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Are Your Teens Sullen? Time To Sue Their 'Death Cult' Teachers For Magical Realism Assignment!
Bad enough that Our Public Schools are full of secular humanists and evolution and even socialist fruits and vegetables -- now the teachers are recruiting students into weird death cults! A family from Avon, Connecticut, an affluent suburb of Hartford, accuses three Spanish teachers and a guidance counselor at Avon High School of recruiting two of their three daughters into a bizarre "religious cult that promotes martyrdom, and celebrates death," and by that they apparently mean one other than Christianity. The family is suing the four faculty members, the high school, and Wellesley College for not noticing that the daughters were being brainwashed by the "cult."
The news reports on the case are fairly vague as to the nature of this supposed cult, and so, for that matter is the complaint (pdf link). How's this for weird evidence of cult membership? UPI reports:
The parents say they noticed changes in their daughters' behavior. But they said they only discovered what had caused them when the younger daughter "broke free" of her ties to the teachers.
In court papers, the parents said the girls "began speaking a bizarre new language." Their behavior allegedly became girls "flat and distant, reclusive, secretive, and non-communicative."
My god... they sound like... TEENAGED GIRLS! CBS's reporting isn't much better, though it refers to a "coven" and, more helpfully, includes links to the parents' complaint and the school's response, which is just three lines, saying only that no previous allegations of the sort had ever been made and that the district's legal counsel is handling it. Wow, looks like the entire district is infected with very secretive, non-communicative language!
As for the complaint, we've given it a decidedly non-lawyerly read, and while it looks like the three Spanish teachers weren't especially good teachers, we aren't sure that there's much proof of a weird death cult at work, either. For instance, the parents allege that one of the teachers "frequently gave the students busy work, or showed them movies with no educational value, during which the students would spend the entire period talking to each other." You know, just like in the Salem witch trials. Worse, the teacher showed the class "The Lion King" in Spanish instead of reviewing for a test! Another section gets more to the meat of something that maybe was shocking, though who knows if any of it adds up to "cult recruiting":
Defendant Mastoloni was not just teaching her students Spanish. She taught her students religion and pseudoscience. Specifically, she taught her students to believe in superstition, magic, and a non-scientific, anti-intellectual worldview. She would discuss spirituality, numerology, astrology, dreams, mysticism, looking for "signs," angels, symbols, "synchronicity," "negativity," "seeking the truth," and death. All of those topics are religious in nature, and none of those topics are included in the Avon School District curriculum.
A lot depends on context here -- if she was teaching about something like Dia de los Muertos, for instance, some of that may very well have been appropriate.
What really suggested to us that there may be less to this conspiracy than the parents want there to be was this bit:
Likewise, Defendant Kessler was also teaching religious material which is not included in the Avon School District curriculum. She once assigned her students a project on "magical realism."
Shocking! Round up the novels of Isabel Allende and Gabriel García Márquez as material witnesses! The suit made no mention of whether, many years later, as they faced the firing squad, the girls tried to remember that distant afternoon when the teachers took them to discover ice.
We also aren't sure what this has to do with the alleged death cult, but we would agree that it's a novel teaching method:
Defendant Mastoloni once spent about 60-70 minutes of class time discussing her dermoid cyst of the ovary which she described as having hair and teeth, and then proceeded to show the students a series of videos depicting such cysts. Neither the discussion nor the videos were in Spanish. Defendant Mastoloni ate her lunch during the videos.
It's a hell of a story, but unless she named the thing "Dennis" and kept it in a jar to pray to, we're not quite seeing the cult connection.
The suit alleges that the "indoctrination" somehow got worse after the two older daughters graduated and went to Wellesley; somehow, the cultish influence is supposed to have increased after the girls went away? As evidence, though, it's hard to take seriously stuff like this:
185. ...E.D. [the oldest daughter] suddenly declared that her major would be philosophy, instead of political science or international relations like she originally decided.
186. E.D. also announced that she wanted to seek a masters in Divinity following graduation from Wellesley.
187. E.D. was unable to offer any real explanation for her sudden interest in religion. [...]
194. All of E.D.'s conversations involved Defendant Mastoloni.
195. E.D. no longer engaged in ordinary verbal banter or back-and-forth discussion.
196. Rather, E.D. would make statements that did not make sense to anyone else, and she would get angry at anyone who asked for clarity.
197. E.D. no longer appreciated anyone else's opinion.
198. E.D. also lacked humor.
Ye gods, your kid went away to college and came back sullen and noncommunicative? That's a hell of a cult! But that's not all!
210. E.D. behaved rudely towards her friends, often calling them "superficial" and accusing them of not following their "passions."
211. When confronted by her family about her disturbing behavior, she gave a pat answer, "You don't understand the person I have become."
212. When asked what that meant, E.D. was unable or unwilling to offer any explanations, nor would she engage in any dialogue, which was out of character for her.
Pretty wild, unbelievable stuff! Had to be a cult! And then there's this, from the section on the middle daughter:
228. ...L.D. was initially reluctant to go to the same college as her sister.
229. However, Defendant Sullivan urged L.D. to go to Wellesley to be with her sister, presumably because it would make it easier for Defendants Mastoloni, Kessler, Esposito, and Sullivan to keep the two girls indoctrinated if they were together
230. As a result of Defendant Sullivan's urging, L.D. ultimately decided to attend Wellesley.
231. When E.D. and L.D. both came home for Christmas break in 2012, they were closer to each other than they had previously been, and they began isolating the rest of the family.
There's just NO EXPLAINING IT! Culty, culty, culty!
And so on. It looks like maybe these are not terribly good teachers who like to spout New Agey nonsense to their students -- and that alone would probably make for a pretty fair First Amendment case -- but the cult stuff seems like a hell of a stretch. There is a very warped part of Yr. Doktor Zoom that hopes this case becomes a wingnut cause celebre, even though the parents don't quite seem to be wingnuts themselves. We bet Common Core did it.
On the other hand, this MAGICAL REALISM madness has got to be nipped in the bud. Before you know it, innocent children could be encouraged to read metafiction and try breaking the fourth wall themselves, and we can't have THAT in our schools.
Follow Doktor Zoom on Twitter. He has been known to dabble in postmodernism and even to commit new historicism.