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Biblical Assignment in Public School, Opinions Please

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posted on Oct, 8 2008 @ 12:14 AM
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Hi All,

I hope I'm posting in the correct forum. I've just helped my 8th grade daughter with her homework and I'd like some opinions on the assignment.

Her assignment was to read a story in her literature textbook. The story was Flowers for Algernon, by Daniel Keyes. (Flowers for Algernon on Wikipedia)

The story is about a man who undergoes surgery to increase his intelligence by artificial means.

At the end of the chapter, one of the questions my daughter was instructed to answer was this:

"How are Charlie's experiences similar to those of Adam and Eve in the Bible. You may want to compare his description with the biblical account in Genesis 2:25 - 3:24. "

So, here's the deal. I do not believe in organized religion and have not made biblical teachings part of my children's lives. The fact that my daughter was asked to use the Bible as reference material bothers me on many levels.

First, it assumes the whole class has a Bible available.

Second, isn't there supposed to be a rule about teaching religion in school?

Third, the concept being referenced is Original Sin, which I completely disagree with and would not impart to my children as fact.

Fourth, no other religious texts or any alternative theories were referenced or offered as a balance.

We ended up getting out the Bible (yes, we have a copy) and having a long discussion about this. But I'm just very bothered by the fact that her homework assignment required biblical teaching.

Any thoughts? I'll probably speak with the principal tomorrow and would really like some opinions before I go.

Thanks




posted on Oct, 8 2008 @ 12:21 AM
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Looks like you've answered your own question.

If your daughter feels the same way as you, then she could write down that same thing.

If not, then perhaps she could simply write that she is unfamiliar with the Bible story and doesn't know how to answer.

Either way, I would call and visit her teacher, or someone higher up on the hierarchy, and express your feelings.

I would also investigate whether the teacher wrote the question or it is part of a curriculum chosen by the school or district-- while teachers are not forbidden from talking abotu their religion, they are not suposed to make it part of the curriculum in apublic school.

Edit--when you go talk to the school officials, I would try hard to avoid a theological debate. I'd leave out original sin as a talking point.

[edit on 8-10-2008 by asmeone2]



posted on Oct, 8 2008 @ 12:22 AM
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Well you could totally turn it around and bring up the concept of ALiens coming down and 'creating' humans, teaching them how to talk and read. But they told the humans to not play the knowledge tapes 'cause we weren't supposed to know about the rest of the universe, they didn't want us developing space flight TOO quickly, and relate it to the tree of knowledge in a metaphorical sense.

So Charles undergoing surgery to become smarter may open up some doors that you just can't close.. or get thrown out of gardens never to return..

Just a thought. Frankly I think the bible is no different from any other book and most households would have one on this continent. Which makes it easier to use as a common reference.



[edit on 2008/10/8 by juniperberry]



posted on Oct, 8 2008 @ 12:23 AM
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Definitely speak with the principal! The reason there is not supposed to be this kind of thing in a public school is because children with backgrounds of many faiths as well as those with none attend the same school. If you do not choose to send your child to a parochial school, then religious education is supposed to be handled at home or the church of your choice. If the principal does not correct this, go to the next school board meeting and contact the media. In the ensuing circus, this will definitely be put to a halt!! Keep us posted on how it turns out!



posted on Oct, 8 2008 @ 12:27 AM
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reply to post by asmeone2
 


Thanks for your thoughts. The question is directly out of the book, on a page with other questions after the story that she was also assigned to answer. None of the other questions dealt with religion at all, so this really surprised me.



posted on Oct, 8 2008 @ 12:31 AM
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If the assignment question had referenced a different body of literature, would your reaction have been the same?

Here's how I see it.

In no way am I religious. I consider the Bible a collection of stories. To me, being asked to reference the Bible would be the same as being asked to reference a famous poem and "compare the literature I've read to line four, sonnet two" or what have you. The teacher isn't asking your daughter to pick up the bible and read it. She's asking your daughter to expand her mind regarding a well known "story" and passage, which could (in some ways) be like referencing a paragraph in a text book.

Your daughter could study Shakespeare and you could argue that you don't believe in his work. I don't see much of a difference.

I think it's wrong for the teacher to assume everyone has a bible in their house, but in her defense there is the internet.

I don't think it's a bad thing for you to bring it up, but these things are going to happen, especially if she attends a post secondary school. You can fight it now, but not forever.



posted on Oct, 8 2008 @ 12:31 AM
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Originally posted by AmethystWolf
reply to post by asmeone2
 


Thanks for your thoughts. The question is directly out of the book, on a page with other questions after the story that she was also assigned to answer. None of the other questions dealt with religion at all, so this really surprised me.


That book is quite old... is it possible it's just a hangover from a more concervative era when the book was published? Or perhaps the publisher is religiously affiliated and put that in?



posted on Oct, 8 2008 @ 12:33 AM
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I'd say blessings sometime come disguised as a curse.

Yes, it does appear that the assignment was out of line. I strongly encourage you to mention it tomorrow. But before you go tearing flesh from bone in search of some perceived righteousness, think about this for a moment:

You got a chance to talk things over with your daughter. And you may have needed that. My daughter was secure in her belief systems at that age, since we had had many discussions of "This is what I believe. What do you think?"

Now, I'm not faulting you, so please don't take this as an attack. I simply think that this situation may have been a good thing in ways you hadn't thought about. As a parent, I believe it is your responsibility to teach your children about religious views, not the schools. And because of this episode, you did just that.

So my advice would be to definitely go to the school, and definitely let the teacher know that he/she is treading on thin ice by interjecting their beliefs into the lessons. Chances are, they didn't even realize they were doing, and by calling attention to it you may be helping them out as well. But I would be calm and reasonable as well, remembering that, while you have a legitimate complaint, you have a reason to be thankful that this happened.

I would also suggest you try to leave personal religious views out of the discussion altogether. The problem is not whether or not Christianity is correct, but whether any personal religious beliefs should be allowed in a secular public school. This way, you bypass any religious intolerance that may or may not be present and avoid turning a policy discussion into a test of wills and faith.

My best to you.

TheRedneck



posted on Oct, 8 2008 @ 12:36 AM
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reply to post by JaxonRoberts
 


We actually have a Pagan household, though I don't participate in any organized religious activities. I have taught my children a bit about religion as I see it, relating to nature, the seasons, and personal responsibility. I've also shared my feelings on Christianity with them over the years. I've made it a point to discuss the parallels between Christianity and Paganism over the years as we celebrate common holidays.

I try to be very open with them but it really bothers me that a book of the Bible was presented as a reference point in her public school. As you mentioned it doesn't take into account that children of many faiths could be in that classroom.

My daughter and I ended up discussing the story of Adam and Eve tonight and how it may or may not fit with the fact that mainstream religion today lacks identification with any Goddess figure (with the exception of Mary). You can't go too deep with a 13 year old, but she was ready to discuss some of it.

I live in a really tiny redneck town of 2400 people. Most of the community is Christian. When my oldest daughter was younger, I had to call the teacher about a spelling/definition assignment that said the definition of Heathen was Pagan. Sigh.



posted on Oct, 8 2008 @ 12:37 AM
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Originally posted by asmeone2

That book is quite old... is it possible it's just a hangover from a more concervative era when the book was published? Or perhaps the publisher is religiously affiliated and put that in?


The story was republished in a text book: Elements of Literature by Holt. Second Course.



posted on Oct, 8 2008 @ 12:42 AM
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Originally posted by Malzypants
If the assignment question had referenced a different body of literature, would your reaction have been the same?

Here's how I see it.

In no way am I religious. I consider the Bible a collection of stories. To me, being asked to reference the Bible would be the same as being asked to reference a famous poem and "compare the literature I've read to line four, sonnet two" or what have you. The teacher isn't asking your daughter to pick up the bible and read it. She's asking your daughter to expand her mind regarding a well known "story" and passage, which could (in some ways) be like referencing a paragraph in a text book.

Your daughter could study Shakespeare and you could argue that you don't believe in his work. I don't see much of a difference.

I think it's wrong for the teacher to assume everyone has a bible in their house, but in her defense there is the internet.

I don't think it's a bad thing for you to bring it up, but these things are going to happen, especially if she attends a post secondary school. You can fight it now, but not forever.


Thats the thing, though. My daughter didn't know the story so this assignment did require her to pick up the Bible and read it.

I think the difference is that we aren't supposed to have a separation between Shakespeare and State. But I'm not sure how much that applies to public schools. I was always under the impression that religion was only allowed to be taught if a balanced view was presented. This wasn't balanced and the Bible verses she was instructed to read happen to be directly opposed to the values of our family. Overall, it was a good discussion we had tonight though, so some good has come of the assignment.

Thanks for your thoughts - I really do appreciate the input as I process this.



posted on Oct, 8 2008 @ 12:44 AM
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reply to post by AmethystWolf
 


I think you are getting worked up over nothing. The teacher is comparing one book to another book. Reading the story of Adam and Eve is not going to instantly turn your child into a Christian anymore than reading Dr Seuss would instantly make them insane.

Why not just look at the lesson as comparing one work of fiction to another? I don't see why you would need to turn it into some taboo subject that can't be discussed.



posted on Oct, 8 2008 @ 12:48 AM
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reply to post by TheRedneck
 


I agree. As I mentioned above, I do teach my children about religion - albeit in a less traditional way than most but we don't have a mainstream religion.


We did end of having a good discussion as a result of this assignment. So, some good has come of it. I just feel so uncomfortable about the indoctrination. How many kids just did the assignment without talking to their parents? And, how many felt strange or different if they didn't know this Bible story? I resent the presentation as fact of something that I believe to be patently false - especially to impressionable young minds.

But, yes - levelheadedness is called for, I know that. And yeah, I think it is wise to leave religious views out of the discussion tomorrow.



posted on Oct, 8 2008 @ 01:21 AM
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Originally posted by AmethystWolf
reply to post by asmeone2
 


Thanks for your thoughts. The question is directly out of the book, on a page with other questions after the story that she was also assigned to answer. None of the other questions dealt with religion at all, so this really surprised me.


For what it's worth, if the other questions didn't deal with religion at all you might want to chalk the assignment up to one of comparative literature, not proselytizing.

Are there a number of questions that force the student to use the Bible as a resource? I don't see the concern if the Bible is referenced as just one book amongst many. On the other hand, if there is a pattern of basing assignments on the Bible there may be a reason for concern.

This brings up an interesting question. Is the Bible ever appropriate in a public school? I would think that it is. It wouldn't make much sense to not discuss the Ten Commandments when also studying the Hammurabi (sp?) Code. I wouldn't find it odd to study the Song of Solomon next to Shakespeare's sonnets.

Eric



posted on Oct, 8 2008 @ 01:33 AM
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Originally posted by TheRedneck

I would also suggest you try to leave personal religious views out of the discussion altogether. The problem is not whether or not Christianity is correct, but whether any personal religious beliefs should be allowed in a secular public school.



Well not entirely. She said that she had a problem with the Christian idea of Original Sin, as metaphored (made that up) by that biblical account. So it is, for her, an issue with Christianity as well, as she doesn't think this belief is good for her daughter.

*edit: I am speaking out of line and in her behalf. Feel free to ignore this


[edit on 8-10-2008 by Lucid Lunacy]



posted on Oct, 8 2008 @ 08:25 AM
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reply to post by Lucid Lunacy

I see your point, Lucid, but if this exchange is couched in terms of "My religion is better than your religion", it could turn quickly into a shouting match and nothing will be accomplished besides bruising egos and drawing new lines. The purpose is to show how this crosses the line. AmethystWolf was absolutely correct that others might not even have a Bible, or may not understand the concept of the 'original sin'. And these others might not have a parent who is willing to discuss things with their child. They would be the true victims, and I have to admire anyone who is wiling to take a stand that includes others more than themselves.

This is little different from my daughter's old English teacher requiring Internet access and computer-printed essays a few years ago. It placed a large burden on me, since we were besieged by other kids who didn't have a printer or Internet at home and began asking to use ours. That ink can get expensive. So I set up a parent-teacher conference and the issue was resolved. Peacefully. She simply did not realize how many people around this area don't yet even own a computer.

This school no doubt isn't even aware that this type of questioning is a problem for anyone. For those familiar with Christianity, the whole idea of the story of Adam and Eve becomes second-nature. So we are not discussing some purposeful indoctrination, but rather a simple lack of understanding. And just as a lack of understanding combined with a flair for conflict has placed the USA under Bush in a position of fighting the entire world, so a similar approach will place AmethystWolf at odds with the entire school. That will accomplish nothing constructive.

There is a time and place for conflict, and a time and place for reason.

TheRedneck



posted on Oct, 8 2008 @ 09:45 AM
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Damn I love this site. It was good to be able to bounce this off of you all. I've made a list of talking points so that I can stay on track when speaking with the principal today. This issue does have the potential of getting off track if I allow too many of my personal feelings about religion to get in the way of the real issue. The real issue, as I see it, is that this is inappropriate in a public school setting, not just for my daughter.

My challenge now is determining my expectation. I'm not going to go in there and request that they stop using this book. Maybe a discussion in class about the question and why it is not appropriate for all students would be the best solution. I'm not sure and I plan to let the principal take the lead on what action will be taken. Even if no action is taken, I don't think I'll push this beyond sharing my initial thoughts. But, you can bet I'll be paying close attention to see if similar things happen this year. If it keeps happening, then we'll have an issue. This could be a simple case of the school disctrict just not realizing that this assignment wrong, I hope so.

Its tough being a parent - balancing the values you hold dear with the best interest of your child. Like, I don't want to make her stand out and get ridiculed cause she has "that crazy Pagan mama"



posted on Oct, 12 2008 @ 07:07 AM
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Originally posted by JaxonRoberts
Definitely speak with the principal! The reason there is not supposed to be this kind of thing in a public school is because children with backgrounds of many faiths as well as those with none attend the same school. If you do not choose to send your child to a parochial school, then religious education is supposed to be handled at home or the church of your choice. If the principal does not correct this, go to the next school board meeting and contact the media. In the ensuing circus, this will definitely be put to a halt!! Keep us posted on how it turns out!


Exactly. I'm atheist and while I don't completely care what religion it was, it still shouldn't be there. In a private school, where you can control the belief systems you allow into your school, it's just fine, but in a public school, you're dealing with more than just one religion and more than just one background. Not everyone is raised Christian and people need to realize the Bible is not learned in every home, nor cared about by everyone. That would bother me on a certain level, but if you were say, Hindu, that might be downright offensive.



posted on Oct, 12 2008 @ 07:16 AM
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Originally posted by AmethystWolf
My challenge now is determining my expectation. I'm not going to go in there and request that they stop using this book. Maybe a discussion in class about the question and why it is not appropriate for all students would be the best solution. I'm not sure and I plan to let the principal take the lead on what action will be taken. Even if no action is taken, I don't think I'll push this beyond sharing my initial thoughts. But, you can bet I'll be paying close attention to see if similar things happen this year. If it keeps happening, then we'll have an issue. This could be a simple case of the school disctrict just not realizing that this assignment wrong, I hope so.


Rightfully, you shouldn't get in to a religious debate, that never goes anywhere with anyone who truly believes anything. Because I am truly atheist, I don't see using the Bible for reference wrong if you were speaking to adults who are more set in their beliefs, unless they're immature. The problem was with using this subtle reference with children, it's much more like trying to sneak in some brainwashing under the radar. There are many good pieces of literature that could have been used to get the same point across. What I would do, if I were you was talk privately to the principal and the teacher at the same time, and calmly just explain you don't think that with the social stigma and debate attached to the Bible that it should be used in public schools, where it could potentially offend someone who doesn't believe that way. If you handle it cool, don't lose your temper, the reaction shouldn't be too bad. If they are both Christians and you explain yourself right, there shouldn't be a big deal, seeing as how Christians in general aren't raging animals ready to go off on an unbeliever. After that, just watch and see. I would explain to my child the reason that was a tacky move, and leave it at that. Really, the child's understanding of the situatin matters more than whether the situation arises again, in my opinion.



Its tough being a parent - balancing the values you hold dear with the best interest of your child. Like, I don't want to make her stand out and get ridiculed cause she has "that crazy Pagan mama"


This is exactly where private understanding between you and your daughter come in to play. I can promise you that if you can teach your daughter the reasons behind belief, and give her reasonable explanations, it'll never have to be a big deal, and you'll end up with a daughter who's intelligence and ability to think for herself will astound you one day.



posted on Oct, 12 2008 @ 07:17 AM
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I'd like to take a different tact and question the assignment from the point of view that it makes no sense. Having read Flowers for Algernon I can say that there is absolutely nothing in common between the experiences. Unless you consider mental retardation to be the 'Garden of Eden'.

The assignment question is ridiculous, in my opinion.

From here, I could speculate on motive, but that probably isn't fair.




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