I am SOO annoyed right now...My 6 year old son (1st grade) came home with a turkey that he made, and on each feather, the kids were to write two things that they are thankful for..on one of the feathers it said "God" and "Jesus"..so I asked him about it, and he says,  "Umm..Jesus is the king of the world! He made the whole world! We're all thankful for God and Jesus." (And yes, I have had this discussion with him before due to kids in his class (one in particular) talking about it.). I asked him who told him that..He tells me the teacher said it! Wtf!?! Would you go talk to the teacher about it, or just talk to your child again? I hate to think about him being singled out and ostracisized by his classmates and teacher, by me informing her of the fact that we are atheists.. Apparently every school year around Easter and the holidays, I have to deal with this crap now...grrrrrr!

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I would talk to the teacher, but don't be accusatory about it.  Kids can misunderstand things quite easily, and perhaps the teacher was only talking to your son about his own art.  It's very likely that she now believes that he is a Christian, and may have wanted to validate his beliefs (no matter what they are or appear to be), as any good teacher would.  It is likely that it could be a misunderstanding.  I do like to give people the benefit of the doubt, especially with misunderstandings about children, because it can happen a lot.  Kids hear things and take them the wrong way all the time.  

 

However, if it turns out that she actually was telling the kids things like that, then I think that if it doesn't stop after you've talked with her, then you should go above her head and talk to the principle or someone else.

My sympathies. On one hand, I'd be relieved to hear it's the teacher because you can have a talk about it and maybe stop it, and it may not be a problem with future teachers. If it were the kids, I'd be more concerned since the peer pressure just gets worse. 

I try to put things in a skeptical framework when I talk to my kids ... "some people really like the Raiders, so they like to say they are the best team ever" ... "some people like to say natural is always better, but other people like to point out that nature has a lot of dangerous stuff too" ... Or ... "It's fun to tell stories about magic. People have all sorts of ideas about Santa Claus or Jesus or the Easter Bunny that they like to think about and talk about." My 10-year-old and 8-year-old now often chime in with comments like, "Yeah, just because somebody says it doesn't make it true." 

 If it were me I would calmly and without placing blame talk to the teacher. I'd say something like: My son came home the other day with God and Jesus written on his what am I thankful for turkey. When I asked him about it he said that the teacher told him that Jeseus is the king of the world, that he made the whole world and that we are all thankful for God and Jesus. I'm concerned because what my son is reporting is not consistent with our families personal beliefs.

Wait for teacher's response.

If she seems surprised by this concern or tells you how there was a misunderstanding simply thank her for taking your concerns into account state that you are glad this seems to be a misunderstanding and make a note of this in a log at home. That way if you get more similar reports from your son you can again bring it up to the teacher and principal. If you don't hear similar reports from you son then it really was a misunderstanding.

If she admits to saying something of the sort and is appologetic about it thank her for hearing your concerns. State that you hope this doesn't happen again and let her know that your son is in school for an academic education. Go home write this down in your log. If your son doesn't report that the teacher was telling him religious things again then problem solved. If your son continues to tell you that the teacher is telling him religious things log it and bring it in for a meeting with the teacher and principal of the school.

If the teacher admits to saying somthing of the sort and isn't appologetic and is defensive or hostile or tries to start talking religion with you this is the time to get rougher with her. Let her know point blank that it isn't ok for her to be talking religion with your son. That your son is there for an academic education and that if the religious talk doesn't stop you will be going to to the principal and super intendent if need be. Again log everything and keep an extra eye and ear out to ensure that your son isn't affected negatively in any way by this teacher. If it seems that he is being affected negatively and/or the religious talk continues meet with the principal and demand that your son be put into another classroom.

I like the "response ladder" you outline. No point at all in starting out stridently, and you definitely tend to get better results if you are reasonable and amicable.

I am a teacher after all... it's no fun having a parent storm in and start making accusations before I have a chance to get my word in too. Misunderstandings happen all too frequently with young children... and people in general.

Becca, I like everything you've written. The teacher maintains the position of authority without being undermined by the parent and the concern is addressed in a reasonable and responsible manner.

Personally I believe a child must imagine the teacher and parent are on the same team. Seeing parent and teacher at odds will cause respect issues.

Personally I believe a child must imagine the teacher and parent are on the same team. Seeing parent and teacher at odds will cause respect issues.

 

100% agree. 


Your suggestions were excellent, Becca.  I would like to point out, though, that Laura lives in Hawaii, which is notoriously religious and you live in Oregon, which is not.  In religious areas a lot of religious fanatics have been dedicating themselves to getting into positions of power in education or government just so they can fight secularism.  This teacher may well be one of these "secret" warriors.

It may very well be true that this teacher is a warrior for Christianity ... but it still doesn't help to jump to conclusions and come on too strongly. More likely what happened was something rather benign that a meeting will solve. Also don't let the stats fool you too much... Oregon has a nice share of both christian and non-christian crazies. In fact I'd rather replace many of our non-christian crazes with the christian ones.

Ooh, that sounds like an interesting topic.  I don't suppose you would want to expound on the "non-christian crazies"?  Perhaps in a new discussion?  I would like to know more.  I have occasionally thought of moving to Oregon just to get further away from the bible belt and would love to know more.

Laura:

    Not knowing any of the particulars of your situation, I would not presume to give you specific advice.  However, as a former elementary school teacher for 36 years who encountered the OPPOSITE problem -parents who objected to my teaching of evolution - this is what I would do (assuming this is a PUBLIC school).  I would send the teacher the following note:

“Ms. ___________,  My son recently came home and talked about how you have been teaching that Jesus is the king of the world and other such Christian dogma.   I and my family are extremely distressed about this, and if it is true, please cease and desist.  What you are doing is a blatantly unconsitutional violation of the separation of church and state; further, it is an invasion of my privacy and prerogative as a parent to not have my child indoctrinated in a faith inimical to my non-christian beliefs.

“I have sent your principal a copy of this request along with the promise that, should this religious indoctrination continue, I will go to the school board with the threat of legal action through the ACLU, the FRFF, Americans  United, or other freethought organizations that would not hesitate to file a lawsuit to prevent this illegal activity.”

 

Point of interest, perhaps:  I once had a parent so incensed that I would teach "EVILution" that she called a radio talk show to complain.  The right wing host advised her to get all her neighbors together and go to a school board meeting to demand I be fired.  It did her no good, though, because what I was doing was not only legal, it was mandated by the education code of the State of California (not that many teachers follow it, sadly).  That being said, when I first started teaching, in 1958, it WAS illegal to teach evolution as a fact in California.  I did it anyway.  I got away with it by calling it a "theory," even though I made it clear to the students that it was a scientific truth.  

 

Hi Laura,

The suggestions from Becca and Dale are excellent.  Whatever you do, document it.  You can bet that this lovely "christian" will lie her little fanatical ass off if push comes to shove.

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