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.