This is re-posted from my personal blog (http://billsreef.blogspot.com/)
People usually think I am from a big city when I say I am from NY, not realizing that much of NY is rural. I live out on the North Fork of Long island. My home is built on former farmland. I have a vineyard across one street and a farm on the other. I was almost late to an appointment today because I got stuck behind a tractor and the main road is a no passing zone.
People who live out here like to call its "God's country". Many like to think of themselves as having small town values, as if their values are better than other peoples
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I did not grow up here in "God's country", but in very suburban Nassau County. Many of my friends were of different religions and cultures. Seeing people of other races and cultures was the norm.
My first job was working at a movie theater at the mall. I would walk down the block to catch a bus or a train to get to work.
Things are different here. The nearest mall is more than an hour away by car. There was a several year battle in town as to whether to allow a McDonald's to open(they were allowed to open but no drive thru). Walmart was unheard of when I moved out here after I got married and it took another 10 years before one opened up about 30 minutes away. Hell, the bank closed at 3 and there was no such thing as an ATM.
Progress has come to this area slowly and many see that as a good thing. I have mixed feelings about it myself.
The one thing that I learned very quickly is that in a town this small, everyone knows everyone. My husband's family has been here for some time and so I choose to keep my maiden name for business purposes because, out here, my surname was unknown. My husband's name carried baggage,- whether it was a good baggage or not depended on who you were talking too.
Local school districts are populated by superintendents who run their small districts like their personal fiefdoms and school boards answer only to those parts of the community who hold power.
I will never forget the budge battle in my school district a few years ago: should the district offer a full day kindergarten or field a football team that year. Like this should even have been a discussion?
I have also learned that there is no such thing as self reflection out here and anyone who brings to light a dirty little secret or objects to the status quo is treated with contempt and silenced.
I, as an advocate for children with disabilities ,was stunned at the blow back I and my fellow sped moms faced from the local school boards because we dared to demand our children were educated. Dare to advocate and Child Protection Services suddenly shows up at your door, private investigators will follow your kids around,or the school superintendent will challenge your right to vote on election day.
Peek behind the curtain of 'God's Country" values and see the video of the drag queen contest held in a hotel hallway in Rome on Easter weekend, judged by the teachers chaperoning the trip. From Newsday:
A teenage drag-queen contest, organized by a group of Southold teachers and 10th-graders during a recent holiday trip to Europe, has split this East End community over the question of whether the event was offensive or simply high-spirited fun. Dubbed the Miss American- Euro Drag Idol Contest, the show featured a group of boys nicknamed the Dirty Dozen who donned...Publicaaly share your outrage and disgust at such an event occurring on a school sponsored trip and lose your job at the local church where a school board president attends.
Better cover up the affair held by these same chaperoning teachers during the trip or the underage drinking by students. Shhhhhhhh.....
Want to continue to live in this town? Then you better staunchly support the school board when they allow these same teachers to lead the school trip aboard next year
This past few weeks, God's Country" values have again hit the papers. The local
paper has covered a "controversy" about a book 3 rd grade classes are reading. The book is called “Nasreen’s Secret School,” written by Jeanette Winter that’s based on a true story about an Afghan girl. As per the local paper:
The school board agreed the reading material wasn’t appropriate for third grade and board member Scott DeSimone said he didn’t believe the moral of the story was about feeling safe in school.The school board wasn't alone:
“My take is the intended message is about Islam and Allah,” he said. “That’s my opinion.”
Mary VonEiff, a Southold parent who has worked as a special education teacher and administrator in school districts across the East End, also took issue with the book...“My problem is not with the story or even the content of the story,” she said. “What I do not appreciate, if you look closely at the modules and the implications for this book, is that it is being used as a tool.” “My daughter is 8 years old,” she told the school board. “You want to teach her about the value of education under adversity, the supposed goal of the lesson, then what happened to Helen Keller or Abe Lincoln?”Oh, dear. Small town values appear to be raising their ugly head.
The next issue of the local paper was again a powder keg:. A letter to the editor kept the controversy alive: Again as per the paper:
I haven’t read the book and so can’t judge its appropriateness, but I know that the loss of one or both parents, which is what seems to have upset the Noncarrows — a couple reported by The Suffolk Times to have complained about the book and its use in the third grade — is a very common theme in children’s literature.Now the battle of the letters to the editor is fully engaged. Letters the next week, talked about "our" children being indoctrinated and described how a parent had to deal with a child's math problem when the student in the problem was named Mohammad. Why wasn't a good Christian name used? Those letters are no available on the papers website.
I was particularly startled by the comment of school board member Scott DeSimone that “the intended message [of the book] is about Islam and Allah.” This seemed odd, since the Taliban, which took the girl’s parents, is surely not portrayed in a favorable light. But then I realized that since the book is set in Afghanistan, the grandmother and the sympathetic people who run the girl’s school are undoubtedly Muslim also, though of a more humane sort. Perhaps the state education department should develop resources so adults, especially school board members, could learn about other cultures and understand that Muslims include both bad guys and good guys.
A letter this week was more rational:
I appreciate that there is frustration with the Common Core, but the conversation has been hijacked and injected with what amounts to discriminatory, ignorant and shameful speech that individuals feel compelled to express in the guise of “protecting children,” starting with the comments of school board member Scott DeSimone and including the recent letter by Kathy Izzo.I cant wait to see the letters section of the paper next week. God's country isn't always so God-like, it seems. Just dont tell anyone that and you will get along fine here.
Pointing to the ethnicity and religious beliefs of the characters as being a valid justification for banning the book is not only evidence of intolerance, it is dangerous. The last time I checked, we live in a country founded on the concepts of tolerance and freedom, and not only should we accept diversity in our education system, it would behoove us to know something about the cultures and religions of the world, whether through direct study or indirect appearances as characters in our lives.