This morning, I talked to my brother. My brother and I have a sometimes somewhat awkward relationship; he’s a “Born Again” Christian (I suppose my mother didn’t do a good enough job the first time?), and I’m, quite obviously, not. I don’t know what I’d call myself, actually, mainly because if I could sum up my faith easily I wouldn’t be writing a book about it (but I can’t, and so I am). When my brother and I speak, we usually try to set aside topics of religion and politics so that we can, you know, smile at each other and mean it.
Over the course of catching up (Christmas might well have been the last time we spoke. If not, sometime in the early spring?), I learned that he’s shortly going to be teaching science, math, and history at a middle school or somesuch. I didn’t get all the particulars.
But I wonder: how can a born-again Christian possibly teach either history or science? I’m fairly certain my brother believes two things:
1) God created the entire universe, from scratch, in six days, and
2) He did so approximately 6,000 years ago.
Now, mind you, I have nothing against the story of Creation, and of Adam & Eve. As fables go, it ranks up there with Aesop in its simplicity, message, and ability to teach young’uns a thing or two. Personally, I tend to think that one of the things that can tell you most about about a particular culture is its Creation story. Many of the tribes originally on this continent believed that the world was born on the back of a turtle emerging from the mud. Pretty much every culture has its own.
The Christian creation story seems to be one of arrogance and domination. Man created separately from beasts and in the image of a deity, and then handed dominion over all the land (and we wonder that the environment is currently buggered). It’s very little surprise Bush considers himself a born-again Christian.
I wonder about the curriculum. Didn’t some Kansas school board vote a couple of years ago about whether to give equal representation to both the science of evolution and the story of Intelligent Design (about which there is nothing intelligent whatsoever; if God does, in fact, exist, God does so in a way that transcends such an adjective as ‘intelligent,’ anyway).
The thing is, I do think everything in schools should be given equal representation, just not in the ways most boards attempt to implement it. I think we should start teaching children about the nature of myths and stories early. Like, in kindergarten, or even preschool, and I think that, when we teach children about creation, we should tell them every story of creation we still have on record. I think children should learn that God created the world in six days and that it came into being born on the back of a turtle (to name but two creation stories), because I think in so learning, they will begin to understand the real origins and meanings of stories. I think it will make richer their relationships with each other, and throughout life.
And then, when they are ready to learn more about physics and evolution and biology and reproduction, they will understand the science of it but still appreciate more subtle meanings. The child who learns how science works in equal measure to why we tell the stories we value might just change the world.
August 24, 2008 at 10:25 pm
If the educational system is going to continue to ban the Pledge of Allegiance and school prayer, then it would seem hypocritical to spend time in the classroom teaching Biblical material like the creation story. The educational system has worked hard to stay neutral in terms of religious affiliation, and I actually think that’s the best way to go (I’m strictly referring to primary and secondary-level public schools, mind you).
I personally think education and religion should be completely separate entities. It’s not the school’s job to teach Biblical material, and it’s not the church’s job to teach evolutionary theory. Children should certainly have access to both institutions, but I think the academic intermingling of the two would be extremely confusing to young children and would do more harm than good.
August 25, 2008 at 6:31 am
@Kristen: is the pledge banned now? I had no idea. It’s been so long since I was in the school system.
I agree with you to a point, but I just wonder if, by teaching children the fable of Adam & Eve as a myth, it might cast the entire rest of the Bible as the collection of myths and fables it really is. And I don’t know about “confusing to young children,” who are often way more sophisticated than we adults tend to give them credit for.
August 25, 2008 at 4:32 pm
I alway figured that man was flawed and that there for the bible had more then a few hic-ups in it. (Not to mention the fact that it’s such a long damn book most people take some one’s biased view as fact) I always thought that because God was so great that the world wasn’t created in our 6 puny human days but in 6 godly days. when you don’t die, and I’m assuming as much, a godly day is alot longer.
If I can get along with my sister there is hope for everyone. Talk with him more often, just not about politics and religion. You could talk about shoes, colors, weather, pets, school, food, CDs, books, movies, nature, cars, tv, women, other family members, etc.
August 25, 2008 at 4:53 pm
“And I don’t know about “confusing to young children,” who are often way more sophisticated than we adults tend to give them credit for.”
I think it would be confusing. At least, I’ve contemplated putting Ethan in a Christian school for the simple fact that all of his cousins and mates will be attending. It hadn’t occured to me that Ethan will be his own person and should he decide a certain path may be right for him, so be it. I just can’t bring myself to putting him into a school out of fear of segregation, I am much smarter than that.
Everyone keeps telling me Christian schools
are better because they instill stronger values. That he’ll be exposed to the “rough and ugly” in a public school – I say, so what? Just because some kids may not have the same luxuries as Ethan, it doesn’t take away from their values.
I dunno. I’m confused by the whole aspect of religion because I never grew up with it. It was never forced on me, so I’m afraid of doing that to my own son just because his whole influential family thinks I should.
August 25, 2008 at 6:21 pm
@Gotham: we’re getting better, and talking slightly more often. Though not about shoes.
@Lisa: “Everyone keeps telling me Christian schools are better because they instill stronger values.” Unfortunately, Christian values nowadays consist of terrorist paranoia and the belief that we need a marriage amendment. Christianity is based on segregation, most of the time, nowadays. It’s all us versus them, with little definition of who us and them actually are besides anyone who thinks/feels differently than the “establishment.” Were Jesus to return today, the religion established in his name would probably make him cry.
August 25, 2008 at 7:58 pm
Classrooms today are full of way too many things. Whether we legislate it or make a rule about it, like it or not, religion carries into the classroom. Why? Because children are the products of their homes…and many people are devoutly whatever religion they happen to be. It’s as inherent as their ethnicity and gender. And as much as educators don’t want to be hassled with the realities of things like religion and ethnicity, the bottom line is that it matters. And understand how it matters and why it matters is the key to getting through to kids–and their parents.
Don’t get me wrong…I don’t think we should have religious teachings in our schools–for the simple reason that we are bound to overlook someone’s religious beliefs. But I think a lot of people take it way too far…either they try to ignore it because they think it’s irrelevant or stupid, or they get all crazy about their “rights.”
The key here is that education should be about options. It should be about what’s best for the child, and it should be about embracing the background of every child.
I do think that parents are the ultimate deciders of what their children should or should not learn. Public schools need to serve the public good. That means it should be a safe place for all children. If a parent wants his/her child to learn religious ideals, s/he should seek out private instruction.
August 25, 2008 at 8:55 pm
I only mentioned shoe because of our last conversation. i really don’t expect you to call your brother one day and say “I found the best shoes every.” I also don’t expect you to ask him about colors, but if you want to go for it.
Is he older or younger
August 26, 2008 at 8:10 am
@Alma: yeah, I agree. But I also think that children love stories and myths. They’re like bedtime stories, a lot of times. Hercules and Jason and his Argonauts and King Midas: I couldn’t get enough of those dudes when I was a kid. Zeus! King Arthur! The Bible is no more or less a myth than all those stories, and I just think it needs to be learned on the same footing. I think it’s worthwhile that children get -all- the stories concerning Christmas, not just the ones about Nazareth.
@Gotham: he’s a few years younger.
August 26, 2008 at 10:32 am
Will, while that may all be true, why is it necessary to incorporate this into a public school curriculum? For me, it has to be all or nothing because it is absolutely impossible to teach children stories from all cultures. Public schools are so overburdened as it is just giving kids a *basic* education. A public school teacher can’t be charged with the burden of attempting some all-inclusive curriculum. Which is why I don’t believe stories with religious overtones should be included in public education.
Teachers shouldn’t be charged with teaching children morality–which is what religious beliefs usually entail. That’s the job of parents. Unfortunately, teachers have become glorifed babysitters/pseudoparents. A teacher should teach a child how to think, not what to think.
August 26, 2008 at 1:34 pm
I would agree with you about teaching the mythology of creationism, Will, if I were sure that it would be taught ONLY as myth. Both you and I know that there are zealots out there who would take every opportunity to teach these myths as fact to our little darlings in the classroom (like they do in parts of Kansas).
Let’s keep church and state separate, as they should be.