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Me for Epoch Times: The anti-homeschoolers are back, this time making it clear that their real problem is Christian parents

image
Photo: Steemit

From my latest for the Epoch Times:

[N]ow the homeschooling opponents are back, with a new, more specific focus: Christian homeschooling. The impetus was the Jan. 6 invasion of the U.S. Capitol by disgruntled Trump supporters. It quickly became identified in the media with “white nationalism” and then with “white Christian nationalism,” on the premise that white evangelical Christians were an important voting bloc for Donald Trump in the 2020 election, and many had attended a huge Trump rally on the National Mall that day. From there it was a quick jump to evangelical homeschools. On Jan. 15 the Huffington Post ran a scathing critique of Abeka Publishing and the Bob Jones University Press, which publish textbooks and other materials used by many homeschooling evangelical parents: “Language used in the books overlaps with the rhetoric of Christian nationalism, often with overtones of nativism, militarism and racism.”  Days later, Chrissy Stroop, a writer for the progressive website Religion Dispatches, chimed in: “It would be remiss of us to approach the ‘where were they radicalized’ question without addressing how the Christian schooling and homeschooling movement, along with many white churches and other evangelical, LDS, and ‘trad’ Catholic institutions, fostered the subcultures” presumably responsible for the Capitol break-in.

 A March 2 article in Ms. Magazine focused on “extremist, white supremacist” homeschooling curricula as “the product of a decades-long crusade to deregulate home- and private-school education, the fruits of which are visible in such phenomena as QAnon, COVID denialism, the Capitol riots…” On April 22, numerous media outlets, including the Washington Post, ran an article from the Religion News Service by progressive pastor Doug Pagitt declaring that “homeschooling in conservative evangelical communities is a key channel for ideas to feed into Christian nationalism” “The conservative evangelical education system has become a pipeline of extremism,” Pagitt wrote. Earlier, on March 30, Philip Gorski, a sociology professor at Yale who studies American religious trends, had tweeted: “Christian homeschooling was -and is – often – if not always – a major vector of White Christian Nationalism.” (Gorski has since made his Twitter account private.)…

Up until very recently however, homeschooling opponents kept their attacks reasonably subtle. That is, they didn’t come out and say directly that what they didn’t like about Christian homeschooling was the Christian part. Then, the Jan. 6 invasion of the Capitol gave them an excuse to do exactly that, usually without being able to back up their attacks with evidence. Yale professor Philip Gorski, for example, admitted in a subsequent tweet that he had no idea how “big” the claimed “overlap between Christian Nationalists and Christian homeschoolers” actually might be. It helps the critics’ cause, of course, that they and the media have redefined “nationalism” to mean mere patriotism or pride in America’s history and civilization and “Christian nation” to mean a theocracy instead of a country where 65 percent of the inhabitants of every ethnicity define themselves as Christians and hold some formulation of Christian ideals. Hence the trepidation over homeschooling textbooks from religious publishers that teach civic virtue, assert that God created the world as the Book of Genesis says, and take a dim view of such progressive shibboleths as feminism, transgender activism, the “1619 Project,” and climate alarmism.

Read the whole thing here.

Posted by Charlotte Allen

What a difference three days of ridicule can make–NARAL, May 6, 2021: “When we talk about birthing people, we’re being inclusive” NARAL, May 9, 2021: “Happy Mother’s Day!”

A law would have closed the sole abortion clinic in Mississippi, the Jackson Women’s Health Organization, by requiring its doctors to obtain admitting privileges at local hospitals.
Photo: Rogelio V. Solis/Associated Press

NARAL Pro-Choice America is America’s most prominent abortion-access lobbying group. As Wikipedia says:

It sponsors lawsuits against governments and hospitals,[12][13] donates money to politicians supportive of abortion rights through its political action committee, and organizes its members to contact members of Congress and urge them to support NARAL’s positions.

And abortion is cool, which means NARAL has got to be even cooler.

So when Rep Cori Bush, D-Missouri, tweeted on May 6, three days before Mother’s Day:

Every day, Black birthing people and our babies die because our doctors don’t believe our pain.

“Birthing people,” yeah, that’s the ticket.

So within minutes NARAL jumped onto the “birthing people” bandwagon:

When we talk about birthing people, we’re being inclusive. It’s that simple.

We use gender neutral language when talking about pregnancy, because it’s not just cis-gender women that can get pregnant and give birth. Reproductive freedom is for *every* body.

Because, you know, trans men have abortions, too.

But then, oops!

Republican Congresswoman Nancy Mace of South Carolina tweeted: “‘Birthing people’—you mean women or moms? The left is so woke they’re stripping from women the one thing that only we can do. Leave it to libs to botch highlighting an important issue ppl in both parties. Can agree on by catering to the fringes.”

Actress Rose McGowan tweeted: “Birthing People? I’m empathetic to your painful & unfairly traumatic experience @CoriBush but why are you smearing bio-women to virtue signal to trans women? Why can’t we rise together? Your language is creepy. You are gaslighting. What you are doing is dangerous. #DemCult“….

In the hours leading up to Mother’s Day, the debate continued on Twitter, with some users calling the holiday “Birthing People’s Day” or “Birthing Person’s Day” and others condemning the phrases….

“Tomorrow’s the last Mother’s Day. From then on its Birthing-people Day,” wrote @tre_goated….

“I find it interesting that people who embrace the term ‘Happy Birthing Day’ or ‘Happy Birth Person’s Day’ instead of Happy Mother’s Day because it feels more ‘inclusive’ to them are excluding ALL adoptive mothers who didn’t give birth to their children,” wrote @triplejaymom.

So, by May 9, for NARAL, it was:

Happy Mother’s Day! We have to do better for our moms. …

Ummm.

And I’m not even getting into that oxymoron “moms” on an abortion-pomotion site.

Posted by Charlotte Allen

Me for Law & Liberty: Joan Didion is retired from writing, but her publishers haven’t retired from reprinting her decades-old articles to coax dollars from her adoring fans

Joan Didion with her Corvette, 1971.
Photo: Julian Wasser, 1971 (New York Times)

From my latest for Law & Liberty:

Six of the twelve essays in Let Me Tell You What I Mean are reprints of columns that Didion, alternating with [her late husband, John Gregory] Dunne, wrote for The Saturday Evening Post for several years until the magazine’s demise in 1969. All six date from the same year, 1968, and because the Didion/Dunne columns had a word limit of about 1,200 words, they are very short essays indeed, and it is one of the marvels of a book with 5 by 8-inch pages that a 1,200-word essay can stretch out to fill seven of those pages. One of the Saturday Evening Post offerings, “Pretty Nancy,” in which Didion watches Nancy Reagan, the wife of the governor of California and not yet the wife of the president of the United States, fake the picking of rhododendron blossoms from her Sacramento garden for a television shoot, also appeared as a reprint in shortened form in The White Album, so here it is, in a sense, a reprint of a reprint. Another double reprint in Let Me Tell You What I Mean is “Why I Write,” which appeared first as an article in the New York Times Magazine in 1976, then as an entry in an anthology titled The Writer on Her Work in 1980 before it landed here. A third essay, “On Being Unchosen by the College of One’s Choice,” dating from that year of magical Saturday Evening Post reprint thinking, 1968, about the rejection letter she had received from Stanford as a high-school senior that obliged her to attend the University of California-Berkeley instead, has been posted on the now-defunct website College Admission since at least 2013….

And that leads to the other problem: Joan Didion, who is now 86, retired from writing after Blue Nights, that is, ten years ago. As the Atlantic writer Caitlin Flanagan pointed out in a  review of that book that is probably the most perceptive critique of Didion’s writerly strengths and weaknesses to date, Didion was at heart, and is remembered best as, a young woman, with a young woman’s fresh, often introspective take on the scene around her: the hippies of Haight-Ashbury, the freeways of Los Angeles, the compassless inner lives of the prosperous in the sun-burnished, not yet-overpopulated California of the 1960s and 1970s. Her best work, the work that made her an iconic figure, was her work—her magazine pieces—during that period: Slouching Towards Bethlehem and The White Album. Let Me Tell You What I Mean pays homage to that sparkling time, and to readers’ nostalgia for it, with a dustcover photo of a 30-ish Didion wearing a modish shift-dress, lit cigarette in hand, looking pensive but mostly straight at the camera to command its attention. Her later work, with a few exceptions, deteriorated: the pieties about “Salvador” and elsewhere that the progressive New York Review of Books readership wanted to see in print, and, most recently, the memoirs in which introspection seemed to have crumbled into tiresome self-absorption and style into annoying tics. But the market for books by Joan Didion remains as hungry as ever, and thus the current flow of reprints from the past, of which the 2019 Library of America volume is Exhibit A. And by now, in Let Me Tell You What I Mean, we can hear the distinct sound of the scraping of the bottom of the Didion barrel. Hilton Als, in his rambling forward that is longer than any of the book’s contributions by Didion, strains to find something fresh to say about his subject (“Didion, a carver of words in the granite of the specific”), but mostly fills his allotted pages by summarizing and quoting large chunks from the contents and other, better-known Didion works.

Read the whole thing here.

Posted by Charlotte Allen

DC Mayor Muriel Bowser’s tips for a fun wedding despite her dance ban: 1) Think about how safe you’ll feel 2) Think about how great it is that we’re letting you get married at all

Bride dancing
Photo: Melissa Marshall/Brides

From the Hill:

Washington, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) on Wednesday defended her decision to restrict dancing from wedding receptions, underscoring the city’s progress to mitigate the pandemic thus far.  

Bowser announced on April 26 that weddings are now allowed in a limited capacity in Washington, but dancing would still be a high risk activity amid the pandemic….

D.C. weddings are permitted at 25 percent capacity in a room or less than 250 people. However, standing or dancing receptions are not allowed.

According to a report from the DCist, the mayor’s newest restriction on dancing has sent wedding planners scrambling as couples have already booked bands to play at venues with a dance floor. 

What, removing the whole point of crashing a wedding?

But for those future brides and grooms among you getting the glums over the idea of your guests’ sitting for hours in a mostly empty ballroom waiting for someone to haul out the cake, cheer up! Mayor Bowser has some tips for making the wedding a fun occasion nonetheless:

During an interview with CNN, Bowser was asked why dancing was not permitted at wedding events. 

“Well, I think there’s a lot of good to a wedding like people starting off their lives together and doing it in a safe way and not doing it in a way that puts themselves or their guests in danger,” Bowser replied. 

“An alternate headline may be, ‘Now you can host a wedding in Washington, D.C.,’” Bowser added.

Yes, just think about how safe you all will feel–and how grateful you will be that Mayor Bowser is letting you get married at all.

Posted by Charlotte Allen

Me for Catholic Arts Today: Fake Vermeers by art-forger Han Van Meegeren may someday be regarded as better art than the cows’ heads and balloon dogs snapped up by today’s billionaires

Supper at Emmaus

“Supper at Emmaus” by Han van Meegeren

From my latest for Catholic Arts Today:

Once [Dutch art historian Abraham] Bredius enthusiastically endorsed it as a genuine Vermeer, a wealthy shipowner bought the painting for $5.5 million in today’s dollars and donated it to the Boijmans Van Beuningen Museum in Rotterdam. That opened the reputational and financial floodgates for Van Meegeren to generate and launder through his dealer network even more counterfeit Vermeers in the same style with similar New Testament themes, including the Christ With the Adulteress that he sold to Goering. Overall he earned about $50 million in today’s dollars from his ventures into art forgery.

After Van Meegeren’s conviction and death, the value of his fraudulent Vermeers collapsed. With the passage of time, they look more obviously like concoctions of the 1930s and 1940s—perhaps Van Meegeren’s version of the Expressionism he found so aesthetically deficient. It has been easy for many of today’s critics to deride Van Meegeren as a mediocre painter and the experts such as Bredius who swallowed his bait as vain, self-aggrandizing fools.

But as Friedkin’s movie The Last Vermeer suggests, the Van Meegeren affair raises genuine and complex questions about the meaning and value of art.

While watching the courtroom scenes in the film, I found myself unable to take my eyes off The Supper at Emmaus and Christ With the Adulteress. They were compelling in their stark geometric composition and their focus on the liminal and unknowable presence of Jesus as a figure who sets astonishing revelations in motion. None of those paintings was a knockoff; they were genuine originals, just not by Vermeer. What if tastes in art change again over, say, the next 70 years, and we regard the avant-garde twentieth-century art that was the reigning style when Van Meegeren painted as childish rather than cutting-edge? In a 2010 documentary Fiso Lammertse, a curator at the Van Beuningen Museum, pointed out that people loved The Supper at Emmaus during the 1930s. “They thought it was beautiful. And it is beautiful. That wasn’t wrong.”

Read the whole thing here.

Posted by Charlotte Allen

Me for Epoch Times: Woke capitalism exists because CEOs want to be loved by the woke

Image: Fitsnews/ Mish Talk

From my latest for the Epoch Times:

[T]here is another aspect to staid corporate CEOs suddenly lining up with Black Lives Matter, LGBTQ activists, and today’s radicalized Democratic Party: the human yearning to be admired and respected. William L. Anderson, an economics professor at Frostburg State University in Maryland, compares today’s corporate top dogs, whether Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg or Coca-Cola’s James Quincey, to the 19th-century business titans who built railroads, steel mills, and manufacturing plants. “They loved being called ‘captains of industry,’” says Anderson. “But they weren’t captains of anything. They were entrepreneurs who made things that people wanted to buy. Bill Gates isn’t a captain of industry. He’s an entrepreneur who had really good ideas about selling software, and now he thinks he has good ideas about everything else.” What those 19th-century business barons craved, says Anderson, was “respectability.” They founded libraries, museums, hospitals, scientific institutes, and universities—“but they also got into weird things like eugenics,” Anderson says. Highly successful at operating their companies, “they thought of themselves as spokesmen” for the fashionable movements of their time.

If John D. Rockefeller could pat himself on the back for funding research into what the intellectual elite of his era called improving the human race by discouraging its “defective” components from breeding, it shouldn’t be surprising that today’s corporate CEOs like to take out ads in the New York Times congratulating themselves for backing whatever woke causes today’s intellectual and cultural elites happen to promote. Or that nearly the same CEOs issued effusive press releases vowing their commitment to “racial justice” within hours of the murder verdict in the George Floyd killing. “I don’t think they were ever a bunch of radicals,” says Anderson. “If they were, they wouldn’t have been able to run successful companies. But they want peace—and nobody wants to be ostracized.”

Machiavelli famously wrote that it is better to be feared than loved. Today’s corporations seem to want to feared and loved at the same time.

Read the whole thing here.

Posted by Charlotte Allen

Joe Biden, the new Donald Trump: Wall, Afghanistan troop pullout, Putin phone call–what’s next, having Melania pick out the White House Christmas decorations?

Trump has his own resolute desk at Mar-a-Lago
Photo: Sun (Credit: Twitter/StephenM)

Why am I getting the feeling that Joe Biden is channeling Donald Trump?

Exhibit A:

Nearly three months into office, Joe Biden’s administration is seizing land near the southern border, fueling fears that the government will continue building one the most enduring symbols of Donald Trump’s presidency: a border wall….

Despite Biden’s promise to quickly reverse Trump’s immigration policies, he has yet to act on many of them — from failing to increase the cap on refugees to rescinding a ban on most migrants at the southern border. But fewer issues carry as much symbolic weight as the border wall. And his actions there threaten to further complicate his pledge to offer a kinder, gentler immigration system where everyone is welcome.

“They can have all the excuses they want but it’s real dicey to look at what they’re doing right now,” said a person who consults with the White House on immigration policy who has grown frustrated. “It’s a lot of stuff Trump was doing.”

Exhibit B:

The Biden administration announced Monday that it had reached agreements with the governments of Mexico, Honduras and Guatemala for those countries to increase enforcement against migration toward the United States border….

The announcement of the agreements echoed several made by the Trump administration. In the summer of 2019, President Donald J. Trump agreed to drop his threat to impose tariffs on Mexico after the country agreed to send thousands of troops to intercept migrants making their way north to the border with the United States.

Exhibit C:

Calling for the end of a two-decade war that saw 775,000 American troops serve and 2,300 killed, President Joe Biden on Wednesday announced all U.S. forces will withdraw from Afghanistan by Sept. 11, the 20-year anniversary of the 9/11 attacks that triggered the conflict.

“It is time to end America’s longest war,” Biden said in a speech from the White House Treaty Room, where former President George W. Bush announced the first airstrikes in Afghanistan in 2001. “It is time for American troops to come home.”…

Biden’s timeline would extend a prior agreement negotiated by former President Donald Trump to withdraw all troops by May 1. Instead, the more than 3,000 troops still serving in Afghanistan would begin coming home on May 1.

Exhibit D:

President Biden pledged he would end former president Donald Trump’s inexcusable refusal to hold Russia accountable for intervening in U.S. elections, hacking government agencies and, quite possibly, sponsoring attacks on U.S. soldiers and diplomats. On Thursday, Mr. Biden acted — in a distinctly measured way. The White House announced the expulsion of 10 Russian diplomats and sanctions on a number of companies and individuals. But it did not target the foundations of Vladimir Putin’s power, and so did less than it could have to deter Mr. Putin’s malign activities.

The administration called the new sanctions “sweeping,” and compared with the grudging steps previously taken by Mr. Trump, they were. But punches were pulled….

White House officials said the package was carefully calibrated in the hope that the Biden administration can still induce Mr. Putin to cooperate in some areas.

So what I’d like to know is: Who is running Joe Biden’s brain these days? I want to see the phone records between the official White House in Washington and the real White House down in Mar a Lago.

Posted by Charlotte Allen

Me for Epoch Times: Toppling statues of California padre Junipero Serra isn’t just a war against Christianity; it’s a war against history

san rafael serra

Photo: Catholic News Agency

From my latest for the Epoch Times:

Eventually five people (all of whom seem to be Native American women, although at least one identifies as “Two Spirit”), allegedly caught on video pitching the statue were arrested and in February formally charged with felony vandalism. Since then, however, there has been a relentless campaign, spearheaded by the National Lawyers Guild, to persuade Marin County District Attorney Lori Frugoli to drop the charges against the Indigenous Peoples Five, as they now call themselves. Some 80,000 people have signed a Change.org petition to that effect. The petition calls Serra “a notoriously violent mission system leader” and implies that the mission was the guilty party in the incident because of the “violence” of its founding on land “stolen” from indigenous peoples. So far Frugoli has stood firm, but affluent Marin County is famous for its political liberalism and its residents’ attachment to leftist causes du jour, so it would not be surprising if she yielded to pressures that have allowed statue-demolishers around the country to escape prosecution and punishment.

This was not the only destruction of a statue of Serra in California in what amounts to an outright war against the friar by protesters claiming to represent the interests of Native Americans. On June 19, 2020 activists toppled and smeared red paint onto a thirty-foot bronze statue of the saint that had stood in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park for more than a century. The next day, June 20, tribal protesters in Los Angeles knocked down a nine-foot statue of the saint that had stood since 1932 in Father Serra Park near the site of the first Spanish settlement in the city’s downtown (it was a copy of a statue of Serra that the state placed in the U.S. Capitol in 1931). The Los Angeles City Council deemed the action an act of “civil disobedience,” and no one was prosecuted. On July 4 demonstrators ripped down a statue of Serra in Sacramento’s Capitol Park, again without any effort being made to catch them, much less to bring charges (a bill pending in the California Legislature would replace the statue with a monument honoring Native Americans). On July 16 the Ventura City Council voted to remove two Serra statues from public places. Earlier, in 2018, Stanford University administrators, reacting to campus protesters, had voted to remove Serra’s name from the campus mall and two campus buildings. This was ironic, because Jane Stanford, who with her husband, the railroad magnate Leland Stanford, had founded the university in 1885, was one of Serra’s most fervent admirers. In 1891 she had commissioned the erection of a statue of him in a park at Monterey, where he had first arrived in California in 1768 after serving as a missionary in Mexico for 18 years. That statue was decapitated by a sledgehammer in 2015, but the head was found and reattached two years later. It seems to be one of the few outdoor statues of Serra that is still permitted to stand.

The Californian war against Junípero Serra isn’t simply a war of leftist activists, abetted by politicians in this overwhelmingly blue state, against former generations of Californians who romanticized the missions and their padres (Helen Hunt Jackson’s hugely popular 1884 novel Ramona is an example of this). Nor is it simply a war against Christianity and its elevation to sainthood of a man they believe helped destroy Native American culture by converting Native Americans to Catholicism. It is a war against California history itself. Indeed, Junípero Serra could be said to have invented the state of California. The missions that he and his successors founded were the vertebrae along the spine of the El Camino Real (pretty much coterminous with U.S. 101), which runs along the California coast. Every major city in California—San Diego, Santa Ana, Los Angeles (near Mission San Gabriel), San Jose, San Francisco—lies on the mission trail. Serra and his successors introduced vineyards, cattle, and olive trees to California agriculture, and were responsible for the state’s distinctive “mission” style of architecture: the stucco-coated walls and red-tiled roofs that are ubiquitous in the state. University of California-Riverside professor Steven W. Hackel, in his prizewinning 2014 biography of Serra, calls him “California’s founding father.”

Read the whole thing here.

Posted by Charlotte Allen

“Rape”! “C-m stained sheet”! “Ugly”! Mayor of Charlottesville devises ingenious ad campaign to boost tourism to historic Virginia city

Mayor Nikuyah Walker 4
Photo: Lorenzo Dickerson/Charlottesville Inclusive Media

The city of Charlottesville, Virginia, about 117 miles south of Washington, D.C., ought to be a natural tourist mecca. It’s got it all: wineries; hiking in nearby Shenandoah National Park, and Monticello, the historic home of Thomas Jefferson, not far away. Plus the campus of the University of Virginia, founded and designed by Jefferson, which means a pleasant college-town atmosphere, with bookstores, classy restaurants, and coffee spots on charming, walkable streets. What’s not to like?

But sad to say, the coronavirus pandemic has severely hit the Charlottesville tourist industry. Tourist visits are down 58 percent since pre-pandemic days, and restaurants and hotels–not to mention their employee base– are hurting. What to do to bring some badly needed revenue back?

Well! Charlottesville Mayor Nikuyah Walker to the rescue! Chief executive since 1917 and taking seriously her mayoral obligation to boost her city’s image, Walker got right onto social media to put out this message:

Charlottesville: the beautiful-ugly it is. It rapes you, comforts you in its c-m stained sheet and tells you to keep its secrets.

That’s not just just boosterism. It’s poetry!

But for some reason that I just don’t understand, Facebook briefly removed Walker’s post for violating community standards–although it later reinstated the post with some of the words blurred out. And for yet more unfathomable reasons the Charlottesville City Council seems to be upset and is reportedly considering issuing a statement. Walker’s office is declining to comment.

Me, I just don’t get it. I want to drive down and take in Walker’s Charlottesville right now.

Posted by Charlotte Allen

All hail Tezkatlipoka! California Education Department devises clever way to get kids reading, by having them re-enact the murder of Piggy in “Lord of the Flies”

The Skull of the Smoking Mirror, Cult Representation of Tezcatlipoca
Photo: Critian Roberti / Flickr, from the British Museum (ThoughtCo)

City Journal reports:

Next week, the California Department of Education will vote on a new statewide ethnic studies curriculum that advocates for the “decolonization” of American society and elevates Aztec religious symbolism….

This religious concept is fleshed out in the model curriculum’s official “ethnic studies community chant.” The curriculum recommends that teachers lead their students in a series of indigenous songs, chants, and affirmations, including the “In Lak Ech Affirmation,” which appeals directly to the Aztec gods. Students first clap and chant to the god Tezkatlipoka—whom the Aztecs traditionally worshipped with human sacrifice and cannibalism—asking him for the power to be “warriors” for “social justice.” Next, the students chant to the gods Quetzalcoatl, Huitzilopochtli, and Xipe Totek, seeking “healing epistemologies” and “a revolutionary spirit.” Huitzilopochtli, in particular, is the Aztec deity of war and inspired hundreds of thousands of human sacrifices during Aztec rule. Finally, the chant comes to a climax with a request for “liberation, transformation, [and] decolonization,” after which students shout “Panche beh! Panche beh!” in pursuit of ultimate “critical consciousness.”

More about Tezkatlipoka (or as is the more common spelling, Tezcatlipoca) from Britannica:

A protean wizard, Tezcatlipoca caused the death of many Toltecs by his black magic and induced the virtuous Quetzalcóatl to sin, drunkenness, and carnal love, thus putting an end to the Toltec golden age. Under his influence the practice of human sacrifice was introduced into central Mexico….

Tezcatlipoca was generally represented with a stripe of black paint across his face and an obsidian mirror in place of one of his feet….

The main rite of Tezcatlipoca’s cult took place during Toxcatl, the fifth ritual month. Every year at that time the priest selected a young and handsome war prisoner. For one year he lived in princely luxury, impersonating the god. Four beautiful girls dressed as goddesses were chosen as his companions. On the appointed feast day, he climbed the steps of a small temple while breaking flutes that he had played. At the top he was sacrificed by the removal of his heart.

Now you, dear reader, might wonder what California’s education officials were thinking when they decided to force children to sing hymns to the darkest god of the Aztecs, a Mexican tribe notorious for its practice of mass human sacrifice. A god whose most famous image is a 15th-century mask made out of a human skull decorated with black metal and turquoise (see above). All this in a state where a kid can’t bring a Bible to the school grounds without getting into trouble.

But I think there was a different, far more subtle purpose behind the educrats’ decision to promote what looks on the surface like a lot of Tezkatlipoka devil-worship mumbo-jumbo: They want to get kids to put down their smartphones and start reading some books. And what better book to start with than Nobel Prizewinner William Golding’s 1954 classic, Lord of the Flies? After all, Golding’s book is about schoolboys exactly the same age as the Tezkatlipoka target audience stranded on a desert island who devise their own form of, um, human sacrifice:

Their spears were taken from them.

“Tie them up!

”Ralph cried out hopelessly against the black and green mask.

“Jack!”

“Go on. Tie them.”

Now the painted group felt the otherness of Samneric, felt the power in their own hands. They felled the twins clumsily and excitedly. Jack was inspired. He knew that Ralph would attempt a rescue. He struck in a humming circle behind him and Ralph only just parried the blow.

Beyond them the tribe and the twins were a loud and writhing heap. Piggy crouched again. Then the twins lay, astonished, and the tribe stood round them. Jack turned to Ralph and spoke between his teeth.

“See? They do what I want.”

There was silence again. The twins lay, inexpertly tied up, and the tribe watched Ralph to see what he would do. He numbered them through his fringe, glimpsed the ineffectual smoke. His temper broke. He screamed at Jack.

“You’re a beast and a swine and a bloody, bloody thief!”

He charged.

Jack, knowing this was the crisis, charged too. They met with a jolt and bounced apart. Jack swung with his fist at Ralph and caught him on the ear. Ralph hit Jack in the stomach and made him grunt. Then they were facing each other again, panting and furious, but unnerved by each other’s ferocity. They became aware of the noise that was the background to this fight, the steady shrill cheering of the tribe behind them.

Piggy’s voice penetrated to Ralph.“Let me speak.”

He was standing in the dust of the fight, and as the tribe saw his intention the shrill cheer changed to a steady booing.

Piggy held up the conch and the booing sagged a little, then came up again to strength.

“I got the conch.”

He shouted.

“I tell you, I got the conch!”

Surprisingly, there was silence now; the tribe were curious to hear what amusing thing he might have to say.

Silence and pause; but in the silence a curious air-noise, close by Ralph’s head. He gave it half his attention—and there it was again; a faint “Zup!”

Someone was throwing stones: Roger was dropping them, his one hand still on the lever. Below him, Ralph was a shock of hair and Piggy a bag of fat.

“I got this to say. You’re acting like a crowd of kids.” The booing rose and died again as Piggy lifted the white, magic shell.

Which is better—to be a pack of painted Indians like you are, or to be sensible like Ralph is?”

A great clamor rose among the savages. Piggy shouted again.

“Which is better—to have rules and agree, or to hunt and kill?”

Again the clamor and again—“Zup!”

Ralph shouted against the noise.

“Which is better, law and rescue, or hunting and breaking things up?”

Now Jack was yelling too and Ralph could no longer make himself heard. Jack had backed right against the tribe and they were a solid mass of menace that bristled with spears. The intention of a charge was forming among them; they were working up to it and the neck would be swept clear. Ralph stood facing them, a little to one side, his spear ready.

By him stood Piggy still holding out the talisman, the fragile, shining beauty of the shell. The storm of sound beat at them, an incantation of hatred. High overhead, Roger, with a sense of delirious abandonment,leaned all his weight on the lever.

Ralph heard the great rock before he saw it. He was aware of a jolt in the earth that came to him through the soles of his feet, and the breaking sound of stones at the top of the cliff. Then the monstrous red thing bounded across the neck and he flung himself flat while the tribe shrieked.

The rock struck Piggy a glancing blow from chin to knee; the conch exploded into a thousand white fragments and ceased to exist. Piggy, saying nothing, with no time for even a grunt, traveled through the air sideways from the rock, turning over as he went. The rock bounded twice and was lost in the forest. Piggy fell forty feet and landed on his back across the square red rock in the sea. His head opened and stuff came out and turned red. Piggy’s arms and legs twitched a bit, like a pig’s after it has been killed. Then the sea breathed again in a long, slow sigh, the water boiled white and pink over the rock; and when it went,sucking back again, the body of Piggy was gone.

See what I mean? There’s more than one way to get kids interested in a great 20th-century work of literature, and a little re-enactment, with the help of, oh, a black and green skull mask and the Aztec god of human sacrifice could be one of those alternate ways. Kudos to the California Department of Education!

(The boldface is my own.)

Posted by Charlotte Allen