Tuesday, March 10, 2009

What Would You Say?

The rallying cry "put prayer back in schools" can sometimes be heard across the land. The proponents of such a measure will say that the country has gone to heck in a handbasket since prayer was removed from school.

And perhaps in areas where 99% or even 100% of the children attending the school share a religious background it might make sense.

Our school is not that homogeneous. So the question would naturally become "what prayer?" "whose god?" Because in our school it's not even a matter of different Christian denominations with a few Jewish people thrown in for good measure. No there are Muslims and Hindus as well. And probably other beliefs that I'm not even aware of.

This came to mind today because of an incident when I was helping in the school library. A second grade boy asked his teacher (who I happen to know to be Catholic) if God was just a fairy tale. She raised her hands in dismay and rolled her eyes and said "Heavens no, who told you that?"

"My Dad," responds the boy. "He just believes in science."

The teacher turns to me and says "Can you believe a parent teaching their child that?"

I didn't say anything, but I can see a parent teaching their child that if that is what the parent believes. And perhaps that same parent would be appalled that someone else's child is being taught there is a God.

Another boy piped up. "His Dad believes in the devil though."

"You can't have the devil without God," I answered.

The teacher agreed.

"My Dad is from Africa," the first boy said.

Then someone else came to the desk and I didn't hear the rest of the conversation between the boy and his teacher. I did hear something to the effect of "that's not what your mother believes, you should listen to her."

I don't know this boy's family. I don't know what his father believes. But I can see the conversation that could go on tonight.

"I asked the teacher if God was a fairy tale and she said no. She said I shouldn't listen to you."

Now imagine if the teacher was an atheist and a child asked if there was a God. Then the conversation at home would go like this "I asked the teacher if God was real, but she said he's a fairy tale and that I shouldn't listen to you."

Just something to think about.


PJ Hoover said...

There is some serious humor here, Chris.
Seriously, though, religion can have SO MANY opinions. IMHO, the teacher should have kept her mouth shut. It's not her place. Teaching your kid your own religious views is not abuse. It's no different than teaching your kid your own morals. Or your own bad habits. Or good habits. It's a parent's right.

That said, if the kid does come home and mention it to his parents, I hope they have a nice, open discussion about it.

(Wow, my verification word starts with "SIN". Is that a message?)

Welcome back to blogging :)

Christine M said...

Yes, the teacher should have kept her mouth shut - or answered in a slightly more diplomatic way.

And this is why when people complain about religion being out of the public schools I just kind of shrug. Because - whose religion would you be teaching?

Not to say that the discussion of religion should be banned from school. Celebrate and learn about the diversity that is out there - but let the religious guidance come from the parents.

I think that your word verification started with SIN is definitely a message. Not sure of what.

(and thanks on the welcome back - I'll try to be a good blogger from now on)

kkolshorn said...

I personally believe that this teacher should fired. I hope that if the boy goes home and starts a conversation with his parents that they go to the school and complain. I lost faith in organized religion a long time ago and people like her are why. I still have a strong belief in God, but the people that feel their religious beliefs are the only ones is what made me leave the church, and I have no intentions that to back. I think that you hae some very valid points. It also makes sense that someone from Africa would feel this way. I don't think that religion should ever be brought up in a school setting because there are too many and obviously as proven today too much ignorance. I think PJ said it well. This parent isn't abusing his kid. He told him what he believes. I think this teacher did more harm than the father. She also shouldn't tell a kid to listen to one parents view over the other. It is no wonder why there are more and more people homeschooling their children. If teachers can't be open minded and know enough to keep their mouth shut, I wouldn't send my child there to go to school.

Liz B said...

The teacher shouldn't have said it; was it in front of the child? But I also wouldn't get into a god/devil discussion with a child. Religion & children in public places -- I take a smile & nod view, change the topic.

A school isn't the place to reinforce religion -- but a school also shouldn't be saying yes/no about a family's choices or getting into religious dogma discussions. If a parent wants that (or a teacher) they should attend a religious school.

Christine M said...

Kris, I don't think the teacher should be fired, though I totally agree that her response was not appropriate.

At the same time I know enough about this kid to know he's the kind who likes to push buttons and get a reaction - and that's the way this question came across. It was not really a sincere "I'm trying to figure out the Universe" kind of question.

And, yes, Liz, the comment was made in front of the child.

I agree that a public school is not the place to get into dogma discussions. Of course at the same time I don't think a teacher - or anyone - has to deny their own beliefs because someone has conflicting ones. Smile and nod works a lot of the time. Sometimes an answer is required.

The teacher was asked a direct question - which she answered. She just could have done it in a little more diplomatic way. A simple "I don't believe God is a fairy tale," would have been a fair and safe answer, as far as I can see.

kkolshorn said...

To go with what you said at the end of your post. If the teacher was atheist and answered the question that way, I guarantee you there would be quite the uproar. It could have meant her job. I am not saying she should deny her beliefs, but she was obviously trying to push them to an extent. Like Liz said, if she wants that go to teach at a religous school. I would concerned to do it in a public school forum. Heck, people even got yoga removed from a public school because if has a religious affiliation and the religious part wasn't even being taught. Even if this kid pushes buttons, she must have been loud enough in her response that other children heard as one kid did respond about the devil. She is lucky that someone with power with other beliefs kid wasn't involved or she would be looking for jobs along with the many who didn't do something stupid to lose their job.