Your leaking thatched hut during the restoration of a pre-Enlightenment state.


Hello, my name is Judas Gutenberg and this is my blaag (pronounced as you would the vomit noise "hyroop-bleuach").


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Like my brownhouse:
   statistics as the indictment
Tuesday, August 29 2006
This afternoon during a break in my shop/garage tasks Gretchen and I watched The Education of Shelby Knox, about a high school student's hopeless attempt to get the School Board of Lubbock County, Texas to teach something - anything - in addition to abstinence in its sex ed program. The evidence was in and the existing Lubbock County sex ed program hadn't been working: the county leads the state in teen pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases. But just because a policy isn't working has never been reason enough to change it. When it comes to social policies, people prefer rules and legislation that work the way the idealized world in their heads works. Voters as a demographic are too far removed from their own youths to remember the overwhelming power of teenage hormones. The fact that the voters of Lubbock themselves mostly started their journeys to parenthood in the backs of their own parents' hand-me-down K-Cars is a lesson they imagine they can give verbally. Shelby Knox, the heroine of The Education of Shelby Knox, knows better. She knows that many people don't have the strength to resist the orders of their hormones, and she's bright enough to see Lubbock County's statistics as the indictment that they are. Where did she come from, this enlightened, free-thinking young woman, whose parents are nearly as repressed and intolerant as everyone else in the county? (To the extent that they come to see the light, it's only after being dragged from their medieval mindset by their own daughter.) Shelby is proof that liberal, tolerant genes persist even in the most hostile of environments.
And what a hostile environment it is! I'm reminded of the bleak political landscape of my own Shenandoah Valley childhood, though this one is made all the bleaker by the featureless, dusty Texasness of the actual landscape. As Shelby Knox starts to feel genuine kinship with the repressed in her community, particularly a group of gay kids, a local evangelical pastor who runs an abstinence-only outreach program chastises her for being too liberal and tolerant, saying that Christianity is "the least tolerant of religions." For anyone who knows about the intolerance of the Taliban, that's enough to send a shiver down your spine.
As expected, Shelby Knox quickly runs into the brick wall of Lubbock County's good ole boy system. She tries to agitate for more comprehensive sex education from her position on Lubbock County Youth Commission, but she doesn't really have a chance. There's nothing a Texas youth commission can do that can't be undone by a room full of white men in a closed door session. I could have told her that, but it's a lesson she had to learn for herself.

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