Clarke's Third Law: Any sufficiently advanced technology becomes indistinguishable from magic.
Poe's Law: Without a winking smiley or other blatant display of humor, it is impossible to create a parody of Fundamentalism that someone won't mistake for the real thing.
From the Sunshine State comes this sad story:
Substitute teacher Jim Piculas does a 30-second magic trick where a toothpick disappears then reappears.
But after performing it in front of a classroom at Rushe Middle School in Land 'O Lakes, Piculas said his job did a disappearing act of its own.
"I get a call the middle of the day from the supervisor of substitute teachers. He says, 'Jim, we have a huge issue. You can't take any more assignments. You need to come in right away,'" he said.
When Piculas went in, he learned his little magic trick cast a spell that went much farther than he'd hoped.
"I said, 'Well Pat, can you explain this to me?' 'You've been accused of wizardry,' [he said]. Wizardry?" he asked.
Tampa Bay's 10 talked to the assistant superintendent with the Pasco County School District who said it wasn't just the wizardry and that Piculas had other performance issues, including "not following lesson plans" and allowing students to play on unapproved computers.
Note that well: The original accusation of wizardry (my mind boggles, just typing that) was not dropped; the school assistant superintendent simply said the issue "wasn't just the wizardry." There's still the wizardry, of course, but now there's other stuff about not following lesson plans too.
But mostly, yeah--it's the wizardry.
(The Tampa TV station's web site has no embeddable links to the story, but it's available here.)
At the risk of being waterboarded myself--the technique was invented and perfected by the Spanish Inquisition for moments just like this, you know--I'm going to let you in on a little secret. Here, courtesy of IIJustinPwnzII, is the technology that this school's administrators were unable to distinguish from magic:
Yes, there you have it: The advanced technology of Scotch Tape, indistinguishable from supernatural power.
(Handy hint for school administrators: If you tie IIJustinPwnzII to a chair and throw him in the pond--and he doesn't float--that's good news; it means he isn't, or wasn't, a witch. Although you'll need a lot of chairs and a pretty big pond to be sure: My YouTube keyword search for "toothpick magic" turned up dozens of clips explaining the trick, many of them by young people, showing just how far Satan's familiars are willing to sink to further their nefarious ends. It's going to keep you awfully busy, tracking them all down; perhaps robes and hoods would be useful to keep administrative morale up. Torches would be a nice festive touch, too.)
Irony abounds in a story like this, the most glaring of which being that Piculas's career may be over not because he believes in wizardry, but because the administrators do, or at least are unwilling to contradict whoever (a parent?) reported the allegedly supernatural incident.
(Perhaps they're keeping their powder dry, waiting to see if this whole "Enlightment" thing will blow over.)
Meanwhile, one imagines the administrators of Rushe Middle School during a solar eclipse, running onto the playground, banging pots and pans together to chase away the dragon devouring the sun.
There are not words harsh enough to express the contempt this behavior deserves. Substitute teacher Piculas should not have to forfeit his job and career over this; the school administrators who allowed this to happen should. These are "educators" who've looked at 500 years of intellectual progress and said, "enough of that." Any parents who caused this to happen, or remained silent while it did, deserve no less contempt and ridicule.
Imagine what would happen if these self-congratulatory know-nothings, these finest of minds from the Fifteenth Century, these latter-day Theodorics of York, found out that some teachers actually have in their homes a magic box that can conjure up the dead in its ghastly, flickering bluish glow? Elvis! Right there! Singing and dancing on the Ed Sullivan Show!
(Image of the Salem witch trials via Wikipedia.)
Postscript: If you haven't yet read Charles S. Pierce's "Greetings from Idiot America," now would be a good time.
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