Reece’s Pieces? Sneezes?
Anyway, the Poetry Police came down on an eleven year old for daring to write a poem about Jesus at Christmastime.
Andrew and his classmates were assigned a creative expression paper for the Winter Writer’s Board as part of his sixth-grade language class at Thames Elementary School in the Hattiesburg Public School District. He could choose among three topics, and he chose to write a poem about “what Christmas means to me.” After turning in his rough draft, Atkins circled the word “Jesus” and deducted one point from his grade. The teacher explained to Andrew that he was not allowed to mention Jesus at school and would need to rewrite the poem for his final draft without using the word “Jesus.” He attempted to rewrite the paper according to the teacher’s instructions.
Not that I like the idea of indoctrinating kids in a religion, but cripes, when a chunk of the world persists on thinking of December 25 in terms of Christ, the kid should have the right to include the guy in a Christmas poem. It seems like a case of political correctness gone awry, to me.
Andrew’s poem, “A Great Christmas,” reads: “The best Christmas ever is when everyone is there. It is when everyone is laughing here and there. That is the Christmas I want to share. Christmas is about Jesus’ birth. About peace on Earth. This is what Christmas is about. It is when He lay in a manger. And the three wise men come to see. That’s what it means to me.”
The principal came out on the side of the parents (and me) on this one – the kid gets full marks on the assignment for proper use of the word “Jesus.” I don’t know what the teacher gets. Shamed across the planet for being a hardass, maybe. Way to go, Latasha Atkins. Way to discourage creativity. You don’t have to agree with or promote what he’s writing about to grade him on it, do you?
I don’t know what this Winter Writer thing entails. Maybe she had no choice on topics. Maybe if she had the choice, she never would have picked topics that automatically led down a road she wanted to avoid. No way to know. Still not cool to judge the boy’s work based on his religious life experience, especially since he has no control over that.
Weirdly, or maybe not that weirdly, I’m reminded of an English class of my own in junior high. We were doing speeches. It seemed like we were doing speeches all frickin year but it was probably just a term assignment. Anyway, I think we had to do three – one for a minute, one for five minutes, and the major one for ten minutes, complete with props and overhead projector if we needed them.
This one girl was totally horse obsessed. I suspect every creative writing assignment she ever handed in was horse related in one way or another and the teacher, whoever it was, must have drawn the line on yet another horse project from this girl. She had to talk about something other than horses and that was that. So, day of her long speech, she came dressed in jodhpurs and a riding hat and gave her whole presentation on jockeys and their equipment.
I also had a poetry disagreement with a teacher once, but I don’t think it was with the same one. We had a series of poems based around “Man and the Unknown” to read and discuss. I liked all of them so I wrote them in a journal that I actually still have, which is why I remember this story at all. The poem was “Earth” by John Hall Wheelock:
“A planet doesn’t explode of itself,” said drily
The Martian astronomer, gazing off into the air.
“That they were able to do it at all is proof that highly
Intelligent beings must have been living there.”
You see how drily and highly rhyme, right, as do air and there? Drily is being used as an adverb to describe the tone of what the astronomer said. Sardonic, ironic, sarcastically toned comment, that kind of thing. Teacher insisted the Martian’s name was Drilly and pronounced it that way so the lines didn’t rhyme properly. Drove me up a short wall of patience pretty fast, let me tell you. All of my attempts to explain that he was botching the rhyme of the thing fell on deaf ears. Still grrs me after all this time. Silly teacher. Poetry is not a game for fools.