Monday, December 18, 2006

Remember, Scopes LOST his trial level case

Imagine, if you will, you are a young man, a student in a public high school. Your teacher starts preaching in class. Again. Your father is a lawyer, so you have an idea that he's not supposed to do that; what with concepts such as Separation of Church and State, and Supreme Court decisions and the like. This time, you've brought a tape recorder to school, so you have proof that the teacher is preaching. You record him explaining how a Muslim girl would go to Hell, and saying things such as "If you reject his gift of salvation, then you know where you belong... He did everything in his power to make sure that you could go to heaven, so much so that he took your sins on his own body, suffered your pains for you, and he's saying 'Please accept me, believe.' If you reject that, you belong in hell." You record several weeks of this, at which time you turn the tapes in to the proper authorities. (From the NY Times)

As a result of this, you are attacked verbally, you receive at least one death threat, and you see the majority of the community line up on the teacher's side. You get to hear detractors argue that you were "baiting" your teacher, and that the school district will take "corrective action," against the teacher, but won't explain what that action is.

Look, I don't care what a teacher's faith is. I don't care how strong their faith is. What I do know is that in a public education forum, you teach to students of many faiths, not just yours. As a result of that, you must be very careful about what discussions you lead in class.

I don't buy the "student baited me" argument, either. First off, there must have been a reason if he were to bait you - that you started making a comment that he would then follow up - it's a little too hard for me to understand why a student would arbitrarily start baiting a teacher to try to get him in trouble for violating the church-state boundaries. Second, if there was, indeed baiting, then you are a poor schoolteacher. You need to have better control of your class than to let them guide where the discussions will go.

I also think it's more likely that a teacher with an agenda would use a cornered audience to press forward his message than a student and his father would concoct a plan to discredit the teacher by drawing him into religious conversations specifically with the plan of challenging him and attempting to set up a lawsuit that might make the Supreme Court (as one person suggested).

There is nothing wrong with faith. But the faith of a person in a supervisory/master position needs to be contained from the subordinate/servant. Just ask yourself who you would think would be more likely to get a poor grade - the Muslim girl who's going to hell, or the good Christian who is saved because his faith matches that of his teacher. If the teacher can't keep the discussion out of the classroom, then how could he be reasonably expected to keep it out of his mind when grading papers? What this teacher allegedly did is wrong not just on the proselytizing level, though that's where this will get the bulk of the attention.


Alex over at The Gun Toting Liberal has another excellent post, on point with this teacher and the community's apparent insanity right HERE. Go check it out.


Gramma said...

This subject comes up so often! And I get sick and tired of those emails forwarded to me about "putting prayer back in the classroom". Personal prayer has always been allowed in the classroom. I usually ask people if they would prefer to have a Buddhist or Muslim or Jewish, or any one of a thousand others (including the Church of Satan!) teacher in their child's classroom, teaching their prayers and religion. It is my job, not the classroom teacher's job, to teach my faith to my children. And we always have the option of private religious schools if we can't be bothered to teach our children ourselves.

Hannelie said...

Gramma I agree, I believe it's the parents job too and if they want the school involve they can go to a private religious one. We do have people of different beliefs visiting our public schools but parents need to give permission in which one their kids are involved in.

English Professor said...

I heard a similar story on NPR the other day, about a Muslim girl in the 4th grade and what she endured after 9-11. In that case, the teacher brought out the "going to hell if you don't believe" lesson via the candy cane, explaining to the class that the red represents Jesus's blood--and that if you don't claim that blood, then it's damnation for you. The poor girl had already endured enough torment from her classmates, but now they got to add "going to hell" to it. It was awful.

(Heard on "This American Life."

Bellejar said...

There is a really great book on the Scopes Trial called SUmmer of the Gods, one of my favorite lawschool profs won a pulitzer for it. There was a prayer at football games case in 00' that I remember. Same type of arguments, just ridiculous all of it.