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.

Professors and Teachers

Professor. Just the word elicits respect, and respect is something we don't have or show a lot of in 2018 America. We call physicians 'doc', coaches, bosses, aunts and uncles by their first names, and almost everyone else 'dude' … except for politicians and lawyers. But even the most confident of us wants to impress when dining or conversing with a professor.

Teacher doesn't have the same shine, does it? Teachers seem more human, more approachable, and generally speaking are not shown the type of respect college professors enjoy. Why?

College professors are almost invariably required to hold a master's degree, as are secondary school teachers in many states and all teachers in some states. Many professors hold doctorate degrees, as do an increasing number of teachers. College professors need only that master's degree in a subject area to get hired, while a prospective teacher's college course load must include several psychology, child psychology, child development and classroom management courses along with courses in teaching strategies and testing as well as advanced courses in their subject area. Teachers are also required to be scrutinized and licensed according to each state's standards - professors are not. It is therefore difficult to deduce that professors are more qualified than teachers.

As for the actual teaching, with all due respect to professors everywhere, pontificating in front of a hundred youngsters that desperately need a good grade, writing books that you can then require all your students to buy and keeping office hours does not even begin to compare to the struggles and rewards of teaching in a public school; hands dirty, barrels of patience, nuts and bolts teaching.

If professors aren't better qualified to teach and they aren't necessarily better teachers (in fact, professors can be horrible teachers and keep their jobs based on social or media status, authoring popular publications or other notoriety), then why do professors garner more respect than teachers?

Professors have it made. The first huge advantage they have over teachers is that their students want to be in class and are highly motivated to do well. The other, to be blunt, is that professors do not have to put up with any crap. Mouth off in a college course, and at the professor's discretion you can be banished from the course without any regard for the fact that you've already paid over five hundred dollars in tuition for the class or that it is the last credit you need to graduate. You. Are. Outta Here!

Obviously, dealing with a class of students that is wondering whether there'll be chocolate milk for lunch and a lecture hall filled with students that are looking forward to a cold beer after class present different challenges for instructors, as well as different expectations from their employers. It is reasonable to expect teachers to learn, practice and refine classroom management skills, as kids definitely will be kids, and as noted above, most teachers receive training in this area. The issue, is the line.

Is chewing gum worth a demerit? Is throwing a ball at another student's head worth being deprived of recess for a week? Does talking back to a teacher warrant a time-out, detention or corporal punishment (still legal and being practiced in nineteen states)? When does a student's behavior warrant action outside the auspices of classroom management and justify a trip to see the principal? The line gets trampled and dissipates until it is all but forgotten. And if a student does get removed from class, will the principal take action or just scold him and send him back for the teacher to deal with again? This is some of the aforementioned crap, up with which professors do not have to put! But wait, there's more!

Try telling the head of the math department at a university that she has to spend forty-five minutes on 'lunch duty' every day, and you can start looking for another person to head up your math department. Bus duty can be a boon, especially if you're a smoker that hasn't had a chance to get to the break room this morning, and standing around on the playground while there are papers to grade and students waiting for help can be as crazy-making as trying to drive from place to place in Seattle.

And then there's parents. Parents that believe that since they went to school they know how to do a teacher's job. Parents that believe that paying taxes makes them the teacher's boss. Parents that believe that any demand they make should be honored because that is THEIR kid and they have final say in any circumstance. Parents, the concerns of whom can almost always be best addressed by them attending class with their child to both witness behavior and get an accurate idea of how the teacher runs his class, but are almost never willing to do so because they need to go to work.

This indication that their job is more important than the teacher's will always coincide with a claim that the education of their child is the most important consideration. This 1) puts the teacher in a no-win, as it 2) dismisses the logical and recommended course of action because it is inconvenient for the parent and 3) makes the teacher a babysitter any way you slice it; one that, at least on occasion, has to take crap. And that's why teachers are not respected in the same way professors are.

No matter how much admiration we may have for a teacher, her abilities, the way he handles the students, her knowledge, his expertise, in the back of our minds they are also the reason that we can go to work or take classes or just enjoy a few silent moments during the day. This isn't going to change, but being a babysitting service by default does not mean that schools need to embrace, enable or encourage that role as a part of their existence. Contrarily, it should be adamantly resisted in the name of education and the future of our children and our nation.

Ask a teacher if sending the following note home, and sticking to what is says, would allow them to do a better job of doing their job, and watch the smile grow:

Dear Parents,

JFK Elementary School is an educational institution, dedicated to learning and helping to learn. Any student that disrupts the learning process for him/her or any of his/her classmates will be removed from class and expected to be picked up and taken home within thirty minutes of the notifying phone call.


Principal Pelotas

Classroom management? Sure. Disrespectful or disruptive behavior? No! Teachers are educators, not babysitters. Place the burden for behavior that was learned in the home on the people in the home and things will change. How many times do you think it will take for parents to be forced to leave work, lose money and jeopardize their jobs before they (finally) take responsibility and/or action?

Teachers deserve our respect, our gratitude, our consideration and the benefit of the doubt. Teachers help themselves when they demand and expect these things. Students and parents aide in the student's education when they show them. School administrators stand tall and true to ideals when they work to protect and encourage teachers receiving our respect, our gratitude, our consideration and the benefit of the doubt.

Teachers. Where would you be without yours?

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

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