Wednesday, May 14, 2008

God-Free Schools?

I've been in pursuit of a B.A. in Special Education for...a few years. I'm going out on on a limb and boldly (yet confidently) claiming that education majors probably hear more about problems regarding religion in public schools than any other people group in America, nay, the world! I truly believe that public college instructors have been commanded by the Dept. of Education to make students talk about religious issues so much that by the time we graduate, we can't bear to bring it up with our students.

For a long time, education students were instructed to essentially ignore the existence of religion in the classroom. The reality is that many public schools either unabashedly violate the Establishment Clause or totally strip students of any religious free speech rights. It is rare to find a happy medium. At least at the college level, the absolute fear of religion in public schools is subsiding. This would be great news if the fear weren't being replaced by America's favorite lie, "NEUTRALITY."

Recently an instructor (whom I still respect very much) told our class of future educators to never bring our religion to school. She advised us to not wear religious insignia, to avoid discussing our personal beliefs even if asked, and to not even so much as bow our heads during the moment of silence. This is the same instructor who once told our class "Creationism should not be taught as part of a science class because the study of Creation is not science." I suppose she thinks all the Creationists with PhDs and the like got their credentials during a blue-light special at K-Mart.

The point is this: all the time I have been in school I had been unconsciously accepting the doctrine of neutrality. I had never really questioned the idea that my faith should be checked at the classroom door until a particularly random moment not long ago. I was thinking about the concept of Every Square Inch (the most fabulous talk show on Saturdays) when I realized that Christianity is not what I practice. Christianity is who I am. I am a follower of Christ. This is a lifestyle, a state of being. I cannot leave my Faith at home, just as I cannot leave my gender at home. Being a Christian will affect my pedagogy just as much, no, more than any other aspect of my life. I may not be a teacher of Christianity, but I will always be a Christian teacher. The fact is the humans are not neutral. Sin makes this impossible. Either we hold to truth or we hold to lies, but we are never totally void of belief. What many people (Christians and non-Christians) don't realize is that while we do legally tread on thin ice, the US Constitution and plain reason allows for religion in the classroom. Every person lives within a worldview, whether they actively choose it or not. I believe that as a teacher, the worst thing I could do to my students would be to present myself as a person who has no beliefs or convictions. When I bow my head during the moment of silence, I am not saying "Everyone bow your head because no matter what the Supreme Court says I will make you Christians!" I am saying "I know my origin and my purpose in this world. I believe in God and I will use this time to talk to him. My purpose as a teacher is to teach my students to think critically and to apply those lessons in life. God forbid I ever convey that neutrality is anything less than a cowardly excuse.


Jacob said...

Next week's installment of Radio Worldview, the official podcast of Worldview Academy, will deal with the question of being a Christian in the public schools.

I read a really good book on neutrality last fall called Pushing the Antithesis by Greg L. Bahnsen. I highly recommend it.

Eutychus said...

Suggest you read March 16th blog and continue the conversation. You have a great challenge or shall I say we.
Be Strong!, Be Wise!
One child at a time!

Juliankandy said...

I went to a Baptist college in SC, where i earned my BS in Elem. Ed. I never really heard anything from the instructors that said "do not talk about religion (or Christianity)" or anything like that. In fact, it was encouraged. When I taught 4th grade in the late 90's I never had an issue with talking about my faith or the faith that my students or their parents had. I guess it depends on where you go to school and where you teach at. But for me, I wouldn't hold back anyhow. Now, there is a way to bring it up without "seeming" to ram it down someone's throat, but some folk will always find cause if they hate Christ. I don't think you should hold it back. Tread carefully mind you, but don't hold back. The world doesn't have a problem with flaunting its disrespect for Christ. They blaspheme His name any chance they get (and won't apologize for it). So I would say, be smart about and find a way to bring it up- even if it means getting them to bring it up.

Baird boy said...

I went to a Christian high school, yet when I would seek (either in the classroom or out) to know the personal beliefs of my instructers they would, with the exception of few, not discuss their beliefs with me. I honestly felt insulted by their unwillingness to talk to me about it because what I heard in their refusals was a denial that I could think critically and come to my own conclusions if they revealed to me their personal beliefs. I did find out much later that one of my teachers did not share this information with me because he was reformed and felt he would be fired if he was open about his views with the students, however, I am almost certain that the vast majority of the teachers were not operating under any such fear.