This past September, California high school teacher Steve Cuckovich caused a stir when he banned the phrase “God bless you,” in his classroom. I caught a TV interview with Cuckovich and heard him explain that the phrase no longer had any meaning, since it was meant almost as an “incantation” against evil when it started back in the Middle Ages. He said he was using the ban as a “teaching opportunity” to make the students think.
Making people think. If you’ve logged on to my Web site: www.jimvanore.com you know that making people think—especially young people—is right down my alley.
But shortly after I saw that interview, Cuckovich “modified” his story, saying that his ban was issued as a result of students being disruptive. It seems they got into the habit of broadcasting loud “God Bless Yous!” every time someone sneezed in class. It’s easy to see how this kind of puerile behavior could snowball, prompting bogus sneezing fits throughout the school day. Believe me; most adolescents walk into a classroom every day looking—not for knowledge—but for the latest method of getting over on the teacher.
When I quit teaching junior high grades, I was often asked why. I had a pat answer: “Imagine,” I used to tell people, “that just about every person you worked around, did everything they could, every day to prevent you from doing your job. That’s what it’s like teaching junior high.”
I have no doubt that Cuckovich had a behavior problem of some sort on his hands. But why did he at first say that he was banning the phrase “God Bless You” because it was archaic and superstitious? Why not just admit that his students were using the phrase as a tool to disrupt his class? Anyone who has spent several hours locked in a room full of adolescents would have understood.
So I have my suspicions about this second explanation, and I wonder if Steve Cuckovich would have reacted so forcefully if the students had used a phrase such as, “Allah be praised” to unsettle the classroom. Would he have “banned” that decidedly non-Christian exclamation?
That ban would surely have annoyed the Islamic community. In my experience, Americans are free to annoy Christians any time they please, and in any manner they please. You might get a reaction, but I doubt it would be belligerent. Quarrelsome maybe; argumentative—most probably, but not much more.
But step over that imaginary fence of faith and start annoying other religious beliefs… Does the phrase “hate crime” sound reasonable?
And if Mr. Cuckovich really wants to make his kids think, he can always have them log on to my Web site, or listen to Lorraine Ranalli’s Cucina Chatter radio program every Tuesday at http://www.wbcb1490.com/ for my vocal commentary.
But he’d probably think that I was just being archaic and superstitious, and I would hate that kind of reaction.
Or is there a crime against that kind of hate?