The Tacet Underground

What if He didn't exist? At all. What if long ago, visiting ETs decided that the easiest way to keep these creatures (us) complacent was to chisel out some stony rules and promise a heaven and a hell, much like a kindergarten teacher promises stickers for good behavior and time out for bad behavior? Sure - it's crazy. But just for a minute, what if?

What if the bible is not the 'word of God' as it is so flippantly called while held up and venerated? What if you discover that it is a collection of stories jotted down by the fallible and earthly predecessors of Aesop and the Brothers Grimm, later bastardized and edited and tilted to meet the selfish needs of a corrupt church hierarchy?

What if you woke up tomorrow and none of it made sense anymore? 'Why would an all-seeing and all-knowing god be vengeful?' 'Why revere a book that promotes misogyny, revenge, slavery and killing?' 'Am I a thinking person, or was I indoctrinated before I had a chance to make a choice?' What if it all seems so remote and unbelievable that when someone brings it up, your brain has to click into gear: "Oh yeah! - I forgot that people still believe in that!"

Imagine how truly looney it would then seem if you heard the DOJ's very own Imp of Darkness justifying the cruel and inhumane treatment of emigrating children by quoting a bible verse. Imagine how genuinely frightening it would be to hear former White House aide Omorosa Manigault Newman report that Vice President Pence thinks Jesus tells him to say things. For the almost one out of four Americans that do not believe in God, it is chilling.

The Founders were very clear about the need for separation of church and state:

"The purpose of separation of church and state is to keep forever from these shores the ceaseless strife that has soaked the soil of Europe in blood for centuries."

In this, one of the most fatherly-feeling quotes from our Founders, James Madison and the other framers are looking out for us in the way that parents try to impart hard-learned wisdom upon their children. How many times have we wished our kids would listen to us?

There is a musical term, tacet. This tells the musician to do nothing - still pay attention to what's going on, but do nothing. To make a sweeping and reckless generalization, atheists know how to tacet. It is simply easier to nod and smile and say nothing than it is to get into it. Sure, there are atheists at every turn that have no problem declaring their non-belief, but they didn't get there without also learning how to deal with feelings of disenfranchisement, ostracization and condemnation.

It isn't always easy to say, "I don't believe in god" when those around you do and when the indoctrination you've received makes you feel many emotions - but primarily guilt - just for entertaining the idea. Even for the loud proclaimers, it is usually easier, quicker and less trouble to tacet.

The approximately 25% of Americans that make up this Tacet Underground form a much larger subset of the population than the 1% that are Muslim, the 2% that are Jewish, the 2% that are Mormon, the 4% that are either LGBT or Q, the 12% that are Black or the 19% that are Hispanics/Latino, yet these other groups are constantly protesting, demanding and making themselves the news while atheists are mostly content to tacet and pay attention.

In 1795 John Adams said, "The government of the United States is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion."  Atheists take this seriously and are deeply offended when ignorant people like Donald Trump pretend that it is.

The Vice President's proclamation that he is a Christian first, a conservative second and a Republican third is deeply offensive to the (at least) eighty-some million Americans that do not believe in his god and consider that statement alone to be grounds for him to be removed from office. On the other hand, even nonbelievers may sometimes hope that hell exists, comforted by visions of Jeff Sessions roasting marshmallows with Beelzebub.

As has happened over a long period of years with the LGBTQ community, 'coming out' as an atheist carries less of a social stigma with each passing day, although small town folk and conservative communities may still find a way to disparage anything out of the norm. Time passes and the number of people that distinguish themselves as atheist will increase as the stigma lessens and the dark side of religion is continually revealed by people like Jeff Sessions, Dana Rohrabacher and Donald Trump who insist on evoking the Bible and Jesus for evil.

By 2020 the Tacet Underground could include not one in four citizens as it does now, but one in three. That would be over a hundred million Americans that don't want to hear religious dribble or quotes from the bible, but instead want logical and well thought-through plans based on research, testing and evaluation. At some point our politicians are going to have to grapple with the fact that one out of three Americans think the bible-thumpers and scripture-quoters and evil-doers are more than a little nutty and start giving us more than the incessant stale rhetoric about abortion, guns, gays and God.

Some Go To College - All Go Through Life
Part Two: What About Jane?

On an autumn day in September of 1962, President John Kennedy challenged a nation to do the impossible and send a man to the moon in just seven short years. Perhaps the thing he his best remembered for other than his unfortunate death, we take his declaration for granted. What is interesting is that at a time before digital calculators and watches, before microwave ovens and before TV shows were regularly broadcast in color, the audience at Rice University did not greet his proclamation that "We choose to go to the moon" with incredulousness, or appear to wonder how such a monumental goal might be achieved, but instead greeted it with eager applause and giddy enthusiasm.

Walt Disney and Dr. Wernher von Braun - GPN-2000-000060President Kennedy felt emboldened to make his pronouncement and a nation felt empowered to support him because they had already seen how it would work; it was real to them. Traveling through space had been explained, diagramed and animated by the genius behind the propulsion system NASA still employs today, Werner von Braun, with the help of America's biggest space enthusiast Walt Disney and his TV series, 'Man in Space'.
Without Walt and his Imagineers making von Braun's vision tangible to an entire nation including a then young Senator from Massachusetts, the unifying energy and enthusiasm that drove a technologically nascent nation to accomplish such a feat may never have materialized.

We need to spend a lot more on education.
For decades now, voters have been periodically asked to pay more tax to fund the same schools and get the same results, which news stories and articles like this one remind them, aren't very good. It is tiresome and obviously ineffective.

Secondary education needs to be re-imagined from the top down based on what is required to give our youth and our nation the best chance to not only compete in the world but continue to be a global leader. Once imagined, this new vision must be explained, diagramed and animated by people like today's Imagineers at Disney, and made tangible to taxpaying parents, grandparents and prospective parents. Perhaps a series of TV ads titled, 'America's Youth in School' would be a good place to start.

Without a clear vision of a new outlook and approach to educating our children that will drastically improve results, the education of our children is doomed to continue to be mediocre, their days spent in underfunded schools with underpaid teachers limping along as best they can. But if we can create a clear vision of a truly better approach and convince America of its merits, America will pay for it - we'll do anything for our kids.

Planting Seeds
In the same way that a parent hopes that their love for a team or school or profession will be shared by their children, so do professors hope that their love for academia will be shared by their students. The students most like the professors are the students most generously rewarded by the professors, who are hoping the students will become professors in their image. This is partly borne from individual ego, but mostly from a sincere belief that becoming a professor is the highest calling.

In this way academia begets academia and professors beget professors, as an oak drops millions of seeds hoping that one might take root and flourish. To that end, we have come to view high school as merely college prep, although more than a third of high school grads will not enroll in college and only a third of Americans have earned a college degree.

Whether we realize it or not, the entire educational structure in America is designed to produce professors on the top rung of the accomplishment ladder, doctors and lawyers on the rung below, business execs on the next rung down, and so on. Like any organic entity, education in America has learned how to perpetuate itself. And, like many organic entities, it does so with little or no regard for anything other than its needs, in this case dismissing the 35% of high school grads that won't go to college and another portion that wouldn't if they had other options.

Our public high schools must serve as much more than a free farm system
for (for-profit) universities and colleges.

Some will go to college - all will go through life.
Our first obligation to our youth is to give them the tools they'll need to be contributing members of society. This includes making sure they acquire skills like balancing budgets and applying for a job, but also helping them discover the things they have an aptitude or passion for. If that aptitude is for Classidemics, then high school will most likely also become college prep for them. If that aptitude is for New Tech, or The Arts, or Mechanics & Engineering, high school can be solely vocational and career prep for some students, and it can be college prep with an emphasis in the area of their intelligence for other students.

Additionally, we are obligated to provide our children and our teachers the resources required to insure that our students can not only succeed, but excel and rival students worldwide. The list of these resources is long and varied, including books, teacher's aides, software, computers and systems to interact with 'sister' classrooms across the globe.

In order for change to be effective it must be consistent. A national set of minimum requirements for high school graduation must be established and enforced by local school districts, who will continue to set local policies and curriculum that enhance and support the federal agenda.

We are all familiar with Jane. She is the server at your local 24/7 eatery that works the early morning shift and seems much more stressed than her two tables would dictate; it always seems like she's having a hard time, or a hard life.

In this world, she wasn't able to do well in school, and got labeled as dumb early on. Her only joy was once-a-week Art Class. By the time Jane was a sophomore she was so far behind classidemically that she stopped going to school and started hanging out with some people that used meth, and pretty soon she was strung out and pregnant. Like falling behind in school, Jane fell behind in life, never being able to make enough money or figure out how to budget what she was making. Her days became a series of overdue bills, tattered clothes and bullshit boyfriends. And now she wants to take your order, doing a job she is so afraid to lose that it actually makes her a lousy waitress.

In a different world, say the one over there -->, one of the Learning Issue Specialists that assist all the teachers identified Jane as being moderately dyslexic while still in elementary school and after months of work Jane learned to compensate and read well. She was then able to keep up with her class classidemically, albeit in the middle of the ol' bell. Meanwhile, Jane's ability to draw and paint was praised and encouraged throughout her school career.

In her Sophomore Life Prep Course Jane learned to make a household budget and balance it. She also learned about alcoholism and other addictions, pregnancy and STDs and ways to prevent them and how credit card interest works. Like her peers, upon successful completion of the Sophomore Life Prep Course she was permitted to choose one of four sets of directed studies for her junior and senior years: New Tech, Mechanical & Engineering, Classidemics and The Arts, which was no choice at all for Jane! And now she wants to take your order, doing a job she doesn't mind because she know she's good at it, working the early shift so she can take a couple classes at community college in the afternoon.

The nurturing of Jane's natural aptitude in her directed studies classes allowed her to develop good skills and confidence, so she looks forward to Tuesday and Thursday nights when she donates her time to do face painting for kids at the hospital and when she doesn't have to work on Saturday she makes a few extra dollars sketching caricatures at the Farmer's Market.

Acknowledging that Jane's story has been skewed for our purposes, that world over there --> sounds pretty nice. Jane is a happier, more productive citizen, and the more students there are like her, the fuller community bands and choirs will be, the bigger the increase in arts shows and community theater will be, the healthier your community will be.

In Part Three: We'll Be Amazed we hope to plant a seed of hope.

A graduate of Portland State University, Steve (Reeno) Kloser is the author of Beginning Band - A Guide to Success and Let's Make Music - Classroom Recorder Course. He is also an accomplished teacher, conductor and composer, having penned numerous pieces including La Vida and Fly With Me.

Teacher, cook, Packers fan and proud American, Reeno's usually slanted outlook often presents an unlikely perspective on issues old and new.

Reeno currently lives in Portland, OR.

Follow Reeno on Twitter

Some Will Go To College - All Will Go Through Life complete as a .pdf
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