Location: Halstead, Kansas, United States

This is my seventh year at Halstead which is also where I live with my wife and my soon to be two year old daughter.

Sunday, November 28, 2004

Two Disturbing News Stories

The role of religion in schools and freedom of religion have always been hot topics in schools but two recent stories have me a bit worried. From Maryland where schools are not allowed to mention the role of God in the pilgrims first Thanksgiving:
Young students across the state read stories about the Pilgrims and Native Americans, simulate Mayflower voyages, hold mock feasts and learn about the famous meal that temporarily allied two very different groups.

But what teachers don't mention when they describe the feast is that the Pilgrims not only thanked the Native Americans for their peaceful three-day indulgence, but repeatedly thanked God.

"We teach about Thanksgiving from a purely historical perspective, not from a religious perspective," said Charles Ridgell, St. Mary's County Public Schools curriculum and instruction director.

And from California a teacher may not show the Declaration of Independence:

A California teacher has been barred by his school from giving students documents from American history that refer to God -- including the Declaration of Independence. Williams asserts in the lawsuit that since May he has been required to submit all of his lesson plans and supplemental handouts to Vidmar for approval, and that the principal will not permit him to use any that contain references to God or Christianity.

Among the materials she has rejected, according to Williams, are excerpts from the Declaration of Independence, George Washington's journal, John Adams' diary, Samuel Adams' "The Rights of the Colonists" and William Penn's "The Frame of Government of Pennsylvania."

As a history teacher these two stories really disturb me. The idea that some people want to leave out important parts of our past is sad. We should have the faith that our teachers can present material in a way that embraces cultures and ideas and we all should have the faith that our students have the ability to grasp what is right. There are many interpretations of history and personally, I believe the best way to make history useful is to present as much of it as possible, not leave out events or documents because they might foster discussion and debate.

Feel free to add your opinions.


Blogger Casey Jack said...

Hmm... Interesting indeed.

I am like Mr. Warsnak on this issue. I don't think that history should be "diluted" in order to keep out potentially controversial subjects. While I do not believe that religion should be taught in public schools, this is going a little bit too far on that. By not allowing students to see the Declaration of Independence, they may have kept a fiery issue at bay, but they could severely deprive a student's educational development.

What any good history teacher has to realize is that things were different... in history. "We teach about Thanksgiving from a purely historical perspective, not a religious perspective." If that teacher was truly concerned about preserving the historical context of the first Thanksgiving, he would have included the religious perspective as well. Because that IS the historical perspective. People need to realize that these people's faith is history. Does it mean we are teaching faith in schools? No. I can't believe that students are not allowed to learn about the Declaration of Independence in class because it refers to God. If that is the case, should we just remove it from display at the National Archives for fear that it will offend a non-Christian? Should we, in effect, eliminate arguably the most influential document in US history from public knowledge by taking it out of our curriculum?

Heaven forbid (oops, I can't say that, can I?) that we present history accurately. "Yes, students - we declared our independence from Great Britain, but we can't tell you how because we'd have to say the G-word."


10:40 PM  
Blogger Mr. Warsnak said...

I think Casey is right on target and brings up another topic of discussion:

What is the most important document in US History?

8:07 AM  
Blogger Beth said...

I completely agree. Religon has had such as large impact on history that it is rediculous (Pardon my spelling) to cut religon out. As long as the school doesn't promote on religon over another it's fine. I just find it incredible that any teacher would be willing to cut that large of a portion of a students education. Religon is a part of history. So much so that if you cut it out there would be large gaps in a students knowledge. I am not for teaching religon in public schools, but I think that it's an intregal part of history and must be mentioned.

As far as most important documents about the Constitution? It's what are country is based on.

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