The latest target of political correctness in the classroom appears to be the sneeze, specifically the seemingly innocuous “bless you” some people offer after you’ve achoo-ed.
Now, the California teacher who banned his students from saying “bless you” – even lowering grades when they let one slip – has drawn the ire of parents and mommy bloggers, not a demographic you want to mess with.
Steve Cuckovich, a health teacher at Will C. Wood High School in Vacaville, Calif., says his ban had nothing to do with religion. He claims that “bless you” is outdated and disrupts teaching time.
“When you sneezed in the old days, they thought you were dispelling evil spirits out of your body,” Mr. Cuckovich told California’s KFSN.
“So they were saying, ‘God bless you’ for getting rid of evil spirits. But today, I said what you’re doing doesn’t really make any sense anymore.”
After one student offered another the sentiment post-sneeze, Mr. Cuckovich reportedly chastised, “Do you think that girl is evil, do you think the evil spirits are coming out of her?”
When the eccentric teacher (who hasn’t had one) began docking kids’ grades for uttering the phrase, parents complained; Mr. Cuckovich has since been forced to lift his policy.
While banning “bless you” is certainly novel, the phasing out of religious artifacts and dress from public schools has been ongoing in North America and Europe in the past decade. France outlawed Islamic headscarves and other religious symbols from state schools in 2004. In 2009, the European Court of Human Rights ordered Italy to remove all crucifixes from schools -- Italy appealed and won, so the crucifix remains in schools. In 2002, New York prohibited Nativity scenes from its public school system, while an Ottawa school gained notoriety in 2007 for dropping the word “Christmas” from a rendition of “Silver Bells.”
And let’s not forget Rideau Hall’s “holiday tree” fiasco.
On the parenting blog Babble.com, Danielle Sullivan called the bless you ban “among the most idiotic things I’ve heard all week” – pretty rich week.
“Many of us were raised immediately saying bless you when any person sneezes and for a lot of us, it’s completely automatic,” she wrote, complaining that the teacher was punishing politeness.
“What’s next? Should holding the door for one another be banned because it promotes the spread of germs or holds up the line? Perhaps we should also ban ‘thank you’ and ‘I’m sorry.’”
Do you say bless you?
Editor's note: This version of this article has been corrected to state that Italy won an appeal to keep crucifixes in its schools.