“Before we work on artificial intelligence why don’t we do something about natural stupidity?” ~ Steve Polyak


“There are two things which cannot be attacked in front: ignorance and narrow-mindedness. They can only be shaken by the simple development of the contrary qualities. They will not bear discussion.” ~ Lord John Emerett Edward Dalberg Acton

The following story is reprinted verbatim from TPM Live Wire:

The Secret Service investigated an Alabama high school teacher for using the example of shooting President Obama while teaching a geometry lesson.

The Secret Service spoke with the man, a teacher at Corner High School in Jefferson County, but decided not to arrest him.

“We did not find a credible threat,” Roy Sex­ton, of Birmingham’s Secret Service office, told the Birmingham News. “As far as the Secret Service is concerned, we looked into it, we talked to the gentleman and we have closed our investigation.”

A student in the class described the lesson: “He was talking about angles and said, ‘If you’re in this building, you would need to take this angle to shoot the president.'”

The district superintendent told the News that the unnamed teacher will not be disciplined.

“We are going to have a long conversation with him about what’s appropriate,” he said. “It was extremely poor judgment on his part, and a poor choice of words.”

The superintendent, Phil Hammonds, did not immediately return a request for comment.

So many things wrong with this picture. Where do I begin . . .

  1. A “long conversation with him about what’s appropriate.” Is this also known as a stern talking to? If so, than I’m greatly relieved because everyone knows that a stern talking to in the South is just one step away from a lickin’ with a switch. And after all, it’s not like he was talking about killing the president or anything . . . No wait. He was. Dang.
  2. Imagine if this same scenario had taken place three years ago. Now imagine that the teacher is black. Do you still think that the teacher would have only been chastised verbally? Would the Secret Service have so blithely dismissed the situation as non-threatening?
  3. All Alabama jokes aside, research shows that Alabama ranks 35 in state rankings for education. According to a report by the NEA, Alabama is 36th for average teacher salaries in 08-09, and the state come in at 25th for the number of public high school graduates for 08-09. Since 1990, Alabama has climbed from 40th to 70th in the percentage of students who achieve at the basic level in math; However, minority teachers compose only 25 percent of the teacher pool for the state.
  4. Interestingly enough, Corner High School in Jefferson County ranks 184 out of the 369 high schools in Alabama. Corner’s student population is 99.6 percent white, and .1 percent black. So let’s not pretend that racial bias does not play into this situation.
  5. Some of the people from Jefferson County, Alabama think that too much is being made of this incident, as in it was an innocent mistake, live and let live. I don’t think so. This teacher was discussing assassination outside of the context of an historical event. I think that’s a pretty big deal.
  6. For those of you who contend that this is a local incident and not anyone else’s business, I beg to differ. The well-being of the POTUS is everyone’s business. Remember? People, please.

Here’s what I think: The next time a teacher of this ilk decides to try to make his or her lessons more real-world applicable, how about determining the angle of the shadow cast by the flagpole at 2 p.m. Nothing violent about that. No hidden messages. Nothing incendiary.

If you do click on the TPM link, take a few moments to peruse the comments. Priceless and hugely entertaining.

More later. Peace.

Music by Nada Surf, “Where is My Mind?”