Sometimes I think that what public education in this country really needs is a good general requirement for a course in comparative religion. I’ve thought that one obstacle, though, would be finding teachers who wouldn’t warp it to proselytize for their favorite cult. It turns out that there’s another major problem: parents will sue teachers who make their kids think about that which must be believed dogmatically.
On Jan. 31, McDonald gave the class, which consisted of juniors and seniors taking it as an elective, an assignment to read an Iroquois tale of creation, “The World on the Turtle’s Back,” in the course textbook.
The textbook’s teacher edition suggests having students compare the creation myth with other creation accounts, as well as discuss their own concepts of good and evil.
McDonald used the textbook’s worksheet. On it, students were to give examples of how the Iroquois tale reflects four functions of myth — to instill awe, explain the world, support customs and guide people.
But he adapted the form, and had the class do the same for the biblical account of creation in Genesis. He provided a paraphrase of the story.
That all sounds fair, and far more gentle with the material than I would be. It basically sets up four virtues of religion and asks students to explain how an Iroquois myth and the Genesis story fulfill those functions — isn’t that what people are always telling us uncompromising atheists, that religion has a significant role in culture, and that we should consider it? The teacher had a specific goal in mind, too, with this exercise.
Religion played an important role in early American literature, he said. The goal was to prepare students for the study of Arthur Miller’s “The Crucible,” based on the Salem witch trials.
Apparently, Christians are exempted from having to think about Christianity’s place in literature and history and society.
Junior Lanae Olsen, 17, said it all went too far.
The assignment was offensive to her Christian beliefs, and came one day after McDonald told the class he was atheist.
“I just don’t think it had a lot to do with the literature,” Olsen said. “You can learn about religion but not in that way, by putting it down.”
“Putting it down”? Being asked to explain how religion is used “to instill awe, explain the world, support customs and guide people” is putting it down? Sounds more to me like it’s exalting it. Oh, but he also asked them to consider the problem of evil — something that’s standard in theology schools, or do they think that’s only brought up by atheists? — and he himself is an unbeliever.
Ken and Claire Olsen are proud of their daughter.
“She made a stand,” Claire Olsen said. She doesn’t expect public schools to teach or cater to one religion over another.
Total bullshit. These are Christian twits who a) object to the fact that a teacher doesn’t believe in Christianity, and b) think it’s OK to analyze how Iroquois beliefs affected Iroquois culture, but reject the idea that one can analyze how Christian beliefs affect American culture. They are entirely about giving special privilege to and catering to Christianity.
So scratch the idea of having American schools giving courses in comparative religion. Thinking is offensive and a sin to some Christians, so all it will do is lead to lawsuits.
I sure hope Lanae and Ken and Claire Olson are just as active in keeping creationism out of Lake Stevens High School.