Bad Words, Bad Manners

Marcus, 7, has two mommies. Asked about his family by a classmate, the Louisiana boy said he had two mothers because his mother is gay. Associated Press reports:

When the other child asked for explanation, Marcus told him: "Gay is when a girl likes another girl," according to the complaint.

A teacher who heard the remark scolded Marcus, telling him "gay" was a "bad word" and sending him to the principal's office. The following week, Marcus had to come to school early and repeatedly write: "I will never use the word 'gay' in school again."

The superintendent denies the whole thing, claiming the boy was disruptive. But the superintendent is contradicted by the paperwork sent home to the parents. Marcus was forced to fill out a student behavior contract in which he admitted he'd "sed bad wurds"; the teacher added a note explaining the offense was saying his mother was gay and "explaining what gay means." The teacher also sent home a behavior report saying that Marcus' discussion of "gay" was "not acceptable in my classroom."

The ‘F Word’

To desensitize students to f-word use in "Catcher in the Rye," a Virginia teacher assigned unusual homework.

"My teacher decided that it would be best to have the students go home and say in private the phrase 'F-U,' 10,000 times in different dialogues and different ways and tones and stuff, so that we'd become desensitized to it and wouldn't have to worry about it," said Chantilly High School student Jeff Daybell.

...The school system issued a statement that read: "The teacher didn't want the students to be alarmed by what they read. There may have been better ways to handle this."

I think the teacher was joking. He had to be joking. Right?

Like a Rock

Stephanie Hightower, president of the Columbus, Ohio school board, is taking heat for cursing at a 14-year-old boy who threw a rock at her car when she was driving with her husband and child. Hightower, a former Olympic track star, chased the boy to a nearby YMCA. George Hunter, the program director, stood between Hightower and the boy. The Columbus Dispatch (no free link) reports:

(Hunter) quoted Hightower as saying: "Do you know who I am? You hit my damn car, my f’ing car. I’m the president of your school board. You being a Columbus Public Schools student, it’s embarrassing for this to happen."

"We were just not going to let her hit him. And (the boy) is the kind that if she hit him, he would have hit her back," Hunter said.

The argument was moved into an office, where the boy eventually shed tears and admitted he had thrown the rock, Hunter said. The boy then went to another room and wrote Hightower an apology.

. . . Hightower said yesterday that she was rattled because the rock had thudded loudly against the car window, just inches from her head.

Hightower has apologized for using "inappropriate language." Her political opponents are accusing her of child abuse.

Too bad the YMCA guy got in the way. I'll take a 45-year-old woman in high heels over a 14-year-old punk any day.


If students don't learn manners in school, they may not learn it at all.

"The dramatic shift is parents' expectations for their kids," said Ed Harris, principal at Cahokia High. "It used to be that the parent and the school were in cahoots to make sure the student was doing the right thing. Now, the parent often sides with the kid."

Increasingly, students show no respect for authority figures or for classmates.

Cool Christians on Campus

Evangelical Christianity is the hot new thing on elite college campuses, says the Boston Globe.

There are 15 evangelical Christian fellowship groups at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology alone. This is a pretty stunning development for a university where science has always been god, where efficiency and rationality are embedded in the DNA of the cold granite campus. Hundreds of MIT students are involved in these fellowships -- blacks, whites, Hispanics, and Asians, especially Asians.

...At Harvard University, "there are probably more evangelicals than at any time since the 17th century," says the Rev. Peter J. Gomes, religious historian and minister of the university's Memorial Church, who arrived on campus in 1970. "And I don't think I have ever seen a wider range of Christian fellowship activity."

Gomes credits Buddhists, Muslims and Hindus for making it socially acceptable to be religious in public.

"It's very chic to be a believer now," says Gomes. "In a place which is so dispassionate, so rational, and in many ways so conformist intellectually, if you want to break out of the pack, you say your prayers in public. It is the example of religious practice elsewhere that has emboldened American evangelicals to exercise their own practice."


Joanne Jacobs writes about education and other issues at She’s writing a book, Ride the Carrot Salad, about a start-up charter high school in San Jose.

Respond to the Writer