High School is … Interesting.

Imagine finding the following quote on the wall of your teenage child’s social studies classroom:

“No, I don’t know that atheists should be considered as citizens, nor should they be considered as patriots. This is one nation under God.”

- George H.W. Bush

What would you do?

Comments

  1. #1 Crudely Wrott
    September 21, 2009

    I’d immediately scan the nearby wall for pithy send ups of Two Ewe’s comment. I have this irrational faith that even a smooth faced youth should be able to penetrate such a simple and willful lie and so I expect the replies to be loud, artistic and sometimes accurate!

    *can I open my eyes now and look?*

  2. #2 Dan J
    September 21, 2009

    I would probably approach the principal of the school and ask him why such bigotry and intolerance (not to mention the promotion of any religion over no religion—ACLU anyone?) is promoted by at least one of his teachers.

    What I would feel like doing involves the teacher and some of the school baseball team’s equipment.

  3. #3 Greg Laden
    September 21, 2009

    The other pithy quote nearby was Einstein, something about learning from birth ’till death.

    I did talk to the teacher, what do you think he said?

  4. #4 Dan J
    September 21, 2009

    He probably said something about not actually promoting the idea in the Bush quote, just presenting it for further study or inquiry, or as a bad example of presidential public speaking.

  5. #5 gruntled atheist
    September 21, 2009

    I would ask the teacher the purpose of the quote. It could easily be there to start discussions and point out ignorance in high places.

  6. #6 Nadine Rankin
    September 21, 2009

    I have to go with Dan J. I simply can’t believe there’s any other explanation. And I would also like very much to listen when they discuss it.

  7. #7 Greg Laden
    September 21, 2009

    I don’t want to leave you hanging. I was staring at the quote to make sure it was really there. He asked “what do you think of the quote” and I said “I think I want to know why it is there” and he said as Dan suggests that it is for a discussion point.

    What really matters is what I said next, and how he reacted to it.

  8. #8 D. C. Sessions
    September 21, 2009

    Take several pictures to preserve evidence.

  9. #9 Dan J
    September 21, 2009

    I would certainly hope that he used the discussion point to lead into discussions about civil rights and freedom of (and from) religion, and about how ugly and despicable the implication of the quote is.

  10. #10 jake
    September 21, 2009

    I too would go to the principle. I’m betting he either pretended to be taken aback, or was dismissive.

  11. #11 Greg Laden
    September 21, 2009

    Oh, sorry, did I leave you hanging again?

    So, after he said it was the staring point for discussion, I said:

    “So, I’m a radical activist atheist. I’m glad to see you are willing to talk openly about religion and atheism in your classroom and about how much of an ass George Bush was for saying that” or words to that effect.

    Hold on, I got a phone call. BRB.

  12. #12 jake
    September 21, 2009

    I like where this is going

  13. #13 willie
    September 21, 2009

    I’m not sure if I like where this is going.

  14. #14 Ana
    September 21, 2009

    Oh Greg, pray tell – I’m already spending too much time trying to make sense of that one unintelligible word in the note from your tire-troubled cabin-squatter…

  15. #15 Greg Laden
    September 21, 2009

    Ana: There has been a new and interesting twist in the saga of the boat motor!!!

    OK, so anyway, sorry for the interruption. Wrong number, I guess.

    So, right. So he says, like “Hey” and I say, like “WTF” and he says, like “cool” and so I say the Radical Atheist thing…

    Well, he basically said, yeah, Bush was a total ass when he said that, it is unbelievable that a president of the united states (candidate at the time) could say such a dumbass thing, and it is even more amazing that he could get elected.

    I don’t think he was putting me on at all. He is a geographer, after all, and geographers are all radical lefty Maoists. But, do not worry, there will be no ambiguities left unturned. Julia, who happens to like this teacher (and who has already impressed him by not only knowing the answers to all the questions on the pop quiz on day one, but having been to all the places mentioned in the quiz) will be keeping a close eye on him. Her last social studies teacher had to be hospitalized for novel psychosis after having Julia in his class for a whole year. This guy will probably do better because Julia will be distracted by other things this year, being 14 and all.

  16. #16 Lorax
    September 21, 2009

    Alright, is it just me or does anyone else think the scienceblogs back room is having a bet on which blog gets the most activity tonight?

  17. #17 Stephanie Z
    September 21, 2009

    It’s so nice to know I’m not the only person who’s taken out a HS teacher.

  18. #18 Greg Laden
    September 21, 2009

    Lorax: Seriously? Why do you think that?

    Oh, by the way, in a few minutes I’ll be posting my nude photographs of … can’t remember …. somebody hot … keep checking back!!!!!

  19. #19 Stacy
    September 21, 2009

    Nude photos?! :-)

  20. #20 MIke Haubrich, FCD
    September 21, 2009

    Quite honestly, I expect there to have something to do with Chipmunks in all of this.

  21. #21 Bunny
    September 21, 2009

    The “under God” clause to the pledge of allegiance was added in 1954. The founding fathers of our country were for strict separation of Church and State. So I think I’d write something on the wall about how the Pledge is unconstitutional because if violates one or both of the religion clauses in the First Amendment. In other words, GW Bush is WRONG!!! I’d tell that to the teachers!

  22. #22 Hank Fox
    September 21, 2009

    When I see a quote about atheists, I like to replace the word “atheist” with some other outgroup — Jew or black, something like that — and see how people like it. For instance:

    “No, I don’t know that Negroes should be considered as citizens, nor should they be considered as patriots. This nation is for white people.” – George H.W. Bush

    Restating the thing with a different outgroup seems to clarify that the main point of such a statement is to hate on someone.

  23. #23 Jared
    September 22, 2009

    Perhaps we can change the “one nation, under god” line to “one nation, under educated”

  24. #24 Nick Gardner
    September 22, 2009

    Great quote, Greg ;)

  25. #25 The Wanderer
    September 22, 2009

    Most of the founding fathers were deists and spoke very unfavorably of Christianity.

    Thomas Jefferson

    “Millions of innocent men, women, and children, since the introduction of Christianity, have been burned, tortured, fined, and imprisoned, yet we have not advanced one inch toward uniformity. What has been the effect of coercion? To make one half of the world fools and the other half hypocrites.” Thomas Jefferson, Notes on Virginia

    “The day will come when the mystical generation of Jesus, by the Supreme Being as His father, in the womb of a virgin will be classed with the fable of the generation of Minerva in the brain of Jupiter.” Thomas Jefferson, Letter to John Adams, April 11, 1823

    John Adams

    As I understand the Christian religion, it was, and is, a revelation. But how has it happened that millions of fables, tales, legends, have been blended with both Jewish and Christian revelation that have made them the most bloody religion that ever existed?
    – John Adams, letter to FA Van der Kamp, December 27, 1816

    Benjamin Franklin

    “The way to see by faith is to shut the eye of reason.” Benjamin Franklin Poor Richard’s Almanack, 1758

    “Lighthouses are more helpful than churches.”

    “He (the Rev. Mr. Whitefield) used, indeed, sometimes to pray for my conversion, but never had the satisfaction of believing that his prayers were heard.”

    “I have found Christian dogma unintelligible. Early in life, I absenteed myself from Christian assemblies.”

    George Washington

    “Religious controversies are always productive of more acrimony and irreconcilable hatreds than those which spring from any other cause. I had hoped that liberal and enlightened thought would have reconciled the Christians so that their [not our?] religious fights would not endanger the peace of Society.” George Washington Letter to Sir Edward Newenham, June 22, 1792

    James Madison

    “In no instance have . . . the churches been guardians of the liberties of the people.”
    “Religious bondage shackles and debilitates the mind and unfits it for every noble enterprise.” James Madison, April 1, 1774

    Abraham Lincoln

    “My earlier views of the unsoundness of the Christian scheme of salvation and the human origin of the scriptures have become clearer and stronger with advancing years, and I see no reason for thinking I shall ever change them.” Lincoln in a letter to Judge J.S. Wakefield, after the death of Willie Lincoln

    This school quote is of George the Elder. As much as I may detest the incompetency of George the Younger, he was always careful to add something along the lines of “and those of no belief”. Thank the FSM that George the Elder was not a founding father!

  26. #26 Treppenwitz
    September 22, 2009

    I’m somewhat uncomfortable repeating this quotation. The journalist who asked the question didn’t get Bush’s response on tape, and nobody else who was there reported it. I know you’re bringing it up because someone else was displaying it, but plenty of sites repeat it without any further discussion. Surely we have enough ammunition even if we stick to things he definitely said.

  27. #27 MadScientist
    September 22, 2009

    It sounds like typical religious hate speech being promoted by teachers. There’s some historic revisionism in there too; there were godless patriots as well as goddy patriots who insisted that the government should not be the tool of anyone’s religion.

  28. #28 Lassi Hippeläinen
    September 22, 2009

    I would donate a quote from Hitler about Jews. Just as a discussion point.

  29. #29 Greg Laden
    September 22, 2009

    I do want to re-emphasize that I have concluded, but will be vigilant to ensure that I’m not wrong, that this teacher is probably an atheist who is pushing the limit in the classroom in a good direction.

    Interesting point, Treppenwitz. Is that a real concern or is it a revisionist “concern”.

    Some day I will have to tell you all my own George Bush story.

  30. #30 embertine
    September 22, 2009

    The Wanderer, thanks very much for those quotes. I hope you don’t mind that I have saved the content of your post as I find it very instructive.

  31. #31 skepville
    September 22, 2009

    I love it! I immediately saw it as one of those provocative quote that social studies teachers use to get their students woken up.
    In middle school, my son had write out a quote in calligraphy for art class, which was then posted on the wall of the class. He chose “It’s clearly a budget. It’s got a lot of numbers in it” from then-mathematician-in-chief, GWB.

  32. #32 Jeremy
    September 22, 2009

    I would do as you did, find out the story before jumping to any conclusions.

    Also, geographers are weird and this sounds exactly like what one would do. I was recently reading a book written by my geography lecturer specifically about the human impact on native vegetation in Australia and randomly in the middle of the book I found this statement; “Most scientists who are not fundamentalist Christians believe species to be the product of biological evolution.” He was speaking about evolution at the time, but this is the only mention of anything religious in the entire book. I do enjoy his lectures :D

  33. #33 Treppenwitz
    September 22, 2009

    Interesting point, Treppenwitz. Is that a real concern or is it a revisionist “concern”.

    I’m not sure if I’m being accused of concern trolling here or what, but Robert Sherman, the source of the quotation, says himself that he didn’t tape the remark and that nobody else covered it at the time.

    His only corroboration is that when Jon Garth Murray wrote to Bush regarding the incident, the reply from White House Counsel C. Boyden Gray was

    Your letter of December 19, 1988, to President Bush has been referred to me for reply. As you are aware, the President is a religious man who neither supports atheism nor believes that atheism should be unnecessarily encouraged or supported by the government. Needless to say, the President supports the Constitution and laws of the United States, and you may rest assured that this Administration will proceed at all times with due regard for the legal rights of atheists, as will as others with whom the President disagrees.

    Sherman claims that Gray’s lack of denial is evidence that the original exchange actually occurred. I don’t find that reasoning particularly convincing, especially when it’s the only evidence on offer.

  34. #34 Greg Laden
    September 22, 2009

    Treppenwitz: Sorry, I wasn’t accusing, just asking about the origin. Often revisionist rhetoric ends up circulating in a way that makes it the new common knowledge but it should not be.

    Thanks for the info. Let met restate to make sure I’ve go it: Robert Sherman claims he heard Bush say it,and that he wrote it down and reported it.

    On one hand we have a reporter’s notes, on the other hand we have a failure of denial from the white house councel. In combination, this seems to me to indicate that if one had to chose, it should be assumed that Bush said this or something very close to it. The failure of the white house statement to explicitly say that Bush said it is not evidence for or against anything, but a professional reporter’s notes constitute pretty good evidence.

    In other words, if you read the link you kindly provided up to the point about the letter, it would only be possible to believe that Bush did not make this remark if you simply thought Sherman was telling us a lie. I don’t see why one would assume that, or why one would assume that he is not telling the truth.

    Am I missing something?

  35. #35 Treppenwitz
    September 22, 2009

    I’m not saying the quotation definitely isn’t accurate; there’s a good chance that he did say it, and it’s not like Bush could otherwise be construed as pro-atheism anyway.

    Regarding Gray’s comments, there are at least plausible reasons for him not to issue a denial even if it never happened. If he never consulted Bush about the letter and didn’t know whether he’d made the remark, for instance, “the President will obey the law” seems like a reasonable stock reply that would cover his ass in case evidence did turn up.

    As for whether Sherman might have been lying, I just don’t know enough about him to make a judgment. It wouldn’t be the first time a journalist lied to gain attention, and he is an activist as well as a journalist, so it’s not like there weren’t incentives to lie.

    On balance, I think it’s more likely than not that the quotation is essentially accurate, but there’s enough uncertainty that I personally wouldn’t repeat it without qualification.

  36. #36 Irene
    September 22, 2009

    What is the “other george bush” story?????

  37. #37 PZ Myers
    September 22, 2009

    OK, Laden, what are you up to? Using the comments to expand your story. Turning it into a conversation. This sets a bad example for the rest of us, you know — we’re supposed to be like gods, setting the story in stone at the top, and merely allowing the hoi polloi to comment on it below.

  38. #38 Greg Laden
    September 22, 2009

    … sorry PZ. I won’t let it happen again. ….

  39. #39 Rich Wilson
    September 22, 2009

    My take on that quote is that George probably didn’t recall for sure one way or the other exactly what he said, and if he didn’t say exactly that, it was probably pretty close. I think what’s important is that he agreed with the general sentiment. If pushed on it, he might back down from the ‘citizens’ part. I mean this: “As you are aware, the President is a religious man who neither supports atheism nor believes that atheism should be unnecessarily encouraged or supported by the government.” is damning enough for me. If he said something along the lines that “no stance on religious matters, including the absence of religious faith should be encouraged or supported…” I’d think it’s fantastic. I don’t care if he doesn’t ‘support or encourage’ atheism. That’s not his job. I just don’t want him supporting or encouraging anything else either.

  40. #40 Greg Laden
    September 22, 2009

    Rich… I agree. And that essentially points out the fundamental problem that anti-atheism doesn’t even have the status of racism. There are good reasons to believe that GHW Bush has some racism in his background, but he was schooled early on to avoid that. (Again, some day I’ll tell you that story!) This is true of many people. But for Atheism, we don’t even get that.

  41. #41 Irene
    September 22, 2009

    So, what is the story? What is the story?

  42. #42 Shawn Smith
    September 22, 2009

    The Wanderer,

    I’ve been under the impression (perhaps wrong, but I thought supported by other statements) that the major FF (Washington, Jefferson, Adams, Madison, Franklin) would definitely not describe themselves as Deists because they believed a providential and personal god existed. Washington, especially, thought that he only survived the Revolution because of the intervention of his god. Now, they were not Real True Christians™, at least as we would define that term now, but I don’t see a reason to not say something that’s more justifiable.

  43. #43 Monado, FCD
    September 22, 2009

    Greg, tell us your Other Story now. What if we get Raptured (or raptored) and miss it???!!

  44. #44 Greg Laden
    September 22, 2009

    I think if the founding fathers appeared from a Ye Old Thyme Machine and had a look around, they would want to change the constitution.

    There are those who would say the FF’s would scratch out the Establishment Clause. There are those who say the FF’s would scratch out the Second Amendment.

    The people in the first group are wrong. The people in the second group are correct. Right?

    No, I’ll tell the story another time. It is one of those stories one does not just tell. It is both very good and very dangerous. Not everyone involved is dead yet.

  45. #45 jake
    September 22, 2009

    I hope another time is tomorrow. I really enjoy Story Time with Greg.

  46. #46 Rich Wilson
    September 22, 2009

    Hm, George Sr. likes to hunt lions in Africa. Greg has spent a lot of time in Africa. Coincidence?

  47. #47 Treppenwitz
    September 22, 2009

    Bush spent a week hunting the most dangerous prey of all: Greg Laden.

  48. #48 Dan J
    September 22, 2009

    I think if the founding fathers appeared from a Ye Old Thyme Machine and had a look around, they would want to change the constitution.

    Of this I have no doubt. As to whether they would scrap the establishment clause or the 2nd ammendment, I plead the 5th.

  49. #49 Gwenny
    September 22, 2009

    See, when you homeschool your children, you never have to deal with stuff like this. LOL

  50. #50 Rich Wilson
    September 22, 2009

    Actually Gwenny, we still have to deal with stuff like this. Just not necessarily in ‘school’. Sadly, homeschooling doesn’t avoid bigotry.

  51. #51 Alex
    September 23, 2009

    … sorry PZ. I won’t let it happen again. ….

    And so the Scienceblogs social order is made clear…

  52. #52 llewelly
    September 24, 2009

    Also, geographers are weird and this sounds exactly like what one would do.

    All that larnin’ ’bout furriners can’t be good for th’ head.