Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Will the Real Jeremiah Please Stand Up?

William J. Murphy, a teacher of English and history at Belfast Area High School in Belfast, Maine, has an op-ed in today's Bangor Daily News. He's responding to a column that the BDN ran more than a week ago, written by Dan Lips of the Heritage Foundation.

I haven't read Lips's column, but it must have been good, since Murphy twice referred to it as a "jeremiad." I wish I could find it online. If anyone knows where it can be found, please shoot me a link! I guess the BDN doesn't have online repro rights.

When he gets past his socialist hatred of the liberal President Bush (and much of Murphy's rant is anti-Bush), he makes a statement that truly inspires guffaws.

And finally, let me add that I work as a teacher in a public school that has failed to attain the Adequate Yearly Progress mandated by NCLB, and I see little or no evidence of actual educational failure. What I do see, day after day, is an indefatigable staff encouraging and guiding the intellectual and social development of each and every child who comes its way.

As an English teacher at the high school, Murphy must know that BAHS students will read -- or try and read -- his essay. So it seems funny to me that he feels the need to define the word jeremiad each time he uses it. And it seems pitiful to me that most of the students at BAHS will have never encountered the word in their English instruction. Guess the staff isn't totally indefatigable.

The most painful irony is that Murphy's own writing qualifies as a jeremiad, in that it paints a doom-and-gloom picture of the dismantling of public schools. If only there were a true intent from the Bushies to do so. Left-libertarians like me just want all the government-run schools to shut down post-haste. I wonder what Murphy would think of that.

As a fellow who occasionally talks with some BAHS high school students, and some recent graduates, I have to wonder about the extent of the history instruction there, too. One day I referred to Magna Carta in the presence of some high schoolers, and soon found that none of them had ever heard of this extremely important and influential document in the history of freedom and democracy. I would have understood if they couldn't offer up the year in which it was produced, or exactly what it did, but by the time someone is in eighth grade, they should recognize the term and its antecedence to modern constitutional law.

O tempora! O mores!



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