Friday, January 9, 2009

What Would Jesus Do?

After being rescheduled twice, the elementary Christmas program went on yesterday. Mae had a great time singing and all of the children did a great job; it was the adults who stunk up the auditorium. The music teacher, with a month extra to practice, didn't have her shit together. The music cues were all wrong, microphones were constantly being adjusted and the song selections were absolutely awful. The program was "A Country Christmas" with several country songs mixed in with a few traditional. Who thought that Toby Keith was appropriate for 1st graders? Remember that's the "We'll stick a boot in your ass, it's the American way" guy. That's not the song they sung, but crappy none the less. Another great selection was a song called "Leroy the Redneck Reindeer" one line I can remember was "jingle bell and the rebel yell" very classy. Then much to my surprise, each grade (K-4) sang a religious song. Not just a mention of the birth of Jesus but full on gospel type songs. My daughter's class sang "Jesus Christ is born" and the second grade sang "Mary did you know?" What the hell? This is a public school! I know this is a community with strong Christian beliefs, but come on, this is a government funded PUBLIC school for EVERYONE, regardless of religious affiliation. It seems that I 'm always fighting the issue of what kinds of religion my children are being taught behind my back. Am I just making too much of this? Does this happen in other public schools?

I can't decide how I should handle this. Should I talk with the principal who obviously supported this program, complete in her overalls and bandanna? Will I get anywhere with a letter? I know Mae's teacher is the children's' choir director at her church, so that's a dead end. I can't seem to find an unbiased Christian to complain to. Maybe I need to go even further up the ladder, but at the same time I don't want to alienate my children as the ones who can't participate in holiday activities.

I feel that this type of religious content has no business taking up valuable school time. Perhaps time would be better spent on teaching the children about healthy eating habits and exercise. Is Jesus OK with childhood obesity? Just a thought after watching all 5 grades pile onto and off of the stage yesterday.


E4H said...

Hate to tell you, but Christmas is a religious holiday, first and foremost. If you went to a Christmas program, you should have been expecting this. A holiday program on the other hand...

I can see your point, but with a lot of people who complain about the separation of church and state dont realize (like the guy who wanted the "under God" line removed from the pledge of allegiance) is that Christianity isn't the only thing they're learning: Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, and some others all come in before they graduate. I the schools teach tolerance.

No offense but I think it's up to you and J to teach them what to believe.

Overbearance teaches rebellion.


Aliceson said...

The only reason I refer to it as a Christmas program is because that's what the school calls it. I don't have a problem with Christmas, but I do have a problem with a public school telling my childen that Jesus died for their sins. There are many less religious holiday songs that could have been used instead. I think that they never gave the religion aspect any thought because they just assume that most are Christian and the rest would just deal with it.

BTW: I haven't shared my opinion with my children and try to be supportive, while at the same time let them know that this is just one way of thinking and when they are older they can choose any religion they wish.

Thanks for your input E4H

Kelly said...

This is a tough spot to be in. We are atheists and celebrate Christmas because it is a worthwhile family tradition. We celebrate each other and the good fortune in our lives. Other Americans seem to have a hard time with this concept. It is important to remember that early Christians adopted pagan solstice traditions, in order to ease people into the whole Jesus thing. Christmas is equal parts Jesus and yule. You might have to make your peace with the religious songs. Some schools in our area cannot celebrate the holidays at all, because they are unable to strike a balance. What would your kids want? They'll eventually catch on to the different ways to celebrate Christmas and form their own opinions.

Bonnie said...

Okay, first of all, I think the real underlying issue is one of choice. I happen to agree with Ali. I grew up Lutheran and I still hold on to some of my beliefs, but I feel that there is no place in a public school for teaching imprssionable children religious ideals. That is up to their parents to decide IF and WHEN to do that.

Having said that, I also believe that evolution, being a theory that many people (including myself) believe to be false, should also not be taught as fact in a public school. It is a delicate subject, but one that can be gracefully overcome if done by good instructors.

FYI: "Under God" was not even in the pledge of allegiance until 1954 and not on paper money until 1957. What is was is someone imposing their beliefs on the rest of the country and we, like cattle, just take it for granted now.

I think Ali, as a TAXPAYER and AMERICAN CITIZEN should have the right to choose for herself and the right to defend her children's choices. I also believe she has the right to say what she wants to say. What this also means is that others also have the right to state their beliefs as well. But we need to remain civil.

I live near Ali and I must admit, if and when I have children, I am having serious doubts about having them go to local schools because I want to have some say in what my children are taught. If these teachers can't respect the wishes of their parents, then they have no right being teachers.

AmyG said...

I hate topics like this, because people get so emotional about it. One of your commenters said it right, they teach a lot of stuff in public schools that shouldn't be taught. AND individual teachers like to push their views on the kids, as well. For instance, during the election, my daughter came home, telling me that her teacher said we should vote a certain way. Um... what!?? Yeah, that didn't fly over to well. I told her our choice and told her that if her teacher mentions it again, she needs to tell her that we make our OWN choice on who we vote for!

While I don't agree with your post, I respect you for your opinions. They are just that... YOURS. And it is your blog. You shouldn't be made to feel guilty for how you feel/think or whatever.

elsietee said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Wild Child said...

To add to Bonnie's comment about the pledge and a bit of a history lesson.

The original pledge of allegiance:

I pledge allegiance to my flag and to the Republic for which it stands, one nation indivisible with liberty and justice for all. --1892 Francis Bellamy

In 1923 the National Flag Conference called for the words my Flag to be changed to the Flag of the United States. The reason given was to ensure that immigrants knew to which flag the reference was being made. The words "of America" were added a year later.

In 1954, "under God" was added, essentially, because Eisenhower attended a sermon where the Presbyterian minister had an agenda to get the President to push for adding something about a reference to a deity, as Abraham Lincoln had made a reference in his Gettysburg address. In non-communist America, using a reference to a deity, was a stark contrast to the USSR and its very atheist point of view. Merely meant to differentiate.

Personally, I would prefer to go back to the original pledge. Would solve a lot of bickering.

I feel a public school, when celebrating winter holidays, should either be willing to share things about all beliefs, or not share anything at all. I think it is entirely unfair that tax payer money that comes from a wide variety of people (and it is because every school gets federal dollars) is used to share such a one sided view and not used to represent the wide variety of people in these great United States.

Our school did Hanukkah and Kwanza songs, songs about Santa, songs about snowmen, decorating the tree, and a swinging holiday. Very enjoyable.

And I would like to second Kelly's iteration about the creation of Christmas. It uses many pagan traditions, whose meanings were changed to make them more Christian. So really, Christmas is a mishmash of religions. I think Christians can't really make a full claim to it.

And this is my opinion, I'm sharing here, but it does not reflect the opinion of others. And personally, in this day and age, I'm shocked and appalled at the choices the music teacher made. Music is a good class to help teach world cultures through music, any program does well to show parents that their children get to learn about more than what goes on in their small corner of the earth.

Sidhe said...

Wow. Who knew this would generate so much heat. It's a non-issue in my opinion (yes, another opinion). The Supreme Court has been pretty clear on this, I'm not sure why the schools are not. Religion, as described in Ali's post does not belong in any public school, not even if children are also singing Jewish and Muslim songs (the public school cannot be seen to endorse any religion or even all religion). Learning about religions as they relate to History, Geography, Sociology, appropriate as it should be presented as fact based and not as an endorsement.

There are plenty of great Holiday songs that are not religious that the children could have performed. Perhaps you could suggest some of these songs next year and ask the school to read this brief:

sheila said...

Okay, wow. Alittle tardy here, but since I just found your blog...anyhow. I feel the same way you do. You cannot have a Christmas program in a public school. That's that. You could have a holiday program where every faith is represented, but I still think that may cross the separation line.

I say if you want your kids to learn religion...uh, ya take um to church or teach them at home. And if they are gonna start teaching it at school, they've gotta teach all of it.