Crackpot Curriculum

So in August I went back to Wisconsin, which was glowing green under a brown cloud of mosquitos. Lotta water this past summer, and the most mosquitos since, oh maybe 1965, which is when the Schmoes first played in public at the ninth grade Halloween dance at Van Hise Junior High in Madison. We were called the Misfits then, and have been through a few name changes and personnel adjustments, but it’s basically the same five guys playing the same three chords for 45 years. After performing at our high school reunion party (Class of ’69) every five years over the decades, we figured, “Who knows these three chords better than we do? Isn’t it time we recorded an album?”

And we did. Three Schmoes (Bo Bally Schmoe, Timmy Schmoe and me, Chuck E. Schmoe) came back to Wisconsin, and joined the two Schmoes (Stevie Schmoe and Eddie Schmoe) who were still living there, and we recorded a whole album guided by the same light that has always illuminated our aesthetic path: No Good Songs Have Been Written Since We Went Through Puberty. I mean, why write new songs when Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs already wrote all the good ones?

Except that this time, for the first time ever, we had extenuating circumstances. “Guys,” I said to my fellow Schmoes. “We are in a unique situation where we personally could influence the entire future of education in the United States. Generations of children could grow up to be complete idiots if we do not act in a timely and forthright fashion. We need to write our first original material in 45 years. We need to write a campaign song for Judy Jennings.”

See, Judy Jennings is married to the aforementioned Bo Bally Schmoe, otherwise known as Hal Jennings, who works for IBM in Austin when he isn’t singing for the Schmoes. Judy is running as a Democrat in District 10 for the Texas State Board of Education. She has a Ph.D in education from the University of Texas with a specialty in evaluating schools, but her most important qualification for this job is that she is not insane, which distinguishes her from most of the current SBOE, as it is called. The SBOE has made many crackpot curriculum changes, and they continue to do so. Just a few weeks ago they voted to throw out most of the stuff on Islam, apparently on the theory that children would only be confused by learning the religious beliefs of people whom Satan placed over our oil deposits in the Middle East.

Anyway, last August I wrote, and the Schmoes recorded, the following song:

We want Judy Jennings for the State School Board
She won’t spend a nickel more than we can afford
She will teach our children straight, no ideology
She will train them all for jobs in the 21st century

We want Judy Jennings, yes that is how we feel
She’ll make our children brush and floss after every meal
She wants Thomas Jefferson in our curriculum
Her opponent wants him out, she thinks he was a bum

We want Judy Jennings, she’s got a Ph.D
She’s running for an office that pays no salary
She will save our children from stupidity
She wants to teach them science, not mythology

Now that’s just a hell of a song. I’m proud of it, and I have the credentials to be proud of it. I’ve been writing about music for a living (more or less) in Rolling Stone and other publications since 1975, so who is in a better position to judge my song than me? It ought to be on every radio station in Texas.

There is, however, one small problem. The lines about Judy’s opponent wanting Thomas Jefferson out of the curriculum may or may not be true, because Judy’s opponent, also a political newbie who has not served on the current SBOE, never voted on it and has never once stated where she stands on the crackpot curriculum changes. The incumbent screwballs on the board did try to eliminate Jefferson as an “enlightenment thinker,” apparently because he advocated separation of church and state, which is blasphemy to the screwballs.

“My opponent has never said she wants Jefferson out – it was the current board that tried to take him out,” said Judy to me in an email. “Now, I have few doubts she would support it, but it would be bad to get dinged on saying something that wasn’t true.”

I ask you: Is that one conscientious candidate for the SBOE, or what? She’s not going to post the greatest campaign song ever written on her website because there is some distant possibility that one line might not be true. Who wouldn’t want a paragon of integrity like Judy Jennings deciding what’s in your child’s textbooks?

I personally don’t have anywhere near the integrity that Judy has, so I’m standing by my song.

I knew there was a possibility that Judy’s Republican opponent, one Marsha Farney, might not be in favor of sweeping Thomas Jefferson into the dustbin of history. But there’s no way of knowing. In an election that has one issue–DO YOU OR DO YOU NOT SUPPORT THE CRACKPOT CURRICULUM CHANGES MADE BY THE CURRENT SBOE?–Marsha Farney won’t utter a syllable.

Instead, Farney has run a campaign of long silences interrupted by brief odiferous emissions of code words. She tries to signal the moderate, libertarian wing of the Republican party that she’s not in favor of the crackpot curriculum by calling herself a “common sense conservative” on her website. And she tries to signal the no-sense-whatsoever conservatives that she is in favor of the crackpot curriculum by promising to “strengthen and preserve our state and national heritage as well as our traditional family values.” The rest of her website is empty, reassuring blather. She does go to Tea Party rallies where she questions the patriotism of Democrats, and that’s it. She’s done nothing but try to have it both ways.

In the most important SBOE election ever, in an election that is of greater import than most Congressional races because of the influence that Texas has on textbook content around the country, Marsha Farney’s campaign is one big lie of omission.

Judy Jennings’ campaign has been all about repealing the crackpot curriculum. Her opponent, as Jesse Ventura said about Bill O’Reilly, is a spineless puke.

I live in New York, so I’ve been hoping that some enterprising reporter in Texas would hear my campaign song on the radio and stalk Marsha Farney until she says yes or no to the crackpot curriculum. “Do you or do you not think that Thomas Jefferson should be taught in our schools as an enlightenment thinker who advocated the separation of church and state?” If she answers yes, she’ll alienate the know-nothings who think the Founding Fathers wanted a Christian government. If she answers no, she’ll alienate everyone who actually understands something about history.

Instead of asking that and about a dozen other simple questions (“Hey Marsha, you want creationism taught in biology class or not?”), the Austin American Statesman repeated Farney’s odiferous emission that she is a “common sense conservative” and endorsed her on the grounds that she can be a “vital bridge” between factions and lead the SBOE out of “the ideological fog in which it is now lost.”

What is the evidence for that in Farney’s campaign, which has been nothing but fog?

What is the precedent for “common sense conservatives” having any moderating influence at all on the neo-fascists in Congress and the Texas legislature?

The Texas State School Board has been ridiculed around the world for its crackpot curriculum. TheAustin American Statesman has bewailed both the ridicule and the crackpot curriculum. So theAustin American Statesman then dismisses Judy Jennings as “just another Travis County liberal” and endorses her opponent in an editorial. Why would the main newspaper in Travis County think it a good idea that Travis County liberals not be represented on the SBOE? What, exactly, have Travis County liberals done that would disqualify them from having a say in public education? Why would Marsha Farney not be just another know-nothing screwball with a campaign manager who won’t let her do anything except emit odiferous code words? What is the evidence that you can do anything with know-nothing screwballs except outvote them?

All you voters down there in District 10 who don’t want know-nothing screwballs wrecking public education for kids across the United States, I’m begging you: Vote for Judy Jennings. Don’t vote for the spineless puke.

And, yes, I’d be thinking that even if her husband wasn’t in my band.

P.S. The Schmoes album, Songs We Should Have Stopped Playing A Long Time Ago, will be available soon in fine record stores, or something, at some undetermined point in the future.

CHARLES M. YOUNG is a founding member of ThisCantBeHappening!, the new independent, collectively-owned, journalist-run online alternative newspaper.

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