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Religious bigotry in seventh grade class room

 
 
Lash
 
Reply Tue 29 Jan, 2013 08:12 pm
I'm teaching Medieval History (on a seventh grade level), and as you can imagine religion is center stage - as it relates to and causes so many pivotal events. I take care in informing the kids that I'm not supporting adherence to any religion, nor am I attacking any religion, although again, as you know, a lot of heinous things were done in the name of notable religions.

I'm more and more irritated by the attitude of one of my kids. He's a "Christian," and loses no opportunity to bash other religions. He also asks me or manipulates his buddies into asking MY religion. Of course, I tell them that my interpretation of the separation between church and state means that I think it is inappropriate - and frankly of no use - to divulge my religion.

Yesterday, amid discussion of Japanese Shintoism, he states that the spirits called "kami" are evil, makes other such negative comments, and gets a buddy to ask me if I'm Buddhist.

I think of their tender ages and the very limited information they get from parents... he likely feels if he doesn't "defend" his religion, he is sinning.

I've told him such negative comments about others' religions are out of place. I've explained to the class the difference between believing in religions we discuss - snd merely knowing the facts about them...

I'm so glad he was absent today because I was afraid I may insult him. I don't want to - but I feel I must shut this **** down.

I almost opened a dialogue with my principal, but before I go that far - is there something else I can do? I've already spoken to him privately. Talking to the parents is an option, but they are more likely to agree with their kid that I am evil and trying to pull their baby away from the path...

Hell, he said that Catholics aren't real Christians - and we have the Crusades after Japan...

Ideas?
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Type: Discussion • Score: 32 • Views: 11,824 • Replies: 228

 
roger
 
  1  
Reply Tue 29 Jan, 2013 08:18 pm
@Lash,
Nothing constructive to offer, and you are probably right about contacting the parents.

Maybe Stormwatch or even (heart heart) littlek will have some experienced advice.
Lash
 
  1  
Reply Tue 29 Jan, 2013 08:22 pm
@roger,
Thanks, darlin. Nice to see you.
0 Replies
 
Foofie
 
  1  
Reply Tue 29 Jan, 2013 08:38 pm
@Lash,
If I was in your situation, I would explain to the entire class that when we are all born, we do not pick the family, and the respective religion of that family that we are born into, so even if one religion might be viewed as "better" than another religion, it is not a person's fault for being born into any particular religion.

And, since making negative comments about any religion can offend a person that might either be that religion, or perhaps have family or friends in that religion, all comments should not be shared in class.

The problem, in my opinion, is not one specific person, as you seem to believe, but a lack of regimented control over the class, where one person finds it acceptable to offer his gratuitous comments, or confer with "buddies" to do his bidding.

I obviously do not know the level of discipline that your school subscribes to; however, there has been more than one movie, I believe, that highlighted how a Parochial School, in days gone by, was known for the level of classroom discipline that was maintained, and parents sent their children to such a school for the benefit of having their little darlings learn how to control themselves, so one day they could become contributing members of society by knowing how to act in a superior/subordinate situation.

So, I am not offering advice. I am just saying what I think the problem is, and perhaps in today's society, in your school, my thinking is not acceptable? But, as I was told years ago, there were not many problem children in a class of Jesuit priests six foot or taller.
0 Replies
 
fresco
 
  2  
Reply Wed 30 Jan, 2013 01:48 am
@Lash,
When I used to teach history at that level, I would point out how religious intolerance was a major source of atrocity, and that was one of the reasons I was an atheist.
IMO teachers have a responsibility for leadership, and should not pay lip-service to "a respect for religious beliefs" which claim superiority over those of others. History teaches us to denounce such a view and that people can be victims of their conditioning.
JTT
 
  3  
Reply Wed 30 Jan, 2013 03:49 am
@Lash,
That's a tougher job you got there than teaching grammar, Lash.
0 Replies
 
edgarblythe
 
  4  
Reply Wed 30 Jan, 2013 04:02 pm
A wrong approach with the parents could lead to a confrontation that drags in church organizations and media. I would opt for speaking with the principal first.
0 Replies
 
ossobuco
 
  1  
Reply Wed 30 Jan, 2013 04:30 pm
@Lash,
Really interesting question/discussion, Lash.

Perhaps with continued emphasis on what happened (maybe with at least some of how diff sides felt? but that could get very thick), the rest of the room could catch on to what you are doing. I'll be interested in what other teachers say.

I've not really taught, just some lectures, so no advice, but I'll be listening.

0 Replies
 
maxdancona
 
  3  
Reply Wed 30 Jan, 2013 04:37 pm
@Lash,
I don't think that religion is the issue here. Students have the right to free speech (within limits). You, as a teacher, are restricted from pushing your religion in the classroom and you are right to not discuss your views. Students have no such restriction.

US courts have upheld the rights of students to proselytize during school (something that is clearly inappropriate for teachers) and this student clearly has a right to express his religious beliefs.

The issue isn't religion. It is the disrespect and disruption.

Talk to the parents. Don't talk about religion. Don't even bring up religion. Talk about how their student isn't following the rules and is disrupting the class. And, talk about your expectations for constructive discussion in the class.

Have clear classroom rules about respect that provide students a way to express their opinions in constructive ways while protecting the rights of other students and then enforce them fairly.
maxdancona
 
  2  
Reply Wed 30 Jan, 2013 04:40 pm
@fresco,
Quote:
I would point out how religious intolerance was a major source of atrocity, and that was one of the reasons I was an atheist.


As a former teacher, I find this quite inappropriate. It is the same as a teacher telling students why they believe the Bible is true.
0 Replies
 
Mame
 
  3  
Reply Wed 30 Jan, 2013 04:45 pm
I don't know, Lash. My first instinct would be to take control back in the classroom and not have a discussion with the principal or parents. Just disallow this type of comment

"Johnny, we don't tolerate negative comments about anything in this class, and that includes other religions. In future, keep your comments to yourself. And my religious beliefs are my business, not yours, so do not ask me again!" kind of thing.
0 Replies
 
ossobuco
 
  2  
Reply Wed 30 Jan, 2013 04:47 pm
@fresco,
I have similar non religious views, as you know, fresco, but the massive atrocities of history as much related to the nature of man as religion, to me.

Simply describing what happened over years, with possible premises from different sides, makes it clear that religious intolerance, oft from both sides, is part of the mix. Eye opening in itself. There are, though, other parts to the mix, such as territoriality, avarice, and so on.

Not to insult you, fresco, but my memory of my history classes in a girls' catholic academy make any kind of anti religion number by a teacher seem very questionable to me, just the other side of the coin. While much horror has befallen from religion, so has much good.

Ok, back to not talking..
0 Replies
 
ossobuco
 
  1  
Reply Wed 30 Jan, 2013 04:48 pm
@maxdancona,
Good points.
0 Replies
 
Setanta
 
  3  
Reply Wed 30 Jan, 2013 04:48 pm
You've got a tough row to hoe, Sofia. When i was a boy, no one would have thought to challenge the teacher, and if they had, it would have gotten them a quick trip to chat with the principal. It sounds to me as if he were trying to manufacture an incident, and so i agree with EB that you don't want anything to do with the parents. The denial that Catholics are Christians is a hallmark of the fundamentalist and charismatic Christians--people with extremist views who often can't control their tempers. The true fanatic often believes that all those who don't hew to their line are evil, and that their faith obliges them to fight the good fight against the Anti-Christ and his minions. You also have the rest of the class to consider. If you can govern your temper, and if you let the principal know that this student may be looking for trouble, you could have an opportunity to hand a discipline problem over the the principal. That sort of thing is, after all, a part of a principal's job.

Given that you have the rest of the class to consider, i hope that you will tailor your class presentations to present them with as much information as possible, and avoid the toils of this kid's fanaticism. Your religious beliefs are no business of any of your students, just as no one has the right to grill your students about what they believe.

Probably not much help . . . but i hope for the best for you. We had this sort of problem with fanatical Christians in my university history courses (i had a double major in history and literature), but not only would the professors not stand for it, the class would shout the fools down, too. Maybe you can focus on the students, regardless of their academic performance, who show a genuine interest in the subject.
0 Replies
 
Lash
 
  1  
Reply Wed 30 Jan, 2013 06:43 pm
Appreciative of help.

For those of you who suspect that I don't control my class adequately, I love student interaction and seek it. Hell, I regularly give extra credit to shy students who hazard an opinion that is well-reasoned.

Foofie, I had to laugh, but threat of physical punishment just won't find it's way into my teaching repertoire.

My problem in this scenario is that as I openly appeal for discussion in class, I find it hard to disallow this one intolerant kid to answer like everyone else. So, he tailors his bullshit to meet class standards re behavior - it's his content that continues to be rude despite my private and class-wide admonitions.

I thought the first time he made a crazy anti-Catholic comment, I'd use it as a teaching tool for the rest of the class. So, this is when I let them know about freedom of religion and opinion in my class - freedom from oppression due to religion - just like the conversations we'd already had about freedom from discrimination and bullying re race, sexual orientation, et al I could think of.
I didn't single him out, but said - This is a good time to discuss tolerance ...
There is a coterie of 3 or 4 more boys who all go to the same neighborhood church, who I hear talking about me on the playground every so often. Every once in a while, one is elected to come ask me some question about religion in general - or just mine. I've been patient til now. They and their families are dramatically ill-informed and quite under-educated. I feel sorry for how education is encroaching on this boy's world... I imagine the process is violently uncomfortable for him, his friends, and his family.

I'm sure the Christian would LOVE me to treat him differently - deny him the right to speak. He'd be able to crawl straight up on his cross.

I guess I just won't call on him. I'm almost certain he's been talking with his pastor and officials at his church. Weird. Teaching straight history from the text might wind up costing me my job.

I think he's still smarting from finding out someone had lied to him. He told me it was written in the Bible that Catholics aren't Christians. I told him if he'd bring in a Bible and show me, I'd believe him. Since this discussion happened in class with witnesses, and he was never able to do it - he might blame me for embarrassing him.

I'm just afraid I'm losing my self-control, and I may slip up and get myself fired. I'm just going to have to come up with a plan.





Setanta
 
  1  
Reply Wed 30 Jan, 2013 07:00 pm
I certainly never meant to imply that you can't control your class. I admire you for your determination not to exclude this student. It sounds as though he were some kind of ringleader. Do the others follow his lead?
Lash
 
  1  
Reply Wed 30 Jan, 2013 08:49 pm
@Setanta,
Set, you definitely weren't the poster who implied - or rather stated - the control issue.

Thanks for your ideas and support. He actually has become a ringleader of the three or four boys who attend his church. They are parroting his negativity.
Mame
 
  3  
Reply Wed 30 Jan, 2013 09:41 pm
@Lash,
I am the poster who said to get control back, as anyone with a back button can see, and this is why:

Lash wrote:

He's a "Christian," and loses no opportunity to bash other religions. He also asks me or manipulates his buddies into asking MY religion. Of course, I tell them that my interpretation of the separation between church and state means that I think it is inappropriate - and frankly of no use - to divulge my religion.



Whether you have control of the classroom or not (or think you do), this kid is insulting other religions, which might impact other kids in your class, so it has to stop. Even if there aren't other religions, this is not an acceptable attitude towards others.

Also, YOUR religion is NONE OF HIS BUSINESS, which I see hear you've told him, but he's obviously not listening.

Telling a kid to stop a behaviour is not shutting him down... especially when you give him the reasons. It's a rational response to an unacceptable situation. THIS IS NOT ACCEPTABLE IN MY CLASS. PERIOD. WE ARE NOT GOING THERE. WE'RE NOT INTERESTED IN YOUR OPINION ON BUDDHISM, ETC.

You are not his counsellor and his reasons are not your problem. It's the behaviour that's your problem.

JMO.
0 Replies
 
Setanta
 
  5  
Reply Thu 31 Jan, 2013 01:46 am
@Lash,
I'd suggested getting the principal onside because you had said you were worried about losing the job. At least let the principal know, so that you are covered if this joker tries to ramp this up into a public incident.

Good luck, Darlin' . . .
0 Replies
 
izzythepush
 
  1  
Reply Thu 31 Jan, 2013 02:33 am
I don't know about America, but over here your first port of call would be to talk to your colleagues. The Head of Department/Head of Year/ Deputy Head or even the Head themselves should all be able to offer advice, this probably isn't just happening in one class.

I'd be very angry if one of my kid's teachers started posting stuff online about any child in their class, especially if that teacher's avatar was a picture of themselves, meaning someone from the school could come across it and identify the child in question.

It doesn't seem a professional way to go about things.
 

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