Naturally I was struck the other day by the posting on the Web site of the Schenectady City School District that, “on January 7,” meaning that very day, “in response to concerns and feedback, Superintendent Eric Ely announced that the modular schedule now in place at Schenectady High School will not change as part of the restructuring plan next year.”
An obscure and arcane matter, you say, and who could possibly care who is not part of the school, but I had attended the school board meeting the night before and I had heard Superintendent Ely take the exactly opposite position and take it in his usual pugnacious, uncompromising way, in the face of protests by at least 100 teachers who had shown up to plead their case.
The teachers wanted to keep the class schedule they now have — never mind the details of it — and they presented a petition with 120 signatures asking for it.
Ely told them absolutely not. That schedule doesn’t work for the kids, it doesn’t meet state requirements, and next year it is finished.
You should concentrate on making positive and practical suggestions for how to replace it, not plead to keep it. He was tired of that “crap,” as he put it.
And then the very next day — a perfect backflip! A complete caving in to the teachers. “In response to concerns and feedback,” etc. But anyone who knows Eric Ely knows that “concerns and feedback” are what least interest him.
He has his own way, and if you don’t like it, you can shove it. That is his consistent position, in response to the voters of Schenectady, in response to the state comptroller, in response to his own employees.
So what happened?
Alas, he doesn’t share his thoughts with me, so I don’t know, but let me speculate that he did not go home, drink a glass of warm milk and say to himself, well, maybe the teachers are right after all.
That is not his character.
Somebody must have gotten to him. Somebody must have said to him something like the following:
“Eric, baby, we’ve got a problem. If we tick off the teachers like you’re doing, they’re going to come at us with everything they’ve got in the May election.
“We’ve got three board members up for election, and if we lose, and three new people get elected who are against us, plus Diane Herrmann, who’s already there, they’ve got a majority.
“If you add in Gary Farkas, who’s mad at you over that e-mail you wrote saying he couldn’t be trusted, then that’s five members who would be down on you. That’s a super-majority, and you know what your contract says. A super-majority can fire you.
“Even just a simple majority could release the Raucci report that we’ve got to keep secret.
“The teachers probably won’t support us anyway, but if they’re really fired up against us, if they pour their union money into lawn signs and mailings and phone banks and all the rest, we’re in trouble. And especially you’re in trouble.
“At least we’ve got to neutralize them. So think about it, baby, and do the right thing.”
Just a little imagining on my part, and you can take it for what it’s worth.
I know there are Christians who do good in the world inspired by their religious beliefs, and I even count some of them as friends.
The people at the City Mission of Schenectady come immediately to mind as examples of sincere and passionate believers who devote their lives to the wellbeing of their fellow man, and I have nothing but respect for them.
They provide not only bed and board but, more importantly, guidance in straightening out lives for those in need, all of it based on Christian beliefs.
I have met some of the people whose lives have been straightened out, who have quit drugs and become honest citizens and who have told me they owe it all to Jesus. I would not make fun of them for anything in the world. They have their beliefs, and I have mine, and theirs have proved to work for them.
I know there are also a great many people who count themselves as Christians who subscribe to less bizarre views than those held by the kind of enthusiasts I so often ridicule in this space.
There are Lutherans and Methodists and Catholics and Presbyterians and Congregationalists who do not believe the world was created in a puff of smoke 6,000 years ago, who do not take the story of Noah’s Ark as history, and who do not insist they are going to heaven on account of their beliefs while the rest of the world goes to hell.
Of course I know all that. So why do I use the blanket term “Christians” when I lampoon the zealots and mock them as hypocrites?
Because that’s the term they use for themselves, as if they owned it, as if all the moderate, sensible, and humble Christians were not real Christians.
We hear it all the time: Christian Web site, Christian rock, Christian Yellow Pages, Christian this, Christian that, when what is really meant is sanctimonious, loony-toon Christian.
I turn the word back on them, that’s all, for humorous effect. They call themselves Christians, so I call them Christians too.
But understandably, every time I do so I hear from a few readers in protest, telling me they are Christians themselves and they are not like that, so would I please knock it off?
Well, they are protesting to the wrong party. They should protest to those who try to monopolize the word, not to me for poking fun. I claim the protection of Satirical Privilege, long established in Common Law.
When I say, watch out, here come the Christians, of course I’m not talking about the City Mission, I’m not talking about the Congregational Church. I’m talking about George W. Bush’s kind of Christians, the kind that make a great public show of piety and then slink off to a whorehouse when no one is looking.
The kind who honk and hoot that the Bible is the perfect word of God and then blithely ignore the greater part of it.
The kind that want the 10 Commandments inscribed in every courthouse and every schoolroom in the land, even though they themselves pay not the least attention to the more curious and quaint of those commandments (like the one not to make statues.)
The kind that are unspeakably proud of the Christian directive to love one’s enemies but applaud the torture of prisoners.
The kind whose most prized possession is a gun.
The kind who try to stuff their religion down other people’s throats. That’s who I mean.
I don’t want to explain this every time I take up my pen with satirical intent, so I ask the indulgent reader to please just keep it in mind.