Monday, October 3, 2011

Fun with the Public School System: Teacher bans saying "bless you" in class; battle lines are drawn

Controversy erupted recently in San Francisco over high school health teacher Steve Cuckovich's classroom management procedures.  He decided to ban saying "bless you" after someone sneezed in his classroom due to it becoming a constant distraction.  

This policy was strictly enforced.  In fact, one student was docked 25 points from an assignment for saying it after a fellow classmate violently expelled mucus from her nose.

This caused a massive uproar among parents and students over the issues of civiltiy, classroom control, and freedom of religion (more on that little gem, later).  Cuckovich defends his view point in the video below.  His interview/chance to defend himself is preceded by a terribly misleading intro as well as students smirking and mugging for the camera; one girl even giddily identifies saying bless you when someone sneezes as "expressing her religion." (which must also include wearing very low cut halter tops).

Unfortunately, one of the main cruxes of the story only got a fleeting mention before the barrage on Mr, Cuckovich began.  It seems as though many of the students were purposely exaggerating their sneezes and subsequent blessings in an attempt to be cute/disruptive.  The video below features some students that not only seem much more adept at speaking intelligently, but also tell a very different side of the story.

View more videos at:

Now if you haven't caught on to it yet, I'm definitely in Mr. Cuckovich's corner...for the most part.  Kids can and will do stuff like this.  We once had a student at our school that would routinely yell "YES SIR," "THANK YOU," or other courteous phrases as loud as he could whenever he was asked to do something.

After he was written up, he would innocently claim he was just trying to be polite.  I would then claim that I took no pleasure in writing him up.


On the other hand, taking 25 points off of a kid's assignment is way too much, especially for a disciplinary issue.  Unless a student's constant repeating of the phrase "bless you" was disrupting a group project, there shouldn't be any points taken off of an assignment for this (let alone enough points to automatically drop a completed assignment 2-3 letter grades).

Mr. Cuckovich also made the mistake of trying WAY too hard to explain his reasoning.  Besides what you saw in the first video about his thoughts on the term "bless you" being superstitious and outdated, he also decided to take this line of reasoning with one of his sneezing pupils.

Okay, first of all, once you start polling the students of your class about whether or not another student is evil, things can and most certainly will go downhill.  The only students of mine that I ever refer to as evil are my flute players.  Since their inherent evilness is already common knowledge, it's not something that will serve as a spring board into outbursts and distraction.

Pictured:  A flute player in it's natural form.

By turning this from an "I'm the teacher, that's why" situation into a "what you do is stupid because of it's origins" debate, this became something much bigger than a teacher using heavy handed discipline; it now had the possibility of being turned into an issue involving beliefs.  

Unfortunately for Mr. Cuckovich, some students put the word 'God' before saying "bless you."  This, combined the story being in San Francisco, made the folks on the far right ready to go to war over what should have been a trivial matter.

We finally get to take our torches and pitch forks out of storage!

The story about this debacle appeared on 'The Blaze,' a political blog run by Glenn Beck.  Surprisingly, the discourse in the comments section was very enlightened and civil.

....yes, of course I'm just kidding.  It got crazy up in there!  Here are a few of my favorites (with commentary).  Please keep in mind these are actual comments (with usernames) that you can find at the link to 'The Blaze' above.  Let's begin our trip to crazy town, shall we?

Steve Cuckovich, teacher at William C. Wood High School in Vacaville, California….Mind your own business and stop acting as though you have any authority in how our children are raised. You are a teacher with the responsibility of teaching curriculum. 
Try pushing your personal beliefs on my child and I will beat your ass. Period, end of story.

Sadly, even though this was the top comment, it was not the craziest.

I think the phrase “School Teacher” is obsolete and is disrespectful. They should be called “School Indoctrinators”.

Wow, I just got a new title and I didn't even need another degree! Maybe now I'll finally get a new nameplate on my door.  Speaking of how awful teachers are:

Say how you really feel. No, all kidding aside, who does this teacher think he is? We hire these people (teachers) to provide a service, nothing more. All this crap about them not being paid enough surely must be instigated by the unions. They get a full year’s salary and only work half to three quarters of the year. And try to get one fired. Nearly as impervious as owe-bummer.

A full year's salary for only half to three quarters of a year? Where the heck was I when that became part of the deal? My crappy contract says that I only get paid for the days that I work with an option to spread my paychecks out over the entire year.

And what the heck does owe-bummer mean...OH! I see what he did there.

Speaking of President Obama, he somehow gets involved in all this, along with anyone who dares to be a Muslim living in America.

This teacher must be one of Dictator Barack Hussein Obamas our Muslim -in-Chief and Trumkas
best Union Teachers!
Their agenda is to take “OUR GOD” out of our America,and turn our America into a Communist,Socialist country with Islam Sharia-Law and the Muslim Brotherhood!!
The complete Administration of Dictator Barack Hussein Obama is to destroy our Christian America,
He and his corrupt Admin. Just keep pushing their Islamic, Muslim, Sharia-Law down our American
Throats every day!
“WE THE PEOPLE” Must tell Dictator Obama,That our America will never be a ISLAMIC BARBARIC
Our America is the United States Of America,Not The United States Of Islam!!!!!!!
Lets start bringing our GOD Back into our Life, and lets start doing something about this Muslim,
Islamic, Sharia-Law BU– SH– in our America!
“WE THE PEOPLE” Must STOP the Obama Agenda of bringing Hundreds of Thousands of more
Muslim into our United States Of America!
“WE THE PEOPLE” Have had enough of the Washington DC “POLITICAL CORRECTNESS”,
BU–SH–,If you Muslims don,t like the laws of our Constitution Of The United States Of America,
or our American ways of living, Well go back to your Muslim Sh– HO– That you came from, Get out of our America!!! I'm not even sure that I can come up with a snarky comment that can match any of that post's epic scale.

Let's do one more, just to finish things off with a bang. This guy responds to Mr. Cuckovich's insistence that dispelling evil spirits "doesn't make sense anymore."

Prove that. Prove it doesn’t make sense anymore. how the heck do you know that demons don’t exist? seriously, what is the proof, i have more proof they DO exist… take a look around you man. there ARE EVIL people out there… people do hurt others for unnecessary reasons. you don’t agree? you seriously think there are 0 people who hurt others for unnecessary reasons? Good and Evil does exist…

Mr. Kibs actually has a pretty good point.  Hang around in the comment section of 'The Blaze' for too long and you will see quite a bit of evil.   You will see people blowing something out of proportion for the sake of validating their surface level political beliefs.  I'm also willing to bet that you will find a lot of parents that say things like "my kid would never do anything wrong" or "everything is the teacher's fault."   

At the end of the day, Mr. Cuckovich was just trying to keep control of his classroom.  He may have gone to far with the consequences, but he wasn't trying to make a political statement (no matter how much the people on 'The Blaze' want to believe that he was).

And by the way, if you are one of the brave souls that can actually make it through 'The Blaze' comment section without losing some of your faith in humanity, than I have only one thing to say.