I'm a 6th grade Social Studies teacher. The topic of religion as a part of culture comes up all the time. Today during a discussion of Greek myths, a student (a 12 year-old girl with a sweet smile) asked me if I believed in god. I paused and said, "Well, sure."
I felt that I was having a discussion with a child about Santa or the Easter Bunny. I didn't want to be the one to tell the child that all the adults in her life have been lying to her.
This has been bothering me all day. When this comes up again - I'm sure it will - should I lie as I did today, or should I tell the truth?
Not everyone likes to talk about their (lack of) religious beliefs. It's no one else's business. I can see plenty of reasons for not opening that can of worms in a school setting.
But I do agree that deflecting the question by providing the status-quo answer isn't the ideal way to handle it. Not sure if I'd call it "cowardly" though.
She was asked a question and should provide an accurate answer. At least that's how I think adults should behave towards children, especially teachers.
And seriously, these are 12 year olds. Up until around 40 years ago it was quite common to get married at 15-16. By 12 they are not really children any longer, they are fast becoming teenagers. Time to stop cuddling them and sparing their emotions from reality.
It's not a matter of cuddling the kids too much. The OP wasn't comfortable discussing it in her place of work, which, presumably, was a government-funded school. I certainly don't blame her for not wanting to go down that road.
But like I mentioned in my first post, I think it's important to at least explain WHY you don't want to talk about it.
It was a yes/no question, not a discussion. And yes, it is about cuddling children, since this is lying to avoid potential difficult questions or situation. What else is ok to lie about?
Again, it was not a discussion, which I agree might (at least in the "secular" United States) be out of place, but a simple yes/no question to which the OP blatantly lied to avoid potential conflict. There is no law against the non-belief in a deity, even as a teacher in school, and any complaint would be dead in the water. Much ado about nothing would be the most likely outcome. It's clearly on the wrong side of ethics and done solely for the purpose of not pointing out the emperor has no clothes. If kids can't get a straight answer from their teacher, then who should they talk to?
(As a side note, coming from a country with a state religion, state church, and Christianity classes starting in primary school (at least way back when) a teacher answering honestly to such a question might have raised a few complaints which would have gone largely ignored by the admin. Freedom of religion and all that.)
Actually, as a teacher, I have witnessed the manner in which districts terminate teachers for such things. While they cannot overtly fire you for your religious beliefs, they can find other ways to go about the process. It really depends on your district and the influence of the community on the school board. That being said, just informing kids of your belief or lack thereof could be twisted into you trying to influence them to agree with your views. Some students may even use the information against you later on to say that you are scoring them lower on assignments because they do not share your beliefs/non-beliefs. It's the same with political affiliation.
Like Kevin said, this is NOT about "cuddling" the kids. (Do you mean coddling?) It's about getting into a conversation that might make its way back to parents and other teachers who may feel the need to get this teacher in trouble for talking about these subjects with the children. It happens all the time, and teachers lose their jobs. Teachers even lose their jobs just for being atheist in some places.
Yes, coddling, thanks. :)
Firstly, 12 year olds aren't really kids, they are generally either adolescents or about to become so. Secondly, it was not about talking to them about it, just answering honestly to a question. Teachers are supposed to form young minds. Lying to avoid controversy is not a very good lesson to teach. Lastly, I can hardly see losing one's job due to religious affiliation being legal in any but the most particular circumstances (i.e. religiously affiliated institution). It's clearly illegal.
Of course it's illegal, but that doesn't mean one shouldn't take reasonable measures to avoid it. Murder is also illegal, so should I stop taking detours around violent parts of town? What's so wrong with not wanting to be a victim?
Additionally, the OP didn't "teach" lying to avoid controversy. While I agree that lying was not the optimal approach, I still say that the question is not appropriate for a public school, and should have been addressed as such.
whoops. apologies to cookiesdaddy.
I remember as a freshman in highschool my social studies teacher was saying something tangentially related to a modern religion. One of the other students asked her a question about said religion (I remember she sounded genuinely curious), but the teacher wasn't comfortable going off on an even slight religious tangent with the lesson, even though it was a straightforward question. She said she could get into alot of trouble if the conversation went further and one of their parents took it the wrong way.
Anyways, its impossible to objectively state that that anyone should or should not do anything. Make sure you are aware of potential consequences, and then if you feel comfortable doing it, do it. If not, don't. Of course there is a middle ground between lying to them and telling them that santa isn't real. You could also just tell them that the question is inappropriate, irrelevant, and/or etc.
As a former teacher in a very conservative (read Republican) school district in the American South, I can tell you without any doubt that any teacher who publicly declared that he or she was atheist would have been in deep trouble.
I doubt if I would have had my contract renewed. A reason, other than religious, would have been found to terminate my employment. I would have been better off if I had committed adultery.