01 Oct 1999 Major Payne, Mrs. Tingle and the ACLU, by Mike Ramey
If one believes the claims of the education establishment, the single biggest threat to America’s schools is not low test scores, overcrowded classrooms, the marked ejection of evolution as a valid educational curriculum or the lack of school vouchers.
The education establishment thinks its biggest threat is the way Hollywood portrays it in films.
Case in point: the outcry by factions of the National Education Association this past summer over the movie “Teaching Mrs. Tingle.” In a nutshell, the movie is about three high school students who kidnap a sadistic, flunk-happy history teacher – Mrs. Tingle – to cover for the “alleged” theft of a final exam.
The original movie title, by the way, was “Killing Mrs. Tingle,” but this was changed and its release pushed back after the shootings at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado. Who says that Hollywood doesn’t have heart? It may not have much in the way of common sense, but – by golly – they do have heart in Tinsel Town!
There was no similar outcry from teachers, however, over the 1995 movie “Major Payne.” Not only did Payne (played by Damon Wayans), a retired Marine Corps officer placed in charge of a rag-tag bunch of teenagers, act in a sadistic manner – it was part of his classroom style. A student under Payne’s leadership would hardly fall asleep in a class where the teacher said, “Killing is my business, ladies – and business is good!”
The difference between the two movies can be summed up this way: Mrs. Tingle was a career educator who had been in the classroom so long that she had forgotten to prepare her students for life in the real world. Major Payne came to the classroom from the real world and cut out the needless “feel-good” aspects of modern educating to prepare his students for life beyond school. No wonder the NEA, and their friends at the American Civil Liberties Union, are more squeamish when there’s a Payne in the classroom rather than a Tingle.
Payne is all about results. Tingle is all about keeping the status quo and her tenure, even if Johnny and Jane can’t read their diplomas.
In many modern public schools, from the inner city to the suburbs, the NEA and the ACLU have “held” that God is too dangerous to be discussed or allowed, the Ten Commandments should be outlawed, parents should be disregarded and ignored (unless it’s fundraising time), morals are a matter of choice and the proverbial inmates should have a constitutional right to run the asylum.
I find it ironic that the same education establishment finding nothing wrong with condoms in the classroom, the pro-lesbian text Heather Has Two Mommies or the anti-learning Outcome-Based Education would so outraged by fictional characters acting out fantasies on the silver screen. I find it even more ironic that the ACLU recently announced that they planned to continue to fight for “student rights” and the separation of God from public education.
If organizations like the NEA and the ACLU are successful in their push to wrest control of young minds from parental control and religious morality, what will they say if more Columbines take place? The old adage is true: if you push God out of the classroom, then Heaven help you as to what will be ushered in.
It’s time that American parents start to push back. If it takes school vouchers, which will allow parents to choose where to send their children, to make it clear to the education establishment that their present classroom tactics are not working, then so be it! If it takes more parents running for school board positions in order to show the ACLU that they can no longer “force” schools to get rid of prayer and morality, then so be it! If it takes a few brave parents to set up charter schools, faith-based schools or home schools to better prepare our young people to face the real world, then so be it! Competition and educational alternatives will help students, parents and, ultimately, the educational system instead of doing harm.
There is a real world beyond the classroom, and it is up to parents to make sure that their children have the best educational environment to face the future. It’s not up to the NEA. And certainly not up to the ACLU.
(Mike Ramey is a Project 21 member, minister and syndicated columnist living in Indianapolis, Indiana. He writes on social issues for Project 21.)
Note: New Visions Commentaries reflect the views of their author, and not necessarily those of Project 21.