The Chronicles of Kearnya, or, Principles of Evolution Observed in the Field at Kearny High School

February 2, 2007

It will no doubt pain him to hear this, but the ongoing saga of David Paszkiewicz — the Kearny High School teacher who got caught using his classroom as a pulpit for Christianist wingnuttery — has been an object lesson in the workings of evolution, in terms of the Kearny school board’s response.

Like evolution, the school board worked very slowly. Presented with a fall incident in which Paszkiewicz (whose official designation is that of a history teacher) denounced evolution as “unscientific” and told a Muslim girl she was bound for hell unless she got down with the Christianist program, the board waited until January to take any kind of action.

Like any organism caught up in the endless competition of life that powers evolutionary processes, the board also adopted a number of survival strategies.

In an attempt to placate parents and taxpayers who expect schools to be places of education instead of asylums for half-baked preachers, the board announced that it had taken some kind of unspecified disciplinary action against the Preachin’ Teach. Biologists will recognize this as a “threat display,” an attempt to appear big and menacing that’s employed by all manner of life forms both vertebrate and (appropriately, in this case) invertebrate. Since the Preachin’ Teach has reportedly been running around telling students that people who talk about global warming are using Nazi-style propaganda techniques, it seems doubtful that the threat display is very convincing.

The board also announced that all teachers would receive mandatory training on the Constitution’s separation of church and state and how it should guide classroom discussions. As any marine biologist will tell you, most species of octopus and squid, when confronted with something big and scary (like representatives of the civilized world) will produce a big splurtch of ink that hangs in the water and distracts the predator while they look for a safe place to hide. Since the young man who exposed the Preachin’ Teach to daylight has a father who is not inclined to take this kind of nonsense lying down, it remains to be seen if this distraction strategy will be effective.

Finally, biologists are also aware that there are life forms once capable of sight that have turned their backs on the daylight and elected instead to live in lightless caverns and stagnant pools far beneath the ground. Though some of these creatures retain vestigial traces of eyes and other sensory organs, these have become useless over the generations. These creatures paddle in darkness, untroubled by the doings of the world above.

It would appear the school board is working toward this goal by announcing that from now on, no student is permitted to tape-record a teacher during class. Since it was a tape-recording that permitted the intrepid student to expose the Preachin’ Teach with evidence in the first place, we can only assume the school board would rather paddle around in the dark, signing off on maintenance reports and cafeteria menus, rather than deal head-on with the educational and intellectual malfeasance now being practiced in the school’s halls.

I’m not a biologist or evolutionary theorist, simply a layman who respects both science and the bedrock principles of American society. I know there is fossil evidence of land animals returning to the sea, but I don’t know if any evidence has been found of vertebrates evolving back into invertebrates.

But I think we should all keep our eyes on the Kearny school district, where such an evolutionary retreat may yet happen. It’s already pretty hard to find any evidence of backbones on the school board.

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16 Responses to “The Chronicles of Kearnya, or, Principles of Evolution Observed in the Field at Kearny High School”

  1. calugg Says:

    Yes, please keep an eye on the district.

    From what news accounts I can gather, the student’s father sent 4 (!) letters of complaint to the school board, which sat on its hands. It’s only when the student had the preachin’ teacher on tape did anyone perk up and pay attention.

    Now, I teach in this area for would-be principals and supe’s and having a preachin’ teacher is an invitation to a nasty and losing lawsuit. I call it “instant buzzard meat” because the court rulings are so strong.

    If I were 1: a lawyer and 2: really greedy, I’d circle the district like a vulture. Given the board’s track record of doing nothing, opportunity is just one inadvertent blurt away.

  2. Sharon GR Says:

    This whole thing is infuriating. They waited forever to do just about nothing.

    You’re right, calugg, lawyers are probably already hovering.

  3. SpaceCowboy Says:

    The really sad thing in all this is the effect on the student. In his young years, he actually got it right, and in fine form. And yet, his school and his peers are there to beat the good judgement right out of him. I guess the instilling of morals into children is ok only if it doesn’t conflict with any religious (i.e. Christian) rhetoric.

    I remember a great quote I once heard from a guest on an NPR program:

    “Good people do good things. Bad people do bad things. To get good people to do bad things, you need religion.”

  4. Stash Says:

    I find it both amazing and slightly embarrassing that we still have occurances like this in a, supposedly, civilized western-society.

    They should put a three corner hat on this bozo and parade him down mainstreet prior to putting him in stocks for the weekend!

    Our society protects this person’s speech in the proper forum. As a government agent (teacher), his classroom is not the proper forum. He already knows that. The school board knows that. There should be no warning, or second chance.

    And the School Board forbidding videotaping when that was the only method that would have caught this yahoo?!?!?! Shades of Salem!

  5. tominwv Says:

    SpaceCowboy #3

    The quote is from Steven Weinberg:

    “With or without religion good people can behave well and bad people can do evil, but, for good people to do evil – that takes religion.”


  6. […] by Evil Bender on February 3rd, 2007 Seperation of Church and State? What seperation? Presented with a fall incident in which Paszkiewicz (whose official designation is that of a […]

  7. TC Says:

    Yes, that’s some fine resolution of not-at-all-important-issues by the school board. Yes, most teachers don’t know they should avoid issues of religion. And let’s pretend that teachers don’t do anything wrong. If anything wrong does happen, no way we wanna know about it! Oh that’s some fantastic problem-solving by the school board. I think they should have been in the 109th Congress!!

  8. Michael Bonds Says:

    Times are a changin’, to the worst I fear!
    I graduated ’71 in a small East Texas school. Even though S Baptists were the majority they were still able to separate their personal religious beliefs from truth and facts.
    I wrote my senior paper on evolution. Teach told me, “I’d give you a C on religion but this is an A+ paper.”
    Went on to become a nationally registered microbiologist. I’ve watched content-based teaching go to hell since GW bushwhacker was Goober. Went back to grad school a few years ago to transform my years of clinical and research microbiology to a highly skilled high school science teacher. Every teacher in my classes told me unanimously that I would be battling the principal, superintendent and school board. I asked, “why?” We teach rote memorization for the students to pass the TAAS questions. We do not teach content anymore. With your expertise and assertive confidence your gonna piss in somebody’s Post Toasties if you buck the powers that be. School rating by TAAS scores is tied to $$$ for the school. They don’t want to lose what little they get. Soooooo………BTW, Texas education stats 2003: 4,331,751 students(CA >6 million; ave teacher pay ~$40k(29 states pay more); $$$ per pupil is ~$7k(17th); spent more money on highways and prisons; 2003 grade 8, math 69th %, reading 71, science 53%.(USA avg. 66,72,59). We have revenues 2004-5, $35,841,377 #3 behind NY, CA. We rank 39th with a 64.2% high school grad rate. Avg ACT scores 20.2 (US 20.9), 29% take ACT (US 40). SAT math 493(508 US) verbal 502 (520 US) and 54% test (US 49%). All that revenue for what? Mediocrity at best.
    TX has 4 libraries in the top 100 by volumes held. 848 public libs (#2), spending $337,926 (#9). Lowest tuition rate, more renowned colleges and Nobel Prize winners.

    This is how wingnuts get to proselytize versus teach to kids who don’t know enough to know better, those that just occupy seats and kids who are intimidated by ‘authority figures’ (sic). Dry stats suck, but they speak volumes about future voting citizens. That is scary, bushwhacker and his cabal got the TX Goober office and the WH due to citizens who can’t pour piss outta boot with the directions on the heel. Ta Ta.

  9. Judge Moonbox Says:

    I still haven’t heard of anyone asking David Paszkiewicz how big Noah’s Ark would have to be to hold just one breeding pair of Brachiosaurs, or how big the larder had to be to feed a pair of Tyrannosaurs. The Preachin’ Teach claimed that dinosaurs were on the ark, but the Bible gave specific dimensions; and I really doubt that Paszkiewicz has done the math (hint: if he doesn’t know how big a cubit is, it’s 18 inches from the average man’s elbow to the outstretched fingertip).

    Some say that Paszkiewicz was still trusted by most students because evolution is outside his field, History. I think that he should be questioned in his field: where does he place Thomas Jefferson on the country’s family tree? Most wingnuts talk about how the “Founding Fathers” wanted what they themselves want, but when challenged, they retreat to distractions like how “the phrase ‘Separation of Church and State’ isn’t in the Constitution,” as though that required us to give Tommy Jeff the same nyaahnyaah we give the Jacksonville voters who followed an erroneous instruction and thereby voided their vote for Gore.

  10. John Phillips Says:

    So let me get this right, the most significant thing they have done is to stop the possibility of other students in future from being able to prove that a teacher may be displaying inappropriate behaviour. Way to go school board, what a concrete example in corruption as obviously everything is all right if nobody can prove otherwise. I might expect this type of behaviour in some banana republic but not the land of the free. What does this behaviour say about the standards of those in charge of the children’s’ education. I would be taking my children out of such a system as quick as I could, for what else would they be prepared to brush under the carpet to save themselves embarrassment or possible legal repercussion.

  11. Alison Says:

    This whole thing is disgusting. If you go catch up at http://kearnyontheweb.com/, you can see so much awfulness. The supposed reason for banning audiotapes is that classmates of Matthew LaClair were “concerned” about their “privacy” because the tape is available online. As if anyone could listen to that tape and identify someone and take any offensive action. . .and the irony there is that LaClair has actually been the target of offensive action, including death threats both in person and online, but nothing has been done by the administration or the school board to protect HIM. (It’s OK, though, because as an atheist, he isn’t really a “citizen”, is he?)

  12. Paul LaClair Says:

    Thank you for one of the most witty pieces I’ve seen on this story. Fighting this battle in defense of the Constitution and education itself has not been easy. We needed a good laugh, and you provided quite a few.

    Be advised that we are going to hold a press conference tomorrow, February 19, and that Matthew intends to speak at the school board meeting on February 20, where he will reveal additional news. So you may see this story again this week.


  13. […] recall that LaClair taped-recorded history teacher David Paszkiewicz informing his captive audience that evolution and t…. The school board responded with a number of weak-kneed measures, the most odious of which was to […]

  14. David Ritman Says:

    I find the notion that we are allies with a nation which, although blessed with an astonishingly brilliant constitution, can still appoint a president who lost an election, fight a holy war and blame it totally on the other side and have so many dangerous intelligent people who seem able to reason on only the most simplistic level, to be absolutely frightening. Unfortunately, our own government has until recently been led by a religious fanatic and look at the consequences. I honestly despair for our future if after pursuing the road to intellectual enlightenment, our politicians and civic leaders are still unable to grasp what is blindingly obvious.

  15. aaa Says:

    magnificent publish, very informative. I’m wondering why the opposite experts of this sector don’t realize
    this. You must continue your writing. I am sure, you have a great readers’
    base already!

  16. aaa Says:

    Do you have any video of that? I’d care to find out more details.


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