Ten Commandments Up All Over A Public School

It is 2013. Am I stupid or just blindly optimistic for being surprised that a US public school has the Ten Commandments up everywhere?

Because there is such a school. Until May 15 of this year, which is 2013, they had the Ten Commandments posted in multiple places throughout the building. This is a public high school in Muldrow, Oklahoma, by the way, and you can read more about it here.

But, basically, they were threatened with a lawsuit after an anonymous student filed a complaint. The school relented, because I guess that they were aware that they were clearly in flagrant violation of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.

Members of the community complained that this was somehow persecution. The usual stuff that comes up with these things. Let me just clarify a few things:

The Ten Commandments are an integral part of religious doctrine for most Jews and Christians. They are found in the Torah (the first five books of what Christianity refers to as the Old Testament). These religious laws were, according to the narrative in Exodus, passed down to the Isrealites through Moses by their God, Yahweh.

The US government and its institutions cannot endorse any particular religion or establish an official religion. Which means that posting a set of religious laws is Unconstitutional. These laws are not only decidedly religious in origin, but they actively exclude American citizens of other faiths.

 

Let’s just break these things down:

1 – “You shall have no other gods before me.” This is, quite possibly, the most offensive and non-secular law within the Decalogue. It makes sense as a law within the Abrahamic faiths—it does not make sense as something in a public school where a student who, privately or publicly, is not a part of that faith will have to see it (outside of the context of someone’s school project or actual religious scholarship) hanging on the wall. In particular, many people within the US and elsewhere on the globe, are polytheists. We are exactly the sorts of people and are members of exactly the sort of faiths that the First Commandment is opposing. This should never be displayed on a public building in a way that suggests that I am unwelcome in the country of my birth.

2 – The second one is a little wordy. But this is the one about no graven images—no idols. Well, a lot of faiths use idols in their religious practices and many adherents possess these images out of devotion. A lot of overlap with the first one as to why this is offensive.

3 – Don’t take the name of the Abrahamic God in vain. That’s a specific restriction on members of that religion. Irrelevant to everyone else.

4 – This one is about the Sabbath. Not working on the Sabbath. Not bound by that restriction. I have done a great deal of work on both Saturday and Sunday, including going to my place of employment, homework, housework, yardwork, writing. Another specific restriction for the Judeo-Christian community.

5 – “Honor your father and your mother.” Well, not everyone has parents worth honoring. My father happens to be an awful person. While this one is not always good advice and while it is religious in origin, this one is not nearly as offensive as the first two.

6 – “Do not murder.” Well, yeah. Even if you believe that some people absolutely need killing, US law (and most laws) outlaw killing people under most circumstances.

7 – “Do not commit adultery.” Ridiculous. Even if interpreted by a narrow interpretation (“if you’re married, be monoamorous”), no government institution has a right to tell you anything of the sort. More widely interpreted, it’s a statement against not only extramarital sex, but premarital sex. Aww hell naw.

8 – “Do not steal.” Agreed! Inappropriate on a school’s wall because it, you know, is a religious doctrine, but in a vacuum, I have no problem with this rule.

9 – This one is about bearing false witness against your neighbor. I’m fine with this rule.

10 – The tenth one is really weird. This is the one about coveting your neighbor’s “possessions” (including livestock, servants, and wife—who does not seem to count as a neighbor). This one draws more of a “what the hell” response than the kind of moral outrage that some of the earlier ones elicit. (Though I should note that some people interpret this as a law against “mental crimes” of envy, while it is also argued that the original translation makes this a law against theft—specifically from your neighbor, which seems a little redundant with number eight)

 

The Ten Commandments are not and can never be secular symbols. They are not and can never be anything but a set of religious laws for a set of religious adherents. Hanging them up throughout the year (again, as opposed to displaying them as a part of a student’s classwork, such as a report on Judaism or Christianity or something along those lines) is absolutely an endorsement of particular religions over others. Unacceptable for any religion—mine included.

I think that it is fair to speculate that many of the people protesting the removal of the Ten Commandments would also protest the installation of, say, religious laws from the Qur’an. They would also protest a sign that began with “There is no God.”

Those two examples are how the Ten Commandments look to the rest of us.



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“An Army To Save America’s Souls”

I apologize in advance for any nightmares that this gives anyone. Because if you watch this video or even just read this article about it, it’s creepy.

Disclaimer: As I have mentioned before, I am not anti-Christian. I am opposed to a number of Christian beliefs, but I fully support Christians (most of whom, in my experience, are wonderful people) and their right to practice their faith.

I say that as a religious minority with many friends who are non-Christians, whether of minority faiths or non-religious. But I also say that as an American. Something like eighty-percent of US citizens are Christians; only about one-third (I say “only” like one-third is not terrifying) of US citizens would like to see the US adopt Christianity as its official state religion. So, the majority of US Christians are reasonable people who do not want the government imposing their beliefs upon their fellow citizens.

The terrifying video is made starring conservative Christian teenagers. Their message? That public schools are godless dens of debauchery where Christians are oppressed for their faith. That young Christians across the nation need to rally and, basically, that the country needs to backtrack in terms of religious freedoms by about sixty years.

It’s easy to look at this video and, after ignoring that a few of them set off your gaydar (they’re going to have some internal struggles in a few years), say “Oh these kids are horrible.”

But they aren’t. They say some scary things and they say some awful things. They also say some untrue things, of course. But you know that most kids at that age repeat the values of their parents—particularly when they are raised in households where differences of opinion are not accepted. This is not a representative sample of Christians or Christian teens or even conservative Christian teens. This is a representative sample of fringe-right evangelical statements, spoken through the mouths of teens.

Hate the message; pity these particular messengers.

So let’s just get a few things straight:

No one, including the Supreme Court, has banned students from praying in schools. Teachers and administrators are not allowed to lead students in prayer. Students are not allowed to disrupt class for any reason, including leading others in prayer. If a student wants to pray before eating or at any other moment of free time during the day, that has never been forbidden. They can pray privately. So long as they are not disruptive, they may pray in groups. There are multiple afterschool clubs dedicated to various Christian groups.

Creation is not a scientific theory. If you have that as a religious belief, then you have that as a religious belief and you presumably believe that either your God or the devil has planted a false trail of evidence to lead scientists to other conclusions. While I do not equate the two as beliefs, as educational topics, Creationism has as much of a place in a science classroom as Ancient Aliens has in a history classroom.

Images shown in sex education (for those students lucky enough to receive actual, comprehensive sex education rather than counterproductive abstinence-only drivel) are not pornographic. You see drawn cross-sections of people’s internal genital organs within a vague silhouette of human bodies. You might see some thermal images in video if you really get the whole story. That’s it.

Much like your right to swing your fist, your right to religious freedom ends at another person. Protecting everyone’s religious autonomy is not oppression, it’s . . . stopping some people from oppressing others.

I really wish that we could rescue young people from growing up in these kinds of mindsets. I think that everyone deserves more of a chance than these kids have. Perhaps, one day, when I give this wretched world the queen it deserves.

 

PS: They describe themselves as an army, which is horrifying enough. But I snorted with laughter when they said that Christ was their commander. If you want to express your faith by saying “Christ our king” or something like that, that’s fine. But I didn’t picture that. I just pictured Cobra Commander. Not the image that you want.

 



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Queen Of Peace High School: Ladies Should Be Seen And Not Heard Swearing

A lot of you have probably heard about Queen of Peace High School, a Catholic school in New Jersey, where specifically female students are being asked to pledge to not use obscenities. The male students are being asked to not use obscenities in the presence of their female classmates.

If you want to read more about the specifics of this ridiculous campaign at this particular school, read this article. People can be terrible.

I hold the door for girls. I also hold the door for guys. Because I am a polite person (not to be confused with a nice person). It’s not chivalry. Most of the people these days who say that they wish that men were still chivalrous also operate under the delusion that the 1950s was a pleasant, somehow superior decade. I will admit that they just don’t make whites-only drinking fountains like they did in the 1950s.

Sorry, weirdos. The world was always awful.

I really, really hate senseless double-standards. Double-standards are rarely good, but, honestly, we all have them. If I see a man punch a man, I think: “Okay, I have nothing but contempt for you.” If I saw a man punch a woman, my response would be murderous hatred. It’s a bias and it’s not fair—I should feel murderous hatred in either situation.

But this? This does not make sense. They want the female students to “act like ladies” and for the male students to “act like gentlemen.” Which is ridiculous. Next, I suppose, Susie will have to walk a few feet behind Johnny* while he carries her books between classes.

I think that the interviews with the students may be more alarming than the fact that this move was implemented. I live in the South, but I went to an excellent magnet school (and it was a public school—I know that some areas have bad public schools but private schools aren’t the answer and they’re not a good idea, though anything’s better than homeschooling). You would have had to really, really try to find a female student who would agree that this campaign was a good idea. The blatant sexism of it—holding male and female students to different standards—is something that would ruffle almost anyone’s feathers. You would think.

Even more pathetic was a male student who finds girls who use the language that he “cannot help” but use to be unattractive. You guys. It’s one thing for a guy to say: “All girls should shave their bodies, duh,” which is rudely phrased but an okay taste to have. It’s another thing for a guy to say: “All girls should shave their bodies, but no I can’t be bothered to shave my face I don’t have time just deal with it.” Because disgusting double-standards are disgusting double-standards.

And the whole “cannot help” thing is ridiculous. Yeah, if you’re seven, your impulse-control won’t be great. If you’re sixteen, you can’t help having hormone levels that give you overactive emotions and really unnecessary erections. But you can, in fact, stop yourself from saying something, no matter what errors you make in sportsball. Have the self-control that you are demanding from your female classmates.

To be clear, I am not a bit supporter of the use of obscenities. I do think that it is silly to arbitrarily classify certain words as “bad words,” with the obvious exception of hurtful slurs. Any references to excrement are gross because of what they refer to—not because of one’s choice in diction. But I am also not a big supporter of ridiculous sexist nonsense.

Please get a grip, Queen Of Peace High School.

 

*Also no one is named Susie or Johnny anymore, I hope.



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Feminism in the Classroom–Folly or Fantasy?

Schools in America are open to a tremendous amount of criticism.  Much of it is even deserved.  However, the increasingly tight control of curriculum based on political correctness is an area that is worthy of conversation.

It’s kind of an open secret in education that we sanitize the hell out of things that don’t portray us in the best light.  The Civil War was fought because those fine, noble northerners found the idea of slavery morally reprehensible (forget the economy).  Lewis Carroll had a fabulous imagination that really resonated with children (redact the pedophilia).  Our involvement in Vietnam was a success (I’m not really sure how we’re able to keep that whopper floating–probably by arguing that we’re not all a bunch of communists–but somehow the myth perpetuates).

Therefore, the idea of facing head-on a subject that will without question raise controversy and–oh, my stars!–make kids think is invigorating.

That Feminism falls under that umbrella, though … I’m not sure how I feel about that.

I recently attended a fantastic training on inquiry-based instruction and assessment in an English Language Arts classroom (a fancy way to say “good English teaching”).  The presenter, who teaches at an inner-city school in New York City, shared lots of great strategies, techniques, and resources.

What stood out the most to me, though, was a unit she shared focused around feminism. It was absolutely mind-blowing … everything from evaluating the degree of impact made by Charlotte Bronte and Jane Austen to analyzing the philosophies of Mary Wollstonecraft to ..

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