It’s just a shirt. That’s what I kept telling myself on the silent-treatment ride home after back-to-school shopping with my teen daughter. We’d just gone a few rounds at the mall over her having to have a particular, oversized, $90, blue and green flannel shirt.
All mothers of teenagers know this scene. There was no way, no way on earth, I was paying for that ridiculous, unnecessary, overpriced shirt. No way, until I pulled out my credit card and bought it. We have to pick our battles.
I feel the same about President Trump’s border wall. His wall is ridiculous; his wall will cost billions of dollars we don’t have; his wall is a structural impossibility along the border terrain and will not keep anyone out. But so what. Let’s give him the money. Let’s let him have his wall.
We have smaller but important battles closer to home, like the latest about whether or not to teach Bible literacy at our public high school. You can’t throw a rock in this county without hitting a church, and don’t most of these churches have youth groups and Bible study and Sunday school and church camp?
Setting aside the obvious incendiary arguments, let’s take on the practical. Who would we hire to teach such a class, who would be acceptable? Do we have a religious preference, because what happens when the Baptist teacher we’ve hired gives his or her take on a Bible story, and the Catholic, Methodist, or Evangelical kid goes home and tells Mom and Dad it’s not the same as what he learned from grandma or their longtime pastor?
If we’re going to teach the Bible at our public high school, will we also be teaching math at church? Of course not, but in the Jan. 17 issue of this newspaper, Superintendent Sheila Mitchell said, “What we’re waiting on is some information from the department on how to determine guideline standards for the curriculum if we were to create one.”
What information are we waiting for exactly, besides how much controversy such a class will inevitably create?
And Principal Chris Glass said, “[We’ll] see where we go after the water clears. I like to give our kiddos options.”
If it’s real options we’re after, why wouldn’t we consider options our kids can’t get at our local churches — classes that could make them more knowledgable, understanding and tolerant (more, in theory, Christian) — like the study of Judaism, Buddism, Islam, Hinduism, Atheism?
As odd as it sounds, the national debate over President Trump’s wall and our local debate about whether to teach the Bible at our public high school germinated in much the same way: a possibly well-intended concept that is neither needed nor practical, and what is the cost in both implementation and fallout?
Trump’s wall, the story goes, was never even Trump’s idea. A “wall” was simply the metaphor used by his earliest advisers as they schooled the real estate mogul on the basic concepts of border security. “Look at it like this, sir,” you can almost hear them saying, “you’re a builder. Imagine building a big, impenetrable wall to keep the bad guys out.”
Excited about the concept, the metaphor fresh on his mind, Mr. Trump belted out at his next campaign rally, “I’m going to build a big, beautiful wall!” The crowd erupted with cheers. To keep the cheering going, he followed it up, “And Mexico will pay for it!” and the cheers grew louder.
But now he’s the president. And Mexico’s not paying. And he’s stuck. For three years he’s promised a wall, but how does one border wall keep out bad guys arriving by air, by sea, through our computers, social media, power grids? It can’t. Of course it can’t. As a friend recently said, it’s a 3rd century solution to a 21st century problem.
The president’s $20B wall, much like my daughter’s $90 shirt, is more symbol than substance. It’s just a wall. As any mom of a teenager knows, we have to pick our battles. To keep the peace, let’s let him have this one and move on.
Here in Anderson County, we can’t afford enough teachers, but we’re talking about adding Bible class? All due respect, we don’t need more information, and we don’t need more options. We need to pick better battles, like how to attract and keep the best, most qualified teachers, and how to pay them every dollar they deserve.