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The Not-So-Sacred Heart

Original post made by Community Member on Jan 28, 2009

You're at a high school basketball game last night between a religious-based private school and a secular private school. In just the first five minutes of the game, one school's crowd chants only positive, 'typical' excited, impassioned cheers such as 'Go Team,' 'Swoosh,' etc. The other school's crowd chants the following negative-based insults: 'You got swatted!' (following an opposing player's shot being blocked), 'Air ball!' (following an opposing player's shot missing the entire rim), and 'Landing Strip' (mocking an opposing player's hair cut). It's also noteworthy that our sanguine school refrained from taunting 'Airball' immediately following the other 'Airball' chant in which the opposing team also failed to hit the rim.
The obvious question: which team mocked, taunted, and capitalized on the other team's failures, mistakes and physical appearance, the secular school'Menlo School)'or the school based on the teachings of Jesus Christ who also purportedly believe that an all-powerful god is watching their every move'Sacred Heart Preparatory School? By now, you guessed it: the not-so-God-fearing God-fearing group.
While a relatively harmless example'it's not like they were burning women to death for casting spells or telling people who they can and can't marry'this is yet another data point that suggests that either:
a. religious-based ethics does not necessarily supersede that of the non-religious or,
b. the religious simply don't believe what they claim.
Regarding the former option, it's been said that, 'Without religion, everything is permissible.' (This is actually a mis-quote, mis-attributed to Dostoyevsky.) This clearly isn't true, though, as demonstrated in last night's 'sportspersonship competition.' The mission statement of Menlo's athletic department alone includes the promotion of such virtues as: humility, character, integrity, respect for competitors, and emotional control. This is the opposite of what we saw from the religious example last night as well as countless other sporting examples such as the aptly named religious private school in Dallas, Covenant, who recently received national attention by drubbing an extremely inexperienced team 100-0 while continuing a full court press throughout the game and shooting three-point shots even near the end, or San Diego Chargers' quarterback Philip Rivers who, with Bible verses referenced on his face, still outwardly mocks other players repeatedly to the point of receiving numerous 15-yard penalties for unsportsmanlike conduct. At times, one really does wish they would ask 'What would Jesus do?' in a non-rhetorical manner and then actually do that'it would certainly adhere to the ethos promoted on Menlo's secular site.
It must be, then, that the religious simply don't believe in the stories of Jesus, or certainly not in an omniscient supernatural being, watching their every move, and deciding the fate of their souls. Were this the case, it's hard to imagine an entire group'parents, administrators, and students'mocking high school athletes, especially when the non-religious down the street are setting a more Christ-like example simply based on core humanistic values. Kids will be kids, certainly, and no one is perfect, but when eternal salvation is on the line and God is watching, it seems like that would be good motivation. Or maybe not.

Comments (65)

Posted by rob, a resident of Woodside
on Jan 28, 2009 at 1:54 pm

Sacred Heart is a pretty strange school. I was passing by the other day and noticed cut out paper crosses all over the windows in one classroom. In this day and age, I'd rather my child be taught life and business schools instead of wasting weekday school time on religion. How spiritual is a classroom anyway?

Menlo's pretty normal. A private business oriented prep school is what it is.

Posted by Dave, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jan 28, 2009 at 2:03 pm

Some religious people sometimes act crazy. So what? The cheering-at-sporting-event examples cited seem pretty innocuous, and thin gruel to make soup from - especially soup with heavy ingredients like the Dostoyevsky bone. I don't know Catholic doctrine that well, but it seems that these must be pretty venial sins. I didn't realize that Christians were required to be perfect in fact I thought it presumed that humans were fallen and sinners: but then as I said, I don't know the doctrine that well.

Maybe the poster has a lot of time on his hands: all that research into transgressions of good civic behavior standards among Christians at sporting events must have taken a lot of time. And to sort out the Christians from the Jews and Buddhists must have been particularly burdensome. Who would have thought that sorting mechanism up? It's not clear what point the poster is trying to make. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by Dave, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jan 28, 2009 at 2:22 pm

"In this day and age, I'd rather my child be taught life and business schools instead of wasting weekday school time on religion..."

The good thing is that in this day and age, a lot of people in this wealthy area have choices on things like this. rob, if he is one of the fortunate, doesn't have to send his kid anywhere where he thinks they're wasting their time.

The sad thing is that in many less fortunate parts of the country, parents don't have the same choices. A lot of them would be glad to send their kids to a place where they wasted a little time on religion every day instead of a place where they end up wasting their lives like a lot of inner city schools.

Posted by Me Too, a resident of Midtown
on Jan 28, 2009 at 2:23 pm

Wow, if "airball" upsets you, the cheering at my brother's Jesuit school would have curled your hair! Heck, the cheers at 12U recreational girls softball games are sometimes worse than that. The standards on what kind of cheering is ok varies widely and I don't think there are generalizations to be made; I certainly don't think it reflects much on religious values. FWIW, the most memorable cheers from my East Coast alma mater were "Sieve, Sieve, Sieve" at unlucky opposing hockey goalies and "You're beating us now, but some day you'll work for us!" when getting trounced in football.

Posted by Me Two, a resident of Menlo Park
on Jan 28, 2009 at 3:23 pm

First of all, I would take with a grain of salt this person's ability to report the facts objectively. If they're at a high school game then they're likely emotionally connected to one team (maybe it's the mother of the landing strip player that was made fun of).

Regardless...they do make a couple of points worth considering and, I'm surprised myseslf, that I agree with. First, we don't need religion to be good people. That should be said more often. Most of my dear friends are not religious and are simply wonderful.

Also, I agree that he/she has made a mountain out of a molehill with the cheering. But it also caused me to reflect on my own actions at sporting events and it really doesn't seem like a thoughtful thing to yell at high school players when they make errors to then highlight the failure. Not very sports-"person"-like as he/she says.

But a commenter above calls the writer a "bigot." This does seem way out of line and incorrect. My guess is that the name-caller's child is at SHP or, more likely, the post struck a nerve about the lack of belief they have in their own heart. But this post is based on supposed facts and rationally laid out (it's funny, another commenter even complains that it's too well-researched!). That's not bigotry, though he/she does reference a better example of bigotry in the post: telling certain people they can't get married just because "my god said so."

For new views of things, I am thankful for the post.

Posted by paly parent, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jan 28, 2009 at 3:49 pm

Based on my experience, kids who go to a "religious" school such as Sacred Heart Prep are more interested in the "prep" portion, not the religious aspects. Of all the kids I know who applied, only one was interested because it was Catholic, the rest liked it for academics, facilities, small class sizes, prestige, all the normal reasons kids apply to a private school.

Posted by Dave, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jan 28, 2009 at 5:42 pm

Me Too,

If I were writing about bad actors on Wall Street who I said caused the financial crisis and only cited examples involving Jewish bankers, you'd probably think I was a bigot - especially if I further remarked on how these Jewish bankers weren't following Jewish values. And you'd be right. Someone writing about bad behavior at sporting events who cites only Christian examples and then goes on to make snarky remarks about both their faith and allegiance to it probably is a bigot.

And your attempt to divine what led me to write my post is both wrong (I have no connection to SHP, and worry not about the state of my "non-belief" or lack thereof), and a distraction.

Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 28, 2009 at 5:53 pm

Not sure about Sacred Heart, but St Francis, another religious influenced private school, is into recruiting sports players and sometimes sports get more emphasis than religion for those entering the school.

Secondly, many problem kids who have got in with the wrong crowd at their public schools are enrolled into religious private schools by parents who are trying to get their badly behaved teenagers turned round before it is too late. I have heard before that some of the Christian schools around have become dumping grounds for problem kids from public schools.

Lastly, many adults take sport more seriously than the kids and these kids just may have heard what they chant from their parents and coaches over the years rather than just getting it from each other.

Good discussion point though, as long as we don't bring Prop 8 in.

Posted by Me Two, a resident of Menlo Park
on Jan 28, 2009 at 6:14 pm


First of all, I imagine that was aimed at me and not "Me Too" also above. Secondly, your analogy of Jewish people and Wall Street seems unfitting. It seems to me that the initial poster is simply surprised that when two groups of people act out, one considerably more thoughtful, ethical, and considerate (and the other the opposite of these virtues) we would stereotypically expect it to be the "wacky atheists" and not the religious people who claim they are being watched by their loving father. This is what I took from the post and I agree. I even fell into the "trap" of guessing the wrong school--I actually thought it was going to be a religious person writing again about how pious they are and how abhorrent the secular world is.

The overarching question he/she asks is, "Do we need religion to be good?" is a good question. At this point, I say No we don't. And their criticism of religious people acting contrary to what they claim to believe also raises an eyebrow. Does seem strange that they would behave this way when they know someone's watching them.

I see that the Palo Alto staff has removed part of your comment because it was inflammatory. And that now you have changed from calling the poster a bigot to saying "is probably a bigot." And I think on your next post, once you think about it, you'll realize that even that is unfair and close minded.

As others have stated even in this forum, it looks like the religious-teachings at schools are more of a facade than anything--and at least that's becoming more obvious.

Posted by Dave, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jan 28, 2009 at 6:45 pm

Me Two,

Anyone with even passing familiarity with modern sports fans and events knows that rowdy behavior and chanting is ubiquitous. The original poster sifted the available evidence mountain of such behavior and cited only that he could tie to Christians or Christianity. This seems a lot to me like the posters on this forum who check out the race of every crime perpetrator in the news and conclude that therefor African Americans in general are criminal. It also seems like bigotry, and despite what the censors here do with my posts, I haven't changed my mind about that.

The poster didn't address the interesting question in your posting: Do we need religion to be good? Instead he tarred all religious people with the behavior of the tiny fraction of religious people he cited in his examples. (He/she repeatedly refers generally and expansively to "the religious" ... kind of some people refer to "the blacks" I guess).

The question you pose is interesting, but not addressed except vaguely in passing by the original poster. He/she seems to me much more interested in Christian bashing on very flimsy evidence. (A school in Dallas? Some pro football player? Give me a break. Perhaps he should have gone back to the Inquisition or the Crusades where he at least would be on firm evidentiary grounds.)

As for your question, I suppose it depends on the definition of good (and evil?). But those concepts themselves have religious connotations or origins almost always.

By the way, you fall into a similar trap as the original poster when you say, "... the religious teachings of schools are more of a facade than anything - and at least that's becoming obvious."

It's not obvious at all. I would guess that like me, you haven't got a clue about what they teach at religious schools, and have no basis whatsoever for concluding anything at all about the sincerity of those who teach religion there. "facade"? Unless, that is, you base your conclusion on reported rowdiness by some religious school students and a couple of comments about how some religious schools recruit athletes and are magnets for troubled kids.

But then I suppose for those who really want to see something badly enough, you'll find a way to see it.

Posted by Post Script, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 28, 2009 at 11:00 pm

What a treat to find filed under "sports." I haven't read all of the comments yet as I wanted to write having just read the article. I say "treat" only because it really made me reconsider my views on such topics. Though i wish "Community Member" had left out the school names as it would have worked hypothetically as well.

Most interestingly, how could someone who thinks God--a loving father, "Big Brother," choose your favorite all-knowing being--is watching them also act against this god's will? And certainly not willful actions such as choosing to taunt another athlete in this case, or in more serious cases, choosing to commit a crime, a sin, etc. In retrospect, I don't buy the argument that we do it naturally because of Eve. Even if we *want* to covet thy neighbor's wife, if I know God can see through the walls and watch me do that, and I believe he frowns upon this, I won't do it. It seems like a pretty tough position to argue against.

As for "Community Member's" other question, it certainly does seem that we can be moral beings without the need for this Father Figure. I haven't checked the Menlo site, but can imagine those virtues valued at many schools. We could agree that society will function better if we follow the rules he listed. But when it comes down to it, do we need a motivation to follow them? The religious have it--though as noted they don't really follow it: heaven and hell. And even that doesn't seem to work. So maybe the question is, "Do we even need a motivation to be moral?" Maybe we're just naturally moral? Or are the Menlo kids just "moral freaks"!

Posted by good without religion?, a resident of Community Center
on Jan 29, 2009 at 12:05 am

The current general concept of "good" and surrounding concepts have been developed by religions. We would not have the concept were it not for the religions. We can abandon the religions now and allow "goodness" to evolve with political correctness, or recreate new and better religions, or keep the old and somehow bridge the gap between their teachings and necessary actions for full participation in our society - we have many choices as to where to go from here with being "good." You can call the action with the most practical or expedient benefit the best action; I would call that being amoral.

Anyway, there would be no "good" without the religions that developed the concept. Our traditional view that "goodness" is some actual absolute thing we can compare worldly activities with is heavily influenced by the Greek thought a little more than two thousand years ago and synthesized by Plato. But religions before that created "good."

Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 29, 2009 at 9:11 am

But, we do have new religions. They are not called religions of course, but they are still aiming to educate society as a whole on their doctrines. We have the Global Warming religion, the Civil Rights religion, the Political Correctness religion, to name but 3. You don't call these religions? Well I can understand that, but we are still being indoctrinated in them by their members and they are still making a big effort to convert us. There are big similarities when you take them down to the basics.

Religion is only a doctrine of ethics that tie similarly minded people together. Faith, on the other hand, is a different concept altogether.

Posted by anonymous, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 29, 2009 at 9:25 am

The original post is preposterous, targeting a Christian high school. But around here, I am not suprised by this nasty attack.

Posted by Danny, a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 29, 2009 at 9:31 am

This is a great thread. The initial post is funny and, in a way, a little frightening. One of the big problems with organized religion is that so few practice what they preach. Thanks for the post Community Member.

Posted by Dave, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jan 29, 2009 at 9:43 am

"The initial post is ... in a way, a little frightening."

Wow. If high school students chanting "airball" at their opponents is frightening, this guy better never leave his house. I know a lot of people around here are pretty uncomfortable with traditional religion, but some of the rhetoric is way over-the-top.

Somehow I don't feel threatened by raucous cheering whether done in poor taste or not - by a bunch of rowdy sports fans - even if they do go to a religious school. What am I missing?

Posted by NancyRN, a resident of Los Altos
on Jan 29, 2009 at 10:24 am

Dave, you're missing out on a somewhat outdated thing called "manners." That you don't make fun of other people's haircuts nor do you outwardly celebrate and humiliate others (especially adolescents playing amateur sports) for failing. Seems pretty simple to me. I agree that this is not a major issue, but glad it was brought to light here. And, yes, we would expect a religious group to be more polite than non religious, thought that is a pretty empty stereotype either way.

Great post.

Posted by Dave, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jan 29, 2009 at 10:55 am

Nobody's defending the behavior, Nancy. In fact I agree that basic civility has declined in all areas of life - sporting events included. My point is that these kinds of antics, because they are ubiquitous, aren't reasonably classifiable as the major breach of (contemporary degraded standards of)decorum that the original poster made out - and certainly do not distinguish religious from non-religious sports fans generally - let alone separate all religious people from all non religious people.

My earlier point is that the original poster used these silly cheers to make gross generalizations and assumptions about Christians and their adherence to the tenants of faith. I thought, and still do, that this kind of group calumny constitutes bigotry against religious people which we unfortunately see a lot of in this putatively enlightened area. Did you get a chance to see the mocking performance of the Stanford Band toward all symbols of Catholicism the last time Notre Dame played out here. Makes "airball" seem pretty petty by comparison.

Posted by Danny, a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 29, 2009 at 11:12 am

Dave: It isn't the chanting that's frightening, it's the idea that these kids go to a religious school yet haven't seemed to grasp the idea of treating people in a respectful way. Actually, judging by your posts, did you go to school there too??

Posted by Dave, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jan 29, 2009 at 12:21 pm

Gee, school-age kids haven't fully absorbed what they're taught in school and get rowdy at a basketball game...and some people find that "frightening". Must be nice to live in a world where scariness has such a low threshold.

I suppose you're equally scared when kids don't do well on their math exams despite having been taught the subject matter in school.

I have never set foot in SH, and in fact don't know a thing about it other than there seem to be several people here who want to use the behavior of a few school kids to make gross judgments about an entire class of people. Do you really think one has to have a personal interest in the matter to be disturbed by bigotry?

By the way, I am not African American, but I get equally upset when posters use a few examples of AA criminals to go off on riffs about black people in general.

Posted by Me Too, a resident of Midtown
on Jan 29, 2009 at 1:01 pm

I'm with Dave on this one. I don't love sarcastic cheering, but it has been around forever and isn't going anywhere. You see it a lot less in high school than in college, but I don't view it as a breakdown in social order when it happens. And the idea that schoolkids from a religious school should act according to the perceived tenets of that religion (more polite?) seems naive to me - they'll rise or sink to what the adults tolerate or model, which will have more to do with the kind of neighborhood where the parents grew up.

There is an anti-religious vein in Palo Alto that always catches me by surprise. The outcry against the eruv comes to mind. For me, SHP kids mocking others says some of them are kind of rude - why make more of it than that?

Posted by Danny, a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 29, 2009 at 4:42 pm

Dave: You are taking me far too literally. No, shouting teens do not scare me. I am not frightened easily. Perhaps the word "disconcerting" would have been better. Kids supposedly studying to live like Christ and then belittling, teasing and ridiculing other kids is simply unfortunate. Personally, I've looked down the barrel of a loaded pistol, been in a boxing ring with a world champion (to fight him) and gone skydiving from over 30,000 feet. Fear is not something that effects me.

Posted by hogwash, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 29, 2009 at 11:56 pm

religion and world conquest have been hand in hand for many years-
to expect "good sportsmanship" from these folks is like expecting to get
apple juice from an orange.

Posted by too much, a resident of another community
on Jan 30, 2009 at 6:56 am

.... It's a high school basketball game.. GET OVER IT!! teenagers will say what they want regardless of what thier upbringing, religious beliefs, or class.... getting happier every day that we moved away from all of this!!

Posted by Found, a resident of Los Altos Hills
on Jan 30, 2009 at 8:26 am

I see nothing wrong with condemning behavior like this. I agree, it's not murder, rape, stealing, etc. but that doesn't mean it's not worth discussing. Why can't we raise our teenagers to be polite to each other and show respect to each other, even if this so-called "society" does not? It's strange that there are people in these comments who are vehement about *not* teaching manners. Thank you poster.

Posted by JP, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 30, 2009 at 9:19 am

This is not a bigoted position. Dave's analogy of African Americans and crime is way off. Being a certain race doesn't come with a "guide book" of how you and everyone else should live. Being a religious person, including the one pushed at SHP, *does*, and on top of that, it comes with some being watching to see if you follow these rules. It's actually a good point. And Dave, you can now see why your point doesn't quite fit (though I certainly agree with your point about race) because people aren't free to walk away from their race.

The poster could have made their point by looking at the actions of one person and not a group from a specific school.

"Me Two" on the other hand gives a better analogy of bigotry: telling someone they can't get married because a supernatural being said so. It's laughable (in a sad way) that this statement is taken seriously in today's age.

And a quick web search does show that the Cathedral school reference and the Christian quarterback example the poster mentions are true and relevant. More strange examples of people not acting in accord with what they preach.

This post is in no way nasty. Facts and some pointed questions can be a great way for progress. The peninsula could use a little enlightened progress or at least thoughtful discussion.

Posted by Dave, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jan 30, 2009 at 9:44 am

Had the original poster condemned the people in the examples he cited as hypocrites for not acting in accord with their professed principles and left it at that, I would have no brief with him/her. (Even though the examples cited were pretty silly and I'm not sure they rise to the level of sin, hypocrisy, or wrongfulness that some here seem to think)

The original poster, however, used the actions of a few people to make generalizations about the group to which they belong. (He/she makes repeated references to "the religious"...just like bigots complaining about the behavior of some African Americans refer to "the blacks"). This kind of stereotyping and generalization is the definition of bigotry.

That some people so far stretch the bounds of sophistry to defend this kind of group calumny only serves to reveal how easy so-called sophisticates in this allegedly enlightened area fall into ugly stereotyping of those they don't know, understand, or agree with.

Posted by hogwash, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 30, 2009 at 11:12 am

well said dave-
those stuck in negativity are presently befuddled-
but don't fear-
their hatred will spring forth again-
it's only a matter of time-

Posted by Post Script, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 30, 2009 at 11:14 am

Great point JP--the religion one claims to practice and the race that one is born into are actually terrible analogies. Dave does seem way off base there. Thanks for highlighting that. The question the poster asks is relevant even if just one so-called religious person acts poorly while God's watching. Thank you for that. Interesting to see that Dave didn't address the bigotry of dogma + who can marry who. Great example of irrational bigotry.

And great to see manners in the discussion. Why people don't want to chat about good manners is a mystery to me--especially those supporting religious doctrine here.

I also agree with Dave on one point: Menlo students probably aren't all angles and SHP students probably not all devils. But the poster still has not gotten good answers to questions. Just a lot of side-stepping.

Posted by Me Too, a resident of Midtown
on Jan 30, 2009 at 11:30 am

What questions did the original poster ask? I don't see any. I don't know if the poster is a bigot or not - but I think it is simplistic and over-broad to draw conclusions about religion and religious people based on cheering at a basketball game.

Some religious people are hypocrites. Some are not. Kind of like any other group of people. I'm not sure what kind of conclusion you can draw from that. It does not seem to reflect on religion one way or the other to me.

Posted by Michael, a resident of another community
on Jan 30, 2009 at 12:13 pm

The unique point of Christianity is that we are imperfect people, in need of a savior. Followers of Christ are saved not by how they behave but by their faith in Christ. The author rightly points out that carrying the label of Christian (or in this case, Sacred Heart fan), creates an expectation that the behavior will match. Indeed, actions say a lot about whether faith is real. It is fair to ask whether the Sacred Heart fans truly understand and accept what is the call of Jesus. It is not fair to say that Christianity is to blame for their behavior, or that Jesus is lacking.

Posted by Dave, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jan 30, 2009 at 1:39 pm

For JP, Post Script, and others having difficulty following the discussion here:

No one here seems to be condemning religious people for choosing to be religious. That's not a place where the analogy breaks down. The original poster and those who agree with him/her complain that some religious people sometimes act in a way contrary to their beliefs - and then use that behavior to impugn religion and "the religious" generally.

Similarly none of the racial bigots her and elsewhere condemns African Americans for being AA. They just complain that some AA's commit crimes and use that to impugn AA's generally.

The fact that one can choose whether to belong to a particular religion or not, while one cannot choose what race to belong to - while true - is completely irrelevant to the analogy. The apt point is that in both cases a group of people is being condemned because of the behavior of a few members of that group. It really doesn't matter whether membership in the group is voluntary or not.

You may legitimately criticize as hypocrites people who say they believe one thing but act in a contrary manner. And maybe you can say they should resign from the religion they're in if they can't follow its tenants. But unless you're a bigot and a stereotyper, you can't condemn a whole group -religious, racial or otherwise - because of the behavior of a few of its members. Unless, that is, you're a bigot.

Posted by big Al, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 30, 2009 at 1:40 pm

seems to me that the folks at the weekly like the topic of this thread or they would not have made it their feature strory in which to comment upon- perhaps they feel the need, like the person who instigated this thread, to verbally assault the "other" kids who are not in our
public schools, and to specifically target those who are not like "us"- perhaps this makes the folks at the weekly and the original poster feel more righteous about what they are doing, and this verbal assault on others serves to justify what "we" do over here, in "our" schools-
where "we" apparently know how to act and behave while attending sporting events- what a buch of bigots- sounds like it to me! grow up! the weekly should be ashamed for giving people the room and space to vent all their silly frustrations! why don't you stick to journalism and avoid all the other stuff? you should be working to unify, not be giving a platoform for disiveness and derision. You should be ashamed of yourselves. the children are watching you too.

Posted by Dave, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jan 30, 2009 at 1:40 pm

Nice post, Michael. You make the point much more succinctly.

Posted by JP, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 30, 2009 at 3:49 pm

Whoa. First, Dave was the one to start calling people bigots. Secondly, the PA Weekly is providing a forum for what has actually been pretty thoughtful, rational discourse (though I never saw what was censored on Dave's comments). And I'd say the comments on this thread are split, so they're clearly not favoring one position. If you don't want to give credit to it, stop posting.

If someone said "All religious people are evil" and based it only on the premise, "The kids at a religious school acted bad," then this would be very narrow-minded. So, let's assume that no one really thinks this and discuss the issues here, which are important.

Manners--is the way that "everyone does it" the right, polite way? (I say, no.) If not, should we care? (I say yes.) The "everyone does it" defense of crowds of people mocking high school athletes is embarrassingly juvenile. If the kids are watching (as you say) then let's show them how to behave.

And Michael makes a very thoughtful point--almost a concession to both sides: many religious do not practice what they preach. In the words of the poster, it seems clear that they truly do not believe a supernatural being is watching them. But, that does not mean that living according to Christ's dictates is a bad thing. Well put.

Thank you, PA Weekly, for what I found to be a very fair open forum for discussion of an important topic.

Posted by Betsy, a resident of Stanford
on Jan 31, 2009 at 9:30 am

I'm with the "manners matter" group. And I too am surprised that people support doing "what everyone else does" even if it includes "just" mocking high school athletes.

And I do think it's unfortunate that some people still have racist feelings. But am thankful they don't act on them. But the real shame is people who have homophobic feelings and then ACT on them, taking rights away from other just because they think a supernatural being told them to. It is strange that the religious are pointing the "bigot" finger.

Thank you poster and all thoughtful commentators.

Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 31, 2009 at 10:00 am

The Bible and its teachings have been around for a very long time. The teachings of the Old Testament, the 10 Commandments, Jesus Christ and the writers of the Epistles, are the basics for what constitutes "good manners" and the principles which the constitution were founded on. To pick and choose which teachings of the Bible should be followed by those of the new religions of "Civil Rights" or "Political Correctness" would be the same as hacking away at the constitution and deciding which parts we want to keep and which ones should be done away with because times have changed.

For those who believe in the Bible teachings, then the belief is in the whole of the teachings not just whichever teachings seem to fit in with what others find acceptable. To say that one teaching is because a supernatural being said so, means that you can say the same about any of the other teachings. Then the same argument could be said against the 10 commandments, the "do unto others..." and "render to Ceasar..." teachings which this country firmly adheres to without questioning the authority.

Posted by Big Al, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 31, 2009 at 10:35 am

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by kid, a resident of Gunn High School
on Jan 31, 2009 at 11:03 am

Public schools are the way to go. They are cheap and good, at least in Palo Alto. Gunn is what? 81st in the nation among ALL schools, according to Newsweek?

Posted by anonymous, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 31, 2009 at 3:15 pm

I respectfully disagree. I am affiliated with an international boarding high school (not in this state) which is wonderful. I have had limited knowledge of Sacred Heart Prep, but what I have seen and heard was very favorable about the education there.

Posted by A Sports Fan, a resident of Atherton
on Jan 31, 2009 at 3:45 pm

One question for the person who started this thread: Was this your first high school sporting event? I can only imagine that it was, otherwise you would know that chants like "Airball!" and "You got swatted!" have been common and accepted cheers for decades. They are utterly harmless, no different from kids who yelled "Swing batter!" on baseball sandlots since, oh, the beginning of time. To tie all this to the religious affiliation of a school is particularly ridiculous, because anyone who follows sports with any degree of regularity can tell you that students from every type of school -- private and public, religious and secular -- are equally likely to indulge in such cheers.

I suspect if you asked the Menlo players, they would say they weren't at all bothered by the chants, because they consider it just part of the game. I also find it hard to believe that the Menlo students cheered as blandly as you've described. No self-respecting high school kid would chant "Go team!"

Posted by manners?, a resident of Downtown North
on Jan 31, 2009 at 4:03 pm

1. How does poster know that the Menlo "typical" normal cheering did not come from believers? I know several religious people that go to Menlo, Jewish, Catholic, Hindu, I'm sure plenty of religions are represented in their school. Characterizing them as atheist is ridiculous.

2. Taking the behaviour of a sample group of people that may or may not be representative of the whole, is not good manners.

3. That a supernatural being is looking over us is no laughing matter to many traditions or religions. That you don't like what they do as a group is a separate manner.

4. Please get some numbers on this one, if your post is that atheists and non-religious people are better or nicer than religious people, back it up - this basketball game is not enough.

5. Some atheist and non-religious people are just as religious as other religions when they start picking on one thing or another to push their agenda.

Posted by dale, a resident of East Palo Alto
on Feb 1, 2009 at 12:53 pm

@Danny: U wrote "Fear is not something that effects me." Perhaps u should consider consulting an amygdaliatrist. :)

On central topic: I attended both of these schools, and I observed Menlo to be a far more brutal environment than the convent was.
However, in contrast, after moving to E. Palo Hellto, some of the most thoroughly evil people I have ever encountered in my life have been inveterate church-going congregants. Pure, execrable hypocrisy.

Posted by Think, a resident of Stanford
on Feb 1, 2009 at 1:54 pm

Imagine this post from a "few years" ago:

"Are you really up in arms about everyone having a few slaves? EVERYONE does it. Have you never left your house? And since we get our morality from the Bible, you can find numerous passages that tell you how to treat your slaves, such as Ephesians 6:5-9, 'Servants, be obedient to them that are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling.'"

There you have it: we should have never challenged having slaves because,
A. Everyone does it, and
B. The Bible says so.

Now, this obviously isn't true. Just because everyone does something, and just because one of the thousands of spiritual books says something, is not just cause for doing that thing. Instead, you should actually take into account the virtues that the poster supposedly quoted from the athletic website: humility, character, integrity, respect for others, and emotional control. That seems to be a much more thoughtful approach to treating others, be it children playing a sport, or people being treated equally with equal moral consideration (such as slavery, marriage, etc.).

Posted by manners?, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Feb 1, 2009 at 2:24 pm


You and poster sound like you want to run a morality workshop, slavery, marriage, what's next?

Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 1, 2009 at 3:26 pm

Biblical slavery and the type of slavery most Americans think of are very different. It would be like comparing oranges and grapefruits.

Posted by Think, a resident of Stanford
on Feb 1, 2009 at 9:03 pm

I don't understand the critique of the "morality workshop." Slavery is bad (any kind of slavery). Telling your neighbors they can't have the same rights you do is bad. And making fun of high school kids for failing (or for their hair cuts) is bad. I can't believe there's even anything to discuss about this.

Then again, we're discussing it with people who say "everyone does it" is a cogent defense of an action. Or "it's in my holy book" stands as the final say for the moral status of any action. So, I guess I can believe it. Just too bad.

Posted by Dave, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Feb 2, 2009 at 2:33 am

Those who cannot see a difference between slavery and teenagers teasing other kids about their haircuts don't have a sensitive enough moral compass to presume to lecture others about the subject.

And, just as some religious fundamentalists have difficulty with nuanced objectivity and self-reflection, it's too much to expect such anti-Christian absolutists to be aware of their own gross bigotry.

Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 2, 2009 at 8:40 am

Just as an aside to this discussion. In my younger days I did a lot of youth work with my Church at the time. It was a well known phonomenon among all the church youth leaders from my church and those that we interacted with that the PKs (Pastors' Kids) were often the hardest to control. There was a general consensus that we felt they had to behave so well at home when their fathers, the pastors, were in control, that when they got out into the big group of peers where their fathers were not around and other church workers were in charge, they behaved in a manner which they fathers would not like. The fathers, when told, were often in denial about the kids behavior because they felt that their paragons of virtue who behaved so well at home, could not possibly misbehave elsewhere.

Posted by Me Too, a resident of Midtown
on Feb 2, 2009 at 8:46 am

Resident, I dated a PK back in high school (many years ago) and can attest to the truth of your statement!

Posted by Think, a resident of Stanford
on Feb 2, 2009 at 9:01 am

Dave, No one thinks slavery and mocking people are equally wrong. Here's what I think: Justifying *anything* based on the defense "Everyone else does it" is very poor rationale and not a defense of any action in and of itself.

Also, "It says so in my holy book" is not a defense of any action in and of itself.

Yet, these are the defenses given here. You don't need to name call-- a lot of people here are trying to have thoughtful discussion.

Me Too and Resident: yes, I've noticed the same trend myself! (But also would never want to overgeneralize.)

Posted by Strong Mores, a resident of College Terrace
on Feb 2, 2009 at 9:35 am

Think -

Some of the strongest influences on our behavior are mores and are enforced by the "everyone does it" (or "everyone thinks it's OK") conviction.

It's an explanation, not a justification.

I think it requires a rather mature perspective to successfully challenge someone else's moral justification. A legitimate complaint that a moral justification is not as good as yours requires particularly open minded understanding. And dismissing millennia of thought around and expressed by a "holy book" is far more radical than say, dismissing public education as politically correct brainwashing. Would you complain, "what you learned in school is not a defense of any action in itself?" How many think through what they learn in school to the point of being able to independently defend it? This is what you are asking people to do around thousands of years of moral refinement.

Posted by Think, a resident of Stanford
on Feb 2, 2009 at 9:48 am


Thank you for that thoughtful, cogent response. I do like your explanation/justification distinction. It very well could have been a mis-communication, as I'm much more interested in seeking what we should do, and not just why we do what we do.

And, yes, changing one's own moral framework is extremely difficult for anyone. I suppose that it's my hope that, with some simple, sound logic, one could reflect on their actions and make a change--but one absolutely needs to be open minded in the first place.

You frame the challenge so clearly, and your point should provide some humility for all in our community as we move forward from here.

Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 2, 2009 at 2:56 pm

To go back to my anecdote about Pastors' Kids, I should have summarised by saying that in the vast part, these rebelious teens, usually got over their rebelliousness and became the type of adults their fathers could be proud of.

In other words, the more restrictions you put on teens, the more they will likely play up when given the freedoms. This is often just a passing phase like many things during the teen years and the good moral lessons they are being taught will come into play when the teens have turned into 20 somethings.

Don't make such a big deal about it.

Posted by MIke, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Feb 2, 2009 at 3:54 pm

Yeah, let's not bother with moral education. The kids will figure it all out on their own. Great suggestion. Dave, Resident, et al, some of your approaches are very odd indeed.

Posted by long time resident of this area, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Feb 2, 2009 at 11:46 pm

Interesting thread. It's possible that the bad behavior of the Sacred Heart Prep kids may be at least partially explained by rebellion against their tightly controlled religious school environment. But the bad behavior may also be partly due to SHP's feelings of inferiority since they have historically been viewed as second tier academically relative to top tier public and private schools such as Paly, Gunn, Castilleja, Menlo and Crystal Springs. It's pretty silly because SHP has actually become a much better school in recent years, and they are certainly regarded as the most academically rigorous Catholic school on the peninsula. I agree that "kids will be kids" and nasty cheering at a school sporting event is not the most important issue in the world. But civility and manners do matter, even for high school students, and it would be a mistake to completely ignore this bad behavior. I hope the SHP school leadership will to use this as an opportunity to do a little character education with their students.

Posted by A Sports Fan, a resident of Atherton
on Feb 3, 2009 at 4:45 pm

My defense of the fans' behavior was not based on the idea that "everyone does it, so that makes it OK." It was that these chants are harmless, part of the normal give-and-take of a high school sporting event. The participants -- players and fans -- understand that. Fans yell at the ref who missed the call, they chant at the opponent who shot the airball, they cheer for the player who made the three-pointer. It's all part of the culture of sports and no one is damaged by it. Most players, in fact, love to play in front of a passionate crowd, even when that passion is directed against them. I would suggest that anyone who really objects to this probably can't tell the difference between good-natured rough-housing and a mean-spirited fight.

Posted by Jonathan, a resident of Atherton
on Feb 5, 2009 at 11:52 am

the guy that wrote this (who in fact is a teacher at menlo) doesnt really get the fact the the menlo student body (such as I) feel very differently from him. Believe me, if we could chant AIRBALL and taunt opposing players just as SHP does we would, no doubt about it. the problem is that menlo feels they are somehow better than every school around, so they feel they must not stoop to their levels. the fact is that the rules about cheering and the our AD regulates us during games completely ruins the competitive atmosphere of the game. this is real life and people shouldnt bitch and whine about what high schoolers say during b-ball games.

Posted by JP, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 5, 2009 at 4:51 pm

Well, it's a good thing that schools actually teach and discipline their kids. Jonathan, I bet kids would do A LOT of things if it wasn't for that darn group of teachers and principals--isn't it a pain having to go to class and be on time! I'm from the Pink Floyd "Hey, Teacher, leave those kids alone" generation, but we don't really want that, do we? I appreciate Jonathan's adolescent angst. But if one school is allowed to act poorly and another school's kids aren't, then isn't the later school kind of doing their job?

I do believe that you would yell things and taunt other players from other schools. That's not the point. The point is that (apparently) you didn't. Lots of things would/could happen if kids were allowed to run around doing whatever they wanted.

If you want "real life" as you say, then in this so called "real life" there are also these "rules" that you mention in your post. So maybe you shouldn't "bitch and whine" so much either.

Posted by A Sports Fan, a resident of Atherton
on Feb 7, 2009 at 9:45 am

Thank you, Jonathan, for providing evidence of what I've been saying -- the students themselves are not at all offended by the normal verbal give-and-take at a sporting event. They understand what many people here don't, that games are supposed to raucous, lively, rowdy events. As long as the chants aren't vulgar or offensive, there's nothing wrong with yelling at the refs or trying to rattle the other team. This is not a high Mass or a formal dinner party. It's a ballgame, for goodness sake. People need to lighten up.

Posted by Jonathan, a resident of Atherton
on Feb 7, 2009 at 5:51 pm

JP, in case you didnt know, this is menlo and shp. we're not a bunch of ignorant hoodlums like half the kids in schools surrounding this area. we know our limits and we know whats going to far. one thing that is constantly preached by menlos admin is trust, and us students would make sure that each of us doesnt cross the line and violate that trust.

Posted by JP, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 9, 2009 at 8:56 am

No one thinks these students are "hoodlums." The point being, most adults think it's okay to put restrictions on students, even if the students don't like them or would act otherwise if allowed. I'm surprised at the vehemence of people to go out of there way to let students taunt each other. I too realize this is not a "national crisis" of any sort, but strange that so many want students to have the freedom to yell at other students when they fail, make fun of their hair, etc. Just a strange thing to passionately defend.

Posted by Think, a resident of Stanford
on Feb 10, 2009 at 7:34 am

JP, well said. You make the point well and glad to see we got some semblance of closure here. Kids, you sometimes have to obey rules even if you don't like them. We can be good without gods watching us. And it seems like we could be a little more thoughtful about the way we treat each other. Not bad at all.

Posted by Jonathan, a resident of Atherton
on Feb 11, 2009 at 8:26 pm

Believe me, I'm all for rules. But this is not a legitimate thing to govern. The fact is, yes, we love taunting each other and yelling obscenities at each other. It's fun and only deepens the comraderie within the rival. The people that don't enjoy this don't have to, they never come to the games.

Posted by Atta Boy, a resident of Los Altos
on Feb 16, 2009 at 8:26 pm

I just read through this entire thread. First of all, this thread should be published on a bigger scale. The opening article is brilliant. Very well asked questions.

(Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff).

Lastly, even as the last commenter remarks, "we all do it." But in a better world, we wouldn't. There's a difference between what *is* the case, and what *should* be the case. And I commend the author for stating the latter. I wish he'd responded to this thread too.

Thank you.

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