Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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May 11, 2008
By: Kevin Drum

BEGONE!....Are wizards infiltrating Florida schools? Maybe. Luckily, the Pasco County School District is on the case.

Kevin Drum 1:22 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (27)

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The personal resposibilty finger pointers are at it again. Everything is ALWAYS someone elses fault.

Posted by: Jet on May 11, 2008 at 1:36 PM | PERMALINK

Oh oh - I use little stuffed toy BEARS with my students, creating the illusion that they talk about all the fun picture books that they read.

Many teachers use puppets and these types of props to share a love of learning with children

Are we going to be accused of “wizardry” because we all know that in God’s natural world, bears and other little furry creatures don’t talk.

Posted by: on May 11, 2008 at 1:46 PM | PERMALINK

You know, you can't make this stuff up. Do you suppose these idiots think the toothpick really disappeared?

Posted by: gummitch on May 11, 2008 at 1:57 PM | PERMALINK

It's the Devil's toothpick.

Posted by: Pat on May 11, 2008 at 2:05 PM | PERMALINK

I can understand it if it appeared as though the toothpick disappeared into his eye. You wouldn't want kids trying that at home on their little brother.

Posted by: B on May 11, 2008 at 2:14 PM | PERMALINK

Yes, it's better to get back to reality...you know, a talking burning bush, men vs. dinosaurs, the earth's five thousand year old geological history along with the immaculate conception of the human species...

This county (Pasco) was hijacked by a group of right-wing republican extremists mol 15 years back, they are from out of state, in fact the Republican chairperson is from NYC, and our illustrious dist 13 fed house representative (R) is from Albany NY. This area (once, typically libertarian) became ripe for the organized extremist conservatism this bunch represents (obvious by the subject of this article).

Posted by: benmerc on May 11, 2008 at 2:24 PM | PERMALINK

Ahhh, Florida. The idiot man-child of our democracy.

Posted by: BombIranForChrist on May 11, 2008 at 2:29 PM | PERMALINK

Jesus, people. This isn't rocket science. There are ways of telling if he's a witch.

BEDEVERE: Quiet! Quiet! Quiet! Quiet! There are ways of telling whether she is a witch.

VILLAGER #1:
Are there?

VILLAGER #2:
Ah?

VILLAGER #1:
What are they?

CROWD:
Tell us! Tell us!...

BEDEVERE:
Tell me. What do you do with witches?

CROWD:
Burn! Burn them up! Burn!...

BEDEVERE:
And what do you burn apart from witches?

VILLAGER #1:
More witches!

VILLAGER #3:
Shh!

VILLAGER #2:
Wood!

BEDEVERE:
So, why do witches burn?
[pause]

VILLAGER #3:
B--... 'cause they're made of... wood?

BEDEVERE:
Good! Heh heh.

CROWD:
Oh, yeah. Oh.

BEDEVERE:
So, how do we tell whether she is made of wood?

VILLAGER #1:
Build a bridge out of her.

BEDEVERE:
Ah, but can you not also make bridges out of stone?

VILLAGER #1:
Oh, yeah.

RANDOM:
Oh, yeah. True. Uhh...

BEDEVERE:
Does wood sink in water?

VILLAGER #1:
No. No.

VILLAGER #2:
No, it floats! It floats!

VILLAGER #1:
Throw her into the pond!

CROWD:
The pond! Throw her into the pond!

BEDEVERE:
What also floats in water?

VILLAGER #1:
Bread!

VILLAGER #2:
Apples!

VILLAGER #3:
Uh, very small rocks!

VILLAGER #1:
Cider!

VILLAGER #2:
Uh, gra-- gravy!

VILLAGER #1:
Cherries!

VILLAGER #2:
Mud!

VILLAGER #3:
Uh, churches! Churches!

VILLAGER #2:
Lead! Lead!

ARTHUR:
A duck!

CROWD:
Oooh.

BEDEVERE:
Exactly. So, logically...

VILLAGER #1:
If... she... weighs... the same as a duck,... she's made of wood.

BEDEVERE:
And therefore?

VILLAGER #2:
A witch!

One more reason why Florida's delegates shouldn't be seated. Ever.

Posted by: Augustus on May 11, 2008 at 2:50 PM | PERMALINK

On the other hand, if he had said that a big guy sitting up in the clouds waved a magic wand and created the earth, he could have had a permanent job teaching science.

Posted by: john sherman on May 11, 2008 at 3:02 PM | PERMALINK

To the Fundies, the Bible (and the superstitions that have come to be related to it in America, like belief in the Devil and witchcraft) is what G.I. Joe and Transformers are to little kids-- a neat storyline of good and evil they can follow and pretend is real, to give themselves psychological satisfaction.

Note to substitute teachers: no more magic tricks on school time in the Bible Belt. If you're going to get fired, get fired for letting the kids play Everquest on your computer, not for some lame disappearing toothpick.

Fundies: do you really want to bring us back to pressing people under millstones to determine if they're witches? That used to be one of the tests- if you survived, you were a witch; if you died, you died.

Why not try living in the real world, where there are no witches or wizards, instead?

Posted by: Swan on May 11, 2008 at 3:04 PM | PERMALINK

Liberals: If you get a job as a teacher, business-owner, doctor, cop, or lawyer, instead of as a beat-poet, guitarist, futon-maker, yoga-instructor, or barrista-- then that's one less spot in those occupations that can be occupied by some fundie.

God knows, you'll probably do better at it and be able to make more money / advance quicker than all of your fundie competition, too.

Posted by: Swan on May 11, 2008 at 3:08 PM | PERMALINK

If you track the links back to the original article it isn't really clear how much of a role the toothpick magic trick played in the substitute not being able to do any more work with the district. It does sound suspicious, but I think it Steve Benen should have been a bit more careful about accepting the substitute's version of what happened without some extra fact checking. It's even more troubling the Kevin would link to this story - spreading it even farther to be taken as veridical - when it may not warrant such confidence. That is the kind of thing too many conservative Republican web sites and blogs do that we complain about regularly.

Posted by: TK on May 11, 2008 at 3:11 PM | PERMALINK

You know what is really magical? Jenna Bush's wedding.

Posted by: Brojo on May 11, 2008 at 3:27 PM | PERMALINK

TK at 3:11, I totally disagree- I followed the links before I posted, and it sounds more like the teacher was disciplined for the magic trick, but after-the-fact the school officials threw some other trumped-up charges in to make the story more ambiguous, so that they wouldn't look ridiculous for disciplining him over the magic trick.

Posted by: Swan on May 11, 2008 at 3:31 PM | PERMALINK

If the magic trick was even part of the grounds for disciplining him, it's bizarre, and it's a lot more likely the other charges were thrown in dishonestly instead of the teacher getting disciplined for real stuff, and then the officials saying "Oh yeah, and some parents didn't like the magic trick, too."

Posted by: Swan on May 11, 2008 at 3:34 PM | PERMALINK

I was a middle school sub in East Boston a couple decades back, and as far as I'm concerned, anything a middle school sub does to keep the lid on that doesn't involve pepper spray and/or using a sidearm is fine with me.

If I had mastered witchcraft, I would have made a lot more than a toothpick disappear. Hell, I'd have gone Voldemort on period 4 in its entirety.

Posted by: Davis X. Machina on May 11, 2008 at 4:36 PM | PERMALINK

Laugh if you must, but it doesn't take much to stampede a whole lotta people into confused magical thinking. Add those to your political base and you've got control of governments and curricula, and it's all downhill from there.

You can fool some of the people all the time, and that's all it takes.


Posted by: ferd on May 11, 2008 at 5:13 PM | PERMALINK

Swan: "I followed the links before I posted, and it sounds more like the teacher was disciplined for the magic trick, but after-the-fact the school officials threw some other trumped-up charges in to make the story more ambiguous, so that they wouldn't look ridiculous for disciplining him over the magic trick."

I don't see how you can come to that conclusion unless you assume what the substitute stated was true. It may be, but it is also quite plausible that the principal was given an earful by the permanent teacher of the class and the principal took everything the teacher mentioned as being a problem when making the case for not keeping the substitute. There simply are not enough facts known to be able to assess who is telling the truth in this situation. I think it is usually a good policy to withhold judgment in such situations - especially when the press, more than occasionally, has a tendency to "gin-up" a story to make it seem more interesting.

Posted by: TK on May 11, 2008 at 5:19 PM | PERMALINK

Well, finally the official Florida Witch-Finder General has something to do. I understand there's also a new map of the state with "Here there be monsters" inscribed on all the surrounding water.

Posted by: on May 11, 2008 at 5:46 PM | PERMALINK

Maybe they all should ask the Wizard for a brain, while they're at it.

Posted by: Joshua Norton on May 11, 2008 at 5:48 PM | PERMALINK

"especially when the press, more than occasionally, has a tendency to "gin-up" a story to make it seem more interesting."

Yeah, like the Terry Schaivo story was totally 'ginned up'. If you don't believe the christo-crackers that brought us that little white trash passion play are capable of this kind of brain fart, you should be under court ordered supervision. You're naive to such a degree that you're a danger to yourself.

Posted by: Mrs. Peel on May 11, 2008 at 6:05 PM | PERMALINK

"I don't see how you can come to that conclusion unless you assume what the substitute stated was true. "

Because they admitted that Wizardry played a part in the firing and one of their other excuses was "not following the lesson plans". I'm not Swan, but their story sounds unreasonable and admits to the main point anyway.

Posted by: Boronx on May 11, 2008 at 6:55 PM | PERMALINK

Sounds like a middle school prank gone a little too far.

"Hey! Let's report this dweeb for wizardry."

Posted by: Tilli (Mojave Desert) on May 11, 2008 at 7:20 PM | PERMALINK

The folks in Pasco county were just a little het up over the alien visitation in March. The ensuing anxiety might have made them a little hasty.

UFO captured on tape in Pasco

Posted by: cowalker on May 11, 2008 at 8:08 PM | PERMALINK

Me: "I don't see how you can come to that conclusion unless you assume what the substitute stated was true. "

Boronx: "Because they admitted that Wizardry played a part in the firing and one of their other excuses was "not following the lesson plans". I'm not Swan, but their story sounds unreasonable and admits to the main point anyway.

Neither of the linked pages has a quote from personnel in the school district saying "wizardry" was part of their reason for terminating the substitute. One of the articles does mention that they talked to an assistant superintendent and they sort of imply the assistant superintendent used the word "wizardry", but it is not a direct quote so one cannot be sure if that may or may not have been a bit of license taken by the reporter - the possibility of "ginning-up" the report that I mentioned earlier. If that sounds very unlikely to you, look at the a later sentence written by the reporter, "After the magic trick, Rushe's principal requested Piculas be dismissed. Now, Piculas believes the incident may have bewitched his ability to get a job anywhere else." The reporter does not mention the other issues the district brought up but instead says simply "After the magic trick..." as though there aren't any other possible salient issues. And notice the reporter gets just too cute with "...bewitched his ability to get a job anywhere else". I believe that is evidence that the reporter may very well have been looking to play primarily with the potentially most interesting aspect of the event rather than simply writing an objective report.

In fact, we have a direct quote in the other article where an assistant superintendent specifically denies the substitute's claim, "Assistant Superintendent Renalia DuBose said the word 'wizardry' never came up on the school district's end. 'That was his rendition of what happened,' she said." So there is a direct quote that contradicts your assertion that they admitted wizardry played a part in the firing.

Actually what strikes me as somewhat "unreasonable" is the substitute's claim that though he showed the students how he performed the trick with tape that a middle school student was, never-the-less, so traumatized that his father complained to the school. I teach middle school and it strikes me just as likely that the substitute is a flaky person (I've had my share of flaky substitutes) as it is that a middle school age student would be traumatized by a simple magic trick even after she/he was shown how it worked. I'm not saying the substitute is a flake - I'm just saying that sans other information there is no good reason to believe he is more likely to be telling the truth than district personnel.

It appears what we have is a "he said, she said" situation. There simply needs to be more information before we can say with any confidence who it is that is being untruthful.

Posted by: TK on May 11, 2008 at 9:50 PM | PERMALINK

TK:

Sure there are bad substitutes, and Pinculas may be one of them, but the story doesn't really support your suspicions. The letter he got lists the magic trick as "'one of the reasons' for dumping him from the substitute-teacher list." What do you suppose makes this a reason for such a decision? Is it because a 45-second trick that catches the attention of a group of middle school students is a bad use of a substitute teacher's time? Maybe you've forgotten your own middle school years, but almost anything a substitute teacher can do to get the attention of a classroom full of middle school kids is worth 45 seconds of class time!

But, what about the other reasons, you say. He may very well have departed from the lesson plan, or let the students use computers... none of which seem like an adequate reason for the principal to specifically ask that he not be allowed back, after one day of substitute teaching. It's also possible that he did follow the lesson plan (there's no direct claim by either the regular teacher or the students that he did not), or that the lesson plan wasn't worth following in its entirety.

And it's possible that he did ignore another teacher telling him not to let the students use computers, but also possible that he told another teacher he was going to let the students do so, and got no negative feedback. (again, the teachers and the students are not quoted, and there's no indication that "another teacher" had the authority to tell him what do to about student computer use)

All-in-all, it sounds like a "he said, she said" between the substitute and the regular teacher... but for the odd appearance of the magic trick on the list. Nothing else sounds like a good reason for striking Pinculas from the substitutes list after a single day of teaching (especially if he had also substitute taught at several other schools with no outstanding problems), and there's no indication that the letter lists any evidence for the other claims, so at the very least Pinculas would appears to have been denied the right to make his case.

And we're still left with the question of why the magic trick is on the list, if there was no accusation that he was doing something unseemly or malefic.

Posted by: keith on May 12, 2008 at 6:12 AM | PERMALINK

Brojo on May 11, 2008 at 3:27 PM

That was not me.

Posted by: Brojo on May 12, 2008 at 7:14 PM | PERMALINK
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