An interesting educational dilemma

The Hamilton Elementary School has an interesting poster hanging in the halls. It’s a kid’s drawing of Jesus asking people to kill unbelievers:

It’s horrible. My first thought was that it was irresponsible of the school to allow that to be displayed — it’s a terrible message to send to the non-Christian kids in school. But then I read their explanation and my views flipped 180°.

A spokesperson with the Fresno Unified District released a statement, which said: “Students at Hamilton were assigned to create a help wanted poster for soldiers needed to fight in the crusades and write a poem about Joan of arc, the Black Death, or the Magna Carta and create a visual background for it. This was one of several posters displayed.”

Oh. It’s a historical poster intended to illustrate people’s actual attitudes…and yes, that’s a reasonable picture of what the Crusades were all about: killing people who didn’t think as you do, in the name of a deity. It’s good for people to know about reality. It’s also good for people to learn the difference between proscriptivist and descriptivist lessons. The poster is describing a reality, but isn’t (I hope!) endorsing it. If kids were to learn that in history class, it might also help us in biology, where so many people have this bizarre idea that because biologists explain what natural selection has done to every species on the planet, that means we all want to kill and sterilize those that don’t fit some imaginary standard.


  1. says

    Well then, let’s see how long it takes for someone to be “offended” by this particular piece of stark truth and demands it be removed.

  2. Gregory in Seattle says

    Being Fresno — a little pocket of bigotry and hate that time desperately wants to forget — I suspect the poster was drawn by someone quoting exactly what he was told in a mid-week church service.

  3. anteprepro says

    The 7th grader who made it gets props in my book. Looks like a clever, morally outraged kid expressing the atrocity of the crusades by showing incredulity towards the entire idea of killing in the name of god. The fact that the Christians are so outraged over that, not even managing to grasp the small amount of wit on display, just makes the kid who made the drawing that much more awesome. I hope the grave amount of OFFENSE directed towards a poster that dared to make fun of the Crusades will open hir eyes further, and get hir to realize just how petty Christians are. To the point where they will effectively defend the Crusades from mockery if Jesus gets slightly nicked in the process. I sincerely hopes that it results in these realizations, because the alternative is to learn fear. To learn to never criticize Yahwehs or Jesi again, lest feelings get hurt, news vans pulled in, teachers get complained to, etc. I hope the kid responsible is emboldened and enlightened, not cowed into submission, by the moronic responses given by over-privileged adults. Fingers crossed.

  4. anteprepro says

    Well then, let’s see how long it takes for someone to be “offended” by this particular piece of stark truth and demands it be removed.

    Go to the link. That’s the reason it is a news story in the first place. No one in the article or the video seems to give a fuck that it might be interpretted as a threat to unbelievers. They are worried because it is putting mean words in perfect, perfect Jebus’s purdy little mouth, and that makes Christians want to vomit in rage, tear down the paper, piss on it, set it on fire, and scream Bible verses for the next 12 hours straight until they are sure that the drawing is in Art Hell.

    The kid and the school should know better. Only Republican politicians and Republican priests are allowed to put foul, hateful words in Jesus’s mouth. Any other state of affairs is just plain blasphemous.

  5. thisisaturingtest says

    @#1, Mike:

    Well then, let’s see how long it takes for someone to be “offended” by this particular piece of stark truth and demands it be removed.

    Already started. According to the article PZ linked to:

    Parent [and Christian] Chris Alfaro told ABC30: “I do believe common sense tells you, ‘Hey this may not be appropriate for a k through 8 school, right in the main lobby where each child passes on their way to school and home.'”
    Alfaro’s wife first noticed the drawing in early March and called the school office to complain. Alfaro Recalled: “The aide said something along the lines of I’ll see what I can do, and then hung up the phone.”

  6. julietdefarge says

    The kid fulfilled the assignment to a T, and should get an A. Let’s hope the little artist can comprehend that he/she’s getting a A because they they met the rubric requirements, and not because the teacher endorsed the bigotry of the message.

    However, the teacher who thought it would be a good idea to hang this where kids who were not part of that class, or visitors to the school could see it deserves a boot to the head. If you didn’t know about the assignment and saw this you wouldn’t be “offended,” you’d be concerned for the safety of any non-Christian child in that school.

    Love how Jesus wraps his robe like a karate gi.

  7. schmeer says

    Jesus is wearing a crucifix. That’s a weird, anachronistic piece of jewelry for him.

  8. apucalypso says

    I think the poster fulfills the assignment perfectly. Whether or not it is actually controversial depends entirely on the context. In the context of the assignment I find it to be non-controversial, so if that context is visible the way it is presented at the school I don’t see the problem. Of course, the initial presentation in the media is probably the poster without any context, just to incite controversy and push the story.

  9. John Horstman says

    Interesting, my first thought was that it’s deeply subversive on three levels, illustrating the horrendous violence inflicted by institutionalized Christianity/Christians (in the name of their supposedly loving and other-cheek-turning prophet-god), the similar violence of US imperialism, and the similarities and interplay between nationalism and religion. It’s the kind of thing I would have made given the assignment.

    Of course, that has in part to do with my default assumption that anything like this is satire and not a serious exhortation. The fact that it can be taken as serious is frankly more damning for Christianity than anything else.

  10. John Horstman says

    Actually, I probably would have included the words “genocide” or “ethnocide” as a middle-schooler.

  11. John Horstman says

    These days, I’d probably go with a drawing of Bender and the text, “Hey sexy mama, wanna kill all infidels?”

  12. Francisco Bacopa says

    Jesus is wearing a crucifix. That’s a weird, anachronistic piece of jewelry for him.

    It’s kind of like those old cheap Halloween costumes where the character is pictured on the costume.

  13. Sastra says

    Would the same poster have tripped the “Jesus-Is-Love” sensers/censors if the phrase had been “I Want YOU — to Kill All Infidels IN THE CRUSADES!!”

    See, by specifying the time and place the apologists can all get happily caught up in wrapping themselves in knots about how the changeless, perfect morality and love of God has to take the situation into account and slaughtering infidels in that particular time and place was perfectly moral and perfectly loving because it was just and more faith eventually came out of it so all’s well that ends well!

    Of course, since the Crusades were ordered by God as interpreted by the Catholic Church, it could provoke some sectarian warfare in the grade school. I think studying the political/religious European union is very corrosive to faith in general, though, no matter how careful you are.

    I remember my serious confusion over Joan of Arc, when I was about 10 years old. Though raised without religion, I still imbibed a certain amount of “God is love” from the culture. I also really enjoyed and admired the brave, spunky, pious character of Joan of Arc. But the issue Joan of Arc died for? Some petty territory dispute between England and France — and this time England is the “bad guy?” God gave her messages and commands about something like this?

    It was a serious crack in my hitherto unexamined admiration for people who had had religious visions which were real and true (fostered, probably, by the fact that Frazier Thomas’ Family Classics reran “The Song of Bernadette” about once every two months or so.)

  14. robinjohnson says

    Oh for goodness’ sake, the top comment there is actually someone defending the Crusades.

  15. Stacy says

    Would the same poster have tripped the “Jesus-Is-Love” sensers/censors if the phrase had been “I Want YOU — to Kill All Infidels IN THE CRUSADES!!

    At the bottom the poster says “Meet Me In Jerusalem.” The words are washed out in the photo and all that’s visible are the initials.

    But, I doubt it would have made much difference even if the poster had provided the most dumbed-down exposition possible. People are missing the point all over the comments, and the article explains the context clearly enough.

  16. Tony says

    This is outstanding in my view. It reflects actual Christian thought on so many levels. Too many Christians today think killing infidels is something that is called for only in the Koran, forgetting their own history. A few others actually support a new set of Crusades, even if they wrap the idea in the flag and couch them as national security concerns.

    This will hopefully out both sets, to each other as well as to the rest of the world. Maybe they’ll gasp and starting accusing the other of not being True Christians (i.e. infidels).