a job working for the Toronto Symphony Orchestra after having previously worked with the Nashville Symphony Orchestra. 

A few things come to mind after having read about this case.  First off, I’m amazed that Ms. Lee had access to her ex boyfriend’s email account.  I wonder why Ambramovitz wasn’t able to log into some kind of school account to see what his admittance status was.  Seems like when I applied to graduate school at USC, I had an account that showed what documents I still needed to submit.  That was in 1999.  I guess that’s not how they do things at all schools.  I see from another article (a much more complete one) that Ms. Lee also did the same thing with Mr. Abramovitz’s successful application to Julliard.

Not only is he insanely talented, but he’s also quite generous with sharing his gifts. I’m so glad he got out of that toxic relationship. He also seems like a really nice person.

I guess it just goes to show you that you can’t trust anyone.  According to another article about this case, Ms. Lee moved fast.  Within a month of their first date, Ambramovitz was staying at her apartment almost full time.  He let her use his laptop and she obviously had access to his passwords.  Actually, if she’s got cluster B tendencies, this makes perfect sense.  They tend to overwhelm their victims with whirlwind romances.  Then, once the poor victim is hooked, cluster B, high conflict types turn into horrible people.   

I’m glad Ambramovitz broke up with that miserable woman.  What an awful thing she did to him!  I hope karma kicks her ass.  But… at least he didn’t marry her.  This kind of sabotaging behavior is what Bill experienced firsthand when he was married to his ex wife.  I liken being in a relationship with someone like that to being chained to a dead tree.  A dead tree might eventually rot enough so a victim can escape, but it could take years of soul crushing before that happens.

Bill suffered damage to his career, his relations with his family, and his finances before he was finally able to break away from his psycho cluster B ex.  While Ambramovitz’s situation is heartbreaking on many levels, at least his story has a happy ending…  as does Bill’s.  Not everyone is so lucky.

ETA: September 2021… I may have to write some about Gabby Petito later. Unfortunately, her story didn’t have a happy ending. Also… fun fact– many years ago, I played clarinet myself. But I did not have a gift for it.

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book reviews, education, religion

Repost: Kevin Roose tries out Liberty University…

Here’s a book review I wrote for Epinions.com in 2009. Since I’ve been on a fundie kick lately, I’m reposting it here as/is.

Sometimes life can take you to places you never dreamed you’d go. Such was the case for Kevin Roose, who was, in the fall of 2006, a student at Brown University. Like so many other students of his ilk, Roose was very much a free spirit who liked to party. But Roose was also a curious reporter who happened to be working with author A.J. Jacobs.  In 2007, Jacobs published his book The Year of Living Biblically: One Man’s Humble Quest to Follow the Bible as Literally as Possible. Inspired by Jacobs’ experiment trying to live his life as literally by the Bible as possible, Roose decided to trade in his wild ways at Brown for a semester at Liberty University, a conservative evangelical Baptist school in Lynchburg, Virginia, founded by the late Jerry Falwell. Roose chronicles his experiences at Liberty in his book The Unlikely Disciple: A Sinner’s Semester at America’s Holiest University (2009).

I had just started reading Jacobs’ book when I got my copy of Roose’s Unlikely Disciple. Though I was thoroughly enjoying reading about Jacobs’ stab at living biblically, I couldn’t resist putting down Jacobs’ book in favor of Roose’s. You see, I am a native of Virginia and graduated from Longwood College (now University). Longwood is located in Farmville, Virginia, just a mere 45 minutes east of Liberty. I had some high school friends who attended Falwell’s famous school and had driven past Liberty on many occasions on my way to my grandmother’s house in Natural Bridge, Virginia from Farmville. Though I never in a million years would have wanted to attend Liberty– not even for a semester– I have always been curious about the place. So reading Roose’s book seemed a lot more urgent to me than finishing Jacobs’ book was, even though it appears that Roose’s project was inspired by his mentor’s earlier work.

Roose’s background

Obviously, Kevin Roose is very intelligent, since he managed to get into Brown University. His parents are very liberal and not very religious.  Roose explains that they most closely identify with the Quakers but were never a particularly churchgoing lot. When Roose proposed to attend Liberty for a semester, his parents and the rest of his family were not too thrilled. Like so many other people, they had heard Jerry Falwell’s well publicized remarks about how secular America had caused God to punish Americans with 9/11. They had heard him talk about how Tinky Winky, the beloved purple Teletubby of the children’s show, was actually a symbol to promote the acceptance of homosexuality. They had seen Falwell on television, blustering about how the liberals were degrading America with immorality. Roose’s family and friends were shocked that he’d want to be associated with Jerry Falwell, even just for a semester. And yet, though he wasn’t that into being an evangelical Christian, Kevin Roose applied to Liberty University as a transfer student and was accepted.

Changes!

Using a witty and appealing writing style, Roose explains what it was like to be a fish out of water at Liberty. He writes about how he had to learn to fit in as an evangelical Christian. The process was harder than the average person might realize. For one thing, Roose had to learn how to refrain from cursing while, at the same time, not react too harshly when he heard someone refer to a homosexual as a f*gg*t. Next, he had to learn about the Bible and actually take classes in the Old and New Testament. He had to change the way he approached members of the opposite sex, including the way he dated them. And he also had to stop drinking.

The results of Roose’s new lifestyle had some surprising effects on him. Though he knew he would only be at Liberty for a semester, Roose found himself changing with the experience, mostly in a positive way.  Just quitting drinking allowed him to enjoy hangover free weekends. He also managed to score the last print interview with Jerry Falwell, who died at the bitter end of Roose’s semester at Liberty.

My thoughts

I hesitate to think that Liberty University is actually America’s “holiest” university. There are quite a few evangelical Christian colleges out there, at least a couple of which are much stricter than Liberty is. For instance, as Roose points out in his book, at Pensacola Christian College (PCC) in Pensacola, Florida, men and women use segregated stairwells and are not allowed to stare too long at each other. A prolonged gaze at someone of the opposite gender is known as “optical intercourse” or “making eye babies” and can lead to significant punishment. At Bob Jones University (BJU) in Greenville, South Carolina, students were not permitted to date outside of their races until the year 2000. And women are not permitted to wear pants in public at either PCC or BJU; instead, they have to wear long dresses or skirts with pantyhose. But, I think for someone like Kevin Roose, Liberty was probably holy enough.  Shoot, I always thought Liberty University’s name was very ironic, considering the restrictions its students live with.

In any case, I really enjoyed reading Kevin Roose’s story about life at Liberty. I was very impressed by how much research Roose did, both in terms of the school and the conservative Christian movement in general. His writing is very easy and fun to read, as well as insightful. Having spent some time around college students and graduates of prestigious universities, I think I was afraid Roose might be a snob about going to Liberty after being at Brown. But Roose manages to maintain a very objective and open-minded attitude about Liberty. In fact, he even reveals some of the guilt he feels about hiding his true agenda from his new friends and colleagues. I half expected Roose to decide he wanted to stay at Liberty after all.

Overall

I think this book will really appeal to anyone who’s ever been curious about the religious right or Jerry Falwell. Roose includes some tidbits about Falwell that humanize the man a great deal. I also think The Unlikely Disciple is good reading for anyone who’s either attended or is planning to attend Liberty University– as long as they have a sense of humor.  I would also recommend this book to anyone who’s just curious about it. It’s often very entertaining, yet ultimately rewarding to read. I came away from reading this book thinking that Kevin Roose’s life was greatly enriched from his semester at Liberty; so was mine, as a result of Roose’s willingness to share.

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