Thursday, May 22, 2008

In Which I Violate the First Amendment

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," your front row seat to the comedy of life! Boatloads of mirth, for what it's worth!

In 2004 I lost my job to corporate greed. I decided that one way to recoup a little of the income was to become a substitute teacher. Thus, in the fall of 2005 I found myself climbing a set of concrete stairs into a Vocational-Technical school whose student body is 65 percent Hispanic, 30 percent African American, and 5 percent Asian.

Mindful of the Establishment Clause in the Constitution, I've never confessed to bringing my faeries with me, although I wear one or the other of them to school every time I go. (They travel with me in wearable-sized witch balls.)

A few months ago, one of my students noticed Puck and said, "That's a witch's ball. Are you Wiccan?"

Could have knocked me over with a feather.

I replied, "Actually I'm a Druid." Because I was only answering the question, you know?

He started peppering me with questions, which I demurred because of my faithfulness to the Clause. (And because I was supposed to be teaching them about John Stuart Mill or some other excruciatingly boring dead white guy.)

This conversation occurred during a long-term assignment I had back in the winter. Last week I went in to school on a daily gig, and the student was in my homeroom. He was reading a Goth-looking book about "Night Magick," big Pentagram on the cover. He showed it to me proudly.

There was another teacher watching me at the time, so I didn't say anything. But I've been worrying and fretting about ... emm ... let's call him Orlando, there's only about 25 Orlandos at this school.

See, I wanted to make sure he wasn't boning up on black magic or some other negative stuff. But I couldn't query him about it with another teacher in the room, or even with other students listening. I could only hope that he hadn't gotten his hands on some piece of sensationalist claptrap.

You know, it's funny how the bored gods work. Because I went to the Vo-Tech this week, and I was supposed to cover for Teacher A, but Teacher B didn't like the substitute assigned to her class, so I got switched. Orlando was in Teacher B's class, writing a book report about his magick book.

How's them apples?

So Orlando turned in his book report, and I read it, and it turns out the book was okay, theologically sound where bored gods and goddesses are concerned. In fact his "cast of characters" consisted of a long list of bored deities! (Too bad I'm not grading the thing, I'd give him an A for the year.)

Quickly and quietly he and I went over the Threefold Rule, and I asked him what specifically interested him about magick, and he said he was psychic. I told him I know a medium, and he should work on developing his talent.

Then I guess I broke down and slam-dunked the Establishment Clause. Because I took a sticky note and wrote on it, "Isaac Bonewits." I told Orlando to Google the name.

Okay, okay, I don't always practice what I preach. But there are so few of us Pagans, and it's not like I stood up in front of the class and wrote Bonewits's name on the chalkboard. In fact, the secrecy of the transaction appealed to both Orlando and me. He pocketed the sticky, and no one else paid any attention.

I'm not sure I'll be back at the Vo-Tech this coming fall. I have to drive there, and I live within walking distance of another high school. If I have to give up the Vo-Tech, I sure will miss some of the students there. Especially every one I've ever had named Orlando. There's magic in that name.

Please don't tell the ACLU about this, huh?

FROM ANNE
THE MERLIN OF BERKELEY SPRINGS

8 comments:

yellowdog granny said...

oh fuck!..i'd rather have a druid teaching kids than some evangelical christian..they would have a better shot at the truth about everything if they did have ...hope you don't get busted..hope orlando is smart enough to know you could get in trouble by being a friend to him...sad is life..sad is life..
ps..did you get your box? i sent mojo's the same time and she got her's today and she lives in san francisco...2 days from texas..how cool is that?

THE Michael said...

I rely admire your restraint, and the very fact that you knew you had a conundrum on your hand concerning a curious student. Any "born-again" would have LEAPT at the chance to save this poor kid's soul, but you knew that you weren't there to effect this kid's path, but were a part of it.

Let's hope he isn't at this moment torturing kittens while listening to death metal, thinking how cool it was to have an adult witch validate his weirdness. Let's hope instead he went where you sent him and took all the good stuff to heart.

I am so proud to know someone like you. You are so friggin rare!

wordwitch said...

Major kudos to you too! And I hope he looks up Bonewits - really nice man and fun to talk to. And thank the gods that he was already aiming at the "right-hand" path.

Maeve said...

That you encountered this Orlando seems "meant to be" on some cosmic level.

I remember being curious about paganism as a college student, and having a holiday meal at a fellow student's relative's house. The woman was an "out" pagan, and had lovely bookshelves full of all sorts of interesting sounding titles in her dining room. Bookshelves that all the staunch Christian relatives in the room pretended didn't exist.

But it was the first time I realized that "hey, this isn't just some wishful thinking, or a book in the library. People actually LIVE these faiths. Like, with Stuff in their houses and all that."

I hope meeting you gave Mr. Orlando a spark of actualization like that. Of validating that yes, paganism is legitimate.

Yay for your faeries!

Ailia said...

Awesome. Just awesome.

And, you know, minorities of all kinds need to know that there are other successful happy people out there like them. So screw the clause. :)

Big Tex said...

I'm pretty sure you didn't violate the Establishment Clause, as long as you weren't proselytizing in class. In fact, he approached you. So I think you're safe. I just wish that most teachers were as careful as you've tried to be in respecting the First Amendment. Down here in Texas, it seems like most of our teachers actively seek ways to circumvent the Establishment Clause. And most of our politicians, for that matter...

Isaac Bonewits said...

Darn! After all my years of leading young folks astray (or at least the cute 18-20-somethings), now I'm a respectably "safe" author to send kids too? There goes my reputation!

Seriously, I think you skated around the establishment clause just fine. It doesn't require you to deny your own faith, just to not seek converts on the school grounds.

bright blessings,
Isaac

Athana said...

It’s a revolution, anne, and you’re on the forefront of it! Nice work!