Speaking to a packed auditorium of L.A. public high school students on Thursday, Texas Gov. Rick Perry stunned educators and enthralled teens by vowing to eliminate all scientific theory, thought, and inquiry from classrooms across the nation, if elected president in 2012.
Perry, an evangelical Christian and vocal skeptic of the politically charged theories of natural selection, evolution, and climate change, delivered a vigorous address that underscored the primacy of faith and assailed public education.
"First, they said human beings shared genes with monkeys," said Perry to a restive audience of more than 400 teenagers. "Then it was dogs, then rats, then bugs. But apparently, that's no longer demeaning enough. Now they say what we really come from is some steaming soup of godless filth. Me, you, your blessed grandmother, the Lord Jesus Christ and, yes, Ronald Reagan -- all formed from the same brown muck. At least that's what the scientists say, what the media says -- what your teachers say."
As the charismatic Texan grew increasingly animated, the crowd of urban teens trained their seething eyes on the handful of teachers scattered throughout the auditorium.
Clearly distressed, Home Economics teacher Sylvia Adler blurted, "Please: stop looking at me like that! I'm not the devil! I'm Mrs. Adler, remember? I taught you all how to bedazzle your doilies!"
Undeterred, Perry resumed his sermon. "And so, when I become your president, the first thing I'll do will be to issue an executive order making it a federal crime for your teachers to bring up any of these perversions of truth and decency, often referred to by so-called scientists as "theories."
"In addition," he continued, "I will put forth emergency cease and desist legislation that calls for the complete removal of the chronicles of depravity that litter your classrooms and soil your knapsacks. You know them as textbooks."
"Textbooks suck!" shouted one of the students, whose declaration was quickly taken up by several others, until it culminated in a deafening chant.
But as the governor thrust both his hands high into the air, the angry chorus stopped just as soon as it began. "As I stand here today," said Perry, "I assure all of you that when I'm President, every last one of those volumes of deceit will be cast into flames -- or, at the very least, foisted upon an even more downtrodden high school. But more likely, they will be banished! And destroyed!"
As the auditorium erupted into a din of hoots, hollars, and raucus applause, junior Jonathan Correa rushed the stage to offer the three-term governor a jubilant fist-bump -- along with his Biology textbook.
With Correa's text suddenly in his hands, the three-term governor didn't skip a beat.
Perry cracked open the seldom-used tome and read from its table of contents. "Chapter one: Cells. And thus, the war on God begins."
Perry spat on the textbook and slammed it onto the stage. Then, to the students' roaring approval, the ardent gun-rights advocate withdrew a previously concealed .44 and emptied six shots into the offending object.
Basking in the triumphant glow of his new admirers, the governor returned the gun to its holster, raised the bullet-riddled textbook over his head, and declared, "As you can see, there are an awful lot of gaps in some of these theories!"
Perry then punctuated his display by bellowing, "Come forth lambs of big government!" which instantly triggered yet another curious episode - one that put veteran English teacher Kevin Riggs on edge.
"I've witnessed a lot of bizarre stuff in my career in education," said Riggs, moments after the assembly. "Open house nights when only three parents show up; the entire Language Arts curriculum being replaced by standardized test prep; and then, when the budget cuts hit, the most innovative teacher I've ever seen laid off and then replaced by a sub who played Space Chimps on a loop for the entire semester. But when all these kids lined up to hand over their textbooks to a guy who, just five minutes earlier, referred to Noah as 'The Tricerotops Whisperer,' let's just say it was another dark day for this profession."
Chemistry teacher Susan Ramirez was equally baffled. "I'm not sure what was more surreal," she said, "the fact that the kids were readily handing over their books to a grown man who'd just dismissed the findings of 98 percent of the world's climatologists, or that the governor's aides were waiting there, in the middle of a September high school assembly, with censored versions of A Charlie Brown's Christmas for each of them in return."
"We prefer to call them 'teen-friendly,' said Perry aide Robert Weeks, referring to the modified DVD copies of the Charles M. Schultz classics that were disseminated to students willing to submit at least one textbook. Added Weeks: "Everyone loves the Peanuts gang - just so long as they're behaving in ways that are becoming of true global warriors for Christ. Of course we had our animators add more snow to all the outdoor scenes, so as to mitigate some of Schultz' obvious global warming agenda."
As raucous applause gave way to an orderly single-file line, a practically breathless Rickey Sanchez seemed to speak for many of his peers. "I only wish I was two years older so I could vote for this dude," gushed the junior from North Hollywood, adding, "No homo."
Sanchez wasn't the only student moved by Perry's rhetoric. Having written eleven poems about the GOP frontrunner by the time he'd left the stage, sophomore Alta Johnson already seemed to have many of Perry's proposals memorized. "Let's see: Get rid of books, give yourself over to emotion, ignore evidence, reject logic. Seriously, it's like he's sharing the mind of teenage girls everywhere."
Meanwhile, senior Xavier Rivers was busy recruiting clusters of peers to help him canvass the neighborhood with Rick Perry lawn signs. "Seriously, the guy just makes sense," said Rivers. "And he talks to us like we're real people - like we're one of him. I'm sick of old people talking down to me, thinking they know more than I do. The coolest part about Governor Perry is that he literally doesn't!"
Said sophomore Stephanie Watts, "I liked the part where he said that if Jesus wanted us to learn Physics, he would've made the crucifix rotate. It's funny and true!"
"I really liked the gun thing," remarked sophomore David Lopez before covering his face, giggling, and curling into a tight ball.
But it was Perry's dismissal of environmental stewardship that elicited perhaps the biggest applause line of the afternoon.
"Your teachers probably aren't going to be terribly pleased when I say what I'm about to say," Perry cautioned, "but this obsession with the environment is just flat-out un-Christian. Thinking we have the power to control the temperature and climate patterns over God's earth is not just arrogant, but sinful. And let's be honest: do you really think the Good Lord would've given us hands had he not wanted us to toss our KFC wrappers on the ground every once in a while?"
Following another booming ovation, Perry added, "The point here is that these are decisions that belong to you. Where to put your trash, how to educate yourself, and whom you choose to let inside your apocalypse bunker should be matters of personal choice, not government legislation. Deep down inside, you know what's best for you - not a bunch of Washington insiders!"
In the end, junior Justin Flores was less enamored of Perry's message than many of his peers. "Not to be a buzzkill, but we don't know what's best for us," he said. "Without school, half these fools would either be in jail, smokin' blunts and playin' 360 all day long, or havin' crack babies. Yeah, textbooks are shitty and school is mostly boring, but it beats huffin' turpentine between El Pollo Loco shifts when I'm 32."
When asked if he had also relinquished one of his textbooks, Flores slumped his shoulders and reluctantly produced his copy of A Charlie Brown's Christmas. "See?" he said, "We don't know what's best. Not yet."
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