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Hell is Other People, Part Two

October 17, 2015

In the midst of the lengthy and tedious email exchange over protecting the civil rights of my students, my principal arrived at my door to tell me he had received a phone call from a parent regarding a sticker in my classroom observed during open house.  I assumed that the parent with whom I had been corresponding grew tired of making poor arguments to me, and chose to now make them to my principal.  This was not the case, as it became immediately clear that this was another parent who had a different concern well beyond safe space stickers and rainbows.

“The parent,” the principal offered, “says he was concerned about a sticker in your room that appeared to be pro-ISIS.”

Um…what?

“Do you know what sticker he’s talking about?”

So now I have a parent who thinks I have pro-ISIS decorations.  I heart the Islamic State.  Guns don’t kill people, the Islamic State in the Levant kills people. My other car is a Daesh-owned Tacoma.

So, I’m either filling my classroom with pro-gay propaganda, or pro-Islamic State propaganda.  We need to get our stories together, people.  I clearly can’t be doing both.

To be fair, when he said ISIS, I knew exactly what he was talking about.  There is a bumper sticker that reads “Isis” in my classroom.  However, it does not refer to the band of Sunnis desperately trying to establish an 8th century caliphate near the Euphrates.  It is instead a reference to how the word has been used for most of the last 2500 years: the Egyptian goddess. This is the bumper sticker that frightened my parent so:

EBISI

This was a gift from a student I received nearly fifteen years ago. I was teaching world history, and anyone who’s ever had me in class knows I adore puns.  So what do you get for your pun happy world history teacher?  You get him a bumper sticker that has the names of two Egyptian Gods (“Ra” being the second) and arranges their names to sound like a cheer! Of course, it never occurred to me that I would one day need to explain how the bumper sticker meant I wasn’t a terrorist.

My principal clarified this to the father, who accepted the explanation with the caveat that the sticker “was still awfully close.” Close?  Close to what?  That the name Isis is close to the acronym ISIS? Yes, that’s true, but lots of words in our language are close to others.  For example,  I am close enough to close the door. In spite of this absurd attempt to save face, I took the matter to be over and done with.

A few days later, one of my students approached me after class.

“Are my parents giving you a hard time?”

I explained that there was a phone call to the principal, but it was just a misunderstanding and it’s all been resolved.  The student sighed heavily and said “I’m sorry. I tried to explain to them what the sticker meant, but they wouldn’t listen to me.” I told her no apology was necessary, and reiterated it was a misunderstanding.  I did appreciate the fact that the student felt comfortable enough to speak to me about it, and I was grateful for the chance to reassure her that I didn’t hold any of it against her.

There are several ironies here.  One being that this came during a unit on the stereotyping and racial profiling of Arabs, South Asians, Sikhs, and Muslims.  Another being that Isis was the goddess of health, marriage…and wisdom.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. Danielle permalink
    January 20, 2016 6:09 pm

    Mr. Brodie, I am thoroughly enjoying your blog. Perhaps too much, as I am at work and have just had to force myself to stop reading so I can get back to business. Also, I am stumped as to how people so sorely lacking in common sense make it through the day without killing themselves. Thanks for sharing, and best of luck with this gem of a man!

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