A Shrewdness of Apes

An Okie teacher banished to the Midwest. "Education is not the filling a bucket but the lighting of a fire."-- William Butler Yeats

Sunday, May 21, 2006

And now, from the "Damned-if-you-do, Damned-if-you-don't" department...

Parents at a Fort Worth elementary school are protesting the school's decision to remove the word "God" from a design placed on the school yearbook cover.

The design utilized the new 2005 nickel design with the offset profile of Thomas Jefferson that commemorated the bicentennial of the Lewis and Clark expedition. These coins feature a reverse of either a buffalo or of the view of the Pacific Ocean with a quote from Lewis and Clark's journals.

Here're the highlights of the story from television station WOAI in San Antonio:
A yearbook cover that omits the words "In God We Trust" from a picture of an enlarged nickel has angered some parents.

Liberty Elementary, a new school in suburban Fort Worth, chose the coin because the nickel's new design prominently features the school's name in cursive.

The coin also has "In God We Trust" along the right edge, but the phrase was removed from the yearbook. Instead, the $16 book came with a sticker that gave students the choice of putting the phrase back on the nickel.

Keller ISD spokesman Jason Meyer said a parent's group at the school approved the decision before the book was published. Liberty Principal Janet Travis wanted to avoid offending students of different religions, Meyer said.

As you can see, the words "In God We Trust" are larger than the scripted "Liberty."

I feel for the leaders of the school. If they'd have left the phrase visible, there would have been an outcry. Did they really think that taking the phrase off would solve their problem? I mean, this is Texas, the "Buckle of the Bible Belt." People are going to notice.

Further, the use of "In God We Trust" is hardly a new development. US coins have borne the phrase since 1864, when the motto was placed on a two-cent piece. The other suggested phrase, by the way, was "Our God and Our Country." Later, the Coinage Act of 1873 allowed the secretary of the treasury to place the motto on any coins. Some designs have precluded space for the motto, but the motto has been very widely utilized for over 140 years.

I personally would have laid out the design of the yearbook showing both sides of the coin, overlapping a bit-- say, right where the phrase is along the edge. This would be a much more subtle way of avoiding offense, if one was to insist on using the coin in the first place despite fears of protest. It's like being offered a lovely beachfront home --in front of the flaming lakes of Hell: sometimes, you just shouldn't go there.


At 5/21/06, 11:24 AM, Blogger elementaryhistoryteacher said...

Just knowing there might have been a controversy I would have scrapped the whole idea and opted for another cover. Why use the nickel design anyway? There are plenty of other images with "liberty" written on it than U.S. currency. It would have made more sense to me if Lewis and Clark's expedition went through Texas but it didn't. Folks around here in a local system got upset with their highschool students got their yearbooks. Seems there was an insert added to the back of the book that had young kids being interviewed about sexually transmitted diseases, teen pregnancy, homosexuality, etc. Most parents interviewed didn't really mind the info...they objected to the forum it was being presented in. As one dad said, "I didn't spend $75 for my daughter to have memories of her senior year to find commentaries on hot-button issues." Isn't yearbook season fun?

At 5/21/06, 12:14 PM, Blogger "Ms. Cornelius" said...

Now THAT was really stupid. Doesn't anyone understand the purpose of a yearbook????

At 5/21/06, 12:44 PM, Anonymous Mrs. Bog said...

This brings to mind the conversation I had with my classmates yesterday in our language arts 6-8 class.

We have been assigned to do a novel study on A BREAK WITH CHARITY by Ann Rinaldi. All about
the Salem witch trials.

We spent a lot of time discussing the religious aspect of the book. We are going to have students with family religious beliefs and practices that range from none to an active concern about witchcraft (anti-Halloween, no Harry Potter).

This book is full of religious statements. It also is full of opinion about those beliefs. We spent a lot of time discussing how to handle it. We are leaning towards the aspect that this is part of our history, even though it is historical fiction, and what statements are part of record and what were placed there by the author. And spending most of our time on peer pressure, gossip, bullying and fear.

And we also discussed reading the phrase 'they were frolicking naked'... that is not part of historical record, as far as we can tell and why, oh why, did the author include it? The author was having a character comment on the actions of a couple who frolicked one day and showed up in meeting with their respective spouses another day. She could have illustrated hypocrisy a number of different ways! (We are just cowards we are!)

At 5/21/06, 2:19 PM, Blogger Laura(southernxyl) said...

I wonder how much controversy there really would have been if they'd just put the dang nickel on the yearbook as-is. Do people have religious objections to handling nickels?

I remember when there was a to-do over Ohio's state motto, "With God All Things Are Possible". It was thought that this might offend the Hindus. The local Hindu population were in fact offended - "Do you think we don't believe that with God all things are possible?"

And it makes me think of the school system in England that banned "The Three Little Pigs" because they didn't want to offend the Muslim students. The local Muslim council said that they didn't eat pigs but that didn't mean they couldn't read about them; and that they would let the system know if and when they were ever offended.

I don't know, I see the need for sensitivity but sometimes I think we go overboard.

At 5/21/06, 2:35 PM, Blogger elementaryhistoryteacher said...

laura...you need to check out two of my fairly recent posts about the words "so help me God" added to the presidential oath of office. The same people who object to this practice are also attempting to remove the words "in God we trust" from our nation's currency. I agree with you that sometimes we go overboard.

At 5/21/06, 6:02 PM, Blogger "Ms. Cornelius" said...

I have an atheist friend who says "Oh my God!" all the time.

I laugh at her every time, and tell her, "No it's MY God. You're a conscientious objector!"

And she has no problem using US currency.

I think taking off the phrase was worse than leaving it on.


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