Friday, May 20, 2011

A Crock O’ (blip!) Now

I stole that title from Mad Magazine’s satire of the 1979 movie Apocalypse Now, and on this Rapture’s Eve, I find it quite fitting.

But as I watched the news people making so much fun of this latest end of the world crap, I started to get a little bit angry.  Not at the news people, but at the schmuck that thinks it’s OK to spread this kind of fear.

Now unless you have some serious long-term memory problems, or major gullibility issues, if you are an adult you are bound to remember the umpteen other times in your life the world ended.  Or was supposed to.  And, like the news, you just laugh off this latest absurdity, wishing you could be standing right next to Harold Camping, or any one of his doom and gloom followers (that forgot he “got the date wrong” when he predicted the end of the world back in 1994), laughing your ass off as the sun comes up Sunday morning.

But what if you’re 12? 

I was talking to my favorite science teacher at school about the end of the world, we hugged each other goodbye in the parking lot “just in case there is no Monday”, when she told me that she had a class of 7th graders that voiced some concern over this prediction.  Now they weren’t freaking out, but since they had never experienced the (not-so-much) end of the world before, a little part of them just wasn’t sure.  Having gone through the same thing when I was just about that age, I understood what she was talking about.  She reassured them that the world wasn’t coming to an end by telling them that if it did, she would pay them each $20.  (Hey, they’re twelve, give ‘em a break).

Anyway, I know that we can’t censor anyone’s religious beliefs, and I would never want to.  I also know that we can’t punish them for their beliefs, even when they are proven wrong (in a short Google search, I found 29 failed end of the world predictions from the 20th century alone.)  I just wish there was some way to shut them up.


The English Teacher said...

In all three of my seventh-grade classes today I had to begin with a mini-lesson on why it's important to question people's claims that don't seem obvious. I went through Camping's prediction math with them, and they were able to see for themselves very, very quickly that just because 5 x 17 x 10 squared = 722, 500 does NOT mean that 3% of the world's population is "better" than the rest and will be snatched up into heaven tomorrow. They learned a bit about syllogisms and how you cannot draw conclusions from random facts that don't relate to each other. (I also pointed out that April 1, 33 AD was a Wednesday, not a Friday, and they loved that.)
A couple of kids also ventured to say that it would be kind of dumb for God to destroy the whole universe just because one planet had evil people on it.
After explaining to them why they needn't be worried about the world ending tomorrow, I gave them their homework assignments and told them the rapture was no excuse for not doing it. :) It's the first time I've seen kids laugh over getting homework. :)

My hope is, though, that they'll remember to research stuff they question. I reminded them that they're going to be hearing lots of claims from politicians in the next year or so and that they should do what I did: research the claims.

So, all in all, I'd like to thank Mr. Camping for giving me a teaching moment today.

Alexia said...

I agree, Max. Colleagues of mine who teach younger students were getting, "Sir, is the world really going to end on Saturday?" all last week.
If the news media ignored idiots like this one, a lot of young/vulnerable/gullible/anxious people would be spared unecessary angst.

*sending you a visual hug* (just in case)

Max said...

ET - Great job turning it into a learning experience! I'm teaching all ninth grade this year, so I heard very little about it, because even if they were worried, they wouldn't admit it.
Alexia - *virtually hugging you right back*. And you're right, the first step would be for the media to just ignore these idiots.

The English Teacher said...

And, since I just got a phone call from my born-again Baptist co-worker, who, if anyone is going to get raptured at any point it will include her, and she's still here, going to a wedding shower, I can only conclude that those 3% of the "good" people in the world are still here.