My Elementary School Didn’t Teach Religion and I’m Not Going to Kill Anyone

Aside

It was two in the morning and I couldn’t sleep. Naturally, I decided to resort to the internet.
Then this pops up on my news feed:
Screen shot 2012-12-19 at 3.42.54 PMMike Huckabee set me off. I couldn’t believe he was saying this. Actually I couldn’t believe he was using a massacre to bring up yet another religious debate. I could understand why people were expressing their opinions on gun control since this was a horrific shooting, but bringing religion into this was taking it a little too far.
And then I got a little more upset, because right under that link, I read a comment that said, “Agreed!!!”
Oh, that pissed me off. I could go off on a rant about what Huckabee said, but I’m not going to because I want to stay neutral and I don’t know anything about his childhood.

My anger at Huckabee’s statement is not necessarily a political one. I’m upset about what Mike Huckabee said because my childhood proves otherwise.
My elementary school never enforced any set of beliefs on its students. There were children who weren’t raised religiously at my school. There were also Christians and Jews at my school, and everybody got along. We were good kids. Despite not being educated in Christianity (I’m just going to assume Huckabee is pushing for that particular religion being taught in schools because, well, he’s Mike Huckabee), everyone I know who went there turned out fine. And do you know why? Because my school taught a certain value heavily.
Peace. For the majority of my academic life, there was some part of the lesson plan that was designed to guide students away from violence and remind them to embrace the many differing facets of the world. There were so many concepts of hate that I had no idea still existed until I got to high school. On my second or third day of freshman year, I heard somebody use the word “beaner” for the first time and thought, “these kids are terrible.” I had no idea racism was still so bad. I had no idea people could disagree on things so heavily.

Since my high school was Catholic, every student had to take multiple religion classes. But did it make a difference on our actions? I don’t really think so. We were still people, and teenagers at that. Who were we to carry on sinless lives? People at my school had sex. I’m sure a baby or two was conceived there. We had parties. My school was known as the druggie school. A girl got raped at my school, and a few years ago, a student was expelled for threatening to bring a gun to school and shoot our principal.

Is it because we were taught about Christianity? No. It’s because we are people. Sin is inevitable. Even the Bible says so. Remember that, Mike Huckabee? These things are going to happen regardless of what the school system teaches. Anyone has the potential for violence, no matter his or her set of beliefs. Activities that fit under the sin category are going to exist no matter what. They always have, and they did in the days before religion was around.
Of course, people also have the potential to be good, and that definitely isn’t limited to what set of beliefs they adhere to or what kinds of things they are taught in school. Just because people aren’t educated in religion doesn’t mean they’re horrible people.
If you don’t believe me, then you should visit a Montessori school and see for yourself.

Coffee and Me: An Evolution in Tolerance

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One day when I was seven, I went to eat lunch at Carrabba’s with my dad – my parents had been divorced for a little while, so I was used to eating out with my dad by this point. I’m not sure why my little sister wasn’t with us, though.
We had just finished eating. I know exactly what I had, because I got the same meal every time I went to Carrabba’s until I turned eight or nine: chicken fingers with a side of penne. The penne was buttery and salty, and I doused my chicken fingers in ketchup: it was a really good course for a 7-year-old.
I remember being tired. I was never keen on sleeping when I was little, so this bothered me. I think I must have been tired for an extended period of time, because I was actually worried about it.
My dad recommended that I order a coffee. I’m not really sure why a 37-year-old man would recommend that his 7-year-old daughter order a coffee. He must have known that I wasn’t going to drink the whole thing. I ordered a cappuccino, because “cappuccino” was a big, grown-up coffee word and I wanted the waiter to think I was intelligent and mature.
I don’t exactly remember what happened after my cappuccino was set on the table. I only know two things. The first thing I knew was that I did not like the way coffee tasted; the second was that my light-up pikachu keychain that my mom bought me somehow fell in the cappuccino, and after that incident, it never lit up again. The pikachu incident probably had a bigger influence on my dislike of coffee than the actual taste. Remember, I was seven. I pledged to hate coffee from that day on – before I tried the cappuccino, I’m sure I said I didn’t like coffee, but it didn’t really count because I had never tried it. But that cappuccino was associated with a sense of disgust and loss I never wanted to bring upon myself again.

Although I disliked the taste of coffee and didn’t really want to set any of my belongings near a cup of it again following the Cappuccino Incident, I could not deny that I loved the way it smelled. I remember getting hungry 30 minutes before lunch in 3rd grade and getting as close as I could to my teacher’s coffee cup – for some reason, the smell satiated my hunger a little. I also remember discovering the saltshaker full of coffee beans that lived at every perfume counter. I would smell as many samples as I could, and then take solace in the scent of the coffee beans. I still do it, too. I will make myself look like an idiot just so I can smell coffee beans: I’ll stick my nose into the dispensers at grocery stores and linger around any full coffee cups in my home.

When I was in high school, I realized that people thought drinking coffee was cool – I’m sure this belief was associated with Starbucks’ huge boom in popularity at the time. 2007, right? I was in high school then.
Whenever I think of Starbucks now, I think of dishwater, but back then, I only thought of Frappucinnos and those tacky ice-cream-like coffee drinks with whipped cream on top. Preppy, 13-year-old girl drinks and sugar bombs (and fat bombs too, since they were all doused in whipped cream).
I didn’t want to jump on the Starbucks bandwagon because I didn’t want to drink such unhealthy beverages (the whipped cream on top has 12 grams of fat, and that’s just the whipped cream – let’s not forget the rest of the drink) and I thought Frappuccinos were really tacky. Plus I still had a grudge over the pikachu. I think that’s a respectable opinion.
One night when I was 15, I was hanging out with a group of friends who wanted to go to Starbucks (a new one had just opened down the street). I didn’t want my friends to know I was a pompous, coffee-hating asshole, and I definitely didn’t want to be left alone at the house or anything, so I went with them. One of my friends ordered a chai latte.
Being half-Iranian, I have drunk a lot of tea in my lifetime. I could drink it hot. I could drink it without sugar. My grandmother didn’t filter all the leaves out of the tea my relatives and I drank. I could handle hardcore tea.
When I heard my friend say his drink was a chai latte, I became intrigued because chai is what my family called the tea we drank after dinners at my grandparents’ house. It’s pronounced differently, though. It’s cha-yee, not chye.
I figured I could toughen up a little and drink something that had such a familiar name.
I ordered one. I liked it. I got super hyper off it. I guess it was a sugar rush.

Gradually, I warmed up to coffee, starting with the girly drinks I hated thinking about drinking. For some reason, my mother is hooked on mocha Frappuccinos. Oh, I know the reason, because it’s the same reason I started tolerating other forms of coffee: chocolate.
Not surprisingly, college was what brewed my tolerance – and need – for coffee (like my bad pun there?). I found myself having a hard time concentrating while studying for midterms or finishing a paper unless I was jacked up on caffeine and sugar. I took classes that met at 9:00 or 8:00 in the morning. I had to drink coffee so I wouldn’t fall asleep while my Milton professor read passages from Paradise Lost and didn’t allow anybody in the class to start a discussion.
The stigma I developed that day in Carraba’s has evolved into a dependency. I drink the stuff regularly – I drink it several days of the week. Thankfully, I don’t have to have chocolate or intense amounts of sugar in my coffee to be able to stand it anymore. I can even drink it plain, although I don’t really enjoy doing that.
I’ve learned my limits with caffeine. I know what I need to drink to perk up a little (a latte) or get completely jacked up so I can have plenty of energy to get through my assignments or a particularly busy day (a mocha, because the chocolate will make me hyper, or plain old black coffee). Plus there’s actually really good coffee here in Athens, so I enjoy walking over to Athens’ corporate coffee stand (Jittery Joe’s, represent) or a cafe down the street.
Drinking coffee makes me feel more like an adult, and hey, it obviously keeps me alert too. It might have taken around 12 years, but I finally got what I wanted that day in Carrabba’s when I was seven.