Friday, September 21, 2012

The Merry-Go-Round Mutiny



by H L Wegley

In the '50s we were taught to respect authority … parents, teachers, police. Usually this was good and right. But I wasn't taught what to do when the authority violated goodness and truth.
Although the Christian worldview was dominant in our culture, something happened in the first half of the 20th century that began a time of change. Academia was captured by the naturalists, and they taught their philosophy to the students who became the teachers of my generation. Some of these future teachers bought into this philosophy. Surely none of them would foist it on nine-year-old students, would they?
One day in the fall of 1955, when my 4th grade class started our science lesson for the day, our teacher, Mrs. G, said she would tell us a story … the story of man. She stood in front of the class and acted out the progenitors of man, according to evolutionary theory. When she got to the ape, I thought it was a dorky imitation and wasn't buying into it … any of it.

The class grew uncomfortably quiet when she finished her presentation. Thank goodness we were rescued by the recess bell.

Before I could run out the door, one girl beat me to it, Shirley Smith. She stood outside the door and told each of us, if we disagreed with what Mrs. G taught us, to meet at the merry-go-round.

Nine grim-faced fourth graders met at the merry-go-round that fateful day. When Shirley asked how many thought Mrs. G should cease and desist teaching evolution, nine hands went up. When she asked who was going to confront the teacher after recess, it was a different story. No hands. I sighed with relief when Shirley finally said, "Okay, I'll do it."

At the end of recess, we all marched in and took our seats … all except Shirley. She walked alone down the aisle to the teacher's desk, faced the teacher as if standing at attention, and addressed Mrs. G in a voice full of conviction. "Mrs. G, what you told us about people evolving wasn't the truth, and we don't want you to teach us anymore lies." 

Actually she said a lot more than that. It was a masterful rebuff. Sure wish I could remember all of it.

You could've heard an ant crawling across the floor when Shirley finished. Mrs. G didn't speak, but her face turned pink, just before it turned red. Then it turned purple just before she slammed the door on her way out. She didn't come back that day. 

After a half hour of fearful speculation about our future, another teacher opened our door and took our class into her room where she babysat us for the rest of the day.

Mrs. G returned to our class in a couple of days, minus her lessons on evolution. That subject was never mentioned again.

Fast forward eight years. Fall 1963. It was my senior year and time to think about a marching partner for graduation in the spring. I didn't have a girlfriend, so I started thinking about who I had known the longest, who I respected, and who I would be proud to March beside at graduation.

I asked Shirley. She accepted. I was proud to march beside her, because she taught me a lot about courage and how to stand up for what I believe when nine-year-old Shirley Smith led the merry-go-round mutiny.

Shirley, if you should Google your name and find this blog. I hope it brings a smile. You know what? Two and a half years after graduation, I married another young woman with that same kind of courage.

H L Wegley

H. L. (Harry) Wegley served in the USAF as an Intelligence Analyst and a Weather Officer. He worked as a Research Scientist in Atmospheric Physics at Pacific Northwest Laboratories, where he published scientific articles, reports and books. He also worked as a Systems Programmer at Boeing before retiring in the Seattle area where he is involved in a small-group ministry. In 2010 he began his third career, writing fiction. His romantic thriller, Hide and Seek, the first book in the Pure Genius Series, is coming in February 2013  from Harbourlight Books, Pelican Book Group. You can contact him through his web site, blog, or the social media:

9 comments:

Christina (Berry) Tarabochia said...

I love this, Harry! My grandmother's name is Shirley Smith. Though that is her married name, I can see her having the moxie to face the teacher down!

H L Wegley said...

Thanks, Christina! I tried to find Shirley Smith in Oregon, where we both grew up -- found 64 Shirley Smith's in the right age group. Lotsa' boomer girls were named Shirley. Maybe because their parents watched Shirley Temple in the theaters.

Donna B said...

Wonderful post, Harry! I hope she reads it and leaves you a message. Courage to stand by convictions at any age is amazing! God bless!

H L Wegley said...

Thanks, Donna! Since merry-go-rounds have been deemed dangerous by modern day standards, there will be probably no more Merry-Go-Round Mutinies. But if we teach our kids and grand kids well, maybe we can have Sedition at the Slide. :)

Nancy Thelen said...

What a wonderful story-I wish more people would have the courage that Shirly had.

Patty Froese said...

There isn't the choice anymore. My son will go to school next year, and I will have to reinforce our faith at home, because school is going to give him a very different story. You give me some hope, though! Kids can see through it. Thanks for the post. :)

Marianne Evans said...

Harry, what an awesome story of spiritual confidence and conviction. LOVE IT. We are sadly missing this kind of resolve in modern culture, and as a result, our moral center is evaporating. We need lots more people willing to stand up for their beliefs and proclaim them loud and clear! Blessings!

Marianne Evans said...

Harry, what an awesome story of spiritual confidence and conviction. LOVE IT. We are sadly missing this kind of resolve in modern culture, and as a result, our moral center is evaporating. We need lots more people willing to stand up for their beliefs and proclaim them loud and clear! Blessings!

H L Wegley said...

It truly is an awesome story, especially when you consider that parents in 1955 didn't have to worry about the school curriculum. What a great tribute to her parents as well as to Shirley.