The Dark Side

 

The new school year is just around the corner and I find myself feeling as if I should be somewhere other than sitting in my recliner typing this.  I expect the feeling will pass but my thoughts are on the teachers who will soon be welcoming students into their classrooms and those students themselves.

With all the political debate over private and public education, South Carolina’s dismal ranking, teacher pay, House Bill 610, vouchers and the like, I wondered if I was just lucky and somehow caught lightning in a bottle late in my career as I ventured over to the “dark side.”… to a charter school.

A traditional public-school teacher my entire career, I had not been a supporter of the charter school programs, considering them to be havens for the elitist and entitled offsprings of parents who “Didn’t want THEIR kids going to school with those other kids.”

I was confusing charter schools with elitist and entitled private schools like…I’ll let you fill in that blank.  I also believed charter schools were just the educational program “de jure” and, like dozens of other “innovations” I had taught through, would eventually run their course and disappear from the landscape of education.  I was wrong…and rightly so.

One might ask if I was so against the charter school programs, why was I teaching in one?  I wanted a job.  I had retired six years previous and had enrolled myself into the Teacher and Employee Retention Program, TERI for short, which allowed me to teach after retirement while building a “nest egg” for later down my life’s pathway.  NO, IT IS NOT DOUBLE DIPPING!  My TERI had run out and I had become an “at-will” employee and could be terminated without cause which is exactly what happened.

My timing was not the best…it never has been.  With a declining economy, my district did not want to pay a thirty-nine-year veteran with multiple advanced degrees when they could pay a first-year teacher less than half of what I was making.  A sound fiscal policy?  My argument was of course, “I was worth every penny damn of my salary!”

In 2009 I found myself, along with six other teachers, a secretary, and an administrator, opening a new charter school, Greer Middle College Charter High School.  A mouth full.  I was teaching geography to 90 or so fresh-faced freshmen who might have been the most diverse, curious and interesting group I had ever taught.

Many of my students were refugees from “normal” public schools (If there is such a thing).  Some had attended Christian private schools their entire lives; others had been homeschooled and only a few had made it through the public-school system…unscathed and without some type of baggage.  We had a few who were combinations of all three and carrying steamer trunks loaded with baggage.

This was not what made them curious…and delightful.  They were all over the political and religious spectrum.  Third generation “flower power” hippies interacting with the religiously fundamental and politically way right.  I consider myself to be a political and religious moderate which put me far to their political left and religiously…a heathen despite my Methodist up bring and my public dunking into the Baptist Church.  Somehow, we all got along and there is a lesson there somewhere.

During a mandatory student-parental conference, one parent offered to pray for me because of my “liberal” belief that the earth was a bit older than her belief of six thousand years.  I thanked her and considering my many indiscretions decided to allow her to intercede on my behalf.

Due to a glitch, we opened our first year in a church far from what would eventually be our campus and in very tight quarters.  Sausage casing tight.  Everyone knew exactly what every other teacher was teaching, and which student was in trouble.

During my last five years of teaching, I would find I missed the comradery developed with those students and teachers in those close quarters.  It turned out not to be the dark side at all.

Don Miller’s author’s page can be found at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

Don Miller writing as Lena Christenson can found at https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B07B6BDD19

Image from https://steemit.com/funny/@lordvader/one-of-your-teachers-needs-to-learn-a-lesson

 

Liberal Christian is not an Oxymoron

 

I used to believe I was a moderate, a centrist (?)…hmmmm, maybe not…but a moderate independent none-the-less.  I knew I leaned left on certain issues, leaned left not the whole hog left.  I refuse to say social liberal, fiscal conservative because I can’t seem to keep my bank account balanced.  I am a social liberal.

I am being pushed farther and farther left though my beliefs haven’t changed much over the years.  As I have aged, if anything at all, I have found my way back to a path I had fallen off earlier.  The political spectrum has moved and taken religious beliefs with it…or is it the other way around?

Normally, a person’s religious beliefs are fine with me…provided no one loses a body part, gets disparaged or called an abomination while being publicly stoned…with a rock stoned.

I look at different “Christian” religions as “different flavors” of the same dessert.  Cherry cheesecake or strawberry cheesecake kinds of differences, both are tasty but different flavors of tasty.  Different religions?  Desserts from different ovens?  Yes, there are certain desserts I’m not going to eat and certain denominations I will not follow.

Two days ago, instead of cheesecake, I received a shaving cream pie to the face for expressing my belief that I am a left-leaning Christian.  The shaving cream is burning more than my eyes…a location considerably south of my eyes.

My anger has bothered me greatly, biblically (?), and for two days I have prayed for enlightenment and some anodyne to soothe the burning.  I’ve seen no light and my metaphorical Preparation H seems to be acting like Atomic Bomb.  Therefore, I will burden you, both of my faithful readers.

The comment I made was in regard to what I felt was spreading hatred and division, what I deemed to be hatred and division.  I typed, ”I am a left-leaning Christian, this (the meme) is simply not true about liberals.”  I thought but didn’t type, “Shouldn’t religion be about love and inclusion?”  I should have known better.  The responses immediately went sideways and took on a political slant…no a political jump off a cliff.

Had I left off the words “left-leaning” I would have gone unscathed, but that was my point.  I chose not to engage and barely survived being pummeled by “true believers’” welding social media generated “family Bibles.”  I turned off the notifications and whimpered off into the night.

Not what I was expecting but maybe I should have.  I shared a post about a fence post that started an argument over cement.  Maybe they were funnin’ me…maybe.

Is it just about abortion?  I was told in a different post, reasonably civil, that I was copping out for not basing my entire belief structure and political affiliation on one issue.  Maybe I am skirting the issue…but it is my belief structure and not my issue.  A belief structure involving not only black and white but subtle shades of grays.

I believe I can hate abortion and still believe it is not my right to dictate what a woman or a couple decide for themselves.  If that is copping out I’m not the least bit sorry.  I must answer to my God.  For me, it goes deeper than one issue…albeit,  a big issue.

A really, big issue…but so is war and supporting the death merchants who benefit from it.  So is the gun lobby and our highest percentage rating of gun deaths in the first world.  So is ignoring science for corporate greed while fouling the air and water my grandchildren will have to breath.  Allowing children to go hungry and without medical care while pharmaceutical corporations continue to stuff their offshore bank accounts.

What about an equal education for all?  One that not only teaches people to think but prepares all to compete in a MODERN world.  How do we treat our LGBT friends and their rights?  What are their civil rights?  Why has there been a rise in open hostility some have toward people of color and other religions?

Just some of the issues I discussed with myself as I walked Saturday morning.  There are others, but I only walked for ninety minutes.  I also discussed the question, “Is the other political side any better?”  For now, I say yes but will continue to ask for guidance…and a prescription to calm my anger.

I do not believe Liberal Christian is an oxymoron.  I believe people who say so are using religion to further divide a divided humanity.  Why would we want to do that…or who would want US to do that?  Do not all our Christian religions follow a Middle Eastern man who was, by every modern definition of liberal, a liberal Jew.  I just started to feel better.

For lighter fare try Don Miller at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

For romantic adventure try Don Miller writing as Lena Christenson at https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B07B6BDD19

Image from TheChristianLeft.Org and http://whatwouldjackdo.net/blog.html