The Dumbest Recommended Reading List You’ll Ever Read
How the extreme margins of the religious right in America is impacting 64 schools in Aotearoa, New Zealand.
Since writing about Bethlehem College — the Christian school I once attended — I’ve been keeping a quiet little eye on what the other Christian schools around New Zealand are getting up to.
Because there are a lot of Christian schools in Aotearoa.
Parents send their kids there because they assume their offspring will be given not only some education, but a strong moral compass that will see them treat others with kindness, respect and dignity.
I’d argue the young people who attend are also being taught some utter batshit, embarrassing lunacy. I say this because the adults doing the teaching are also being taught some utter batshit, embarrassing lunacy.
Several people have leaked a “recommended reading” list to me, created by the NZ Association for Christian Schools ahead of their big symposium this week.
64 of New Zealand’s Christian schools are members of the association, so it’s safe to assume 64 schools got the reading list. Here are the North Island schools, and here are the South Islands schools. Those 64 schools include about 1000 teachers.
To be clear, the recommended reading list is a document sent out to fully-functioning, non-brain dead New Zealand school leaders that will gather to discuss what to teach the children in their care.
The Dumbest Recommended Reading List You’ll Ever Read
The focus for New Zealand’s Christian school teachers is pretty clear just from the key headings: SEXUAL IDENTITY, CRITICAL THEORY, NZ HISTORY and DIGGING DEEPER INTO SEXUAL IDENTITY.
They’re all knee-jerk topics that are the current obsession of the American right. More specifically, of America’s very warped, strange version of Christianity (something I covered in the very first Flightless Bird episode).
As terrible as this right wing conservative Christian nonsense is in the US, it seems even weirder to see it injected directly into the New Zealand context without question. As if what New Zealand needs right now is more of the kind of discourse we see coming out of the increasingly extreme margins of the religious right in America.
Those parents who send their children to these schools with hopes they will experience a kind and thoughtful education now have to worry that their kids’ schooling is shaped by the worst extremes of American conspiratorial Christianity.
On the reading list there are books and websites, as well as recommended videos curated by the same Christian teacher who arrogantly wore a MAGA hat to a Black Lives Matter protest in 2020. Again… extreme margins of the religious right in America.
I’ve uploaded the list here — but will summarise it below.
At the moment, America is in panic over Critical Race Theory being taught in schools. The theory presents the shocking concept (I’m being sarcastic) that maybe, just maybe, there is systematic racism in society. That perhaps the horrors of slavery have left a lingering impact on American society.
America’s conservative Christians are terrified of this idea, because it’s considered unbiblical. Why? Because God says, “All men are created equal”. With this statement in mind, the idea that some people are born with differing opportunities in life is deeply offensive to God, to Christians, and to Christian schools.
This is a very American panic right now (white people don’t like being told of unconscious, systemic racism), and so of course it’s the the NZ Association for Christian Schools’ panic, too.
That New Zealand schools are also looking to tell kids that maybe, just maybe colonisation came with problems is too much to handle. Articles like ‘Racism in schools: Calls for Cultural Competency in the Classroom’ are basically heralding the arrival of Satan. Heat up the red hot poking sticks, Beelzebub has entered the building.
New Zealand’s education system daring to address the problems of colonisation explains the NZ HISTORY section of the reading list, which paints colonisation in a very positive light. This is perfectly in line with the stated beliefs of the NZ Association for Christian Schools:
“When Samuel Marsden set foot on NZ, he came with an inheritance of a civilisation which had been converted centuries before from a pagan awareness of the spiritual to an understanding of things from a more or less Christian perspective.
In Europe Christians had been educating their children in a Christian context for many centuries. Marsden presented the gospel to NZ Maori who saw this as the way to at last know the Almighty.
They converted to Christianity by the thousand. Marsden established about 50 village schools to teach how to read and write English and to read the Word of God. Thus the first schooling in NZ was Christian.”
Okay — onto SEXUAL IDENTITY.
Actually, I’m too tired to go into this. It’s a long reading list, and as expected it’s the usual anti-trans, anti-LGBTQI+ rhetoric that’s utterly unsurprising.
We know what this type of thinking does at schools like Bethlehem College. This essay from a former Bethlehem College student shows how much these schools can fuck you up. You know, kids kill themselves and stuff.
DIGGING DEEPER INTO SEXUAL IDENTITY:
When I read DIGGING DEEPER on a reading list, I expect the smartest stuff that will push my brain to its limits. I am going deep. I’m going to have to concentrate extra hard, multiple cans of Coke Zero and plungers of coffee on the ready.
I am going to leave you with some passages from the DIGGING DEEPER section of the RECOMMENDED READING LIST sent to 64 CHRISTIAN SCHOOLS ahead of the NEW ZEALAND ASSOCIATION FOR CHRISTIAN SCHOOLS’ special SYMPOSIUM later THIS WEEK:
“If you’re disciplining a young man who told you he loves to wear pink pajamas, he never misses an episode of The View, and he would make his wife confront an intruder in the home, you may need to have a conversation about whether he’s appropriately expressing his masculinity.”
On “the wife” assuming the “eager posture”:
“Adam is created to lead. He was created first, he was charged with naming the animals […] Eve was created to be his helper […] Genesis 2 affirms that by God’s design, according to the order of creation, the woman is to help her husband. That is her eager posture. The wife should be willing to be led and the husband eager to take the sacrificial initiative to lead.”
On… eyeliner. Yes, eyeliner:
“In a day when male movie pirates, figure skaters, and stand-up comedians wear eye liner, we cannot ignore this question. The Bible may not give us every detail we might want on this topic, but it does, at least, affirm an essential truth no longer obvious in our day — it is disgraceful for a man to appear to be a woman and a woman to appear to be a man. That is the theological foundation.”
On how a man’s main job is to be STRONG and a woman’s job is to be FUCKING HOT:
“Peter enjoins women to be respectful, pure, and gentle, while he enjoins men to show honor, understanding, and caring leadership. From this passage, we might suggest that the crowning characteristic of a woman is true beauty and the crowning characteristic of the man is true strength.”
Not everyone who got the email was onboard. Several share my disdain and frustration about the whole thing, one telling me:
“I feel embarrassed to be at all associated with the toxic rubbish being promulgated by people in an organisation that has previously been administered by thoughtful, loving, wise and gracious leaders of Christian schools.
There are many genuinely loving and thoughtful leaders in the organisation and such a lot of good, but if this material — that is deeply hurtful to the already marginalised — is influential, we are set for greater problems in the future.”
To be clear — this “recommended reading material” was sent out to adults who teach children. It’s all being treated as totally normal stuff to be diving into in New Zealand society in 2022. It’s an insight into the thinking of these 64 schools that have signed up as card carrying members of an organisation that speaks with the mouthpiece of a fringe, extreme, and deeply strange facet of America.
One would hope that the reading comprehension of these adults had moved beyond mindlessly mashing the big colourful buttons of Around The Farm to elicit animal sounds including “MOO”, “BAA” and “COCK-A-DOODLE-DOO” while streams of drool unspool from between soggy lips, pooling on the floor as they fill their diapers with shit and piss.
But right now (if the recommended reading list sent out to the 64 Christian schools that have signed up to the NZ Association for Christian Schools is anything to go by) “shit” and “piss” appears to be about the state of the education on offer, when it comes to ideas about how society should operate.
Now, off to find me a wife that can assume the eager posture, before doing whatever the fuck I tell her to do because I AM MAN, I AM BIG, I AM STRONG.
*hits woman over head with a club and drags them back to cave*
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PS: LA is going well. This is the park I walk in most days. I skipped this day:
We need an "outraged yet not surprised" button alongside the "like" button.
It's small comfort, but on Friday I saw the new Royal New Zealand ballet performance of Cinderella, which was suuuper queer, included Fab Five fairies doing the makeover and the prince having a happy ever after with another prince. The audience was so warm, and so happy, and there were cheers when the princes kissed on stage.