Calvin Trillin Imagines What It’s Like To Be Homeschooled by Rick Santorum

Dubious and far-fetched ideas.
March 15 2012 4:42 PM

Homeschooling With Rick Santorum

The candidate teaches his children about contraception, nausea, and the separation of church and state.

121073884
Rick Santorum waves to the audience with his wife Karen Santorum and five of their children

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images.

The Santorum children were relieved to hear their father announce that the next hour would be devoted to American history. They were tired of talking about sex all the time. That morning’s biology lesson had been about how contraception can cause diseases such as St. Vitus Dance and Housemaid’s Knee. Two separate field trips that week had been to the worst slums in Washington, in order to demonstrate how sex for purposes other than procreation will almost invariably lead to drug addiction, depravity, poverty, and homelessness. In the third hour of the second trip, while being shown how drunken derelicts were driven to look for food in a dumpster, little Kevin Santorum had looked up to his father and said, “Why can’t we take field trips to the water treatment plant like other kids?”

Beginning the American history lesson, Senator Santorum said, “The framers of our Constitution, such as Thomas Jefferson, were Christians who had no intention of driving people of faith from the public square. They did not intend the United States to have absolute separation of church and state. As we learned in Personal Health class earlier this week, absolute separation of church and state can make a person want to throw up.”

Kevin raised his hand and was recognized by his father. “My friend Timmy says that Thomas Jefferson was in favor of what he called a wall separating church and state,” Kevin said. “Timmy says that ‘separation of church and state’ is actually Jefferson’s term. That’s what Timmy says.”

For a while, Senator Santorum said nothing, but his expression was stern. His cheeks had grown flush. Kevin, made uneasy by the silence, decided to break it with another question: “So did Thomas Jefferson throw up all the time?”

Their father still hadn’t spoken. He looked angry. Finally, he said, “Timmy is inhabited by Satan.”

“Timmy Burnside?” Kevin said.

“Yes, Timmy Burnside.”

“The Timmy Burnside who lives down the street?”

“That’s right,” Senator Santorum said. “I don’t want you to play with Timmy Burnside anymore.

“But Dad,” Kevin said. “Timmy Burnside has a Wii with both Mario Super Sluggers and Madden NFL 12—my two favorite games.”

“Those whom Satan would inhabit he first tempts,” the senator said.

“So then could we get Mario Super Sluggers and Madden NFL 12 for our Wii?” Kevin asked.

“Absolutely not,” Senator Santorum said. “In fact, there will be no more playing with the Wii. We’re giving away the Wii. It is Satan’s tool and is thus unclean to the touch.”

There was an audible groan from the children. “Leave it to Kevin to ruin everything,” one of the older kids whispered to his sister. “He should know that it’s always safer to talk about sex.”

TODAY IN SLATE

History

Slate Plus Early Read: The Self-Made Man

The story of America’s most pliable, pernicious, irrepressible myth.

Rehtaeh Parsons Was the Most Famous Victim in Canada. Now, Journalists Can’t Even Say Her Name.

Mitt Romney May Be Weighing a 2016 Run. That Would Be a Big Mistake.

Amazing Photos From Hong Kong’s Umbrella Revolution

Transparent Is the Fall’s Only Great New Show

The XX Factor

Rehtaeh Parsons Was the Most Famous Victim in Canada

Now, journalists can't even say her name.

Doublex

Lena Dunham, the Book

More shtick than honesty in Not That Kind of Girl.

What a Juicy New Book About Diane Sawyer and Katie Couric Fails to Tell Us About the TV News Business

Does Your Child Have Sluggish Cognitive Tempo? Or Is That Just a Disorder Made Up to Scare You?

  News & Politics
Damned Spot
Sept. 30 2014 9:00 AM Now Stare. Don’t Stop. The perfect political wife’s loving gaze in campaign ads.
  Business
Moneybox
Sept. 29 2014 7:01 PM We May Never Know If Larry Ellison Flew a Fighter Jet Under the Golden Gate Bridge
  Life
Quora
Sept. 30 2014 9:32 AM Why Are Mint Condition Comic Books So Expensive?
  Double X
Doublex
Sept. 29 2014 11:43 PM Lena Dunham, the Book More shtick than honesty in Not That Kind of Girl.
  Slate Plus
Slate Fare
Sept. 29 2014 8:45 AM Slate Isn’t Too Liberal. But… What readers said about the magazine’s bias and balance.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 29 2014 9:06 PM Paul Thomas Anderson’s Inherent Vice Looks Like a Comic Masterpiece
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 30 2014 7:36 AM Almost Humane What sci-fi can teach us about our treatment of prisoners of war.
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Sept. 30 2014 7:30 AM What Lurks Beneath The Methane Lakes of Titan?
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 28 2014 8:30 PM NFL Players Die Young. Or Maybe They Live Long Lives. Why it’s so hard to pin down the effects of football on players’ lives.