Pharyngula

Poor baby

Elle Jacobson is a high school student who is skipping school because she’s afraid of atheists. Some parents are joining in the fear, all because of one little incident:

“This boy got up and his visual aid was a Bible and a book. And he got up and started his speech by saying ‘Now, this piece of crap’ and pointed to the Bible.”

Jacobson said that she quickly felt threatened.

“He took the Bible and he said, ‘I’m going to do this because I can. I’m going to do something that your stupid, little minds aren’t going to be able to comprehend and he took the Bible and started ripping out pages.”

Ripping up a copy of your own book is perfectly legal. Freaking out because somebody tore pages out of a book is silly — while I can’t approve of destroying any books on general principles, the kids at that school learned a valuable lesson: nothing is sacred.

Comments

  1. #1 Monado
    December 30, 2007

    So much for performance art! Exactly what rule was this student breaking?

  2. #2 Hexxenhammer
    December 30, 2007

    “”We take this extremely seriously,” said Dr. Karen Schulte, Janesville School District safety and security coordinator.

    Officials said that they will not confirm whether the boy was suspended.

    “We do an assessment of this situation and students involved to ensure the safety of every student and staff at that school,” said Schulte.””

    How the hell is this a safety issue? If he would have torn the pages out of any other book, nobody would have blinked. And the kid was punished? Jebus…

    If I was in high school now, I would have been kicked out long ago due to “no tolerance” policies.

  3. #3 j
    December 30, 2007

    Haha! “School safety”? From the comments of the adults interviewed for the article, one would think the student had brought a gun to school.

    “We do an assessment of this situation and students involved to ensure the safety of every student and staff at that school,” said Schulte.

    When a Bible is ripped up, everyone’s safety is threatened!

    “It’s not about free speech. It’s not about necessarily about the Bible although that was disgusting, too. This is about the vicious, vile manner in the way this kid went about this and tried to make some kind of point,” he said.

    In other words, it’s about free speech. Specifically, it’s about how you only like certain kinds of speech.

    Unrelated: The article has a lot of typos. Comprehension is impeded.

  4. #4 Tony P
    December 30, 2007

    I cannot believe the reaction to his presentation. Religion really does warp the mind. Reminds me today I saw a bumper sticker on a car that I got a chuckle out of:

    “Religion is just a cult with more members.”

  5. #5 natural cynic
    December 30, 2007

    I hope that he put the torn pages in the recycle bin.

  6. #6 Jackal
    December 30, 2007

    I’m all for destroying holy books, but I don’t imagine it was an A-student giving a speech in which he referred to his audience’s “stupid, little minds.”

  7. #7 Jbird
    December 30, 2007

    Safety? Huh? It’s a book! Had it been the Koran, the same students would be cheering.

    Someone’s going to get sued and it’s not going to go well for them.

  8. #8 Patrick
    December 30, 2007

    I’m reminded of an incident at one of my first office jobs. I had on a few occasions, let “God-damn-it” slip when something particularly bad happened. A coworker stricken with a particularly pernicious case of Christianity reported me to the boss because her delicate sensibilities were so offended by hearing someone utter those particular words that she became physically ill. So instead I started saying “Satan-bless-it” when she was around. She quit not long after.

  9. #9 JimC
    December 30, 2007

    That is a pathetic statement on how weak America is really becoming. Seriously, no one need worry about the decline of America as it is people like this and their what can only be termed bizarre reaction to the destruction of a book-albeit the bible- into a safety issue.

    I would imagine they would have no problem burning any number of books themselves. No are so blind……….

  10. #10 FtK
    December 30, 2007

    Try this rendition:

    Use any other book beside the Bible…a math book, “War and Peace”, “On the Origins of Species”, a biology textbook…

    Now, imagine this kid giving his speech and using the words he used in a high school classroom:

    ‘Now, this piece of crap‘ … ‘I’m going to do something that your stupid, little minds aren’t going to be able to comprehend’

    Personally, I’d think the kid had lost his mind. A trip to the student counselor would certainly be in order.

  11. #11 kcanadensis
    December 30, 2007

    #6- I agree.

    I’m all for people realizing that “nothing is sacred” but I have a feeling that this particular student just made another case for atheists being vicious.

    I *am* a vicious atheist, but… just sayin’.

  12. #12 Mena
    December 30, 2007

    I’m not sure if I’m understanding the problem. To me it looks like they are all up in arms because he wasn’t being politically correct. Isn’t the whole political correctness something that the Fox ConservativesTM wail loud and long about?

  13. #13 Erasmus, FCD
    December 30, 2007

    FtK, I agree with you for once. It wouldn’t really make sense would it?

    But, and this is the funny part: it DOES make sense when someone does that to the bible.

    The reason why you don’t seem to understand that probably has something to do with the stupid little minds part. That and your capacity to compartmentalize and hold mutually contradictory statements to be true.

  14. #14 Bryson Brown
    December 30, 2007

    It’s a pretty aggressive performance– I’d like to know more about the back-story…Is this a piece of conceptual art? An expression of frustration with bible-thumping school-mates? An expression of personal anger and alienation? Our book-killer could be making a perfectly valid point (if regularly harassed by ‘believers’– and this is something I’ve seen, in the case of my own outspoken atheist daughter), or displaying unjustified rage towards some other students (which might justify concern), or… well, there seem to be a lot of possibilities here.

  15. #15 ERV
    December 30, 2007

    Jackal– I’m all for destroying holy books, but I don’t imagine it was an A-student giving a speech in which he referred to his audience’s “stupid, little minds.”
    I wouldnt have, because I would have been scared about getting kicked out of school and losing my >4.0 GPA. That doesnt mean I did not have those thoughts, and it does not mean I wouldnt support a student who did and got in trouble:

    From the article:
    “In a separate incident, following the punishment, three Parker High Students wore T-shirts asking for the student in question to be brought back after a punishment was levied against him. School officials made those students change clothes.”

    Buy that young man some Hitchens and Dawkins and he will learn how express his views more eloquently. Do not degrade him for expressing himself in a perfectly legal manner.

  16. #16 Troy
    December 30, 2007

    Calling the bible a piece of crap is going a bit extreme. . . objectively, it’s really cool that we have written records like it, whatever their provenence — from 2000 years+ ago.

    Still, it’s an interesting contrast of the PC-police here in the states reaction vs. the parallel-universe reaction of a student attempting the same thing with the koran in the middle east.

  17. #17 rjb
    December 30, 2007

    FTK: You also have to realize that the quote you are giving (‘this piece of crap… stupid little minds’) is NOT a direct quote from the student who gave the speech. It’s quoted from the offended student. This could be quite a bit of hyperbole on her part. Or it could be accurate. It’s a one-sided account of the speech. I’d want some verification from the student, the teacher, and/or other students in the room before I assumed that the speech actually included that kind of language.

  18. #18 Kseniya
    December 30, 2007

    I’m getting that same uneasy feeling I had when I was twelve and my mom accidentally threw away my dad’s copy of Watchmen. (It was retreived without incident. But it was a close call.)

  19. #19 Ian H Spedding FCD
    December 30, 2007

    Safety? Huh? It’s a book! Had it been the Koran, the same students would be cheering.

    Had the students been Muslim they’d have killed him on the spot. At least Christianity is a bit more tolerant – for the moment…

  20. #20 Dan
    December 30, 2007

    I think the kid’s presentation would have been much more effective (and revealing) if he said nothing and just stood there tearing pages out of the Bible.

    Or, better yet, what if he recited the First Amendment while tearing the pages out? Could you imagine the outrage and confusion of these delicate, god-soaked, snowflakes?

  21. #21 phat
    December 30, 2007

    Wow, things have changed since I’ve been in school.

    Wait, maybe they haven’t. I can easily see at least one of my friends getting in trouble for that kind of thing. I don’t think I would have done it, as I didn’t want to offend people. That’s never been my cup of tea. Although now I realize that it’s almost impossible to not offend when discussing religion with most people.

    It’s certainly not “fire in a crowded theater” territory.

    I did scare one girl when I told her I was an atheist. She went and told the teacher. Luckily, that teacher didn’t really seem to care very much. He didn’t like me that much anyway, but he didn’t try and do anything about this little outburst. That was funny, scaring that girl. I’m pretty sure the atheism thing scared her more than the socialism thing. Ah, good times.

    This is obviously not a safety issue and anybody who thinks it is is a little baby.

    I think it’s kind of funny and Mena was correct in pointing out the PC irony of this. Mencken would have a field day, I’m sure.

    phat

  22. #22 Stephen
    December 30, 2007

    Haha, this is hilarious. Yes, it’s very much an issue of mindless anti-atheist sentiment, but it’s also an issue of irrational fear of school shootings that’s sprung up since Columbine and peaks every time a tragedy like VA Tech occurs. People on school campuses feel threatened by everything these days.

    Also, schools haven’t really proven themselves to be hotbeds of free speech these past few decades. When I went through high school, I got the distinct impression that the school administration was callous and completely uninterested in affording students any kind of protection of free speech and other rights. And it’s not like I was a rebellious high schooler in any way – I followed the rules as best I could, dressed as unassumingly as I could, never pulled any pranks. But things like the Bong Hits 4 Jesus incident in Alaska really seem to drive this point home.

  23. #23 Gary Bohn
    December 30, 2007

    FtK:

    The difference between the Bible and “War and Peace” or “Origin of Species” is that the Bible is used by an extremely large group of people to justify how they view and treat others. It is taken as truth even though it is historically and scientifically inaccurate.

    Your analogy would have been more accurate if your example had used a book on Homeopathy or faith healing rather than a work of fiction or science. In that case most people would have understood and reacted quite differently than you propose. The only reason the reaction was overblown is because the Bible is viewed by some as unique and more important than other books.

  24. #24 Donnie B.
    December 30, 2007

    If you watch the video report, the offended girl mentions that the other book used in the presentation was “Atlas Shrugged” (which she hilariously pronounces “shrug-ged”).

    If the guy was a Randite, I can understand how she could be a-skeered. Those folks scare me too. :-)

  25. #25 Stogoe
    December 30, 2007

    Feh. The Bible is a piece of crap. It’s not even particularly well-written trash. I’d like to hear the kid’s side of the story. But from what I hear of his performance art, I like it.

  26. #26 Dan
    December 30, 2007

    Had the students been Muslim they’d have killed him on the spot. At least Christianity is a bit more tolerant – for the moment…

    Posted by: Ian H Spedding FCD

    No. They’re not really more tolerant. They are simply forced to follow laws to prevent them from killing nonbelievers on the spot.

    Thankfully, our laws still trump the Bible.

  27. #27 Blake Stacey
    December 30, 2007

    while I can’t approve of destroying any books on general principles

    Ahem.

    You Janus-faced devil, you! :-)

  28. #28 Shigella
    December 30, 2007

    But *sniffle* Christians are so persecuted in our society, and this just proves it even more clearly! If we allow the eeevil Atheists to get away with stunts like this, they’ll start sneaking into infants’ bedrooms at night and stealing their souls and drinking their blood.

    Hostile as this kid’s little “demonstration” was, it was not threatening, except maybe to Invisible Bearded Sky Dude.

  29. #29 Blake Stacey
    December 30, 2007

    rjb (#17):

    It’s a one-sided account of the speech. I’d want some verification from the student, the teacher, and/or other students in the room before I assumed that the speech actually included that kind of language.

    Yeah. Where’s the kid with the camera phone when you need him?

  30. #30 Sean
    December 30, 2007

    From the linked blog entry:

    While I have no particular reverence for the Bible, I’m an academic–I love books. I get the heebie-jeebies at the thought of defacing any book.

    PZ did come through at the end as a true bibliophile.

  31. #31 John Pieret
    December 30, 2007

    No doubt Ms. Jacobson feels threatened because she might be near the offending boy when the bears come to kill him. Bears are notorious for their inability to eat only one.

  32. #32 me
    December 30, 2007

    Janesville, eh. That’s where my Bush toady congressman, Paul Ryan, comes from. It’s unfortunate that he has had no credible opponents in the last few elections.

  33. #33 steve
    December 30, 2007

    I don’t care that the book was the bible or War and Peace or anything else. The student who ripped up the book was reported to be acting in a hostile and demeaning manner. This is completely inappropriate in a classroom setting, regardless of the content of the words. (The report may not be accurate, but we’re discussing the behavior as reported – take it as a hypothetical if you like.) If the school had not acted to punish a student for such a hostile display I would also have looked for another school for my children. Just because you agree with someone’s hostility does not make it acceptable.

    I speak as an atheist who views the bible as, despite it’s occasional good passages, overall a disaster for western civilization.

    As others have said, it’s unfortunate that this incident is reinforcing the “hostile atheist” image. I think it’s just a “hostile teenager” issue and should be condemned as such.

  34. #34 qedpro
    December 30, 2007

    If we’re going for performance art, I think it would have been better to nail a baby jesus to a bible through the groin as a graphic representation of what religion does to people.

  35. #35 Brachychiton
    December 30, 2007

    Try this rendition:

    Use any other book beside the Bible…a math book, “War and Peace”, “On the Origins of Species”, a biology textbook…

    … Personally, I’d think the kid had lost his mind.

    I’d have assumed it was Sal Cordova.

  36. #36 qedpro
    December 30, 2007

    Also, we need to get transcripts of the kids grades. they’re probably flunking and were looking for an excuse.

    Or maybe we could start a movement to ban religous symbols. no kids should be able to wear crosses around their necks because it is so threatening and intimidating to other students.

  37. #37 BobbyEarle
    December 30, 2007

    If you really want to see a reaction, just tear up a Watchtower in a crowded laundromat.

  38. #38 afterthought
    December 30, 2007

    Where did you get this from?:

    The student who ripped up the book was reported to be acting in a hostile and demeaning manner.

    I don’t get that from the link at all. Sounds to me like it just offended superstitious people. So what? They are pretty easy to offend.

  39. #39 @
    December 30, 2007

    But was God offended, has anyone even asked him?

  40. #40 danley
    December 30, 2007

    He should have simultaneously made that “ripping noise” with his mouth for more dramatic effect.

  41. #41 Rey Fox
    December 30, 2007

    “In a separate incident, following the punishment, three Parker High Students wore T-shirts asking for the student in question to be brought back after a punishment was levied against him. School officials made those students change clothes.”

    Sounds like business as usual at high school. The administrators are much more about maintaining quiet than they are about any kind of fairness.

    As far as the presentation goes, the only accounts we have of it are from the offended Christians (who apparently want to pull their daughters from that school due to the actions of one student and him apparently not being hung by the toes for it. Persecution: it doesn’t mean what you think it means). It is entirely possible that the kid was trying to intimidate, but it’s also possible that he was merely trying to make a point (“because I can”). Hard to say, really.

  42. #42 dogmeatib
    December 30, 2007

    The school district claims that the student was possibly being disciplined (they wouldn’t confirm or deny it), but, if he was, it was for actions not related to the Bible. I have to wonder what else he did.

    I also wonder what the presentation was about, why Ayn Rand (gag)?

  43. #43 steve
    December 30, 2007

    to Afterthought: maybe I’m getting old and grew up in a more genteel time (ah for the 60’s!) but in my world: “this piece of crap” is hostile; “your stupid, little minds” is hostile and demeaning. Outside a classroom these are certainly very low levels of hostility and insult, but a classroom is, of necessity, a special protected place where there is no place for any level of (teacher sanctioned) hostility. As a former part-time teacher I would _never_ have tolerated such language in my classroom.

  44. #44 andyo
    December 30, 2007

    If the boy did say those things like it was told, I agree with FtK (what?!). (I thought she was banned, by the way, but this post of hers does not seem to be a troll, good for her I guess.) What the hell is that guy doing taking center stage and ripping the pages of any book, and then insulting his audience. I wouldn’t feel threatened, but that guy needs a little anger management.

    Again, IF it happened that way. Somehow little girls that get offended on their religious little sensibilities don’t inspire much trust in me, but we don’t know if this girl is that kind of girl either, from the article.

  45. #45 Elin
    December 30, 2007

    I’m not sure if the reaction to this kid’s actions are necessarily fear of atheism as much as fear of a reprise of the many incidents of school violence since 1999, i.e. Colombine, Jonesboro, etc. The “stupid, little minds” comment implies that the kid considers the other students to possess inferior intelligence. In this day and age, I might be freaked out, too, regardless of my religion.

  46. #46 coathangrrr
    December 30, 2007

    Had the students been Muslim they’d have killed him on the spot.

    Yes, even those Muslim children are savage, murdering beasts! I don’t know why we don’t just nuke them all. I suppose even animals deserve some rights.

  47. #47 Nightcap
    December 30, 2007

    Such behavior is well known to call down the wrath of God, who has notoriously bad aim. You may be sure that the next leaking lavatory will be due to divine displeasure.

  48. #48 Ollie
    December 30, 2007

    Free speech is only free when it offends. Nobody is going to charge you for saying things they agree with.

    Now, what’s the difference between babies and muffins?

  49. #49 Monado
    December 30, 2007

    Rudeness and hostility are inappropriate for a classroom and can be upsetting. It does rather depend on the circs. Was this a everybody-make-one “speech” or just a conversation? What about tone of voice and body language?

  50. #50 ekzept
    December 30, 2007

    Sure can tell how this would sound on the local 6 o’clock news, or in the daily newspaper, wherever “local” is.
    But there were other options. The student might, for example, have studied up on ink washing techniques and turned the book into a palimpset, overwriting it with lab notes or notes for World of Warcraft or something.

    I don’t think that asserting

    I’m going to do something that your stupid, little minds aren’t going to be able to comprehend

    makes an effective argument.

  51. #51 CalGeorge
    December 30, 2007

    Atlas Shrugged vs. The Bible?

    Not sure which one I’d be more inclined to rip to shreds.

    Two books that deserve all the abuse they receive.

  52. #52 BaldApe
    December 30, 2007

    I guess they’d better install some extra lightning rods or something. Maybe a Faraday cage around the school. And some earthquake protection. Oh yeah, and a tsunamis warning system.

    ISTM that the appropriate action is to scratch your head and wonder what the heck this kids problem is. But the appropriate action is also the least likely one, especially in a school.

  53. #53 Alex
    December 30, 2007

    …so he tore some pages out of the Bible? I don’t get it, how does this threaten anyone and why does it even matter? If I was a Christian, I don’t see how I could mind this at all. I might not be particularly happy about it, but it’s not like he destroyed some original texts or something. There’s millions of Bibles and online versions for free. They have no reason to get upset about it.

    That said, this is just another example of Christians trying to repress free speech because it offends their sensibilities. :(

  54. #54 has
    December 30, 2007

    “You see? You see? Your stupid minds! Stupid! Stupid!”

    The line between an Ayn Rand moment and an Ed Wood one is fine indeed.

  55. #55 Heliologue
    December 30, 2007

    “It’s not about free speech. It’s not about necessarily about the Bible although that was disgusting, too. This is about the vicious, vile manner in the way this kid went about this and tried to make some kind of point,” [Elle’s father] said.

    Yeah, damn those kids, always trying to make points! If I’m reading correctly, this guy is basically saying that there never *was* any kind of threat or confrontation. The kid just made a statement about his own beliefs and his right to express them, and that’s apparently “vile.”

  56. #56 has
    December 30, 2007

    As for the whiny Christianists, let me know when the evil atheists start physically nailing ’em to trees, otherwise it’s all just grandstanding asshattery.

  57. #57 Chris
    December 30, 2007

    Didn’t Jefferson cut up the bible til there was nothing left when he was alive? should we inform lil miss priss about what one of our founders did to the bible?

  58. #58 comingstorm
    December 30, 2007

    The furor and the publicity and the overreaction seem like they’re legitimately stupid, and the reported quotes seem pretty revealing in that the basic motives seem to be censorship more than censure.

    Nonetheless, it seems to me that suspension, for being deliberately disruptive in class, might actually be appropriate. After all, this was apparently an English class, not a Performance Art class.

    I mean, never mind the religious bit — unless there was an unusual amount of leeway in the assignment, “give a presentation” generally doesn’t involve grossly and directly insulting your audience, and if the “stupid little minds” comment was in fact an accurate report, then some disciplinary action might in fact be in order.

    Not that I think a reasonable and proportionate response is likely at this point. But, to mix a metaphor, you might consider the color of your horse before you decide to back it…

  59. #59 CalGeorge
    December 30, 2007
  60. #60 Chayanov
    December 30, 2007

    Of course it’s a safety issue. He could have gotten a nasty paper cut.

  61. #61 Quiddam
    December 31, 2007

    For a slightly different perspective read here:
    http://www.gazettextra.com/news/2007/dec/20/bible-incident-draws-concerns/?print

    The opinion states that a student was giving a presentation in class that involved his opposition to religion.

    “In the course of doing so, he stated that no word of the Bible is true, that those who thought so were ‘idiots,’ that he would prove that persons in the class were ‘ignoramuses for believing in the Bible,’ and that the Bible was written by ‘a bunch of old Mesopotamian men with sand up their (expletive.)’

    While the objection was indeed because it was a bible that was torn

    “Certain parents and students have … framed the question presented in terms of whether Parker High School will permit a student to rip up a Bible in class.”

    the school presented it as a language/hate speech issue

    the school could discipline him for using offensive language and for promoting “negative stereotyping that degrades or flagrantly demeans any individual or group by negatively referring to religion.”

    I certainly don’t think his behaviour was appropriate or constructive and I also don’t think it would have received the same attention if he had torn up any other book. But he did prove his point, their minds couldn’t cope with it

  62. #62 Wobert
    December 31, 2007

    Well the lad in question has just shown that he knows more about the US constitution and has more balls than anyone on the Republican side of politics. He should run for President.

  63. #63 CalGeorge
    December 31, 2007

    Inspired by Ralph Waldo Emerson, apparently.

    http://www.nbc15.com/blogs/chrispapst/12815342.html

    On December 7th a Janesville Parker High School student got up in front of his class to give a speech on Ralph Waldo Emerson. During the exhibition he held up a bible, pointed to it and said that it had no reasoning and declared its contents untrue. The speech also included the young boy ripping pages out of the book and throwing them on the ground.

    The Parker School District confirms the incident occurred. And, the Janesville Gazette reports the student was suspended and required to undergo a psychological evaluation before he can return to school.

    […]
    The Janesville Gazette reports that, “In the course of doing so, he stated that no word of the Bible is true, that those who thought so were ‘idiots,’ that he would prove that persons in the class were ‘ignoramuses for believing in the Bible,’ and that the Bible was written by ‘a bunch of old Mesopotamian men with sand up their (expletive.)’

  64. #64 Epistaxis
    December 31, 2007

    Elle Jacobson is a high school student who is skipping school because she’s afraid of atheists.

    Whereas I skip church because…

  65. #65 Frank Mitchell
    December 31, 2007

    Run for your lives!

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nrUPXg2Tj4E

    Yeah, that’s just wrong. Desecrating the Holy Bible being ripped to shreds with that awful music.

  66. #66 wobert
    December 31, 2007

    ….the decor upsets you?

  67. #67 J Myers
    December 31, 2007

    During the exhibition he held up a bible, pointed to it and said that it had no reasoning and declared its contents untrue. The speech also included the young boy ripping pages out of the book and throwing them on the ground.

    The Parker School District confirms the incident occurred. And, the Janesville Gazette reports the student was suspended and required to undergo a psychological evaluation before he can return to school.

    A psychological evaluation is being administered to someone because he doubts the veracity of the bible? Janesville Parker High: taking irony to new heights.

  68. #68 David
    December 31, 2007

    This incident actually reminds me of something that happened to me over Christmas. When the family went for Christmas mass and I politely refused, one of my younger cousins asked why. I responded that I didn’t believe in Jesus, and he was so terrified of me that he still hasn’t seen or spoke to me

  69. #69 thalarctos
    December 31, 2007

    Elle Jacobson is a high school student who is skipping school because she’s afraid of atheists.

    All the time I spent in the high school years coming up with excuses to skip school, yet that one never occurred to me.

  70. #70 efrique
    December 31, 2007

    I’m sure Richard Dawkins wouldn’t mind if the offended ones bought a few copies each of The God Delusion to tear up in response. If they wanted to tear up God is Not Great, Hitchens might even sign it first.

  71. #71 Robert Madewell
    December 31, 2007

    Just because the student was ripping pages out of “The Holey Buybull” does not make him an atheist. Also, that doesn’t automatically make him violent either. I’ve done worse things myself just to make a point. However, The “stupid little minds” comment shows hatred and contempt. The kid probably has a few issues other than a disrespect for holy books.

    Poor Elle. I hope she can get over her irrational fear of me and blame the one who actually scared her. The kid in class, not me. I’m a perty nice guy if I say so myself. Despite the fact that I don’t believe in Jod or Geezus.

  72. #72 melior
    December 31, 2007

    It’s a good start by a budding young Discordianist, but for really great reactions the kid should next have offered not to tear any more pages out in exchange for a ransom. Heads a’splodin!

  73. #73 craig
    December 31, 2007

    I went to a school that had slave auctions as fund raisers (it was a heavily integrated school with no racial animosity that I ever noticed) for fundraisers.

    We had debates, and a performance like this would have been encouraged. I myself once found myself being confronted by a room full of kids arguing against my atheism, and the teacher stood there with a smile, liking the fact that we were really engaged (I suspect he’s an atheist)

    Rudeness and hostility inappropriate in a high school classroom? Who says? We had that, and after class we were alls till friends. We learned to THINK.

    This was an honors school though, and the idea was not to teach for the test and teach good little compliant citizens. Many of my classmates are now professors, scientists, authors, artists, CEOs etc. One so far has had a broadway play and then movie made based on his life.

    High School shouldn’t be kindergarten. Hostility between students in the halls needs to be kept in check, but loud opinionated, obnoxious projects and presentations should be encouraged.

  74. #74 Kai Terran
    December 31, 2007

    PZ,

    Sacredness does exist. Using the approach of negation (think Zen, Jiddu Krishnamurti, or Karl Popper) where the truth is found by understanding the false, I think one rather quickly comes to see that people treat each other badly in chronic and acute ways because of ideology. Thus people think that symbols and symbol systems are sacred instead of the non-symbolic, i.e. the sacred is to be found in relationship to nature and to each other.

    Having ‘Sacred books’ is a form of idolatry.

  75. #75 klikt
    December 31, 2007

    As several comments have already mentioned, I think many people here are mistaking her motives. Put yourself in her shoes:

    It’s another boring day in school. Some kid in class is giving a boring presentation on Emerson. Suddenly, instead of talking about Emerson, he is ranting at the students in front of him, insulting all of them, and destroys some object in his hand.

    It’s less about the Bible and Christianity than the unprovoked outburst of anger, the display of violence, the belittling of everyone else in the class. There was nothing in any of those stories mentioning that this was a performance piece, or that anything set him off. It could be that he was frustrated and alienated by the other kids in the school because of his beliefs, but then that just means that this was barely-suppressed rage coming to the surface without provocation.

    I am well aware that statistically I’d be far more likely to get hit by a truck than be killed in a school shooting (and the media loves school-shooting fear mongering). However, I can’t realistically say I haven’t been affected by the fear-mongering at all, and if I were in that class I might wonder whether this kid fits the psychological profile of a school shooter.

    And no, I do not think that atheists are more violent than Christians, or that the motives of school shooters have anything to do with religion or lack thereof. And yes, I am an atheist.

  76. #76 Jake
    December 31, 2007

    I’m shocked and disappointed by people standing up for this kid here. Correctness and appropriateness are not identical concepts, and being right doesn’t mean you’re not an asshole. There are constructive ways to make a point, and, by what I can see from this story, this isn’t one of them.

    This is not an atheist persecution issue, as far as I can tell. This idiot delivered an insulting, inflammatory, aggressive rant in a wholly inappropriate scholastic setting. I’d worry about his psychological stability — and the safety of those forced to interact with him — too.

  77. #77 Louise Van Court
    December 31, 2007

    This young man displayed terrible judgment in the classroom. I agree with Steve @ comment #43 that it was a hostile and demeaning thing for him to do what he did and say what he did (assuming the reports about it are accurate.) I do not think we should be deriding “poor baby” Elle for being afraid especially in this post Columbine world and in light of recent shootings involving disturbed young men. He did not have a gun but she is also an immature teenager and obviously felt threatened by his actions. Do we make light of that? Well, then should we make fun of the University of Colorado scientists for perceiving Michael Korn’s writings and his presence on campus to be threatening? Hostility is no joke.

  78. #78 Ichthyic
    December 31, 2007

    sorry but i have to say it:

    comparing ripping up a bible to threats of bodily harm is fucking ridiculous.

    good luck with that argument in a court of law.

  79. #79 CanadianChick
    December 31, 2007

    lemme get this straight. We have one part of the story from a teenager who does not appear to be particularly intelligent. We have nothing to substantiate any part of what she claims happened – no statement from the student, or the teachers or any other student.

    And from that, it’s decided that the student was immature, irresponsible, violent, boorish, and hostile?

    yikes.

  80. #80 KM
    December 31, 2007

    Ichthyic @ 78: Hear, hear! That’s more or less exactly what I was going to write.

  81. #81 articulett-- the ungodly goddess
    December 31, 2007

    Heck, I’m afraid of theists– they’re irrational and always saying creepy things about this invisible guy who killed his kid for me and threatening eternal damnation…

    but no one ever protected me from them.

    I bet the father pulling his kids out of school because his daughter is afraid regularly lets preachers put the “fear of god” into her.

    Tsk.

  82. #82 Steven Sullivan
    December 31, 2007

    Calling your classmates ‘stupid idiots’ with ‘tiny minds’ is not the sort of rhetoric that belongs in classroom presentation. Though of course it’s common on blogs.

    And if it turns out the kid was an Ayn Rand fan, I’ll be even less sympathetic.

  83. #83 J Myers
    December 31, 2007

    This kid tore up some paper and used a G-rated insult in high school. If you are disturbed by this, I have a great deal of sympathy for you; you must find day-to-day life absolutely terrifying.

  84. #84 raindogzilla
    December 31, 2007

    Am I the only one that suspects that poor little snowflake was, say, unprepared for her own assignment in said class and seized the text ripping moment as a version of “the dog ate my homework” writ large? I wonder how her dirt stupid daddy’s ripping her from the school altogether is sitting with her now?

    As to the boy’s manners or lack thereof, if he used profanity or otherwise broke the rules of the school, give him detention and get over it. The school shooter types don’t have the confidence to get up in public and air their ridicule so proudly.

  85. #85 markp
    December 31, 2007

    Looks like you have more than enough comments on this already, but….

    The act itself may be considered abusive, in that yelling at people and calling them stupid is abusive. Also destroying any form of literature can have disturbing overtones, a la Nazi Germany.

    I don’t know if anyone has made the point already that there are still parents and christian groups in America who will actually hold book burnings, which are much more chilling in being supported by the establishment.

  86. #86 Bruce
    December 31, 2007

    This taking place in Janesville leads me to think the student in question was possibly reacting to how the majority treats anyone that is different. I know that Janesville was a center for racial bigotry 10-15 years ago when I was studying the white supremacist movement, and I seriously doubt much has changed (this is backed up by what I have been able to find through a quick google). This leads me to think it is possible the community is good at making anyone that is different feel right at home. I might have reacted similarly in high school if faced with that type of environment. If there is a safety issue here, it may not be that the christians are the ones in danger.

  87. #87 RA
    December 31, 2007

    I have nothing of value to add to the conversation… just got all excited to see a story from my hometown. In fact, I graduated from Parker.

    That is all.

  88. #88 ansuzmannaz
    December 31, 2007

    I’d like to join the short line of people disappointed in those defending the actions of this young man. Despite what Ichthyic implies you do not need a verbal ultimatum of bodily harm to severely threaten people. Direct insults, a menacing tone and, to top it off, a display of violence against objects can come across as very threatening. Especially when the speaker goes out of the way to make a connection between that object and the people he’s talking to, making the expapyration of the bible a proxy for violence against his audience. Maybe it isn’t nearly so bad as threatening to blow someone’s brains out, but it’s still bad, and can still be frightening.

    Of course, there’s also the question of how atheists would react if that same student had done the same thing with a copy of The God Delusion and a class of atheists, calling them idiots for not believing and referencing Bertrand(?) Russel’s intestinally embedded collection of fine china. I imagine it wouldn’t quite have the same impact, but I imagine he would be described as a lame-brained Christobot with anger issues. Nobody would defend or care about his right to free speech. Propping this young man up as an example of atheist persecution is hardly symmetrical. There’s really nothing saying he isn’t a lame-brained atheistbot with anger issues. He’s not the sort of person we want representing the atheist cause, especially when he doesn’t get around to making logical points. Unless, of course, the atheist movement is about shocking and intimidating others into converting.

    Last time I checked, one of the reasons I was an atheist was that I was tired of religions doing the same thing. Don’t take that reason away.

  89. #89 Sebastian
    December 31, 2007

    Sorry, but even as an atheist I have to say that the behaviour of the kid – if it really took place as reported – was definitely aggressive and potentially threatening.

    The bible is not just a book full of sometimes horrible, sometimes disgusting, and sometimes just plain crazy stories, it is also a symbol; the emblem of a group of people, namely christians. It makes no difference that this group happens to believe crazy things or that they fetishise their own symbols to an insane degree – doing symbolic harm to a group’s emblem while verbally berating them is threatening behaviour, and the school’s authorities are correct in wanting to ascertain that this student’s aggression doesn’t go further than mere symbolism.

    If the target of his rant had been the chess club or the student paper, we wouldn’t be having this discussion (although, admittedly, only because it would never have made the news).

    That is not to say that the reaction by the other students and their parents isn’t ludicrously hysterical – not to mention hypocritical, given the amount of aggression and persecution being spewed by christian spokesmen every day.

  90. #90 raven
    December 31, 2007

    I don’t know if anyone has made the point already that there are still parents and christian groups in America who will actually hold book burnings, which are much more chilling in being supported by the establishment.

    Book burnings? That is one of the cutest ways the fundies have of showing the world just how wacko they are.

    Unfortunately, they don’t do it all that often. There were a few Harry Potter book burnings but haven’t heard of one since.

    The War against the War on Xmas and the War against Halloween were failures this year too. Either the fundie wingnuts are losing interest in being stupid or the new media is losing interest in their stupidity. Sort of disappointing really. They can also be cute when they try to think.

  91. #91 Anonomouse
    December 31, 2007

    “Of course, there’s also the question of how atheists would react if that same student had done the same thing with a copy of The God Delusion”

    A shrug and a roll eyes. Theres no reason to feel threatened. Just another silly person afflicted with superstitious nonsense. We’re exposed to it every day.

  92. #92 grinch
    December 31, 2007

    Hmmm wonder exactly which pages happened to get ripped out?

    Was it the bit about “turning the other cheek” or some random bit of genocide or child sacrifice from the OT?

    Proverbs 22:15 Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child; but the rod of correction shall drive it far from him.

    Maybe a bit of old fashioned beating, stoning or mauling by a bear would put the fear of god into that budding athiest.

  93. #93 molecanthro
    December 31, 2007

    to #6 and #11 #88 (especially) and whomever else mentioned that he used the phrase “stupid little minds” or otherwise assuming to know exactly what was stated in this presentation.
    re-read this part of the story:
    “This boy got up and his visual aid was a Bible and a book. And he got up and started his speech by saying ‘Now, this piece of crap’ and pointed to the Bible.”

    Jacobson said that she quickly felt threatened.

    “He took the Bible and he said, ‘I’m going to do this because I can. I’m going to do something that your stupid, little minds aren’t going to be able to comprehend and he took the Bible and started ripping out pages.”

    Jacobson is the 17yr old Christian girl who felt so damned offended. So are you guys/gals really taking this as his exact statement? Personally, I’m thinking that maybe, just maybe, she could have been exaggerating a bit.
    So the only thing that we know about this story is what has come out of the mouth of this offended girl.

    Here is another biased story.

    Again, they use words like “she claimed he did it for shock value.” Well, maybe he did…I’d still be fine with that. Students need to be shocked and need to question themselves…and maybe he didn’t. I’m just saying that no one should be attacking this boy for having a “menacing tone” and displaying ‘violence against objects’ which has “nazi overtones.”

    Maybe he shouldn’t have destroyed a book…but if it was his book, then get off his back. This could have been a good, thoughtful presentation. My experience…as a student in both high school and university in Tennessee…tells me that it is more likely that this girl just latched on something that she thought was offensive and then was egged on by her parents and the description got a bit distorted.

  94. #94 Knight of L-sama
    December 31, 2007

    While I agree with PZ that destroying books of anykind is a worrying I’m going to skip over that part.
    Instead, assuming his actions were as reported, I don’t think there’s enough information to judge whether or not to be concerned about his behaviour. If this is part of a pattern of belligerent behaviour then he needs to talk to someone about it, even if only to have a more appropriate fora to vent.

    If he was deliberately being belligerent and aggressive to make a point then it’s an entirely different matter. In that case what he needs is a few public speaking lessons so that he may effectively channel that energy for next time. Profanity and belligerence to make a point can be useful but they must be used carefully. Profanity loses it’s impact when overused while excess aggression results can kick in the fight or flight response, meaning that your audience is only responding to emotional overtones rather than actual content of your speech.

  95. #95 Jeanette Garcia
    December 31, 2007

    Why does this story strike me as shades of Lenny Bruce?

  96. #96 Anonomouse
    December 31, 2007

    “Sorry, but even as an atheist I have to say that the behavior of the kid – if it really took place as reported – was definitely aggressive and potentially threatening.”

    Aggressive? Threatening?

    If you find the actions of someone calling a book “Crap” and then ripping some pages out of it Threatening, I don’t understand how you can find the intestinal fortitude to roll out of bed in the morning.

  97. #97 truth machine
    December 31, 2007

    It makes no difference that this group happens to believe crazy things or that they fetishise their own symbols to an insane degree – doing symbolic harm to a group’s emblem while verbally berating them is threatening behaviour

    Only a stupid person would think so.

  98. #98 forsen
    December 31, 2007

    I’m going to do something that your stupid, little minds aren’t going to be able to comprehend

    This is the only part where I raise objections. Sacriledge is fine – verbally insulting class mates in a speech isn’t. His tone smacks of contempt and narcissism, and has a nasty tinge of Klebold/Harris (not to mention the recent school shooter in Finland).

  99. #99 truth machine
    December 31, 2007

    If you find the actions of someone calling a book “Crap” and then ripping some pages out of it Threatening, I don’t understand how you can find the intestinal fortitude to roll out of bed in the morning.

    Ok, stupid or extremely cowardly.

  100. #100 Corncob
    December 31, 2007

    Took some searching, but this ( http://www.nbc15.com/janesville/headlines/12751397.html) has several comments from people who claim to be classmates present at the presentation. From what they’re saying, it sounds like the reported set of events is at least slightly distorted.

    Again, I can’t verify they’re who they say, but it seems likely. It’s a pretty obscure local news site, after all.

  101. #101 GodlessHeathen
    December 31, 2007

    No doubt his actions, even if the reality is one quarter what was described, needs some corrective action. Were I that school’s disciplinarian he’d get 5 days detention with the speech coach or English teacher to get specific training on appropriate presentation. The goal being to suc all the fun out of the shock value and really make him think about the presentation.

    But a psych evaluation is a result of the pathetic state of the discipline system. The slightest sign of aggression in a child and everyone is up in arms (with the notable exception of any child on a sports team, then it’s often viewed as “teenage hijinks”). It’s silly.

    I now work with “at risk” kids. What the kid in the story did wouldn’t make anyone here so much as bat an eye… in fact it’d be improved behavior for ’em. From my perspective, let’s just say it looks like it was a very slow news day.

  102. #102 ArmillarySphere
    December 31, 2007

    Well. Quoting from the link posted in #100: “He tore that Bible apart as a effigy for Christians.” This is obviously hyperbole, but denigrating the symbol of a group is definitely an insult.

    My main beef with the presentation as reported is that it’s not a reasoned argument. I agree that high schoolers should be mature enough to deal with opinions counter to their own, but it should be in a reasoned form, not just a bald-faced insult. Which this was.

    Now, I hope the guy also tore “Atlas Shrugged” apart. Even as a Randite, that should also be just a book, objectively.

  103. #103 Brian W.
    December 31, 2007

    Not enough information to make and judgments. But if that really is all that happened, cry me a river. While i don’t approve of destroying books as a means to keep them away from people, if it’s done for an artistic or dramatic effect, that’s fine.

  104. #104 negentropyeater
    December 31, 2007

    The following comment in the link posted #100 does provide a very different perspective :

    1. “As a student that saw the speech personally like Elle. I find her reaction quite over the top. The student talked about here is not a threat what-so-ever. Elle is more of a threat then he is. He expressed his views on both sides and said which side he is, irreligious. He ripped the bible to show that in fact it does not hold him and he will not instantly die or something. He was simply following the guidelines for the speech and received a B on the speech. The student was removed and got the review, and then was allowed back into school. Where people started throwing the idea around that he was going to start a shooting and was unstable is beyond be. Just because he doesn’t believe in god? It is quite frankly ridiculous and for everyone that says he’s ‘attention seeking’, he declined to be interviewed from everyone cause he isn’t seeking attention. Unlike Elle here..”

    I’m smelling a completely distorted story.

    One can’t even know if this is true, or some fabulation from Elle’s part :
    “He took the Bible and he said, ‘I’m going to do this because I can. I’m going to do something that your stupid, little minds aren’t going to be able to comprehend and he took the Bible and started ripping out pages.”

  105. #105 Scrofulum
    December 31, 2007

    I like the way the offended girl’s family are looking for another school. When they find out why she moved and how easily she can be threatened and upset, I expect her new peers will treat her with kid-gloves and ensure she’s protected from all potential opprobrium.

    She’s in for such a pleasant new term.

  106. #106 QrazyQat
    December 31, 2007

    I’m sure Richard Dawkins wouldn’t mind if the offended ones bought a few copies each of The God Delusion to tear up in response.

    As George Harrison said in response to people burning Beatles records, “They’ve got to buy them before they can burn them”.

  107. #107 Calladus
    December 31, 2007

    I think it was a poor first attempt at advertising the Abimelech Society.

  108. #108 Sebastian
    December 31, 2007

    Anonomouse (#96), you chose to ignore my argument and hide behind the “just some book” excuse.

    Let me repeat it for those to whom abstraction is too hard to comprehend: When a symbol is used to represent a person or group of people and then someone does violence to that symbol, while being aware of the symbolism, then that act symbolises violence against the represented person or people. This shouldn’t be difficult.

    It does not matter if the symbol is a visual representation, such as an effigy, or something more abstract, such as a cross or a red letter A; it does not matter whether it was chosen by the people it represents (like a flag) or imposed by an outside group (such as the pink triangle the nazis used on homosexuals); and it does not matter if, in this particular case, the people it represents are under the delusion that it is somehow “holy”.

    Would you swallow it, if a christian group said, “Hey, we were just burning a bit of straw. That it was shaped into the form of a man and had the words ‘PZ Myers’ scrawled on its chest was just a big coincidence. Can’t blame us for burning straw.” If you were a biologist and saw a torch-bearing mob burning a heap of biology books, chanting “Evolution is evil! Darwin was the devil!”, don’t tell me you wouldn’t feel threatened, at least a little.

    Sure, the reaction to this particular symbolic act is hysterical and completely out of proportion, mostly because the christians are freaked out by the imagined “sacrilege”, but that does not mean the act wasn’t aggressive and (in a small way) threatening.

    Jbird (#7) was correct in saying that the same students would probably have cheered, if the book in question had been a koran – because they would have interpreted it correctly as an act of symbolic aggression aimed at a group of people they themselves dislike.

  109. #109 Tuomo Hämäläinen
    December 31, 2007

    Symbolism is bad? Burning symbol is like violence? Really?

  110. #110 Tuomo Hämäläinen
    December 31, 2007

    Symbolism is bad? Burning symbol is like violence? Really?

  111. #111 Casey
    December 31, 2007

    The school is taking immediate action because the students feel threatened by being called stupid and having a bible torn? I went to a public high school in rural Kentucky. While there I and many other students were regularly threaten with violence, bombarded with names, stolen from, and had our personal property damaged. The administration of our school didn’t lift a finger to do a damn thing until we had two or three bomb scares and then thy flooded the halls with police for a few days, then returned to anarchy as normal. Unless security (and student sanity) has skyrocketed since my day, those students have to put up with vile hate-filled assaults from fellow students everyday. Someone calling them stupid and ripping up a copy of the bible is the least of their concerns.

  112. #112 Tuomo Hämäläinen
    December 31, 2007

    Duh. Links doesn’t work..

    http://www.abcnews.go.com/Nightline/Science/story?id=415444&page=2

    If I rip Bible is not bad. It is insulting. Yes. It offends many. Yes. But christians dont think that when their ragerally against almost everybody else. (Westboro Babptist Church etc. Ah They really show us the Way!)

    And yet they do it. And their christian fellas are not anry to them. Becouse it is kinda their right be insulting and offending.

    I live in Finland, it is great country to live. But there is blashemylaw. “Jumalanpilkkalaki”. That gives religious people advantage: Here is illegal insult religious group (big enough+which have holy book. Yes that is in law). But atheism. It is not religion. And evolution is not either. (Creationist’s shout that they both are, off course. But if we are talking about the blashemy law. No, there are the “special conditions”. And if you insult their belief, there is certain risk. Usually nobody sues enyone with this law, but if you are popular enough, there WILL be problems..)

    But i think it is a bit different in USA. There you can burn Bible. I must do it indoor. I got Jehovah Wittness stuff, and use it as toilet paper. OK, paper is hard, but if you rub it in your hands first, it get softer. (OK. that is really a joke. Rude, but i think it’s place is right there!)

  113. #113 Tuomo Hämäläinen
    December 31, 2007

    Duh. Links doesn’t work..

    http://www.abcnews.go.com/Nightline/Science/story?id=415444&page=2

    If I rip Bible is not bad. It is insulting. Yes. It offends many. Yes. But christians dont think that when their ragerally against almost everybody else. (Westboro Babptist Church etc. Ah They really show us the Way!)

    And yet they do it. And their christian fellas are not anry to them. Becouse it is kinda their right be insulting and offending.

    I live in Finland, it is great country to live. But there is blashemylaw. “Jumalanpilkkalaki”. That gives religious people advantage: Here is illegal insult religious group (big enough+which have holy book. Yes that is in law). But atheism. It is not religion. And evolution is not either. (Creationist’s shout that they both are, off course. But if we are talking about the blashemy law. No, there are the “special conditions”. And if you insult their belief, there is certain risk. Usually nobody sues enyone with this law, but if you are popular enough, there WILL be problems..)

    But i think it is a bit different in USA. There you can burn Bible. I must do it indoor. I got Jehovah Wittness stuff, and use it as toilet paper. OK, paper is hard, but if you rub it in your hands first, it get softer. (OK. that is really a joke. Rude, but i think it’s place is right there!)

  114. #114 craig
    December 31, 2007

    First, your analogy is flawed.
    Tearing pages from a bible is nothing like burning someone in effigy. Burning someone in effigy targets a specific individual, and is an expression of deep animosity towards that individual. It can clearly be seen as a threat.

    Tearing pages from a bible targets no specific person, and indeed need not target anyone at all. It targets an idea. It’s not even a direct threat towards that idea, but if it is, so what.

    To say that an idea should not be the target of scorn or derision simply because some hold that idea deeply and personally is ridiculous. Ideas NEED to be challenged, and deeply-held beliefs need to be challenged even more strongly. Silly and damagingly incorrect beliefs NEED to be treated with scorn and derision.

    It’s not only ridiculous to argue that that should not be the case, its dangerous.
    If some people erroneously choose to see disdain for their deeply held beliefs as an intolerable personal attack on themselves, that’s their own damned problem. They’re wrong, they don’t the right to that outrage, they don’t have the right to demand others treat their cherished beliefs as inviolate, and they need to learn even if they have to learn the hard way.

    And I bet PZ would get a kick out of being burned in effigy anyway.

  115. #115 negentropyeater
    December 31, 2007

    Sebastian #108,

    “When a symbol is used to represent a person or group of people and then someone does violence to that symbol, while being aware of the symbolism, then that act symbolises violence against the represented person or people. This shouldn’t be difficult.”

    It’s not the destruction of the symbol that is potentially violent, it’s who does it and the way it is done.

    If an otherwise peaceful and intelligent student destroys a Bible because he wants to make a point that he believes it’s a pack of lies, why is this violent?
    If a student with a history of violent behaviour destroys a Bible because he hates Christians, then that is violent and potentially threatening.

  116. #116 ndt
    December 31, 2007

    I found the students actions, as reported, to be insulting, and certainly not very effective. I don’t necessarily see a school discipline issue though (“crap” is hardly a swear word) and there sure as hell isn’t a safety issue. The kid who felt “threatened” is a stupid weenie, and her parents seem to be encouraging it.

  117. #117 kristen in montreal
    December 31, 2007

    For a blog about atheism, where everyone is supposed to be reasonable, I am very surprised by some of the comments on this thread. Some of them are just as frustrating to me as the parents who are spouting fire and brimstone about the destruction of that Bible.

    Look, this isn’t the same as if the boy had ripped up the Bible in the streets as a display of indignation. He was in a classroom. In schools, there are rules which reasonably limit some of our rights & freedoms. For example, in Canada we have (as citizens of the USA do) ‘freedom of speech,’ but that doesn’t mean that students can talk through a teacher’s lessons, or that a teacher can swear, call a student ‘stupid,’ or deny the holocaust for that matter. In a classroom, everyone has a right to learn (even the religious students), and what this boy did made it difficult for some students to feel comfortable enough to learn. It’s as simple as that.

    I do think that this young woman is overreacting by skipping classes because she feels unsafe. I can understand if she was startled. I would have been, too – the boy said some startling and aggressive things. Then again, I went to a private Catholic school, so such a display would have been quite an anomaly. Maybe the girl is milking the drama for attention, or she is taking her cue for her parents. Either way, a teacher or school counselor should sit down with her and talk it out.

    I don’t think the boy should be punished. That would send the wrong message; the student would undoubtedly think that his ‘freedom of speech’ was being trampled. But I think a teacher should sit down with him and just explain that what he did made some of his classmates feel uncomfortable, and that a classroom is not the place for him to make political demonstrations like that.

    The disheartening thing about all this is this young man probably did what he did for attention, and he certainly got that. Suddenly the entire situation has turned into another front of the ideological battle, when it shouldn’t be. It is merely a matter of good classroom management. A teacher should be concerned when any student tears up a book and calls his fellow pupil’s ‘stupid,’ no matter what the book is.

    I wonder if anyone else has considered that this kind of behavior probably disrupted lessons in that class? If it was cutting into the time the teacher was spending on evolution, I wonder how pleased many of us would be? I wouldn’t have been very pleased at all.

  118. #118 negentropyeater
    December 31, 2007

    Kristen,
    “the boy said some startling and aggressive things.”

    We do not know if the boy said aggressive things. What we know is what the girl pretends he said…

  119. #119 Sebastian
    December 31, 2007

    negentropyeater (#113), I agree that intent and circumstance are vitally important in interpreting the meaning of a symbolic action.

    If you destroy a Bible or a Koran or a copy of “The Origin of Species” in private, for whatever reason, you are clearly not making a symbolic statement (except possibly to yourself) and thus it cannot possibly be interpreted as being aggressive. If you do the same thing while making a speech, fully aware of the symbolism inherent in the act, then you are indeed making a statement, which cannot help but be interpreted as aggressive.

    As you point out, part of the reporting on the incident indicates that the student was trying to make a different point, namely that destroying this “holy book” does not result in divine retribution. Thus the balance of probability is that the perceived aggression of the act was greater than he actually meant to imply, quite apart from the irrational outrage at the imagined “sacrilege”.

  120. #120 truth machine
    December 31, 2007

    Let me repeat it for those to whom abstraction is too hard to comprehend

    Ah yes, if we don’t agree, we don’t understand — spoken like a typical arrogant ass.

    When a symbol is used to represent a person or group of people and then someone does violence to that symbol, while being aware of the symbolism, then that act symbolises violence against the represented person or people.

    Repeating it doesn’t make it any more right. It’s still wrong, and stupid. Tearing a bible isn’t violence to Christians, any more than burning the American flag is violence to Americans.

    Would you swallow it, if a christian group said, “Hey, we were just burning a bit of straw. That it was shaped into the form of a man and had the words ‘PZ Myers’ scrawled on its chest was just a big coincidence. Can’t blame us for burning straw.”

    Could you possibly be more dishonest? You create a scenario that is different from the one at hand precisely in that it suggests future violence to someone’s person.

    If you were a biologist and saw a torch-bearing mob burning a heap of biology books, chanting “Evolution is evil! Darwin was the devil!”, don’t tell me you wouldn’t feel threatened, at least a little.

    Could you possibly be more dishonest? Torch-bearing mobs are threatening in any case.

    To be that transparently dishonest and think no one see through it, you must be very stupid as well.

  121. #121 truth machine
    December 31, 2007

    If you do the same thing while making a speech, fully aware of the symbolism inherent in the act, then you are indeed making a statement, which cannot help but be interpreted as aggressive.

    Great moving of the goalposts. No one disagrees that it was “aggressive”, at some level, if it occurred as Ms. Jacobson says, which is highly questionable. But the claim about violence is bullshit.

    From the article linked above:

    Paul Jacobson is Elle’s father. “This is really a story about school safety. That’s what had me concerned.”

    Paul pulled both his daughters out of Parker 9 days ago. He wants the district to convince him this incident was not a precursor to another school shooting. “This boy has done something that is unbalanced, violent in my opinion. He tore that Bible apart as a effigy for Christians. This was not some kind of a demonstration about free speech, this was in my opinion the words of a sociopath.

    School shooting? It is apeshit Christians like this guy who are unbalanced, sociopathic, and projecting their own violent fantasies.

  122. #122 kristen in montreal
    December 31, 2007

    negentropyeater,

    I have no reason to think this young lady lied. He boy did it in front of the entire class, so surely, if she was lying, some of the other students would have been said something about that by now. It’s strange to me why you would automatically think she was lying. Very strange.

  123. #123 negentropyeater
    December 31, 2007

    All I am saying, Sebastian, is that it is not the destruction of the symbol which is relevant. Without knowing who is the boy, how things really happened, what was his intent, and who is the girl, any judgement on this issue is completely useless.
    It could be that it is the girl who is completely stupid and over reacting to a benign presentation. Or it could be that the boy is a potential dangerous sociopath.
    The news report doesn’t allow to judge what really happened.

  124. #124 Logician
    December 31, 2007

    Some perspective:

    It was a structured speech of the demonstrative type. His point: the bible is a book, not a living, sacred thing as is being fed to the children by adults who should know better. (Look up the responses of his classmates and their eyewitness accounts)

    He was PHYSICALLY demonstrating that it is a compilation of IDEAS written by MEN, not some artifact that would rain down destruction if destroyed like in an Indiana Jones movie. It was not only appropriate, it was inspired.

    As for his language, yes, it seems childish, but when I taught high school, I heard the word ‘stupid’ thrown around THOUSANDS of times EVERY day. (usually: “that’s stewwwpid!”) It appears they just like the sound of it or they lack better adjectives/pejoratives.

    It was a controlled situation in a structured environment. Only he knows his motives, but after being hounded by self-righteous, hateful, hypocritical snots when I was in high school, I can sympathize. It’s not so much the beliefs as the hypocrisy. Such open hatred with such pure belief in their own righteousness. It was enough to gag a maggot, let alone want to rip up the pure bullshit they use to justify their sick behaviors.

    Cheers to him. Nuts to the whiney weeny, already on her way to being a professional waste of space.

  125. #125 negentropyeater
    December 31, 2007

    Kristen,
    I’m not saying that she is lying, but maybe she did overreact. Without knowing what the boy really did, or say, why assume that we know the whole story. Also, some of the comments of people who claim to have been present (see the link provided in post #100) do indicate that the story may have been very different.
    Maybe it is a bad reflex of mine, but before making a jusgement I like to hear both sides of a story…

  126. #126 Don
    December 31, 2007

    According to the comments linked to, the boy got a B for the speech. To me, that implies it was considerably more than a violent rant while ripping up the bible.

    One could speculate several scenarios that are not aggressive. Could he possibly have been removing specific pages to demonstrate that many who revere the bible as an object are pretty vague about what is actually in it?

    He is described as irreligious but not an atheist, could he have been trying to present his view that venerating objects and texts is a barrier to communing with god?

    The topic was freedom of speech, could he have been asking whether his rights would be respected if he offended the dominant group’s belief system?

    Of course, if he does get struck by lightning (or hit by a bus) in the next few days there are going to be some very smug believers in that town.

  127. #127 truth machine
    December 31, 2007

    I have no reason to think this young lady lied.

    Ah, so it must be her classmates who say at the nbc15.com link that it didn’t happen that way who are lying.

    It’s strange to me why you would automatically think she was lying.

    I’s say it’s strange that you would lie about what negentropyeater wrote … if it were strange. He said nothing about thinking that she was lying, automatically or otherwise. All he did was not leap to a conclusiion — you know, the sort of healthy skepticism that separates smart atheists from stupid theists.

  128. #128 John C. Randolph
    December 31, 2007

    “If I was in high school now, I would have been kicked out long ago due to “no tolerance” policies.”

    “No tolerance” is bureaucratic terminology for “no common sense”. Every month or so it seems, I read about a kid getting suspended from school for hugging a classmate, having a butter knife (seriously!), or having a hairstyle that the school objects to.

    -jcr

  129. #129 Sebastian
    December 31, 2007

    Craig (#112), I have to disagree.

    Burning someone if effigy is certainly different from ripping up a book. The act of burning is more spectacularly destructive and hence more symbolically aggressive, and an effigy is a far less abstract symbol than a book – but these are differences of degree, not nature. The two actions reside at the opposite ends of a spectrum of symbolic aggression, but they are both part of that spectrum; they are analogous. Hence my use of the extreme example to highlight what may not be readily apparent in the mild one.

    I absolutely agree that ideas need to be challenged, regardless of how deeply held they may be by some – especially if they are as stiflingly overrepresented as the christian religion. However, this does not mean that a person, in doing this, may not have been aggressive. In some cases being aggressive or even threatening in challenging an idea may very well be the right thing to do.

    To pretend, however, that deliberately ripping up a bible in front of a christian audience is not an aggressive statement, which might legitimately be interpreted as threatening under some circumstances, is dishonest. As dishonest as burning an effigy and then claiming it was just straw with no symbolic meaning.

    And yes, PZ may well get a kick out of being burned in effigy, because it would mean he has an effect, that he’s upsetting the people who need upsetting.

  130. #130 kristen in montreal
    December 31, 2007

    truth machine,
    I am not aware of that link you referred to. Could someone repost it?

  131. #131 negentropyeater
    December 31, 2007

    Kristen,
    read my posts # 123, #104 and the link provided in post #100

  132. #132 kristen in montreal
    December 31, 2007

    Nevermind. I found it.

    I’m startled and upset that they suspended him and required that he undergo ‘psychiatric evaluation.’ That’s really upsetting.

    But I still think that my original suggestion was a good one. He may not have said things exactly as the girl remembers, but still, ripping up a Bible in front of a class is not something that is appropriate for a high school presentation. If only people weren’t so fired up over this, it could be dealt with in a reasonable way.

  133. #133 kristen in montreal
    December 31, 2007

    One last thing: That alternate story was a comment left after the story. It could have been posted by anyone. I’m inclined to view that account with a great deal of skepticism.

  134. #134 truth machine
    December 31, 2007

    One last thing: That alternate story was a comment left after the story. It could have been posted by anyone. I’m inclined to view that account with a great deal of skepticism.

    And I’m inclined to view Ms. Jacobson’s account with considerable skepticism. Sheesh. It’s important to note that the news report does not provide any confirmation by anyone else of her statements.

  135. #135 Science Goddess
    December 31, 2007

    I see a big hypocracy in the school’s behavior, and I’m surprised that nobody here mentioned it: They want to “teach the controversy” about ID and evolution in school, yet they’re not allowed to “teach the controversy” about xtians!

    Amazing

    SG

  136. #136 DaveX
    December 31, 2007

    I’m really surprised by many of you! I’m seeing comments that this boy should “run for president” or comparing him to Lenny Bruce. Maybe it’s been a while since you’ve been in high school, but this just strikes me as a dopey kid who had nothing of interest to say, so he turned to the most basic elements of shock theater. At best, his presentation (as reported) was unimaginative– at worst, it was condescending and possibly even threatening.

    Atheist or not, I wouldn’t be too quick to send my daughter to a class with some boy pulling this nonsense. One of my jobs as a parent is keeping my kid safe, and the boy sounds the sort who is getting off on the confrontational aspects of his presentation far more than he is working hard to bring new ideas to the table, and that’s somewhat worrisome.

    In one high school class, I made a presentation about my own atheist belief, and ended up engaged in a fantastic discussion with the rest of the class (all of whom were Christians of some stripe). Had someone been threatened by THIS, I could certainly share your outrage– but a boy ripping up any sort of book while insulting classmates as a homogeneous group sounds a bit too funky to defend.

  137. #137 kristen in montreal
    December 31, 2007

    Truth Machine,

    Let me express my own SHEESH. I don’t think that this girl’s word is the gospel truth. I also have no reason to believe that she is outright lying, other than an anonymous comment left after a news story. For me, that isn’t enough evidence for me to think that she made up every word of her story.

  138. #138 truth machine
    December 31, 2007

    I also have no reason to believe that she is outright lying, other than an anonymous comment left after a news story. For me, that isn’t enough evidence for me to think that she made up every word of her story.

    I see you’ve mastered hyperbole and the formation of strawmen.

  139. #139 truth machine
    December 31, 2007

    comparing him to Lenny Bruce

    Perhaps you don’t know much about Lenny Bruce and what happened to him.

  140. #140 Bing
    December 31, 2007

    Chris said:

    Didn’t Jefferson cut up the bible til there was nothing left when he was alive?

    Kurt Wise did pretty much the same thing in a story told by Richard Dawkins.

    He achieved the first part of his goal, but became increasingly uneasy as his scientific learning conflicted with his religious faith. When he could bear the strain no longer he clinched the matter with a Bible and a pair of scissors. He went right through from Genesis 1 to Revelations 22, literally cutting out every verse that would have to go if the scientific world view were true. At the end of this exercise, there was so little left of his Bible that . . .

    Source: Sadly, an Honest Creationist

    And Kurt now has Billy Dembski’s old job at the Fundy Bi-bull Collidge of the Appalachians.

    So it looks like there’s hope for the bible-tearing kid yet.

  141. #141 Tuomo Hämäläinen
    December 31, 2007

    Yes I think that ripping and burning is different thing. And other ways: It is different to insult and be free. (Sometimes freedom needs right to insult. But I think it is not the best way. Allmost ever.)

    ID:eers burn the “evolution”. I think anyone was scared. If someone says he dont scare Bible and rip it. Yes, it can really insult. And perhaps that is not what people are looking when they are protecting freedom. (I don’t want “freedom to beat puppies” or any other “freedoms” like that.)

    I think Boy should have “serious conversation”. About manners, *not* religion. And yes, I think in this story is a cottonlived girl, who have not seen life. (I don’t want first think that she is liar. I prefer to think she is a coward and “sissy”. That is much more understandable.)

    OK. I must confess. When i got my “white hat”, i burned those swedish language books. (All finns must learn that language. And I am poor in _all_ languages. And in sweden. I am the most poor.) So I burned my frustrations and painful hours. I even danced a little. Many laughed. No one scared.

    It is not just the ripping or burning. It is the whole mess; motivations and how it is made. From outside it is hard to tell what really happened. (Or more likely: How it happened.)

  142. #142 Tuomo Hämäläinen
    December 31, 2007

    Yes I think that ripping and burning is different thing. And other ways: It is different to insult and be free. (Sometimes freedom needs right to insult. But I think it is not the best way. Allmost ever.)

    ID:eers burn the “evolution”. I think anyone was scared. If someone says he dont scare Bible and rip it. Yes, it can really insult. And perhaps that is not what people are looking when they are protecting freedom. (I don’t want “freedom to beat puppies” or any other “freedoms” like that.)

    I think Boy should have “serious conversation”. About manners, *not* religion. And yes, I think in this story is a cottonlived girl, who have not seen life. (I don’t want first think that she is liar. I prefer to think she is a coward and “sissy”. That is much more understandable.)

    OK. I must confess. When i got my “white hat”, i burned those swedish language books. (All finns must learn that language. And I am poor in _all_ languages. And in sweden. I am the most poor.) So I burned my frustrations and painful hours. I even danced a little. Many laughed. No one scared.

    It is not just the ripping or burning. It is the whole mess; motivations and how it is made. From outside it is hard to tell what really happened. (Or more likely: How it happened.)

  143. #143 Kim
    December 31, 2007

    Whowww, maybe we should organize a “rip-the-bible day” so that we can see how many get arrested….. See how much freedom people have here. Not much as far as my experience goes, unless you are a heterosexual, white, conservative, republican, christian male…..

  144. #144 kristen in montreal
    December 31, 2007

    I see you’ve mastered hyperbole and the formation of strawmen.

    Is it just me who has no idea what he’s talking about? Truth Machine, you are infuriating. What I’m trying to say is that the basic backbone of the story is probably true. Otherwise, this entire thread has been wasted and we’re all idiots. The boy stands up and gives a talk during which he rips up a Bible.

    Whether he did it while telling the the class it was ‘stupid,’ or if he did it while waxing philosophic, or if he did while reciting nursery rhymes… no matter how you want to spin that, it just wasn’t an appropriate thing to do.

    I have no ideological baggage here, other than this: I think classrooms should be comfortable places to learn for all students.

  145. #145 PZ Myers
    December 31, 2007

    I think classrooms should be comfortable places to learn for all students.

    While I sympathize with your argument, that’s where we part company. I think classrooms should be extremely uncomfortable places for students — if we aren’t shaking them up and making them learn anew, we aren’t doing our jobs. Learning isn’t easy, and we make a mistake when we replace challenge with comfort.

    I suspect the student was rude, and he was making the other students squirm in their seats a bit, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he were trying to be less thoughtful than shocking. And that’s OK. Slapping students out of their placidity is a good thing, although from the reaction of the parents you can tell that they think otherwise.

  146. #146 truth machine
    December 31, 2007

    Is it just me who has no idea what he’s talking about?

    If you’re going to make a habit of using hyperbole and creating strawmen, you ought to know what they are. “For me, that isn’t enough evidence for me to think that she made up every word of her story.” — No one said she made up “every word” of here story. SHEESH. No one said there was enough evidence to think that she made up any word of her story. SHEESH. All anyone has done is express skepticism.

    The boy stands up and gives a talk during which he rips up a Bible. Whether he did it while telling the the class it was ‘stupid,’ or if he did it while waxing philosophic, or if he did while reciting nursery rhymes… no matter how you want to spin that, it just wasn’t an appropriate thing to do.

    You say that you have no ideological baggage, yet you think the mere act of ripping up a Bible isn’t appropriate? Do you have any idea where you are?

    I think classrooms should be comfortable places to learn for all students.

    Perhaps the lack of challenge you received during your education explains a few things.

  147. #147 kristen in montreal
    December 31, 2007

    But PZ,

    Do you really think that the students involved in this incident learned from it? Because I suspect that the incident was more disruptive than it was educational.

    If the adults involved could be trusted to deal with the situation properly, I agree with you that this could be truned into a learning experience. But that is very optimistic. The parents overreacted, at least one student overreacted, other students were probably offended, and the teachers are now walking on glass.

    It seems to me that this was more of a disaster than anything.

  148. #148 kristen in montreal
    December 31, 2007

    Truth Machine,

    Do not insult my education. Please. I went to a very good school.

    And no, I don’t think ripping up a Bible is appropriate in a high school classroom. Polite debate is one thing, intelligent discussion about controversial issues is one thing, raising difficult questions is one thing, but ripping up a book that most of the class was raised to believe is sacred is not going to spark any of those things. It’s just going make people angry and insulted and defensive, and that is where the barriers go up and learning ends.

  149. #149 waldteufel
    December 31, 2007

    Good thing it wasn’t a cook book. Sacred cows make the very best hamburger.

  150. #150 QrazyQat
    December 31, 2007

    Do you really think that the students involved in this incident learned from it?

    Any of them with open minds would. Those with closed minds wouldn’t learn from anything, by definition. And as for the “fear” tearing a few book pages caused in this case (with one student aparently), it’s sad to see once again that conservative Christians are pants-wetting cowards, since that is exactly how conservatives have gotten away with taking away the basic liberties we fought a revolution for in exchange for illusory “safety”.

  151. #151 David Marjanovi?, OM
    December 31, 2007

    Using the approach of negation (think Zen, Jiddu Krishnamurti, or Karl Popper) where the truth is found by understanding the false

    Erm, no. In science, falsehood is found by understanding the false. Then, when we have eliminated the impossible, we apply Ockham’s Razor to the remaining possibilities, however improbable… till we find that we’ve overlooked some more possibilities.

    We may well find the truth, but when we have found it, we have no way to tell that we’ve found it. What would that be? Comparing our findings to the truth, which we don’t have?

    Science really does work one way.

    And if it turns out the kid was an Ayn Rand fan, I’ll be even less sympathetic.

    And I’ll be more sympathetic, because that would mean he’s ill (complete lack of empathy) and needs help, assuming it’s even possible to heal that condition…

  152. #152 David Marjanovi?, OM
    December 31, 2007

    Using the approach of negation (think Zen, Jiddu Krishnamurti, or Karl Popper) where the truth is found by understanding the false

    Erm, no. In science, falsehood is found by understanding the false. Then, when we have eliminated the impossible, we apply Ockham’s Razor to the remaining possibilities, however improbable… till we find that we’ve overlooked some more possibilities.

    We may well find the truth, but when we have found it, we have no way to tell that we’ve found it. What would that be? Comparing our findings to the truth, which we don’t have?

    Science really does work one way.

    And if it turns out the kid was an Ayn Rand fan, I’ll be even less sympathetic.

    And I’ll be more sympathetic, because that would mean he’s ill (complete lack of empathy) and needs help, assuming it’s even possible to heal that condition…

  153. #153 kristen in montreal
    December 31, 2007

    I should probably just drop it, but:

    It might surprise Truth Machine to know that, while my high school was religious and private, I received a full
    course in world religions and my biology class taught evolution as scientific fact. We had no indoctrinating curriculum whatsoever, rather, there was an optional mass every Tuesday. Our debating teams argued about abortion, gay marriage rights, Aboriginal land rights and other controversial issues. Granted, we also debated about the forestry industry… which was one of the more boring tournaments… but usually it was very exciting and yes, *challenging.* Just because a school is religious doesn’t mean it doesn’t deliver a very good education.

    You don’t have to rip up books to broach difficult subjects. And we shouldn’t teach students that ripping up books is the correct way to broach difficult subjects. If we want students who know how to disagree respectfully (without, say, resorting to insulting their opponent’s school), we need to teach them how.

  154. #154 truth machine
    December 31, 2007

    It’s just going make people angry and insulted and defensive, and that is where the barriers go up and learning ends.

    I don’t think you’ve fully considered the consequences of banning from the classroom anything that makes people angry, insulted, or defensive.

  155. #155 kristen in montreal
    December 31, 2007

    LOL. Now who’s speaking in hyperbole? I didn’t say we should ban everything that makes students uncomfortable. I’m say that ripping up a Bible is inappropriate.

  156. #156 truth machine
    December 31, 2007

    Just because a school is religious doesn’t mean it doesn’t deliver a very good education.

    Did it ever challenge your religious belief? If you still are a believer, then you have been insufficiently challenged.

  157. #157 AJS
    December 31, 2007

    What’s sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. It’s not as though these christian-types have never engaged in the practice of mutilating books …..

  158. #158 kristen in montreal
    December 31, 2007

    And I’m not a believer. I wasn’t a believer when I was in that school. And there were Muslim girls sitting next to me in class wearing head scarves. There were many Jewish girls. I even had a Zoroastrian friend (and they’re a rare breed).

    Look, I think you have the wrong idea about what my school was like. The English-language private schools in Montreal are a very small community, and for historical reasons, many are Roman Catholic or Jewish. But the student body is extremely diverse and the education is very liberal.

    I never felt that my atheism was challenged or frowned upon at my high school. It was just as respected as the Jewish faith, as the Muslim faith, or any other belief system. In world religions, we talked about God, and if there was a God, and the nature of faith. There was no need to tear up books in protest because we all respected each other and the teachers let us discuss respectfully.

  159. #159 truth machine
    December 31, 2007

    LOL. Now who’s speaking in hyperbole?

    Not me. I wouldn’t be so proud of that education.

    I didn’t say we should ban everything that makes students uncomfortable.

    What you don’t say doesn’t make what I say an exaggeration. As I said, you don’t seem to be considering the implications. You want to ban ripping up the bible because that makes people angry and insulted and defensive. Only applying that rationale to the bible is special pleading; to be honest, you have to apply it to anything that has that effect. I mean really … sheesh. If you can’t grasp such basic logic, them go back to school until you can.

    I’ve got to go. Later.

  160. #160 ERV
    December 31, 2007

    LOL @ the concern trolls.

    The kid got a B on the speech, and now hes kicked out of school. Oh if he were only NICER!! **FAINTS**

  161. #161 craig
    December 31, 2007

    I’m sure plenty of them learned from this, and the resulting brouhaha.
    Hell, my education doesn’t really go much beyond 8th grade, but I learned more from seeing how students, teachers, principals on power trips, and more considerate adults acted towards me and interacted with each other than I ever did in the classroom.

    My “book learnin'” I had to do on my own. Life lessons are all I got from school… which is why I value a little bit of healthy chaos in school. It’s better to learn about human nature, people’s prejudices, a healthy distrust of authority and all that in school than to be thrust into a world you’re not ready for.

  162. #162 kristen in montreal
    December 31, 2007

    Is there someone else here I could talk to? LOL.

    I come here trying to discuss politely, maybe to disagree respectfully, and this “Truth Machine” fellow can do nothing but throw pejorative taunts at me. I’m not impressed with him at all.

    I don’t like talking in absolutes:

    “You want to ban ripping up the bible because that makes people angry and insulted and defensive. Only applying that rationale to the bible is special pleading; to be honest, you have to apply it to anything that has that effect.”

    This is an example of lazy thinking. Of course we shouldn’t have a blanket law that says anything that makes students uncomfortable should be banned from classrooms. What intelligent society does something like that? No. We should deal with each individual situation on its own merits, using common sense and good judgment.

    In this case, and I’m only talking about this case, I say we should teach the students that ripping up a book is not the ideal way to get a point across.

    Let’s use our words instead. Hm?

    What is upsetting about what this boy did is exactly what is upsetting about much of American culture to me: it’s all about shock value, getting a rise out of someone, drawing attention. Where’s the substance? Where’s the hard work that comes with forming a good argument and presenting it to the class? Let’s teach students to value THAT.

  163. #163 Harry
    December 31, 2007

    Well, at least he’s the genuine article, for a true atheist loves to show what an asshole he is.

    He certainly has the right to show his class and intelligence by tearing up the Bible. Personally, I would have picked up the pages and made the little fucker eat them. Hey, you want power games, let’s play power games.

    “Nothing is sacred”? Oh, that gave me a HUGE laugh. Just let anyone question the “sacred” scientific doctrine here and see how they get treated.

  164. #164 John Marley
    December 31, 2007

    @Kristen (#120)

    How about these:

    Posted by: Anonymous

    Location: Janesville
    As a student that saw the speech personally like Elle. I find her reaction quite over the top. The student talked about here is not a threat what-so-ever. Elle is more of a threat then he is. He expressed his views on both sides and said which side he is, irreligious. He ripped the bible to show that in fact it does not hold him and he will not instantly die or something. He was simply following the guidelines for the speech and received a B on the speech. The student was removed and got the review, and then was allowed back into school. Where people started throwing the idea around that he was going to start a shooting and was unstable is beyond be. Just because he doesn’t believe in god? It is quite frankly ridiculous and for everyone that says he’s ‘attention seeking’, he declined to be interviewed from everyone cause he isn’t seeking attention. Unlike Elle here..

    Posted by: Student
    Location: Parker High School Classmate

    Elle’s actions were over the top. He is not a ‘sociopath’ he is a brilliant student that is not a threat what-so-ever. He didn’t threaten any of us in the class when he gave the speach. Just expressed how the people hold to the bible without questioning it and that he didn’t believe it. But the fact that Elle said that he ripped ‘sections’ is completely false. he ripped several pages at max. He was not official suspended, just forced to get a evaluation. Thus deemed not a threat allowed to return to school. He is not atheist he is Irreligious. He completed his project/speech with a 20/25. For them to call him a sociopath is outrageous and false.

    Two other students present at the time. I think these statements are pretty good indications thet “the young lady in question” is at the very least exagerating pretty heavily.

    (the link to the post those commentw were taken from is in comment #100)

  165. #165 craig
    December 31, 2007

    Incidentally, it occurs to me that if school is supposed to be a place to feel safe from having this sort of confrontation, this kind of stridently opinionated talk then church – that sanctuary, that sanctified, safe and wholesome place, must be even more so. Therefore people in churches must never say bad things about different beliefs, or the lack of belief, right?

    Bottom line is, someone who subscribes to a belief system that tells them that anyone who thinks other than they do is immoral, will suffer unimaginable punishment… has no business complaining when someone against whom they hold these offensive beliefs stands up and says “bullshit!”

    The burning if effigy image is funny – I doubt any atheists I know has ever threatened the religious with fire… but it’s the very business of religion to threaten all others with fire.

    I’m sure most atheists have experienced at least once and perhaps many times being told “you’re going to hell.”

    If they ripped up a science book instead, it would actually be a dramatic deescalation of their violent rhetoric.

  166. #166 craig
    December 31, 2007

    wow, that came out garbled, but you get my jist. (bedtime, and my screen is all out of whack so I cant read things)

  167. #167 kristen in montreal
    December 31, 2007

    I’ve already read those. And they’re comments, so we can’t be sure if they’re true. But even if they are true, it doesn’t change anything that I’ve been saying.

    Some of you think that I’m taking the young lady’s side. Indeed I am not. She is overreacting. That the boy was suspended is outrageous.

    I don’t think that what he did is a punishable offense. It isn’t that what he did was *wrong* – it’s just that I don’t think the place for it was a public school classroom.

    Look, public schools are a place where many people of many diverse backgrounds have to live and learn together. That isn’t easy. Because of that diversity, everyone in a school community should understand that a certain amount of decorum is expected of them. It doesn’t mean we can’t discuss difficult issues, or talk about things that might make some students feel uncomfortable. It just means that certain actions, which go over a line (and I think ripping up a book qualifies), should not be encouraged. What should be encouraged is respectful discussion.

  168. #168 Steve LaBonne
    December 31, 2007

    Hey Harry, scientists make their living questioning scientific “doctrine”. (Which in a nutshell is how science differs from religion). If you too would like to join in that pastime, all you have to do is bring data, not bullshit.

    On the subject of the post, it seems entirely possible to believe- and it is indeed my impression based on the available information- that the young man is a rude asshole AND that the young lady is a big whining baby (as is her father).

  169. #169 Tatarize
    December 31, 2007

    As a firm materialist and staunch believer in the laws of thermodynamics I would be offended if a student stood up in front of class and created or destroyed matter or energy.

    Thankfully, I do not need to hijack the puny machinery of the state to punish those who challenge my beliefs. *NOBODY* could do such a thing. Your puny books are no match for my reality.

  170. #170 dkew
    December 31, 2007

    I’m with GodlessHeathen (#101) – a slow news day (this happened 2 weeks ago). I assume the local news station exaggerates its stories as much as they do elsewhere in the country. How often do you fall for the short ads all evening, about some shocking story on the 11 o’clock news, only to see another shallow 1-minute sob story or restatement of the obvious?
    We have only one side of the story, from the offended party. We don’t know what the assignment was, or anything about the typical behavior and discipline at the school or in that particular class. We don’t have any interviews with the teacher or other students. The student reportedly got a B, not an F, so the teacher was not horribly offended, and the presentation couldn’t have been grossly inappropriate.

  171. #171 John Marley
    December 31, 2007

    I have no reason to think this young lady lied. He boy did it in front of the entire class, so surely, if she was lying, some of the other students would have been said something about that by now. It’s strange to me why you would automatically think she was lying. Very strange.

    Posted by: kristen in montreal

    emphasis mine

    I’ve already read those. And they’re comments, so we can’t be sure if they’re true. But even if they are true, it doesn’t change anything that I’ve been saying.

    Some of you think that I’m taking the young lady’s side. Indeed I am not. She is overreacting…

    Posted by: kristen in montreal

    emphasis mine

    So, the girl’s honesty is not to be questioned, but the very thing you asked for is automatically suspect.

    That there’s some mighty fine goalpost shifting.

  172. #172 Blake Stacey
    December 31, 2007

    Tatarize (#165):

    As a firm materialist and staunch believer in the laws of thermodynamics I would be offended if a student stood up in front of class and created or destroyed matter or energy.

    LOL. Now, we just need Cuttlefish to put that into verse.

  173. #173 kristen in montreal
    December 31, 2007

    You know, you’re making me very tired.

    When I wrote that first comment, I had not yet read those comments on the news article. That’s why I wrote that I had no reason to think she was lying.

    The reason that the comments are suspect is because they’re anonymous comments that were not necessarily left by students.

    With the information we haver right now, there is no telling which version of events is correct. But what I’m saying is it doesn’t really matter. As I wrote, it doesn’t really change what I’ve been saying, which is those kinds of theatrics should be discouraged.

    I’m still waiting for a real conversation.

  174. #174 Mondo
    December 31, 2007

    Dear truth machine,
    I went to a very good school.
    I am not impressed with you at all.
    I thought this was a nice blog where I could say things.
    Atheists are mean.
    :(

    This post is rated G for GOD!

  175. #175 kristen in montreal
    December 31, 2007

    OK – I’m off. I’m going to go talk to some furniture instead.

    :)

    I’m kidding. Let’s all lighten up a bit & have a happy new year (even Truth Machine).

    Bye for now, Kristen.

  176. #176 Matt
    December 31, 2007

    What I don’t understand is why, if this bible-ripping kid was so scary and threatening, there aren’t stories of all the other kids in the class with similar fears and concerns? Seems like the accuser is making a mountain out of a molehill…especially once she started showing up on the evening news.

  177. #177 kristen in montreal
    December 31, 2007

    PS: Mondo – LOL – I’m an atheist, for goodness’ sake!

  178. #178 craig
    December 31, 2007

    “I’m still waiting for a real conversation.”

    No offense, but it seems to me you’re just waiting for someone to agree with you.

    Was the kid’s presentation clumsy and could it have been done more thoughtfully? Possibly. That’s what grades are for.

  179. #179 windy
    December 31, 2007

    Tuomo H. wrote:

    OK. I must confess. When i got my “white hat”, i burned those swedish language books.

    Heh! At my graduation, we only planned to burn our religious education books. But then someone wanted to buy my used books and I chose money over the principle.

  180. #180 spencer
    December 31, 2007

    #50:

    I don’t think that asserting

    I’m going to do something that your stupid, little minds aren’t going to be able to comprehend

    makes an effective argument.

    Maybe not, but please remember that we’re talking about a 16 or 17-year-old kid. How many of us at that age knew how to make a truly effective argument? Probably not all that many. And the truth is that one of the easiest argumentative tactics to employ is shock. Hopefully he’ll learn something from this episode and develop better persuasion skills.

  181. #181 Moses
    December 31, 2007

    Now, imagine this kid giving his speech and using the words he used in a high school classroom:

    ‘Now, this piece of crap’ … ‘I’m going to do something that your stupid, little minds aren’t going to be able to comprehend’

    Personally, I’d think the kid had lost his mind. A trip to the student counselor would certainly be in order.

    Posted by: FtK | December 30, 2007 8:58 PM

    Nothing there that should get your panties in a bunch. Life isn’t a bunch of G-rated fluff-movies with talking bunnies, rainbows and happy endings.

    Life is tough and if you can’t handle someone ripping the pages out of a book, how the hell are you going to survive a real crises situation? I mean, seriously, what a bunch of wimpy fuck-wits that something this weak can effect them so greatly. If your mythological saviour would have been as wimpy as the offended babies he’d have legged it for Greece long before he was allegedly crucified.

  182. #182 MAJeff
    December 31, 2007

    When I was an undergraduate, our concert choirs and orchestra were preparing to perform Orff’s Carmina Burana (man, that was fun). We had a young lady that sounds like this terrified young woman. She refused to perform the piece because it offended her Christian beliefs. She also got fussy because during a conversation, I refused to apologize for offending her by saying that the Bible wasn’t proof of anything.

    I don’t know the specifics of this case. It’s possible the student utilized the tearing of the Bible in a way that was in line with his presentation. Honestly, my money is really on the little Christian having her world view challenged and freaking the fuck out. I’ve seen that side of it far too often….but that’s merely speculation. However, there is a band of truly fuckwitted Christians out there–the spiritual warfare types–who see the entire world as a terrifying place trying to tempt them away from their sky daddy.

  183. #183 Don
    December 31, 2007

    ‘Personally, I would have picked up the pages and made the little fucker eat them.’

    Assuming he’s a little fucker, though, eh Harry? Because if he was a big fucker your whole elegantly constructed argument would collapse.

    Why on earth are people calling Karen a troll? Harry’s a troll, Karen isn’t.

    However, I don’t agree that ripping pages from a bible in class is always and invariably counter-productive. If it was just a rant and destruction then, yes, the kid needs some tips on how to deliver a presentation. But the girl’s account did not sound to me like an objective recounting of a presentation. Based on reality, no doubt, but filtered through a mind that finds dissing the bible scary.

    If (yeah, I know, but we’re talking hypotheticals here) the comments in the local press are accurate he got a B, nobody else was offended and several students supported his position.

    Let’s imagine that for his entire concious life the bible has been presented as the core of truth, morality and salvation from hell-fire. He swears by it, has it waved at him, literally sings its praises. Then he reads it.

    He might reasonably say to his classmates, ‘This book which contains all your morality, did you know that here it commands that civilian prisoners of war should be slaughtered except for under-age girls who are a bonus prize for the killers? Do you want that page in your book of life? Yes? No? rrrip. And this part, showing that the correct response to a mixed marriage is to run both of them through with a spear? Is that the morality you want? Yes? No? rrrip.’

    And so on. A lot. Some might feel frightened by that, but I think it would be a valid, if robust way of making a point.

    I’m not saying that is what happened, but if it were then I’d give the kid a passing grade or better.

    If he just said, ‘This is crap and you are stupid, rip, tear, rip’ then, that’s an ‘F’. But a psych evaluation? I agree that is way over the top and more than slightly sinister.

  184. #184 negentropyeater
    December 31, 2007

    From Wikipedia :
    “In 1838 Emerson was invited to Divinity Hall, Harvard Divinity School, for the school’s graduation address, which came to be known as his Divinity School Address. His remarks managed to outrage the establishment and the general Protestant community at the time, as he proclaimed that while Jesus was a great man, he was not God. At the time, such statements were rather unheard of[citation needed]. For this, he was denounced as an atheist, and a poisoner of young men’s minds. Despite the roar of critics, he made no reply, leaving others to put forward a defense.”

    Now, an otherwise peaceful and intelligent 17 yold student is asked to make a speech about Emerson, and wants to demonstrate that he doesn’t believe, like Emerson, that the Bible is sacred, and rips pages from it. And the teacher judges the speech pretty good and gives him a B.

    Does this student constitute a “safety concern” for the school ?

    I’m not saying that this is precisely what happened, but what in this report indicates otherwise ? That the girl was so outraged and “scared” as to not want to go back to school ? Does this qualify as a proof that the boy was indeed insulting, violent and threatening ?

    I’d like to hear the story from the point of view of the other Christian students in that class room.

  185. #185 Moses
    December 31, 2007

    I’d like to join the short line of people disappointed in those defending the actions of this young man. Despite what Ichthyic implies you do not need a verbal ultimatum of bodily harm to severely threaten people. …

    He didn’t. And unless a threat is explicitly made, it’s not a threat. That you’re afraid is your problem and you can’t ban people because you’re afraid of them because you’re scared.

    For example, when I was a boy they integrated my all-white elementary school. Up until then my head had been filled full of crap about blacks by my very racist babysitter and her racist husband.

    When the blacks came to school, I was terrified.

    But nothing happened and I had an epiphany.

    Hopefully you’ll have one too.

    Last time I checked, one of the reasons I was an atheist was that I was tired of religions doing the same thing. Don’t take that reason away.

    Posted by: ansuzmannaz | December 31, 2007 3:15 AM

    Too bad you did it to yourself, by yourself. Because there is nothing reported where you can say there was any explicit threat. Only wimps to wimpy to handle crappy performance art. And the wimps who agree with their right to be wimps, apparently.

  186. #186 John C. Randolph
    December 31, 2007

    ” I think classrooms should be comfortable places to learn for all students.”

    Opinions like yours are why I consider choice in schooling to be of paramount importance. Send your kids to the Hello Kitty Academy of Comfort and Reassurance, and let smarter people send their kids to schools that will actually challenge them to think and to judge.

    -jcr

  187. #187 John C. Randolph
    December 31, 2007

    If the girl is offended, then it’s her prerogative to say so and argue with the kid who ripped up his bible. It’s also our prerogative to ridicule her for throwing her little hissy-fit. The critical question here, is with the school administration and whether they decide to join in when the girl demands a witch hunt.

    -jcr

  188. #188 Moses
    December 31, 2007

    Posted by: Sebastian | December 31, 2007 5:34 AM

    Regarding your post #108. Way to ramp up they hyperbole into ludicrousness. You come off like the fainting flower who’s looking for a new school.

    He ripped up a book in class as part of a speech he was required to give in class. He did not threaten anyone. He did not act outside the parameters of being required to give a speech.

    So, let’s just keep it there and don’t make idiotic, hyperbolic changes to win points. It only makes you look stupid.

  189. #189 John C. Randolph
    December 31, 2007

    “I would have picked up the pages and made the little fucker eat them. ”

    You would have tried, you mean. Violence is not an appopriate (or legal) response to something you find offensive. If however, I saw you attack a child, I’d do my best to physically subdue you until I could hand you over to the police.

    -jcr

  190. #190 sil-chan
    December 31, 2007

    Many people here have stated plainly, in defense of the girl’s response, that the ‘classroom is no place for hostility.’ Back that statement up for me please. I fail to see that as being true in the least bit. In fact, anyone young enough to remember high school should remember that high school is an incredibly hostile environment. Does anyone else recall the deriding name calling, the segregation of different types of people into ‘cliques’, and the repetitive insults that deride any person who so much as even thinks differently.

    There is not enough information here to make an informed statement about the situation. There is however enough information here to discuss this hypothetically. If what the girl says is correct, I see nothing wrong with this boys actions. If he is forced to give a speech on a subject and then does so, the school has no right to punish him because they do not like the content unless he has explicitly broken school rules that have legal backing. From what I read the school has a policy against talking bad about religion. If that is the case, the can kiss my ass (and let’s see them do something about me saying THAT).

  191. #191 Keith
    December 31, 2007

    “the kids at that school learned a valuable lesson: nothing is sacred.”

    sometimes the lesson taught,
    and the lesson learned
    have little to do with each other.

    Keith

  192. #192 William Young
    December 31, 2007

    I’d like to know what the girl is fearful of.

  193. #193 Janine
    December 31, 2007

    John Marley, thank you for those student posts. It still does not say what the student said but it does put a better perspective about the delicate like snowflake.

    I really do not have to point out to most people here, but some religious people react to any display of disbelief in the most off the handle way. For those people, even a polite and low key statement of atheism is the same as a personal attack.

    I have to wonder what the delicate little snowflake would have done if the student, instead of ripping out a few pages of the bible, denied the holy ghost and dared it to strike him down.

  194. #194 Moses
    December 31, 2007

    The act of burning is more spectacularly destructive and hence more symbolically aggressive, and an effigy is a far less abstract symbol than a book – but these are differences of degree, not nature.

    Bullshit. You’re trying to make a save on a hyperbolic overstatement.

    One is directed at a person. The other at an idea. You can’t kill an idea. You can’t make an idea suffer or feel pain. You can, at best, only discredit it to the point that people think it’s silly or foolish and move on to new ideas.

    OTOH, you can kill a person. And make him or her suffer greatly before they die.

    I’ve had many foolish ideas attacked in my life. Sometimes quite bluntly and rudely. If I’d ever felt threatened, it’d have been because I was too immature to see the difference between having my ideas threatened and my physical self threatened.

    Which is why one is a crime and the other is free speech.

  195. #195 Paul W.
    December 31, 2007

    Negentropyeater, thanks for the context you provided in #179.

    As a flaming atheist and a teacher, I have to say that I agree with some commenters that IF the student did call the other students stupid and talked about old guys with sand up their butts, then he crossed a line. I’d knock his grade down a letter. (And if he did it again, I’d give him an F.) That’s just not good form in a class presentation, for good reasons.

    It’s often hard for me to make the distinction myself, but there’s a social convention that calling an idea false is one thing, and calling it stupid is another, but calling a person stupid is a whole other thing altogether. (It’s just unnecessarily inflammatory and disruptive, even if your ultimate point does entail your opponents being stupidly mistaken.) In polite conversation, it’s one thing to say that the bible is stupid, and another to berate Christians’ “stupid little minds.”

    Proper form dictates that you demonstrate that the ideas are wrong or the reasoning is bad, and leave it up to the audience to infer whether that make the believers stupid.

    (I’d be interested to know which the student actually did.)

    Ripping up a bible, on the other hand, wouldn’t cross a line. Assuming other students have the right to show reverence for a bible, he has an equal right to show irreverence for one, and to demonstrate that he really doesn’t think it will call down the wrath of god.

    As far as whether his behavior is threatening or scary, resorting to direct insult and cursing gave his opponents ammunition. (If that’s what happened.) The elegant physical demonstration of irreverence would have been better on its own.

    I have to disagree with Moses about whether a threat always has to be explicit. It doesn’t. (Even Clarence Thomas can see that, when it comes to certain in-your-face cross-burnings.) But I hardly think ripping a bible counts, especially in a talk about what Emerson was saying. He had a valid point to make, and a nice vivid demonstration.

    A bible is not an effigy; if some Christians are so freaked out by atheism that they’d interpret bible-ripping in a classroom as a threat of physical harm to people, they just prove the kid’s point and need to get over it.

  196. #196 Mold
    December 31, 2007

    Funny how so many of us take the one-sided article and use it as Truth. Eyewitness testimony is fraught with error and we still take the word of an interested party as Gospel. Hmm, aren’t you-all supposed to be skeptics?

    When hate speech restrictions were being placed on government workplaces, the attorneys mentioned the likelihood of religious fanatics being constantly offended to procure rulings that otherwise would be denied them.

    Don’t you recall your own high school experiences and how…slanted… your outlook was? Remember the Kewl (cruel) Kids and their damning with faint praise, the sins of omitting pertinent facts to further their agenda, and the slanders perpetrated on everyone not to their liking?

  197. #197 John Marley
    December 31, 2007

    @Kristen (if you’re still around)

    From the news story, it seems the reporter didn’t even try to interview the kid who made the speech, the teacher or any other student in the class; just reported what the girl said and her father’s scare-mongering reaction.

    At the very least, a responsible reporter would have approached the teacher.

    So where, other than the comments, are we to find the reaction of anyone else present?

  198. #198 Lamont Cranston
    December 31, 2007

    The reaction to the reaction here is amusing since I have seen posters who claim jaw-dropping, upset reactions to Vox Day’s postings.

    Oh, and the reaction of people who are offended by Christian’s behavior because they don’t approve of it.

    The destruction of anything only shows the presenter is not very creative.

  199. #199 Matt
    December 31, 2007

    “Personally, I would have picked up the pages and made the little fucker eat them. Hey, you want power games, let’s play power games.”

    Is that what Jebus would do? Once again, a christian (I assume you claim to be one, Harry) shows what christians are really all about.

  200. #200 Logician
    December 31, 2007

    Kristen in Montreal:

    Grew up in the midwest of America. Educated in the midwest of America. Traveled the world. Came back, went to college in the midwest of America. Taught High School in the midwest of America.

    All that as preamble to the fact that I’m reading a LOT of rhetoric COMPLETELY out of proportion to what occurred. This is *high school*. Get it?

    *High school* is where one LEARNS. Not where one KNOWS. (Sorry for the caps, cheap computer, no italics, take the caps as such) Classes have speech exercises in order to TEACH students HOW to present themselves and their points of view.

    Think back to how you were in high school. EVERYTHING is SO important. These are not “little adults,” they are “big children,” learning how to BECOME adults. They have NO perspective on their own views, other people’s views, their own actions, other people’s actions. This is not meant to degrade, demean, or condescend. We have to understand that all children learn at different rates, some mature faster than others and *high school* is the best place to do just that: learn and mature in a group setting.

    These are big children learning to come to grips with a world in utter chaos, their own lives in constant flux as they mature through childhood into young adults, hopefully, by the time they are turned loose into that chaotic world.

    Having seen situations explode all out of proportion in the classroom many times, I can tell you we will NEVER know what REALLY happened. All we CAN know is that in the controlled setting of a structured environment (sorry for the edu-speak) a student did something that caught the attention of other students.

    And THAT, my little friend in Montreal, is more important than ALL THE BIBLES IN THE WORLD! And that is also,

    *Believe It Or Not*,

    the single most important thing we can give our children in *high school.* In a safe setting, the big children/soon to be adults get a chance to experiment, act and react to and with each other over/about big issues/ideas and learn how do so in a respectful, mature manner.

    But, now, with the adults acting the way they have, what have the students learned? 1)There are ‘adults’ in the world like Harry in #159 who have no sense whatsoever. 2) There are ‘adults’ in the world who are truly ignorant enough to believe that a book is some sort of magic talisman that is more important than the people who read it. 3)That most ‘adults’ are too stupid to stop, think about what is being done, and respond in a mature manner to an immature act.

    And so the students learn what Calvin said in the strip “Calvin and Hobbes”: “I think grown-ups just ACT like they know what they’re doing.” Feb 18, 1991. In other words, a perfect learning opportunity has been destroyed and they’ve learned ‘adults’ are just as stupid and immature as the big children in high school.

    No wonder “stewwwpid” is their favorite word.

    (My earlier post was a gut reaction as a citizen atheist remembering the hypocrites I had to face on a daily basis in my high school. As a teacher, I would have remained neutral and I would have jumped on this student’s behavior as a catalyst to discuss what was truly objectionable in his act, why we react to such obviously inflamatory acts, and what value such acts have or do not have in advancing/illustrating one’s point of view. Actually, the possiblities could erupt into a whole new semester of ideas/discussions revolving around destruction of symbols like the flag, throughout history, etc. See how easy that was? See what was lost?)

  201. #201 Lamont Cranston
    December 31, 2007

    “In the course of doing so, he stated that no word of the Bible is true, that those who thought so were ‘idiots,’ that he would prove that persons in the class were ‘ignoramuses for believing in the Bible,’ and that the Bible was written by ‘a bunch of old Mesopotamian men with sand up their (expletive.)’

    And tearing up a Bible proves this How?!?!?

    He gets a D for not proving his point with reason and fact.

    Isn’t that a standard of proof?

  202. #202 krisetn in montreal
    December 31, 2007

    Hi, okay, I’m back from lunch.

    I am inclined to agree with some of the comments that have been made since I left. # 178 and # 190 have given me pause. I’m rethinking this.

    When I read the original story, which I didn’t realize was unconfirmed, I had the idea that this boy went in front of the room, insulted the students and tore up the Bible. I think rightly, I thought this was inappropriate.

    But now I am inclined to agree with 178 (Dan) and modify my opinion that tearing a Bible is always and invariably destructive. If things had happened the way 178 describes, then I don’t think anyone would have grounds for being upset. After thinking about this carefully, I also agree with 195 (Logician) that the line is not to be drawn with the tearing of the book, but with the tone of the speech (ie: whether or not the student insulted the audience personally or whether he attacked the ideas).

    Oh, and responding to 192: I agree it would be nice to read some interviews with the teacher and other students. But that doesn’t make those comments any more credible.

  203. #203 mjb
    December 31, 2007

    His loss. Rip your own Bible out of immaturity for all I care. Just don’t rip my Bible up.

    Reminds me of the religious book burners of yesteryear. Except, this is a new atheist not tolerating someone else’s perspective. How ironic.

  204. #204 Blake Stacey
    December 31, 2007

    Don (#178):

    He might reasonably say to his classmates, ‘This book which contains all your morality, did you know that here it commands that civilian prisoners of war should be slaughtered except for under-age girls who are a bonus prize for the killers? Do you want that page in your book of life? Yes? No? rrrip. And this part, showing that the correct response to a mixed marriage is to run both of them through with a spear? Is that the morality you want? Yes? No? rrrip.’

    And so on. A lot. Some might feel frightened by that, but I think it would be a valid, if robust way of making a point.

    Exactly right.

    I’m not saying that is what happened, but if it were then I’d give the kid a passing grade or better.

    In a situation like this, there’s no crime in acting like a 1950s sci-fi computer and declaring, “INSUFFICIENT DATA FOR MEANINGFUL RESPONSE.” On the basis of one news story, and a rather incompetent one at that, we cannot make the judgment that the student did not perform (or at least intend to perform) an act like the one you described.

  205. #205 kristen in montreal
    December 31, 2007

    @ #178
    Sorry to Don. I called you Dan 😉

  206. #206 John Marley
    December 31, 2007

    @Kristen

    Why are the comments automatically not credible?

    Why is the girl automatically credible?

    You can’t castigate people for doubting her unbacked claim, then yourself cast doubt on unbacked opposing claims.

    And getting the whole story would be more than nice, it’s pretty much required by honest, unbiased journalism. The reporter was negligent and irresponsible.

  207. #207 Caveat
    December 31, 2007

    Those dastardly atheists!

    I smell a business opp. I’ll set up a stand outside the school and sell them garlic and special water in little vials. That will improve their safety and my bank account.

    Mooey ha. ha. ha ha ha hahahahahahahaha!

  208. #208 kristen in montreal
    December 31, 2007

    John Marley:

    I’m not saying that the other students are not credible. I’m saying that we don’t know if those comments are actually made by other students in the class. I could go over to that message board right now and post my own version of what happened. I’m a little miffed that you don’t seem to understand that all I’m saying is that we don’t know who posted those comments. If they were in fact made by students, then they should be just as credible as the girl’s version of events.

    And I agree with you. The journalist was negligent if he didn’t go looking for other points of view.

  209. #209 mjb
    December 31, 2007

    This is nothing novel. When someone doesn’t like someone else, what else can you do but disparage them? The tactics of fellow atheists, such as Hitler, Stalin, and Mao were used in similar fashion.

    I also find it laughable that ignorant fools who have no relationship with God are trying to say what God permits and doesn’t.

  210. #210 kristen in montreal
    December 31, 2007

    I say for the sake of our sanity we ignore mjb.

  211. #211 John Marley
    December 31, 2007

    His loss. Rip your own Bible out of immaturity for all I care. Just don’t rip my Bible up.

    Reminds me of the religious book burners of yesteryear. Except, this is a new atheist not tolerating someone else’s perspective. How ironic.

    Posted by: mjb

    He did rip up his own bible, not yours. He was making a point, not being immature.

    And saying “Those beliefs are stupid” is not intolerance.

    Even saying “You’re stupid if you belive that” is not intolerance.

    Saying “There should/will be dire consequences if you believe that” is intolerance.

  212. #212 kristen in montreal
    December 31, 2007

    dude. i warned you.

  213. #213 dh
    December 31, 2007

    Don in #178, and Blake in #199, the two examples you give, are those not old testament text you are calling upon for examples?

    I don’t remember why, but I think that’s relevant here.

  214. #214 John Marley
    December 31, 2007

    @Kristen

    Oops, too late.

    But good advice all the same.

  215. #215 Steverino
    December 31, 2007

    Watch the video when she describes the two books…”the Bible and Atlas Shrug-ged”…..LOL

    WTF…I would have pulled her out of school for not teaching her to read and pronounce “shrugged”!!!

    Maybe she should just stick to here “Bib-le”

  216. #216 negentropyeater
    December 31, 2007

    Kristen,

    don’t forget also that he was asked to make a speech about R.W.Emerson

    And as I posted earlier :
    “In 1838 Emerson was invited to Divinity Hall, Harvard Divinity School, for the school’s graduation address, which came to be known as his Divinity School Address. His remarks managed to outrage the establishment and the general Protestant community at the time, as he proclaimed that while Jesus was a great man, he was not God. At the time, such statements were rather unheard of[citation needed]. For this, he was denounced as an atheist, and a poisoner of young men’s minds. Despite the roar of critics, he made no reply, leaving others to put forward a defense.”

    So the context of the bible riping is very important. And does not lead me to believe that he wished to be overtly insulting and even less threatening.
    The girl did feel that way, but maybe she didn’t understand the subject of the presentation (Emerson did cause outrage)and just overreacted. And surprise, his dad did too. And surprise, what do they tell the press ? And now the whole thing becomes “a safety issue for the school” from a “potential sociopath”.

  217. #217 kristen in montreal
    December 31, 2007

    There we go. All it took was a religious troll to unite us. On that note, I’m gone for good until NEXT YEAR. Going out tonight!!!

    I hope everyone has a good time with family & friends.

    Best Wishes,
    -K

  218. #218 John Marley
    December 31, 2007

    @Kristen

    I’m a little miffed that you don’t seem to understand that all I’m saying is that we don’t know who posted those comments.

    I don’t mean to upset you, and I do get that.

    I’m saying that with only her version of events given in the article, it is no more likely that she is being totally honest.

    I just wanted to point out that in your first post you did castigate anyone who doubted her version.

  219. #219 kristen in montreal
    December 31, 2007

    PS: negentropyeater, yeah, thanks – I was unfamiliar with the context when I read that first article, too. I think I read it too quickly, and yes, there was some bad reporting. It goes to demonstrate what a fuzzy line our educators walk every day, and how easily people can distort and blow things out of proportion.

    Byebye.

  220. #220 eewolf
    December 31, 2007

    From another story with a little more information:
    District officials requested an opinion on the matter from their legal counsel, attorney David Moore. The Janesville Gazette obtained a copy of the opinion, which described the Bible incident.

    The opinion states that a student was giving a presentation in class that involved his opposition to religion.

    “In the course of doing so, he stated that no word of the Bible is true, that those who thought so were ‘idiots,’ that he would prove that persons in the class were ‘ignoramuses for believing in the Bible,’ and that the Bible was written by ‘a bunch of old Mesopotamian men with sand up their (expletive.)’

    “He further said, ‘See, I can do this to the Bible and not be harmed because it is not true,’ and then proceeded to rip pages out of a Bible,” according to the document.

    Nothing vicious or threatening here. Using the term “idiots” was a poor choice of words and should be graded accordingly. Using “ignoramuses” was accurate but could have been phrased better.

    But the final quote here is a 3-pointer and I only hope he used it to close.

  221. #221 Carlie
    December 31, 2007

    Except, this is a new atheist not tolerating someone else’s perspective.

    Tolerating someone’s perspective means not trying to get their perspective outlawed, or not trying to get them kicked out of school for presenting it. Tolerating someone’s perspective means understanding that they have the fundamental right to hold that perspective unto themselves (right up until they try to force that perspective on someone else). Tolerance does not mean not calling a stupid idea a stupid idea.

  222. #222 John
    December 31, 2007

    Where do we get the idea that people should not be made to feel ‘uncomfortable’? Free speech means sometimes you will be offended. This girl needs to learn that she does not have the right to not be offended or to not be made uncomfortable.

    I get the feeling that this girl and her family would be less offended by a Klan member burning a cross than they were by the student tearing a few pages from a copy of the Bible.

  223. #223 Paul W.
    December 31, 2007

    Here’s another article with some other students’ comments:

    http://gazettextra.com/news/2007/dec/20/online-group-discusses-incident-parker/

    (They have a facebook thing for Parker H.S. students, and the comments come from there.)

  224. #224 Blake Stacey
    December 31, 2007

    dh (#208):

    Don in #178, and Blake in #199, the two examples you give, are those not old testament text you are calling upon for examples?

    I don’t remember why, but I think that’s relevant here.

    Well, since Jesus Himself said that He wouldn’t change a jot or tittle of the Mosaic Law, I figure Old Testament references are perfectly cricket. (Or would you be willing to tear out the first half of every Bible you find?) Anyway, it doesn’t matter too much, since Don could easily have picked New Testament references, such as the endorsement of slavery (1 Peter 2:18, Luke 12:46 and elsewhere), God telling lies for the fun of it (2 Thessalonians 2:11), loathing of women (too many to even try listing, but I particularly like 1 Timothy 2:11 and the following verses), and in general more cruelty and violence than you could shake a crucifix at.

  225. #225 Ed Darrell
    December 31, 2007

    Was it a classroom presentation on the First Amendment?

    An appropriate response would be to do a counter presentation: “Watch! I’m going to so something that would get me and you jailed in some nations, but which we can do here in the U.S. because the Constitution protects free ideas.”

    And then read a chapter from Song of Solomon. Or read a Psalm.

    The appropriate response to a practice of free speech is another practice of free speech.

    Suspension?

    I hope there’s a lot more going on than I see.

  226. #226 The Physicist
    December 31, 2007

    Yeah, and how would you like it if I cam into your class room and started ripping tentecles off a live squid. Huh? Thought so.

  227. #227 Rigel Kent
    December 31, 2007

    I’m not a christian myself, and I’ve had more than one run in with some twit trying to convert me to get brownie points with their god, but I find a lot of the comments here really funny.

    You have a lot of posters here defending someone destroying a book, why? Because you dislike/disagree with what the book has to say. But how does that make you any different than the crowds that cheer on book burners?

    This kids a scuzzball, just as willfully ignorant and closeminded as any bookburner.

  228. #228 Colugo
    December 31, 2007

    It’s infantile transgressivism, and there is a time and place for such things. Like the fine art world. For example, Terence Koh’s Temple of the Golden Piss (installation in the restroom of George and Dragon Public House).

    http://www.whitecubicle.org/ex/05/005-3.html

    If you don’t know who Terence Koh is, he is one of today’s hottest young New York artists.

    Personally, I’m not particularly offended by Temple of the Golden Piss, but I do think it’s utterly derivative. But whatever floats one’s boat and all that.

    As for the classroom performance artist: be honest with yourselves, you sympathize with the specific act. If it had been the Koran or some icon of progressivism or freethought that he had torn up while issuing insults many of you would have a very different assessment of the deed.

  229. #229 Janine
    December 31, 2007

    Paul W, thank you for adding to to a woefully incomplete story. There has been too many words spent here on what was an one sided account.

    These are from the site Paul W. linked to.

    “You can’t insult people for believing in a religion. Especially not at school. His speech was fine until he got to the part were he insulted the people that believed in God. … And by the way, the First Amendment was also about religion, not just freedom of speech.”

    “Christianity is a religion. It is a sacred belief, and held close to many people. But, Christianity, like other religions and beliefs, should not be made target and threatened and insulted upon by people who disagree. It’s fine to believe what you’d like, but it’s not all right to shock your way of belief onto others.”

    From the story PZ first posted, the delicate little snowflake painted this kid as acting like some mad scientist from a b movie. From the other sources provided, it is beginning to to like he is an arrogant teenager trying to make a point by overacting. In other words, this is merely typical teenage behavior.

    Those quotes I posted are backing up my first thoughts about this story. It was not the actions of the boy that upset the delicate little snowflake. It was the questioning of the big sky daddy. I am sure that if the boy at the end of his presentation just denied the existence of god and dared god to strike him down, the delicate little snowflake would have felt just as threatened. The delicate little snowflake must be shocked by a lot of things.

  230. #230 Hymie Jewboy
    December 31, 2007

    “You have a lot of posters here defending someone destroying a book, why? Because you dislike/disagree with what the book has to say. But how does that make you any different than the crowds that cheer on book burners?”

    Because the posters here don’t care about his reasons.

    Someone just tore up a Bible. That is all that matters.

  231. #231 Ira Fews
    December 31, 2007

    So daddy is pulling his lil’ Bible-banger out of the school, even though the “offender” was (wrongly) punished? Good riddance. I was absolutely certain after seeing the little doltress’s comments that her parents would be demented halfwits, and this is clearly the case. I wish every ignorant God-humper would keep themselves and their kids out of not only school but public view altogether.

  232. #232 Bob Roberts
    December 31, 2007

    It was not the actions of the boy that upset the delicate little snowflake. It was the questioning of the big sky daddy.”

    Psychic, are we?

    How do you know why she is upset?

  233. #233 Carlie
    December 31, 2007

    If it had been the Koran or some icon of progressivism or freethought that he had torn up while issuing insults many of you would have a very different assessment of the deed.

    You’re kidding, right? Some of those same commenters suggested that very thing. There were several suggestions of ripping up Atlas Shrugged, a few that Dawkins and Hitchens would happily autograph copies of their books and help tear them up themselves. And where do you get off suggesting that atheists have any more reverence for the Koran than the Bible? The only reason we focus on Christianity more than Islam is because it’s the bigger threat to our own society at the moment.

  234. #234 bernarda
    December 31, 2007

    Street theater of the sort of tearing pages out of a book is not book-burning. Get real.

    Maybe next he could hold up a copy of the bible and a copy of Homer. Then say, both of these are mythology, but hardly anyone today believes the Greek gods actually existed or intervened in human affairs.

  235. #235 MAJeff
    December 31, 2007

    Yeah, and how would you like it if I cam into your class room and started ripping tentecles off a live squid. Huh?

    Living creature vs. book. See the difference? Probably not.

  236. #236 Sarah
    December 31, 2007

    How exactly does ripping the pages out of a book threaten anybody?

    What if some creationist decided to rip out the pages of On the Origin of the Species? Would anyone feel threatened? I certainly wouldn’t. I wouldn’t like it, but I wouldn’t want that person to be punished for it.

  237. #237 John
    December 31, 2007

    I can view this as an improvement. Forty years ago when I was a Senior in a small town high school I would have been far more concerned about some of my fellow students who would have decided that a good ass kicking was just what the ‘smart assed atheist’ needed to make him understand just how much god loved him.

  238. #238 I_C_Y
    December 31, 2007

    From the original Gazette article linked above:

    Moore’s legal opinion is that a student can’t be disciplined only for ripping the Bible, but the school could discipline him for using offensive language and for promoting “negative stereotyping that degrades or flagrantly demeans any individual or group by negatively referring to religion.”

    Apparently he has achieved his 15 minutes of fame.

    If you go to the original Gazette article. The young “Irreligious” lad specifically says:

    danneskjold (The young Irreligious lad)
    Dec 20, 2007 at 8:15 p.m.

    Yeah, I’m a snot and I was doing this for attention. ….

  239. #239 ice weasel
    December 31, 2007

    The only thing we know for sure is that we don’t know nearly enough about this to make any kind of judgments. Given the overall “cover your ass” tendency in modern US schools, I expect we’ll continue to actually know very little about the situation.

  240. #240 Janine
    December 31, 2007

    Yes, Bob Roberts, as a good little atheist, I make great use of my psychic abilities.

    In case you have not noticed, there is not a complete account of this story. But I do not take seriously the delicate little snowflake’s account. With some bible thumpers, all you need to do is express any doubt of the big sky daddy’s existence to threaten then.

    Also, please read the quotes that I posted. They are critical of people who show any doubt.

  241. #241 Bob Roberts
    December 31, 2007

    Yes, Janine but you left out the word “probably” when referring the the delicate little snowflake’s reaction.

    You stated it as fact not probability.

    Remember, always qualify that which you do not know.

  242. #242 Colugo
    December 31, 2007

    Carlie: “The only reason we focus on Christianity more than Islam is because it’s the bigger threat to our own society at the moment.”

    That’s part of it; there is also a common perception of Muslims as a “subaltern” / “Othered” group in imminent danger from domestic peckerwoods, so any assault on Muslim symbology constitutes a more plausible threat against Muslims than a parallel act would a threat against Christians.

    Certainly there are a variety of opinions here. But even I would wonder about the emotional or mental health of a teenager who angrily ripped up a copy of a book by Bertrand Russell or Richard Dawkins in a classroom while insulting freethought. It probably is just androgenized young male attention-seeking. But I would make sure that’s all it is.

  243. #243 Robert Madewell
    December 31, 2007

    dh, I usually use Dueteronomy 21:18-21 when I quote biblical travesties. When someone argues that it’s in the old testament and that we are under grace not law, I respond, “Is it good to kill your brat of a son today?” They say, “of course not!” Then I ask was it good to do that a 1000 years ago? 2000? 3000? Of course the answer has always got to be no. No Xian I have talked to has ever said yes. I know that there are some who probably would say yes. But, if your a real moral person, then you would have to say no.

  244. #244 Robert Madewell
    December 31, 2007

    OOPS, I didn’t close a bold tag. My bad. Next I guess I’ll preview it first. Silly me!

  245. #245 exJanesville-ite
    December 31, 2007

    Why can’t Elle drum up enough faith to expect God will protect her from “Jack” the Ripper?

    Here in Milwaukee the public schools are routinely locked down by the police as the result of gang riots, shootings, stabbings, etc. You’d think honest-to-god good ol’ fashion violence would be more of a cause for concern than psuedo-violence directed at xian dogma vis a vis the bible.

  246. #246 negentropyeater
    December 31, 2007

    In another story…

    Elle Jacobs is a high school student who is skipping school because she’s afraid of Christians. Some parents are joining in the fear, all because of one little incident:

    “This boy got up and his visual aid was a book “the God Delusion”. And he got up and started his speech by saying ‘Now, this piece of crap’ and pointed to the book.”

    Jacobs said that she quickly felt threatened.

    “He took the book and he said, ‘I’m going to do this because I can. I’m going to do something that your stupid, little minds aren’t going to be able to comprehend and he took the book and started ripping out pages.”

    Questions : would this story have made the news ? Would the boy have been suspended ?

  247. #247 J Myers
    December 31, 2007

    Yeah, I_C_Y, everyone should go there and read his comments. Considering he’s only in high school, he seems much more intelligent than many of the people who’ve shown up here to whine about him. Doesn’t seem like he was looking for any attention; he seems as shocked as I am that anyone would care much at all about such a mild provocation.

  248. #248 eliza
    December 31, 2007

    I moved from an inner city art magnet school to a rural sports obsessed sort back in the 90s. They decided by my devilish good looks wicked sense of style hair streaks (wide blonde on black?) that I had not accepted Jesus Christ as my lord and savior and so they left dead animals and cheapie freebie bibles in front of my house in my poor mother’s pretty garden walk. So I took up a sort of decoupage and papier-mâché sculpture hobby (as Mom said no to taxidermy) and incorporated my new art medium into the senior prom decorations. (Since they made me waste my art class time on building a glittery castle and a bunch of stand-up swans, while simultaneously petitioning the school board to un-invite me to my own senior prom.) After the post-prom tear-down they realized what I’d used and the following week my car was run off the road by a boat-of-a-car full of football players, breaking my axle that took me months to save up to replace. They said it was a divine punishment for blasphemy and demanded to know how I could do such a thing– sully their prom, “the most important night of their lives.” I pointed out that the only supplies they’d given me were a stack of moldy cardboard from the cafeteria, a half pound of glitter, several old books and a few dead feral cats and dogs; what did they want me to use? Perhaps I should’ve used the carcasses so as not to offend anyone. I’m dreadfully repentant now.

  249. #249 negentropyeater
    December 31, 2007

    This comment by the boy who made the speech (Danneskjold) is particularly interesting :

    “You people should shut your mouth and stop talking about things you know nothing about. Anger management issues? Respect?! None of you know what the speech was about and how I delivered it. I used no vulgar language, I didn’t know the word VAGINA was an explitive. The bible was my property, i was defending the Ralph Waldo Emerson aphorism “So far as a man thinks, he is free”. I demonstrated my freedom as a thinking and rational being by refusing to conform to the ideas presented in the bible. I said it was not holy, because really, grow up people. I called the class a bunch of superstitious, simple-minded(I mean narrow-minded) ignoramuses. There IS a difference between ignorance and stupidity. And the people that got offended by what I said, even though they weren’t even THERE, just supports my argument.”

    At least now we’re getting the other side of the story.

  250. #250 Ichthyic
    December 31, 2007

    I used no vulgar language, I didn’t know the word VAGINA was an explitive.

    indeed i always thought the whole point of the Vagina Monologues was to point out that it is not.

    At least now we’re getting the other side of the story.

    and it makes it even more clear that the the girl in this case is playing up victimhood for attention.

    sure doesn’t sound like a demented teen whose intent was violence to me.

  251. #251 Ichthyic
    December 31, 2007

    he seems much more intelligent than many of the people who’ve shown up here to whine about him.

    yes.

    the reaction to the teen’s actions in that district, including the girl’s, are likely highly dependent on the sensibilities imparted by such people to begin with.

    it rather looks like a “circling the wagons” phenomenon.

  252. #252 Neil
    December 31, 2007

    There has to be a better account of what he actually did, in full. How much was presentaion, how much was random emotional outburst.
    If this was a planned statement, and the assignment was write and present an advocating argument or opinion piece on a self-chosen subject(very common assignments in high school English classes) then the worst he should get is a bad grade for bad writing, maybe some points off for bad words if he violated the teacher’s known standards.

    In my junior year honors English class, I did a reading of Johnathan Edward’s “Sinners in the hands of an angry God” sermon in the style of a Southern fundie preacher. Bulging veins, screaming, direct eye contact with my classmates. Damned them all to hell repeatedly, foaming at the mouth. I did slightly (and intentionally) offend a couple of the Christians in class. Most of them loved it, and the teacher had me back the following year to perform it for her next class.
    My senior year, I wrote and performed a mock-country song called “I Only Know Three Chords.” It was juvenile and purposefully offensive towards country music fans in the class. I got a B+.

    All I see in this instance are more whiny bitch-ass christians being enabled in their persecution fantasies by paranoid conformity enforcers. Business as usual these days.

  253. #253 spencer
    December 31, 2007

    #159:

    “Nothing is sacred”? Oh, that gave me a HUGE laugh. Just let anyone question the “sacred” scientific doctrine here and see how they get treated.

    I suspect this is because you don’t understand the first thing about science. But as long as you got your chuckle . . .

  254. #254 I_C_Y
    December 31, 2007

    After wading through this menagerie of myopic meandering missives, I remembered an interesting story that mirrors this group: Robots Infiltrate, Influence …… Groups ( http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=16328789 )

    Have a happy New year!

  255. #255 BaldApe
    December 31, 2007

    Just thank Cthulhu he didn’t walk under a ladder, or open an umbrella indoors! They would have had to evacuate the whole state! No wonder that poor sensitive creature had to stay home in the warm embrace of her Bible-fearing parents.

    It’s true that burning something in effigy is not something that should be done in a school setting. Unless it’s a pep rally.

    And I certainly believe that symbols are exactly the same thing as what they symbolize. That’s why I attend the First Church of VOODOO!

    /irony mode

  256. #256 tourettist
    December 31, 2007

    One of the comparative religion professors at a notable private university used to like to shock his introductory students by spitting on a bible and throwing it in the trash. His point was the physical book is not an object of worship but confused people often treat it as one.

    He was a hard grader, I shudder to think how he would be treated today. In that earlier time he was free, but we as a society are moving backwards.

  257. #257 tourettist
    December 31, 2007

    On second thought, I find the entire incident disturbing. Disciplinary action is highly warranted. Students must see that appropriate measures will be doled out for this kind of bad behavior. How else are they to learn responsibility? Clearly, young miss Elle is truant and should be punished for skipping school.

  258. #258 Science Goddess
    December 31, 2007

    There’s a link over in the town’s local newspaper dealing with this:
    http://gazettextra.com/news/2007/dec/20/bible-incident-draws-concerns/

    Here is what one student says:

    “Greetings and Salutations gazettextra commenters,

    I am the student who sat front row in the class in which this happened. I am the student who started the internet page for the “bible-ripper”. Now I had no knowledge of his intent until the morning of, but I knew I could not stop him. I did enjoy reading this article, which misses critical points, like, even though I started the internet page, it fails to state that on that page, I wrote, “I don’t condone what he did, but this is getting out of hand”. My main quarrel is the actions taken by some figures, i.e. students in the class, or authority figures. I was offended by the mere thought that this kid, a friend of mine as well, could be deemed a threat to anyone. I am a Christian, but after being around him for some time, I just learned to totally let his anti-God comments go right by me. I think that people have more control than they think about how things offend them, and let me tell you this, this young man was not, and is not, looking for attention, if you think this, you’re wrong, because I know him, and clearly you don’t.”

    This child is obviously more mature than some of the “attention seekers” at the school

    SG

  259. #259 Tuomo Hämäläinen
    December 31, 2007

    I take happily every single bible i can get (free). And I allways say “thank you”. And be nice. Reasons:
    1: Religious minded people actually have to print those books. And that costs money. And if i get something free, it is like taking money right from their chest.
    2: Bibles paper is thin. They are free cigarrettepapers. (Half of fun is the fingerwork, i don’t actually like the smoking part. But cigarrette rolling, it is so relaxing. After that I can be better person and even give some of them to te “nicotineaddict in need”. So religion really helps me to be nice to others! Thank you!)

  260. #260 Tuomo Hämäläinen
    December 31, 2007

    I take happily every single bible i can get (free). And I allways say “thank you”. And be nice. Reasons:
    1: Religious minded people actually have to print those books. And that costs money. And if i get something free, it is like taking money right from their chest.
    2: Bibles paper is thin. They are free cigarrettepapers. (Half of fun is the fingerwork, i don’t actually like the smoking part. But cigarrette rolling, it is so relaxing. After that I can be better person and even give some of them to te “nicotineaddict in need”. So religion really helps me to be nice to others! Thank you!)

  261. #261 fardels bear
    December 31, 2007

    I think the person who can be blamed for this whole fiasco is the teacher. I’ve taught public speaking for years, at the college and high school level. One standard assignment was the “hostile audience” speech. In other words, the speech was supposed to challenge the audience’s deeply held beliefs. So, I had atheist speeches, Jesus speeches, pro-eugenic speeches, anti-recycling speeches, pro-animal testing speeches, etc.

    The teacher has the responsibility to teach the speakers how to approach such a speech (hint: it doesn’t involve insulting the audience and calling them “idiots”) as well as the audience how to listen, (“You will be offended, that is going to happen/ Think about how you will deal with those feelings”).

    The point is to create an atmosphere in the classroom where students feel comfortable when they feel uncomfortable, if that makes sense. The teacher should have done a better job with the speaker AND with the audience in this case.

  262. #262 Shigella
    December 31, 2007

    This has already somewhat been addressed in the form of talking about symbols and what they mean to religious people, but when I was a wee fundy Christian, we had the literal fear of god put into us with regard to desecrating the Bible in any way, shape or form. Tearing pages out of the Bible, any Bible, was considered a grave sin, and there is a verse (sorry, don’t remember, think it’s in Revelations) that explicitly forbids mutilating or messing with the scriptures. This guy was probably intending to show, though in a poorly contrived manner, that he was not going to be struck down on the spot for tearing pages out of the Bible, and that he didn’t fear the wrath of a diety for ripping up holy books.

    I don’t know if that helps anyone understand, or if that was even his true intention, but this girl may have felt threatened because of the same kind of teachings that I had beaten into me back in the dark days. I sat down one night and ripped every single page out of my Bible, and it was the most liberating feeling I’ve ever had (and i didn’t get turned into a human souffle!)

  263. #263 craig
    December 31, 2007

    “If it had been the Koran or some icon of progressivism or freethought that he had torn up while issuing insults many of you would have a very different assessment of the deed.”

    Wrong. He can tear up any book he wants, I might disagree with his position, I might think he’s a jerk and an idiot, but I would never think that the tearing up of the book was something that shouldn’t be allowed, and I would never… COULD never possibly feel personally attacked by it. It is simply impossible for the tearing up of any book to make me react the way some are reacting to this one.

    That’s what the religious can never understand. That’s why they call atheism a faith, even science a faith. They simply can’t comprehend life without some icon, symbol, mystical language or beliefs holding a magical power over them.

    The most that could ever possibly happen if someone did a similar presentation with a book other than the bible is that I might conclude that I disagree with him.

    Nothing is sacred. That is a fact – there is literally no such thing as a sacred thing.

  264. #264 Colugo
    December 31, 2007

    craig: “It is simply impossible for the tearing up of any book to make me react the way some are reacting to this one.

    That’s what the religious can never understand.”

    I have always been an atheist or at most agnostic. Nearly two decades ago this was one of my favorite albums (LP first released in 1988).

    http://www.amazon.com/Drugs-Jesus-Christ-Christian-Death/dp/B0000DI4SS

    It’s not the sacredness of the object, it is the intent and message behind the act. Specifically, in the context of a high school classroom. If someone tore up a copy of Origin of the Species while telling his classmates how stupid they were for believing in evolution, I would suspect the individual to be, at the least, disturbed and hostile. If he had ripped pages out of the Bhagavad Gita or a copy of The Autobiography of Martin Luther King Jr. I would be very concerned. Same if he were stomping on Muslim prayer beads (or Catholic ones).

    Having said that, is this whole thing a tempest in a teapot? Looks that way.

  265. #265 Ichthyic
    December 31, 2007

    I would suspect the individual to be, at the least, disturbed and hostile.

    instead of your suspicions though, we actually have direct statements of purpose and intent from the teen who ripped up the bible.

    look at the statement he made, and tell me you then conclude he was “disturbed and hostile”.

  266. #266 craig
    December 31, 2007

    “I would suspect the individual to be, at the least, disturbed and hostile.” Depending on his demeanor, I might too. And I would yawn and consider it just another day of high school, and a comparatively mild one at that.

  267. #267 Dan
    December 31, 2007

    I think my favorite bit in all this is that the father yanked poor, terrified Elle out of school as a result of this kid’s antics.

    In a way, I feel sorry for Elle since it’s clear she stands little chance of ever becoming more intelligent than her father who seems to be a bit of a rube. However, on the other hand, the gas station here in South Milwaukee desperately needs some new clerks. I’ve literally got to wait forever just to buy a pack of smokes. It’s maddening.

  268. #268 Steven Sullivan
    December 31, 2007

    Wouldn’t it, like, be cool to get an account of what actually happened from someone who isn’t, like, *seventeen* and still enamored of Rush lyrics, or still in the thrall of Jebus stories?

    Seriously: the teacher who gave him a ‘B’ should pipe up.

  269. #269 truth machine
    December 31, 2007

    Dear truth machine,
    I went to a very good school.
    I am not impressed with you at all.
    I thought this was a nice blog where I could say things.
    Atheists are mean.
    :(

    You nailed it. Kristen labeled something I wrote aas “lazy thinking” — sorry, but I can’t find that in my book on rhetorical errors. Her double standards and special pleading, OTOH … if ripping bibles in class is condemned because it makes students defensive, then everything else that does that must be condemned too … like teaching evolution to fundies. Sorry, but that’s the wrong prescription.

    ERV is right; concern trolls like Kristen have some gall talking about this student’s actions being “inappropriate” when he’s being likened to a mass murderer. I would like to create an environment where it is safe for any student to stand in front of a classroom with a book that s/he owns and ripping pages out of it no matter how “sacred” it is to other students.

  270. #270 truth machine
    December 31, 2007

    If it had been the Koran or some icon of progressivism or freethought that he had torn up while issuing insults many of you would have a very different assessment of the deed.

    Sorry, bozo, but this is a blatant fallacy of a Contrary-to Fact Hypthesis. Damer’s “Attacking Faulty Thinking” says:

    This fallacy consists in making a poorly supported claim about what might have happened in the past if other conditions had been present, or about an event that might occur in the future. This is done in such a way as to treat hypothetical claims as if they were statements of fact.

    Thinking in fallacies leads to to false beliefs and makes you functionally stupid.

  271. #271 craig
    December 31, 2007

    Seventeen year olds in 2008 enamored of Rush lyrics?

  272. #272 truth machine
    December 31, 2007

    This child is obviously more mature than some of the “attention seekers” at the school

    As well as more mature than the concern trolls here.

    I think that people have more control than they think about how things offend them,

    Exactly. People who get all upset when things that are “sacred” to them aren’t given sacred treatment need to take responsibility for their own feelings.

  273. #273 truth machine
    December 31, 2007

    “You people should shut your mouth and stop talking about things you know nothing about. Anger management issues? Respect?! None of you know what the speech was about and how I delivered it. I used no vulgar language, I didn’t know the word VAGINA was an explitive. The bible was my property, i was defending the Ralph Waldo Emerson aphorism “So far as a man thinks, he is free”. I demonstrated my freedom as a thinking and rational being by refusing to conform to the ideas presented in the bible. I said it was not holy, because really, grow up people. I called the class a bunch of superstitious, simple-minded(I mean narrow-minded) ignoramuses. There IS a difference between ignorance and stupidity. And the people that got offended by what I said, even though they weren’t even THERE, just supports my argument.”

    Hands?

  274. #274 truth machine
    December 31, 2007

    More words from “the boy” … we should be proud of him, not condemn him.

    Yes I was belligerent with mad anger as I ferociously tore whole sections out of the bible. I read verses and mocked them. Hardly. I opened the bible and joked “In the beginning was the word, and the word became kindling” and I proceeded to tear a mere hundred pages from it, to make my point that since I do not adhere to the ideas presented in either the old or new testaments, I am free to desecrate it as I may. It is only a book. How much history did Christians from old Europe destroyed? Massive monasteries with libraries packed with rich literature and lore from long long ago. Who knows how much knowledge has been lost “in the name of God”. I don’t know where people are getting the idea that my speech was driven with hate towards Judeo-Christians. I was simply sharing a few ideas with the class, and I thought maybe they could be mature enough to handle the content. Sure I made a comments that some of their tiny little brains might not be able to comprehend the material and they were superstitious ignoramuses. Literally, FOR CHRIST’S SAKE, lighten up a bit. Kids get made fun at school for way crueler things, and some of these kids kill themselves. Day in and day out they get crap from other people. In one instance I share my ideas towards religion and religious people, and suddenly I have committed a hate crime. It’s a belief, it’s not like you were born with it and you can’t help it. Religion does not belong in the same sentence as race, sex, nationality. But none the less, religious people are protected in the United States, not irreligious white males.
    I read “post-columbine” in the letter to the editor and it irritated me a bit. We used to live in a pre-columbine world where maybe a handful of irreligious people went on shooting frenzies, and they did not usually hold grudges against religious folk. I do not need recount all the instances of mass murder and injustice that has taken place in the name of religion.

    Not only Christianity, though it’s the biggie, but cults of religious hogwash and (sorry) Islam too. Millions of Native Americans were killed between the 18th and 19th centuries, because since they were heathens anyway, it was Christian duty to send them to hell. We continue to see hordes of innocent people slaughtered each year in the name of some god or spirit or entity. There are not organizations or cults of irreligious people in America plotting a rebellion against the Christian mass. I’m terribly sorry my message of freedom and reason got misinterpreted into a hate-fueled rant towards Christians, but I’m not necessarily sorry that I made the speech. It is Paul Jacobson Sr. who looks a little silly and immature now. He seems to be the intolerant one holding stereotypes. He also made a remark of how I presented my speech on Pearl Harbor Remembrance day, when thousands of men and women died so I could make an ass of myself. Firstly, if you want to attach any meaning or significance to their death, freedom of speech certainly is not it. Secondly, I can not help that they were murdered and I am not going to accept this gift of blood that you say they offer. And whether you like it or not, freedom is free. No amount of death is going to change that every human is born into this world with absolute freedom, there are just some of those in power who want to take that freedom from you. There doesn’t always need to be a purpose when people die or get killed. Why do we feel the need to attach some noble cause to death? The same instance with Jesus, supposedly the Son of God, but yet he is God. I am supposed to accept this sacrifice or be punished unduly for ALL OF ETERNITY. Well, sorry, you can keep that gift Jesus. Jesus, like those on December 7th, 1941, were unjustly murdered. I’ll make an ass out of myself regardless of who has died in the past. I didn’t kill them, I didn’t kill Jesus, and neither will I die for them or some unknown someone in the future. I am free – whether you believe it or not – regardless or their actions. And how dare YOU, Paul Jacobson, for even likening that event to my speech. Grow up.

  275. #275 truth machine
    December 31, 2007

    It probably is just androgenized young male attention-seeking. But I would make sure that’s all it is.

    You’re probably a fool who treats his own opinions as evidence.

  276. #276 truth machine
    December 31, 2007

    This kids a scuzzball, just as willfully ignorant and closeminded as any bookburner.

    Compare the kid’s own words above to your own stupidity and ignorance.

  277. #277 truth machine
    December 31, 2007

    I’m not saying that the other students are not credible. I’m saying that we don’t know if those comments are actually made by other students in the class. I could go over to that message board right now and post my own version of what happened.

    I question the intelligence of anyone who thinks it likely that the messages referring to the events in the classroom and claiming to be from students aren’t from students. Of course it’s possible that they aren’t; many things are possible. But rationality (and science) is all about sound probabilistic inference.

  278. #278 Colugo
    December 31, 2007

    truth machine, I’ll be crying myself to sleep due to the onslaught of your prolific commenting.

  279. #279 truth machine
    December 31, 2007

    I have no reason to think this young lady lied. He boy did it in front of the entire class, so surely, if she was lying, some of the other students would have been said something about that by now.

    That’s quite an unstated argumentum ad ignorantiam: “because I don’t know that other students have contradicted her, they haven’t”. Far too many people think this way, assuming that what they know of is all there is.

    There was plenty of reason to suspect that she did not give a full and accurate accounting of what happened. Talking about feeling threatened frames her factual statements and colors the way people interpret them. Had we read the comments by the young man before ever hearing from Ms. Jacobson, it’s likely that people would have viewed her comments quite differently.

  280. #280 truth machine
    December 31, 2007

    truth machine, I’ll be crying myself to sleep due to the onslaught of your prolific commenting.

    I’m impressed as always by the cogency of your argument.

  281. #281 bernarda
    January 1, 2008

    It’s funny that xians talk about “pagans” and “heathens”. Those two words simply mean “rural people”, that is people living in the countryside. They seemed to prefer their homegrown gods to the imperialist monotheistic one.

    The real book burners in America have been the xians. Over the years there have been many auto da fes of bonfires of secular books – Darwin is a popular victim – and satanist CD’s. There is one example in the following video montage.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=njkeBvipOLg

  282. #282 ndt
    January 1, 2008

    Sebastian, what you don’t seem to be getting is that a Bible is NOT a symbol of Christians, it is a symbol of Christianity.
    Violence towards a Bible is no more symbolic of violence against Christians than ripping up the Declaration of Independence is symbolic of violence against Americans.

  283. #283 Tatarize
    January 1, 2008

    @168, Blake, Who needs cuttlefish?

    Some of you have thought him crass,
    Destroying beliefs in front of the class?
    Before you insult the possessors of Grace,
    Perhaps you should think of yourself in their place.
    As a believer in the material world,
    And the laws which govern how matter is hurled.
    I would object to violating physical law,
    Removing the heat and watching things thaw.
    Energy creation or matter destroyed.
    Nothing from something or something to void.
    I freely admit,
    my beliefs are secured.
    Not hissy-fit,
    But science endured.

  284. #284 kristen in montreal
    January 1, 2008

    I’m flummoxed. Anyone who comes on this board and politely says that she disagrees with you is a… “concern troll”?

    What does that even mean? You guys are weird.

  285. #285 kristen in montreal
    January 1, 2008

    I think some of you are really overreacting to what I wrote. You need to calm down. It comes down to a simple difference of opinion about the propriety of the young man’s presentation. And we don’t even disagree *that much* about it. Based on his own account of what happened, I would have found it in poor taste. I wouldn’t want him to be punished for it. I wouldn’t have felt offended personally (because I’m not a believer), and I certainly wouldn’t have thought he was a threat. And I don’t want to “ban” book tearing or offensive statements, as poor agitated truth machine implied. I was just saying there are better ways to make a point, and in an oral presentation, people shouldn’t say the audience has “tiny little brains” and that they are “superstitious ignoramuses.” These are personal insults, and it is poor form to resort to personal insults in public speaking (or on internet message boards). A comment to the student on his evaluation paper or in person would have done it.

    I think that my different feelings on this issue might be because of the different social environment in which I live. In Quebec, the Church hasn’t held any significant power since the Quiet Revolution of the 1960s. People here just aren’t that religious. So I don’t share your knee-jerk reaction to these kinds of issues. If anything this province is on the crest of a new wave of secularism. People want to ban head scarves in public schools, ban doctors from wearing yarmulkes, and ban teachers from wearing saris. People want to ban praying in public places and block immigrant citizenship until they can demonstrate proficiency in French. I think most of these policies are unreasonable, though they are supported by the Opposition party and some very powerful lobbies.

    In spite of all of this, on the island on Montreal ~35% of students attend private schools, most of which are religious. This is because of a government policy that promotes school choice by subsidizing schools which adhere to provincial guidelines and hire licensed teachers. I think this is a good thing. (Someone who insulted me earlier said that comments like mine were the reason he is a supporter of school choice. Ironically, we are on the same side on this issue.)

    I prefer a more traditional flavor to a school, though this doesn’t necessarily mean religious. Obviously many of you would disagree and prefer a different school. And I think that’s fine and good. I guess because of where I come from, I don’t see the need for there to be such a wicked fight about it. Because religion isn’t a “threat” to me locally, I find it difficult to sympathize with the kind of presentation this young man made.

  286. #286 AJS
    January 1, 2008

    Couldn’t resist this gem from the Gazette site:

    There was a time when Creationists rejected the Theory of Evolution outright. Now the environment is making such demands that in order for Creationists to survive (at least in a quasi-rational sense) they must rely on a hardwired ability to adapt -adapt by way of some semblance of reasoning:

    Creationists concede that evolution exists but at the same time claim that it is not continuous and that the occasional imposition of God is required to make it complete. This thinking is evidence of an intermediary state of adaption: like the proto-eye that could detect light but could not yet see the finer details of that light’s source.
    (Posted by gazettefan)

  287. #287 Bob Evans
    January 1, 2008

    “What is upsetting about what this boy did is exactly what is upsetting about much of American culture to me. It’s all about shock value, getting a rise out of someone, drawing attention. “Where’s the substance? Where’s the hard work?” (kristin in montreal-#158)

    An astute observation, Kristin. If your theory on the state of American culture is correct, could this be why “Fifteen-year old U.S. students ranked lower, on average, than their peers in sixteen other countries,…out of 30 industrialized nations, on the 2006 Program for International Student Assessment, or PISA.”

    The educational model that worked so well in the past in the U.S. is long gone. In terms of the standards you mention, we actually had that here in the past. You seem to be harkening back to the 50’s, 60’s, 70’s and, I believe, most of the 80’s when a state of decorum was actually demanded of students in a public school classroom here. And most of the teachers weren’t afraid to stand up to a rare disruptive student. I know, because I was there and my children were there throughout the 80’s. It wasn’t until the early 90’s that one of my children was assaulted on a school-bus and the ‘perp’ got off with “a talking to.”

    What we have in the U.S. today, I think, in large part, are the fruits of the obsession many of our kids have for the violent video games. Many young parents today are the products, themselves, of the first wave of these games. It seems that the vast majority of parents are responsibly monotoring their kids involvement with these games, but many are not. They don’t realize that a lot of these kids are walking time bombs. Not necessarilly this boy, but it’s apparent to me that this incident could have had a very ugly ending. Who among us has not observed that occasional zombied-out kid, oblivious to everything other than the game on the screen? Little wonder that our kids consistantly rank in the lower percentile among developed countries on these tests.(the website characterizes our kids performance as:”Middling”

    But, the irate kid didn’t hunt down any of the theist kids with a gun after school, so, how can this episode be a safety issue? What’s wrong with incidents like this in the classroom, as long as no one is murdered or seriously maimed? There’s no way that that conceiveably could be the outcome of a similar incident in the future, right?

    As for the kids right to tear pages from the Bible or the Koran or the Talmud or “The God Delusion” or “War and Peace” or whatever, for the purpous of hurling verbal invective at his classmates as he excoriates them for their belief system, be it theist, atheist, agnostic or otherwise, (assuming that’s what actually transpired here)I’m reminded of a quote from G. K. Chesterton: “To have a right to do a thing is not at all the same as to be right in doing it.”

    This boy could have been effective with a vociferous and forceful presentation of his views, had he done it in the proper manner, sans the invective, if indeed he said the things that were reported. His articulateness, as evidenced in the transcript provided to us in #269 should have enabled him to do that.

  288. #288 Bob Evans
    January 1, 2008

    “What is upsetting about what this boy did is exactly what is upsetting about much of American culture to me. It’s all about shock value, getting a rise out of someone, drawing attention. “Where’s the substance? Where’s the hard work?” (kristin in montreal-#158)

    An astute observation, Kristin. If your theory on the state of American culture is correct, could this be why “Fifteen-year old U.S. students ranked lower, on average, than their peers in sixteen other countries,…out of 30 industrialized nations, on the 2006 Program for International Student Assessment, or PISA.”

    The educational model that worked so well in the past in the U.S. is long gone. In terms of the standards you mention, we actually had that here in the past. You seem to be harkening back to the 50’s, 60’s, 70’s and, I believe, most of the 80’s when a state of decorum was actually demanded of students in a public school classroom here. And most of the teachers weren’t afraid to stand up to a rare disruptive student. I know, because I was there and my children were there throughout the 80’s. It wasn’t until the early 90’s that one of my children was assaulted on a school-bus and the ‘perp’ got off with “a talking to.”

    What we have in the U.S. today, I think, in large part, are the fruits of the obsession many of our kids have for the violent video games. Many young parents today are the products, themselves, of the first wave of these games. It seems that the vast majority of parents are responsibly monotoring their kids involvement with these games, but many are not. They don’t realize that a lot of these kids are walking time bombs. Not necessarilly this boy, but it’s apparent to me that this incident could have had a very ugly ending. Who among us has not observed that occasional zombied-out kid, oblivious to everything other than the game on the screen? Little wonder that our kids consistantly rank in the lower percentile among developed countries on these tests.(the website characterizes our kids performance as:”Middling”

    But, the irate kid didn’t hunt down any of the theist kids with a gun after school, so, how can this episode be a safety issue? What’s wrong with incidents like this in the classroom, as long as no one is murdered or seriously maimed? There’s no way that that conceiveably could be the outcome of a similar incident in the future, right?

    As for the kids right to tear pages from the Bible or the Koran or the Talmud or “The God Delusion” or “War and Peace” or whatever, for the purpose of hurling verbal invective at his classmates as he excoriates them for their belief system, be it theist, atheist, agnostic or otherwise, (assuming that’s what actually transpired here)I’m reminded of a quote from G. K. Chesterton: “To have a right to do a thing is not at all the same as to be right in doing it.”

    This boy could have been effective with a vociferous and forceful presentation of his views, had he done it in the proper manner, sans the invective, if indeed he said the things that were reported. His articulateness, as evidenced in the transcript provided to us in #269 should have enabled him to do that.

  289. #289 PeteK
    January 1, 2008

    Nothing is sacred – except the idea that nothing is sacred. The argument breaks down, in its own self-reference

  290. #290 JanieBelle
    January 1, 2008

    Good on ‘im. He’s thinking for himself and exercising his First Amendment right. He’s learning, which is exactly what he’s supposed to be doing in school.

    I’m sorry if that offends someone… on second thought… no I’m not. I’m tickled pink that it offends someone. Mostly, I’m tickled that it offends the mindless sheep that are demanding that he be respectful of 15th century superstitions.

    Pfft. Bite me. (I hope you find that just as offensive.)

  291. #291 truth machine
    January 1, 2008

    And I don’t want to “ban” book tearing or offensive statements, as poor agitated truth machine implied.

    Perhaps you need a lesson in basic semantics. When you say that something is inappropriate for the classroom, that means you want it banned from the classroom.

    Have you read what this young man wrote that I quoted in #269 yet?

  292. #292 kristen in montreal
    January 2, 2008

    Uhm. Dude. No it doesn’t.

    Why is it every time you feel the need to refute me you also try to insult me? It makes it very difficult to discuss anything with you.

    I wrote that I didn’t think it was right to punish him, and I didn’t think it was right to “ban” the action. I just would think it was in poor taste and probably would have said something to him about it or written a comment on his evaluation sheet. That doesn’t ban book ripping any more than it bans poor spelling.

    And yes, I read what he said. In my last comment, you’ll notice that I took my quotations directly from his apparent statement.

  293. #293 kristen in montreal
    January 2, 2008

    What I find distasteful about what he did is exactly what I find distasteful about your comments. It’s rudeness without any cause for rudeness. It doesn’t add anything to your argument, it just makes me wonder if you weren’t raised better.

  294. #294 truth machine
    January 2, 2008

    Uhm. Dude. No it doesn’t.

    Naysaying is not an argument.

    I wrote that I didn’t think it was right to punish him

    So what? That’s a non sequitur. You also said it’s not appropriate. If you think it’s not appropriate, then you think it shouldn’t be allowed. If you think it shouldn’t be allowed, then you think it should be banned. If you deny that, you’re simply being dishonest. I don’t give a flying fuck if you think that’s rude; being rude is a lot better than your bad faith.

    What I find distasteful about what he did is exactly what I find distasteful about your comments.

    I don’t give a flying fuck what you find distasteful. What you find distasteful is of interest to only one person, and that’s your pompous self.

    it just makes me wonder if you weren’t raised better

    “raised better”? What kind of fucking priss are you?

  295. #295 kristen in montreal
    January 2, 2008

    Wow.

    Uhm.

    I don’t really know what to do with that.

    Yikes.

    See, I think schools should teach students how… uhm, NOT to do what truth machine just did.

  296. #296 kristen in montreal
    January 2, 2008

    Here, try again. Read what I said and see how it doesn’t require the manning of anything:

    I wrote that I didn’t think it was right to punish him, and I didn’t think it was right to “ban” the action. I just would think it was in poor taste and probably would have said something to him about it or written a comment on his evaluation sheet. That doesn’t ban book ripping any more than it bans poor spelling.

    If you can, leave out the four letter words.

  297. #297 kristen in montreal
    January 2, 2008

    Sorry. *banning*

  298. #298 kristen in montreal
    January 2, 2008

    OK – well, anyway, I’m off for the next few days to visit friends in the great white north, so I guess I’m letting truth machine have the last word here. (I shudder to think of what might be said in my absence, but somehow I will sleep at night. Perhaps some heavy medication and booze shall do it.)

    Some parting comments:
    – Mr. Machine, you used the phrase “non sequitur” incorrectly. What you meant was “contradiction.” What I said isn’t a contradiction, either, but at least this word would have made sense.
    – I am not religious. Not everyone who disagrees with you is doing it because they are religious. You need to understand that.
    – I asked you what a “concern troll” was… no answer. One more question: What exactly is a “flying fuck”? Is this a reference to the mile-high club, or what?

    Cheers,
    Kristen.

  299. #299 truth machine
    January 2, 2008

    I don’t really know what to do with that.

    As it says up at the top: Poor baby.

    See, I think schools should teach students how… uhm, NOT to do what truth machine just did.

    I am capable of doing otherwise, you insufferably pompous twit, but as an adult I choose to do as I do.

    Read what I said and see how it doesn’t require the manning of anything

    What kind of stupid fucking moron are you? You wrote “ripping up a Bible in front of a class is not something that is appropriate for a high school presentation.” If you think it’s not appropriate, then you don’t want it to be allowed; there’s no other way to interpret “not appropriate”. Writing a negative comment on an evaluation sheet is a coercion; it amounts to a ban, just like laws that impose a fine for speeding constitute a ban on speeding.

    – Mr. Machine, you used the phrase “non sequitur” incorrectly.

    No, I did not, you moron. I had just said that declaring something inappropriate is the same as declaring that you want it banned. You said no it isn’t, and then said that you wrote that you didn’t think it was right to punish him — but that has no bearing on my claim, thus is non sequitur. “contradiction” applies to your “no it doesn’t”, but that isn’t what I called non sequitur. You correct me on something that I wasn’t wrong about, and then say that your correction doesn’t make sense — that might make someone who wasn’t so pompous and arrogant pause for a moment. But like so many fools, you have no grasp of the depths of your foolishness.

  300. #300 truth machine
    January 2, 2008

    I am not religious. Not everyone who disagrees with you is doing it because they are religious. You need to understand that.

    It looks like you already drank that booze. In #152 I asked if you’re a believer; in #154 you said you aren’t. Since then I not referred to your beliefs in any way. So don’t tell me that I “need to understand” things that I have given no reason to think I don’t … that’s bad faith, which your education seems not to have covered.

  301. #301 kristen in montreal
    January 2, 2008

    Look, you’re not getting it.

    It’s like in debating. At the McGill Debating Union, we frown upon too many points of information (interruptions or comments during the other person’s speech). If they are done sparingly and elegantly, then that gives you points. If they are done to the point of being disruptive and rude, then they’re frowned upon. That doesn’t mean that asking too many PIs is “banned” – it just lowers the level of debate and gets annoying. After it’s over, the judges might make a comment like, ‘a few of those PIs were out of order.’

    You see? I think the student was out of order, but he had the right to stand up there and do it. Just like the teacher has the right to comment on it after he’s done and suggest the student approach the argument with more decorum.

    See?

  302. #302 kristen in montreal
    January 2, 2008

    truth machine,

    you referred in 289 to my “bad faith” !

  303. #303 truth machine
    January 2, 2008

    That doesn’t ban book ripping any more than it bans poor spelling.

    Uh, right. So the fact that poor spelling results in a poor grade on school work means that poor spelling is allowed/permitted/not banned (these all mean the same thing) on school work? Uh sure. So just what would it mean for something not to be allowed? How would you go about banning some behavior? If you mention some more severe penalty than the reprimand that you’re claiming isn’t a ban, then you’re going to have to explain just how severe of a penalty it takes for something to be banned. It’s a hopelessly ad hoc enterprise. The fact is that any behavior that is penalized is banned behavior — it is not permitted. If you give permission for some behavior, that implies that you won’t impose a penalty for it.

    Like I said, you need a basic lesson in semantics.

  304. #304 kristen in montreal
    January 2, 2008

    ARGHT. I’ll be late for my flight. Byebye.

  305. #305 truth machine
    January 2, 2008

    Look, you’re not getting it.

    Wrong, fool.

    you referred in 289 to my “bad faith” !

    And again in #295.

    I thought you had somewhere to go? Do you need a lesson in what “parting thoughts” means?

  306. #306 kristen in montreal
    January 2, 2008

    And I’m not suggesting a more severe penalty than a reprimand or a comment – that’s what you’re not understanding. It’s just an encouragement to the student to make his argument better. That really isn’t a “ban.” A ban would be suspending or giving a detention or giving an F to the offending student.

    Can’t you see the subtlety of it?

  307. #307 kristen in montreal
    January 2, 2008

    yeah i keep trying to leave but you keep not understanding me. ok, that’s it. now I’m going. Have a good day.

  308. #308 truth machine
    January 2, 2008

    If they are done to the point of being disruptive and rude, then they’re frowned upon. That doesn’t mean that asking too many PIs is “banned”

    It does if sanctions are imposed. And if you deny it, you need to say what would constitute banning. Just repeating your claim again and saying I don’t get it does not suffice … it’s bad faith.

  309. #309 truth machine
    January 2, 2008

    And I’m not suggesting a more severe penalty than a reprimand or a comment

    I know you’re not. That you write that shows your poor reading comprehension.

    that’s what you’re not understanding

    Uh, no, I understand that just fine — it is you who do not understand.

    A ban would be suspending or giving a detention or giving an F to the offending student.

    No, something cannot be banned or not banned merely on the severity of the penalty — that’s an arbitrary distinction.

    Can’t you see the subtlety of it?

    It is you who do not grasp the subtlety of it.

    yeah i keep trying to leave but you keep not understanding me.

    Yeah, if I disagree I must not understand. Typical bad faith charge.

  310. #310 truth machine
    January 2, 2008

    No, something cannot be banned or not banned merely on the severity of the penalty — that’s an arbitrary distinction.

    And I already made this point in a way that should be accessible to those of even the most feeble mental capacity, when I mentioned speeding. All illegal behavior is banned, regardless of the severity of the penalty. All penalized behavior is banned behavior — behavior not permitted — behavior for which permission is not granted.

  311. #311 truth machine
    January 2, 2008

    Another example: anything for which that you would yell “no!” at a child or dog is banned behavior. It doesn’t require “suspending or giving a detention or giving an F to” the offender.

  312. #312 truth machine
    January 2, 2008

    You see? I think the student was out of order, but he had the right to stand up there and do it. Just like the teacher has the right to comment on it after he’s done and suggest the student approach the argument with more decorum.

    See?

    I see your bad faith. No one punishes the teacher for commenting on it. No one claims that such comments by a teacher are “not appropriate”.

  313. #313 truth machine
    January 2, 2008

    Finally, I would like to note that this whole silly discussion came from a bad faith response to this comment of mine:

    I don’t think you’ve fully considered the consequences of banning from the classroom anything that makes people angry, insulted, or defensive.

    The point was clear enough: I don’t think that Ms. “in montreal” has fully considered the consequences of deeming “inappropriate”, reprimanding, making negative evaluation comments, etc. etc., anything in the classroom that makes students angry, insulted, or defensive.

  314. #314 Steven Sullivan
    January 2, 2008

    kristen & truth machine : please get a room. I can’t be alone in skipping all of your exchanges at this point.

    I read the kid’s screed. It’s about as coherent as I’d expect from what I’ve read of this dust-up so far. Which is to say…only kinda sorta. To wit: “I was simply sharing a few ideas with the class, and I thought maybe they could be mature enough to handle the content. Sure I made a comments that some of their tiny little brains might not be able to comprehend the material and they were superstitious ignoramuses.”

    That’s a curious application of the concept of maturity.

    And: “How much history did Christians from old Europe destroyed? Massive monasteries with libraries packed with rich literature and lore from long long ago.”

    Huh?

    And then there’s “Freedom is free.” That sounds nice as a slogan, but what does it mean, and is it historically accurate? Seems to me freedom has been anything but ‘free’ for much of humanity.

    So while his heart is in the right place from a freethinker POV, I’m still wanting to read a less ‘invested’ account of his presentation. Clearly he/she thought this kid did a good job (that’s what B used to mean when I was in high school). I’d like to hear the teacher’s side of the story.

  315. #315 tigtog
    January 2, 2008

    truth machine,

    you referred in 289 to my “bad faith” !

    For shame, someone continually referring to debating society rules not recognising that “bad faith arguments” have nothing to do with religion.

    http://research.lawyers.com/glossary/bad-faith.html

  316. #316 tigtog
    January 2, 2008

    Bugger, bollixed the HTML on the quote. The second line above should also be part of the blockquote.

  317. #317 TW
    January 2, 2008

    While I dont really have that strong an opinion one way or another over this (basically the kid was a bit over the top but the “offended” students really need to get over themselves), I am intrigued by one thing.

    How is commenting on his evaluation not a form of (admittedly very mild) punishment?

  318. #318 late to the fray
    January 2, 2008

    “But how does that make you any different than the crowds that cheer on book burners?

    This kids a scuzzball, just as willfully ignorant and closeminded as any bookburner.”

    I get that this idiocy was spouted long ago, but as a resident of a school district where the uberchristians routinely attempt to burn books–that is, seek to have them barred from school libraries and removed from reading lists–I just want to say that the inability to distinguish between destroying a single copy of a book, and acting so as to prevent everyone from reading it, speaks to an ignorance and illogic so deep that I’m surprised the speaker is capable of actually typing it. Actually, I would suspect s/he requires assistance to remember breathing. Despite all the knotted panties and horrified cries of incivility–which apparently is to be prized above all knowledge and experience–perhaps this student’s actions will enable a classmate to avoid the drooling stupidity evidenced by the above commenter.

  319. #319 truth machine
    January 2, 2008

    For shame, someone continually referring to debating society rules not recognising that “bad faith arguments” have nothing to do with religion.

    Good grief, is that what she meant? I hadn’t imagined she was that ignorant.

  320. #320 truth machine
    January 2, 2008

    I can’t be alone in skipping all of your exchanges at this point.

    You could well be, as this thread is ancient by Pharyngula standards and is about to scroll off the front page. In any case, I couldn’t care less what some random person chooses to skip.

  321. #321 kristen in timmins, ON
    January 3, 2008

    I’m sorry I did not understand what you meant. 99% of the time I debate in French, and I don’t think there is an equivalent term to “bad faith.”

  322. #322 anti-nonsense
    January 3, 2008

    Well I do think the presentation was a bit over the top for a high school demonstration and that he should have at least made intelligent arguments for why the Bible is wrong while ripping it up, and preferably not ripped it up at all, because I disagree with destroying books in general, rather then insulting his classmates’ intelligence, I would agree that feeling “threatened” by his presentation is an overreaction.

    If he’d done his thing at home and uploaded onto Youtube that would be OK, although I still don’t agree with ripping up books personally, but doing it at school was the wrong place and time to do it.

    Also, I disagree with the statement that “no word of the Bible is true”, the Bible does have a fair amount of good moral advice, although even that is mixed with bad moral advice, but as far as science and history goes, the Bible fails hardcore.

  323. #323 Pyre
    January 5, 2008

    Wobert @ 62: “… the lad in question has just shown that he knows more about the US constitution and has more balls than anyone on the Republican side of politics.”

    And at least half the Democrats in Congress.

  324. #324 San
    January 6, 2008

    “Heck, I’m afraid of theists– they’re irrational and always saying creepy things about this invisible guy who killed his kid for me and threatening eternal damnation…
    but no one ever protected me from them.” (#81)

    Thanks ‘ungodly goddess’ for that . Exactly my feelings.

    And believe me I have more reasons to feel threatened: they now have their own “museum” (the Creationist museum http://www.uglydoggy.com/2007/09/sci-fi-goes-museum.html) and nobody moved a finger to have that place renamed? Call it Creationland, Bibleland, anything but museum!.

    So if that girl felt threaten, bad luck, it is her problem. He has the right, he was probably fed up, he may have just want the shock value, who knows? He did nothing illegal, he was expressing himself.

  325. #325 Schroedinger's Dog
    February 14, 2009

    Reminds me of that one time when I was staying in Florida. My host’s wife, a fundie christian, found some Lovecraft books on my night table.

    When I came back from the beach, I found her in the garden, burning my books. When asked why, she said these were the work of the devil.

    How come no parents feared for my safety at the time? (Safety which was probably more at stake than in PZ’s account)…

  326. #326 Sven DiMilo
    February 14, 2009

    Just curious, Dog:
    How did you find this thread?

New comments have been temporarily disabled. Please check back soon.