October 23, 2014

Atheist Mama: I most certainly don't want God in our schools

I'm a tax payer, and a mother to a student in our public education. As you may have also deduced from the title (or from reading this blog, those of you that follow along), I'm something of an atheist.

We live in a conservative state, one that seems very proud of its religious history. When I was religious, I was proud of that history too.

Now that I am not, it's a constant threat, and a constant reminder that I am an outsider, and that because of me, my children are too. Once, I would read about the ACLU or the Freedom from Religion Foundation pursuing a matter in schools and I would think, "Golly, why can't they just leave my faith alone? They can believe what they want, but we are a Christian nation."

I figured out the folly of that statement before I left my faith, actually, but that doesn't make me regret it any less.

Today, my attitude about separation of church and state is necessarily different. Now, I'm no longer a part of the majority, and protecting the rights of the minorities in our country seems much more important to me. Sad that it took the shifting of my beliefs to change that point of view, but years of hearing how persecuted Christians are from pulpits will do that to you.

When I run across a letter that contains a quote like the one I am going to share momentarily, it terrifies me as the mother of a public school student, because it shows just how much people out there don't Get It™. Here's a gem from a letter to the editor of the Independent Record, titled "America Must Turn Back to God":

I love my country. When we kicked God out of the schools, we turned our expectations from that of seeking to give every opportunity to our children to be all that their creator -- The Lord God Jehovah Almighty -- created them to be -- and to have a relationship with God himself -- becoming all that God dreamed of them becoming (and God dreams big!). We traded all of that to simply expecting our children to become taxpayers -- supporting the fat desires of an evil government! Is that all we desire for our children?

It's sad that this individual has such a poor view of our education system, and sadder still that they believe God is the only way to fix.

Education reform is a soapbox item for me. My mom has been a public school teacher nearly my entire life, and my father was for a time also. I'm a product of the public schools in our state--some of the worst, in fact, at least for the first ten years of my academic career, so make of that what you will.

My son has done well in school. He was a member of the first kindergarten class that would have been under the Common Core State Standards for his entire academic career had our state not decided (essentially) to repeal them. I still hold out hope that once we get the midterms out of the way, they won't follow through on that move. I know, it's too much to hope for, but I can't help it. If you could see what this kid can do with numbers, and how he intuitively understands how they work in ways that I couldn't have imagined for myself, you'd understand why I tenaciously cling to that tendril of hope.

There are many ways that I would like to see reform in our public education system, and none of them involve God. Our teachers have entirely too much on their plates to worry about what kind of relationship their children have with God...and let's be honest, whose God are we talking about? A Catholic God? The one of the Jehovah's Witnesses? Baptist? Methodist? What ideology would we even begin to choose?

There are thousands of subsects of Christianity. Talk about curriculum confusion!

And imagine the chaos the first time Little Timmy came home and his parents were treated to a different version--let's be truthful here, a "wrong" version--of Christianity. No, the best place for religious education is absolutely in the home, not in our schools.

Right now, a district north of our border in North Carolina is pushing back against people fighting its policy of once a week bible classes. I've talked before about how I believe the bible actually has a place, when viewed secularly, in classrooms. That place is certainly not the classrooms of our youngest and most impressionable students. That is not the type of educational reform we need.

As a parent, if I were to excuse my child from such a class, I'd automatically be creating a wall between him and his classmates, and for absolutely no good reason. For a flagrant constitutional violation, in fact.

We still have many years left in the public education system, and my fervent "prayer" is that we will, in fact, leave God out of it.

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