Posts Tagged “public schools”

'One Nation, Under God: Remember, if you don't believe in God, you're not a REAL American. Keep prayer and God in school, where they belong!' / Image © Austin Cline, Licensed to About; Original Poster: University of GeorgiaIn case you haven’t heard, militant Christianism is alive and well in the US of A. Yes, even in the 21st century, a strangely medieval form of Christofascism is doing just fine, thank you — even though its sanctimoniously-enraged adherents insist, repeatedly (despite the facts), that Christianity is being wiped out and all Christians in the US are in dire peril of being slaughtered at any moment.

Or something like that. I think. Yeah, I know it sounds extreme, but they certainly believe all that. And they believe it fervently … so how could it possibly not be true?

Naturally, these folk focus on the future. Yes, they focus on the future they sincerely — but delusionally — fear (and lie about), the one in which Christianity no longer exists, because of vicious, evil “secular progressives” in concert with their (supposed) friends the radical Islamists; and they focus on the future they earnestly desire, one in which Christianity is alive and well, and their form of it is worshipped uniformly by everyone in the world (after first being made into the national religion of the US).

In order to bring about the latter future, the one they would love to bring about, they work hard at getting their Christianism into schools, assuring (they think) that the next generation will worship their Jesus the way they demand he be worshipped by everyone. It’s a game they’ve played for decades, and have persisted with, in spite of setbacks like Engel v. Vitale (1962) and Abington S.D. v. Schempp (1963). Little things like the rule of law don’t matter to American Christianists; they work for Jesus, you see, so they need not worry about such petty concerns.

This explains why the good Christianist folk of the good Christianist state of Arkansas passed a good Christianist law ensuring the good Christianist public-school students all see a good Christianist slogan* constantly. KARK-TV in Little Rock explains their good Christianist impulse (Archive.Is cached article):

The official motto of the U.S. written across our money and monuments could soon appear on the walls of Arkansas public schools.

A new law [cached] states elementary and secondary schools shall display a framed picture or poster of “In God We Trust” above an American flag in their libraries and classrooms.

The article includes a quote by a good Arkansas Christianist affirming the good Christianists’ desperate need for this law:

“It should be there,” said Sharon Sumpter from Mulberry. “We need to turn more back to our religion, our roots and why our country was founded.”

“If you take ‘In God We Trust’ out, I mean that’s basically telling them God’s dead, you know?,” said Doug Wilburn from North Little Rock.

This insane piece of drivel practically screams “illogic.” To be clear, Ms Sumpter: No, not seeing “In God We Trust” constantly does not — in fact — tell us that your God is dead. It just fucking doesn’t — and that you think it does, constitutes proof of your religionistic derangement.

The article goes on to explain the mechanism by which the good Christianists who wrote and passed this good Christianist law hope to make it legal:

Taxpayers won’t be fronting the bill for the new displays.

Act 911 states they either have to be donated from a private organization or purchased with funds made available through voluntary contributions to the local school boards or the Building Authority Division of the Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration.

Oh, and it’s not only schools that must display “In God We Trust” all over the place:

The law also requires the motto to appear in any public building that’s maintained or operated by state funds.

Whew! That was close! I was afraid, for a moment there, that only public-school kids in the good Christianist state of Arkansas would constantly be confronted by that good Christianist slogan*; I can be comforted knowing that any good Christianist in Arkansas who spends time in any state-funded building will be comforted by the constant sight of a good Christianist slogan*.

I sure am glad I don’t live in Arkansas. But if I did, it wouldn’t matter. I do not trust in the Christianists’ God — or any other, for that matter — nor will I ever do so, no matter how many times I’m told I must. I just won’t. And there’s absolutely nothing that American Christianists can do about it.

Nor can they change the fact that there are non-Christianists in the world … yes, even in their own precious and holy “Christian nation.” Waaah wah waah, little babies. Waah wah!

* I say “In God We Trust” is a “Christianist” slogan, because — well! — that’s exactly what it is! It was first put on US coins during the Civil War due to a religious impulse. It was later added to paper currency as the Cold War heated up, at the instigation of the Knights of Columbus.

Hat tip: Friendly Atheist.

Photo credit: Austin Cline/About.Com, aka ThoughtCo; Original: University of Georgia.

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'One Nation, Under God: Remember, if you don't believe in God, you're not a REAL American. Keep prayer and God in school, where they belong!' / Image © Austin Cline, Licensed to About; Original Poster: University of GeorgiaI’ve blogged a few times about Bible classes in public schools. The nation’s Christianists have long agitated against the Supreme Court’s 1963 decision in Abington School Dist. v. Schempp, which forbid the reading of Bible passages or reciting the Lord’s Prayer in public schools. Even decades later, militant Christianists throughout the country are still fighting back against that decision. They’ve consistently whined that Abington ripped the Bible out of public schools — which isn’t true — and have repeatedly pushed to get more Bible classes in more public schools throughout the country.

The reality is that lots of school systems have “Bible-as-secular-literature” courses. But many of them still run afoul of Abington. An example is the Mercer county, WV school system, which has a Bible course running through many grades, beginning in elementary school. The Freedom from Religion Foundation filed suit to end Mercer county’s Bible classes this past January (WebCite cached article). The FFRF’s complaint shows how the program’s lessons are more like Sunday-school religious lessons than “Bible-as-secular-literature.” After some wringing of hands over the last few months, as the Bluefield (WV) Daily Telegraph reports, Mercer county schools have decided to suspend the program for a year while they review its content (cached):

Mercer County’s Bible in the Schools program is being suspended for next year, providing time for a review of the optional class for elementary and middle school students.

Members of the board of education approved the suspension last night at their regular meeting.

“Since the Bible class is an elective, I would like to include community members and religious leaders along with our teachers in this process,” said Dr. Deborah Akers, superintendent of schools. “In order to conduct a thorough review, we need to allow at least a year to complete the task. Therefore, I am recommending that we suspend the elementary Bible classes until this review is completed.”

The way the schools got around the law on this is, as I see it, moderately clever. Their “Bible in the Public Schools” program is administered by the school system, but funded by private donations, with those funds paying the program’s teachers. They also say it’s an “elective,” but virtually every student takes it, which is undeniable evidence that it’s not actually an “elective” at all.

The Bluefield Daily Telegraph ran a second story to reassure readers this wasn’t necessarily the end of the program (cached). Rather pathetically, it lamented “the loss of jobs” due to the year suspension:

Although Mercer County schools administers the program, Pelts’ group raises money to pay the seven teachers, who will now be out of their jobs at least for next year.

“Right now, the loss of jobs for our teachers is heartbreaking,” said Pelts. “Our primary and immediate emphasis is to honor and show appreciation to our Bible teachers.”

The group raises almost $500,000 a year to pay for the program.

I don’t know about you, but that’s a staggering sum of money for a private fund to raise, just to pay for Bible classes in one Appalachian county. As of 2015, Mercer county’s population is a mere 60,000 or so. I can’t imagine those residents can consistently raise half a million dollars a year, just among themselves. It doesn’t seem plausible. Outside groups must be paying for this program.

If I may crib from my earlier remarks on this topic: As someone who’s studied the Bible, both as sacred and secular literature, I don’t dispute that “Bible-as-literature” classes add value to public schools. There’s no doubt whatever about that! Biblical allusions are common in other literature and art, and some of the Old Testament books serve as tremendous examples of etiology. Kids can certainly use this as a foundation for understanding other works.

The problem I have with public-school Bible classes is, I don’t trust the people — generally, devout Christians — who create curricula for, and teach, them. Many are motivated by a desire to proselytize. Even if they set out with the intention of keeping these classes completely secular, will they be able to resist the temptation to turn them into religious instruction? The ardency with which some of them have pressed to get such classes into public schools makes me question how truly committed they are to a secular approach to the Bible. I particularly find it suspicious that half a million dollars is spent annually, in little Mercer county, WV on this effort. That kind of money makes the whole thing appear very suspicious.

Photo credit: Austin Cline, Licensed to About.Com; Original Poster: University of Georgia.

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Gustave Doré, 'Godfrey Enters Jerusalem', via Art PassionsAs I’ve blogged already, the Great Neocrusade has broken open. Christianists around the country have had it with Islam and they’re just not going to put up with it any more. Many are exacting vigilante justice on their chief rival religion. Any whiff of anything being somehow pro-Islam has aroused their ire.

A great example of this is in Virginia. As Mediaite reports, the Augusta County School District closed all its schools today due to a torrent of militant Christianist outrage (WebCite cached article):

Augusta County School District in Virginia cancelled school Friday citing security concerns after a teacher’s lesson on calligraphy garnered hateful messages from across the country.

The assignment by Riverheads High School teacher Cheryl LaPorte asked students to copy the shahada, a Muslim statement of faith that translates as “there is no god but Allah, and Muhammad is the messenger of Allah.”

During a forum Tuesday night, parents expressed outrage over the school’s “indoctrination.” Augusta County parent Kimberly Herndon said the teacher took away the rights of the students, telling the forum, “if my truth can not be spoken in schools, I don’t want false doctrine spoken in schools.”

The teacher and the school district denied this was “indoctrination.” Instead, it was a calligraphy exercise … nothing more. Here is a scan of the offending lesson:

Scan of Riverheads High School lesson, relevant portion reads: 'Practicing Calligraphy: Here is the shahada, the Islamic statement of faith, written in Arabic. In the space below, try copying it by hand. This should give you an idea of the artistic complexity of calligraphy.' / via Mediaite

Scan of Riverheads High School lesson, relevant portion reads: ‘Practicing Calligraphy: Here is the shahada, the Islamic statement of faith, written in Arabic. In the space below, try copying it by hand. This should give you an idea of the artistic complexity of calligraphy.’ / via Mediaite

The value of this lesson is explained within its text: By asking the student to try replicating this calligraphic shahada, students will find out something about Arabic calligraphy, in a way they never could, merely by reading descriptions of how it’s done.

While the shahada, literally “testimony,” is one of the Pillars of Islam and therefore has religious significance for Muslims, having to replicate it does not — contrary to common Christian belief — automatically make one a Muslim. No one can convert to any religion, Islam included, against his or her will. There is no magic inherent in speaking or writing out the shahada … or any other ritual phrase from any religion, for that matter. Saying the shahada publicly can signify one has converted to Islam, but this must be intentional.

Allow me to demonstrate by typing out the shahada myself (in English):

There is no god but God. Muhammad is the messenger of God.

There. Done. Now … does this make me a Muslim? No. It doesn’t. I remain as non-religious as I’ve ever been. I’ve never had any intention of joining Islam or living by its precepts, and I will continue never being part of it and never obeying it.

Now, if I can do this and not magically be made a Muslim, then Riverheads High School students aren’t going to be magically made Muslims by trying to copy out the shahada in Arabic script. Hence, there is no indoctrination here. None. Not a fucking speck of it!

I find it amazing that so many Christians — a lot of whom don’t even think al-Lah, Islam’s deity, is real — could actually be afraid of the supposed magical power of one of Islam’s ritual phrases. It’s almost laughable. (Please note: Truthfully, Jews, Muslims and Christians all effectively worship the same deity, the God of Abraham. They just think differently about him.)

It’s long past time for American Christendom to fucking grow the hell up already and stop caterwauling about shit they cannot change. Islam exists; it’s not going away; there are lots of Muslims in the world; and it’s best just to accept that reality rather than continue bellyaching against it.

Photo credit: Top, Art Passions; middle, Mediaite.

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Santa Claus in a parade in Toronto 2007 dsc128This year’s edition of the annual phantasmal “war on Christmas” continues to be waged across the country. The latest battleground is in San Jose, CA. A mother’s complaint, the San Jose Mercury News reports, led to the cancellation of a kindergarten class field trip to see Santa … and other parents are furious (WebCite cached version):

A Santa storm is brewing in San Jose.

After a field trip to visit Santa Claus by kindergarten students at Sartorette Elementary School was canceled by administrators on the heels of a complaint by one Jewish mother, things are getting ugly down on Woodford Drive.

Angry parents plan to descend on the board meeting Thursday, threatening a student walkout Friday if the Cambrian School District’s board fails to reinstate the annual Santa trip. The woman who made the complaint, who identified herself only as Talia and declined to be interviewed Wednesday evening, stood by her claim that having kids write or visit Santa unfairly imposes one religion on all students. She fired off an angry letter Dec. 7 to fellow parents at the charter school, alleging she was “ambushed by a group of moms from Ms. Kay’s class” who she said yelled at her for “ruining Santa for the kids.”

As is very common in these cases, those who see nothing wrong with public-school kids being paraded annually up on Santa’s lap rely on appeals to tradition (e.g. “They’ve always done this at Sartorette!”) as well as appeals to the masses:

“It’s very upsetting that the district would act after taking one person’s opinion and not talking to the 500 other families at the school,” said Melanie Scott, mother of a first-grader who took the field trip last year.

Both of these lines of thinking are fallacious; just because something has always been done or always been thought, doesn’t make it acceptable or correct; and just because many people approve of something, likewise doesn’t make it proper.

I love how Christianists accuse the complaining mother of “ruining Santa for the kids.” That whine makes no sense. If parents want their kids to sit on Santa’s lap, there’s nothing preventing them from taking their kids to a mall or some other place and doing so! Neither this mother’s complaint, nor the field trip’s cancellation, changes that … at all. They’re as free to do so as they’ve ever been. How and why are they claiming otherwise?

The obvious question to be asked is, if these parents are so vehement about making sure their kids sit on Santa’s lap, why aren’t they willing to make that happen on their own time? Why do they require the school to get it done for them? Why divert kids’ learning time to something that could be done elsewhere? I just don’t get it. I can only assume it has something to do with a latent desire for communal reinforcement; that is, they’re not so much concerned with whether or not their own kid(s) get to sit on Santa’s lap this year, but rather, whether or not their kid(s)’ entire class must do so.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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Grundy Cty High School / WCRB-TVThe problem of Christofascists imposing their religion on public school kids is an old one. It continues, especially in the South, in spite of court decisions like Engel v Vitale (1962) and Abington SD v Schempp (1963).

Let’s face it, people who are fanatic enough tend not to fucking care whether their desire to impress their religious beliefs on other people is legal or not. All they’re aware of is their rabid impulse to spread the gospel — which, they fantasize, no on else on earth could ever possibly have heard before. And when these fanatics are thwarted, they don’t take it well. The latest example of this, as WCRB-TV in Chattanooga TN reports, illuminates this tendency quite clearly (WebCite cached article):

“Bible Man” is known as a staple in Grundy County Schools. His name is Horace Turner, and he’s been visiting there for decades. But now his visits are raising legal red flags.

National groups warn that his message is unconstitutional. Many local supporters are fighting to keep his mission alive. But not everyone is comfortable with “Bible Man” in the classroom.

“We don’t want people to be mad, we just want people to make sure there’s an alternative something for the kids to do,” said one Grundy County mom. She didn’t want to be identified for fear of community backlash for her non-Christian views.

She said Bible Man’s religious convocations at her son’s school were uncomfortable. They included religious teachings like songs and Baby Jesus displays. Their family is Atheist.

“At first he did not know that he didn’t have to go,” she said. “As he got older, it bothered him that he had to sit through this because it’s not his religion.”

The good folk at WCRB helpfully tried to make it seem as though this unconstitutional practice was just fine:

Bible Man has been visiting Grundy County Schools for nearly 40 years without any problems, until recently.

The problem with that defense, of course, is that just because something has been done — even for a very long time — cannot and will never automatically make it right or legal. To think so is to fall for an appeal to tradition, and it’s fallacious. This ought to be glaringly obvious: For instance, for thousands of years, humanity thought the earth was at the center of a universe only a few thousand miles in diameter. We now know this not to be the case. Are we to dispense with modern astronomical science, because it conflicts with thousands of years of tradition? Of course not!

But really, all of this is an old story. As I said, Christianists hammering their Jesus into public schools is old news in many parts of the country. That it was happening in Grundy county, TN is unsurprising at best. The real point of this story, though, is this:

While the concerned mom says she’s glad it’s being addressed, she still worries about the lack of acceptance for those who don’t support Bible Man.

She points to threats made on Facebook against her child that include pictures of a burning house.

“We just can’t get over how much hate there is in their loving, Christian hearts,” she said.

Ah yes. There we have it. “Christian love” at its finest: Threatening people. Indeed, this is the “religion of love” doing what it does best — demanding deference, if not abject surrender, from everyone and everything else, and launching into full-bore sanctimonious rage when it doesn’t get it.

I can’t think of a finer example of the utter failure of Christianity to live up to its own professed ideals. Can it really be the divine religion its followers say it is? I can’t see how. It just doesn’t work.

All I can say to you Christianists is: By all means, please keep up your whining, bellyaching, sniveling and threatening! I can’t think of any better way for you keep showing — for the entire world to see — what’s really wrong with your fierce, dour religionism.

Hat tip: Raw Story.

Photo credit: WCRB-TV.

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A historical event that Jefferson County schools would not be able to teach kids (In case you were taught by Jefferson County schools, or for some other reason don't recognize it, this was the fall of the Berlin Wall) / PsiCop modification of Sue Ream photo, via Wikimedia CommonsConservatives have strange ideas about how teaching works. For instance, a lot of them think teaching evolution in science classes — which is currently the only known scientific explanation for our planet’s diverse life forms — is a form of persecution against Christianity and part of an effort to abolish that religion. Also, a lot of them think teaching kids things like slavery will cause kids to hate their country or something. They also worry that teaching kids about things will somehow force them to do them; e.g. teaching kids about communism will convert them to communism.

That the teaching of history, in particular, doesn’t work the way conservatives think it does, should be rather obvious. For instance, my 4 years in university learning medieval history didn’t make me into a crossbowman, swordsman or jouster, even though I learned about medieval military methods and read about a lot of tournaments.

An example of the outright-fucking insanity that erupts when conservatives get their hands on history curricula can be seen in this report by the New York Times on recent actions by the Jefferson County, Colorado school board (WebCite cached article):

A new conservative school board majority here in the Denver suburbs recently proposed a curriculum-review committee to promote patriotism, respect for authority and free enterprise and to guard against educational materials that “encourage or condone civil disorder.” In response, hundreds of students, teachers and parents gave the board their own lesson in civil disobedience.

On Tuesday, hundreds of students from high schools across the Jefferson County school district, the second largest in Colorado, streamed out of school and along busy thoroughfares, waving signs and championing the value of learning about the fractious and tumultuous chapters of American history.

“It’s gotten bad,” said Griffin Guttormsson, a junior at Arvada High School who wants to become a teacher and spent the school day soliciting honks from passing cars. “The school board is insane. You can’t erase our history. It’s not patriotic. It’s stupid.”

The Times article explains that the board’s conservative majority (3 to 2) has been stirring up trouble for several months, including driving out a 12-year superintendent. They’re really angry, and appear to have fallen for the prevailing conservative myth that public schools are nothing more than Marxist indoctrination camps.

In addition to the false notion that teaching kids about civil disobedience will force them all to become perpetually “civilly disobedient,” they appear to forget that civil disobedience has been used to promote conservative ideals and even to bring about changes that American conservatives approve of. Have they forgotten so soon about things like a western Rightist’s decades-long unrepentant refusal to obey federal law (cached) — a sterling example of civil disobedience if ever there was one? Or about the “Brooks Brothers riot” (in which Rightists working for G.W. Bush campaign used civil disobedience to try to derail the 2000 election recount in Florida)? Or have they forgotten about protests around the world, especially in eastern Europe, that toppled many communist regimes in 1989? Or even that many of their own number want the incumbent president removed from office, and wouldn’t object to civil disobedience or even revolt in order to make that happen?

My guess is, they’re blissfully unaware of this. They tend to be authoritarian, and demand unthinking adherence to authority. That they sometimes, themselves, object to some authority figures just doesn’t register with them all that often. In other words, they’re hypocrites — fiercely decrying civil disobedience if they find it inconvenient, but using it like a tool whenever they feel as though they can. Wah wah wah, little babies.

Photo credit: PsiCop modification of Sue Ream photo, via Wikimedia Commons.

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MeditatingDespite the fact that it’s relatively common … and mostly done in a completely non-religious way in the occidental world … there are Christians out there who can’t get over yoga. They don’t understand that, while it did originate within Hindu religious tradition, yoga can be — and almost always is — non-religious. They object to it anyway, just because they think they can.

A couple years ago I blogged about evangelical theologian R. Albert Mohler going on a tear against it, but he’s hardly alone. As the (UK) Telegraph reports, some Christians in California are suing their local school district because it plans to have yoga as part of the phys-ed curriculum (WebCite cached article):

The Encinitas Union School District plans to offer yoga instruction at all of its nine schools from January, despite a protest by parents who say they believe it will indoctrinate their children in Eastern religion.

The growing popularity of yoga is forcing US public schools to address the question of whether it is a religious practice or simply exercise.

The parents have their reasons … which are incomprehensible:

Mary Eady, a parent who has pulled her child out of yoga classes, said the pupils were learning to worship the sun and it was “inappropriate in our public schools.”

I’m not sure how or why Ms Eady thinks yoga is “sun worship.” She might be referring — perhaps — to something like Surya Namaskara, which might be called a yoga practice … however, it is, at best, a subset of yoga, and is certainly not the entirety of yoga.

It’s actually not uncommon for fundamentalist Christians to dismiss or condemn things they dislike as “sun worship.” They similarly dismiss Islam as “moon worship.” I’m not sure why, but they do.

In any event, as I blogged previously, these Christians forget that a lot of the meditative practices which are part of yoga, also happen to be traditional within Christianity … particularly in the monastic and mendicant movements. In other words, they’re condemning something that can also be found within their own religion. The meditative practices of Christian monks, friars, nuns, etc. may not be something these fundamentalist Christians are personally familiar with, but they’re no less “Christian” than any of their own rites or practices. That they’re ignorant of their own religion’s traditions, is the real problem here.

Photo credit: RelaxingMusic, via Flickr.

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