Monday, February 15, 2010

Keepin' the faith... separate!

If you spend any time on any of the social networks such as Facebook, you've surely seen sites where friends try to enlist you in one cause or another... try this one on for size.

"Allow God in School..." The site proclaims to spout 1,633,659 members. Impressive, huh?

Not by a long shot. Not unless you want to equate numbers with might--might makes right--which smacks of bullying to me. So I ask this question: If faced with the question, do I (or do you?) want your public schools teaching your children religion? My answer is quick, easy, simple and direct!


Go to church instead; pray in your own homes where your faith is a private matter between you and your creator, but do not inflict it on myself or students who may not share your beliefs.

On the Facebook site, two of my former high school students agreed in the affirmative, thinking our schools need God. For people arguing that school prayer is desirable, my initial response would be, there is prayer everyday in school as is. Just ask students if they pray before taking a test.

All kidding aside, if I were still teaching and my school administrators had instructed me to involve religion in my classroom, honestly I would find myself with a very easy choice. I quit. You see, I object to the notion that a meticulous pursuit of faith equates morality; we've all seen plenty of examples that illustrate just the opposite.

Our founding fathers wrote Separation of Church and State clauses into this nation's Constitution for a reason.

After telling one of the students this, she said that 'your [sic] allowed to have your for my children they will grow up with God.'

Of course they would--and for many that would be a good thing, but children would have the right to pursue this whether it happens in school or not--after all, it is my contention that in all matters of religious faith are best left to parents--and the child.

As is, parents already complain they don't want schools teaching their children about sex; about starting and raising their own families; about sexuality; so why add another element that has not one little thing to do with learning how to read, write, add / subtract / multiply, learn business, etc?

To further my argument, if you go into any Catholic Church, an Episcopalian church, a Baptist church, a Methodist church, a Lutheran church, a Jewish temple or a Islamic mosque and you are going to find a different explanation of their faith in each of these churches. I would venture even further that no two ministers of even the same faith are going to preach the word of God in the same fashion, conviction or belief.

Teachers today already are counselors, coaches, babysitters (sadly all too often this is true), sometimes a friend, sometimes grief counselor, sometimes mediator, sometimes administrator, and to add more on to their job title is just not practical, desired or possible. Are you asking a school take the time to explain the faith of each church to every child?

Furthermore, churches themselves don't even agree on what story of God is correct, so why expect schools to insert their own stamp? Next, for those who have worked tirelessly to secure a moment for daily school-led prayer, are the rest of us to seriously believe that you would stop there? Next, creationism will be taught; next, biology and physical science classes will be compromised; next, health classes will be compromised; and next, English classes will include the Bible as a textbook.

I offer this warning: If this door is opened, every single faith will be wanting their say. Do you want a school teaching things in matters of religion you do not agree with? I know those same people who feel school prayer is a good thing would be horrified if their child would be forced to sit through a Muslim prayer... and there are some really kooky churches out there that who will also be standing in line for their turn at your child's young mind.

Teachers are not preachers, they are not theologians, nor are they Bible thumpers... or least they'd best not be. Personally, faith is not something you can teach anyway; it is something you feel.

I do not mean to sound antagonistic towards those people of faith. As I read of more and more religious folks lashing out in anger saying their rights are being trampled on, I wonder where we have gone so wrong to feel that we have the right to demand 'my' time, 'my' faith,' my beliefs are more important, more correct and they trump yours or mine.

The cynic in me would respond by saying, 'oh boo hoo hoo hoo, you poor dears.' When did we become such a nation of cry babies?

Simply, these folks fail to see the irony of their cries... that if given their way, if they examined their desires so intently they would find themselves guilty of the same actions as those decried as sinners and heathens. The best, and most measured response is 'grow up, suck it up, and permit each of us to lead our lives the way we choose. I would have to say to those of religious faith, no one is denying you your right to practice faith, but do so in a manner that does not inflict, insult and demean all involved.

My student continued by saying, "I believe that children should be able to be who they are in school and that includes religion."

I have seen no evidence schools are denying children their right to self-actualization. No school is telling a child they cannot follow their faith. What the arguer really wants is to hand over all control to God instead of thinking for one's self (whether they want to admit it or not). I could paraphrase a recent speaker's chant of 'how's that hopey, changey thing working out for you?' No. Give me some tangible proof, give me something concrete that shows how schools are harming children by not bringing church to the educational table (or desk); or how schools will be improved by this intrusion.

Point is, as is, there is not enough time in the school day to teach what we need to teach.. and with the world's expanding base of new science, new literature, new history, new math concepts, new computer technology, all the things one needs to succeed in life... And if this still does not satisfy the most ardent of religious faith, my best answer would be, please, send your child to a private religious school where your child can pray to his or her heart's content.

Perhaps one answer to this 'dilemma' can easily be solved thusly. When churches are no longer tax-exempt; when churches are required to pay property taxes that contribute to public school funding; and when churches pay for teachers to study theology, then perhaps I (but not likely) would agree it is time for church involvement in our children's every waking moment.

Until then, I can honestly say there is not time enough or reason enough to teach religion, which is why I said that teaching faith is a job best left to parents and their churches.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Is this what President Obama was saying?

Is this what President Obama was referring to in his State of the Union address last week (click on the photo)?

All kidding aside, the Supreme Court's recent ruling to overturn campaign finance legislation was certainly disturbing. I don't know about you, but I find it extremely troubling that this ruling could, and most likely will, open the floodgates for corporate sponsorship of our elected leaders. Can you say, 'let's make a deal (minus TV game show host Monty Hall)?'

I know the Justices said that campaign legislation limits free speech, but I don't buy it (pardon the pun). I do not equate money with free speech, although it seems apparent to me that the Justices have bought into the old maxim 'money talks.'

I've not spent a lot of time pondering over this issue. There has to be a common sense answer, but sadly I am reminded of Cyndi Lauper's song 'money changes everything.'

Personally, I favor some kind of state funded elections (with restrictions). In effect--and theoretically, this would enable anyone who wishes to run for office instead of just those who have access to big bucks. Seriously, who would you entrust more with your concerns, an "average Joe" with every day roots or some big fat cat who is beholding to corporations and big spending billionaires who donate money to protect their interests over those of we, the people?

Yeah, that's what I thought too.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Men of the Week

"I cannot escape being troubled by the fact that we have in place a policy which forces young men and women to lie about who they are in order to defend their fellow citizens.

For me personally, it comes down to integrity — theirs as individuals and ours as an institution. I have served with homosexuals since 1968. Putting individuals in a position that every single day they wonder whether today’s going to be the day, and devaluing them in that regard, just is inconsistent with us as an institution.

--Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Mike Mullen, USN

"I fully support the president's decision. The question before us is not whether the military prepares to make this change, but how we best prepare for it. We have received our orders from the commander in chief and we are moving out accordingly."

--Robert M. Gates, Secretary of Defense

Both men sat before the Senate Armed Services Committee yesterday explaining a proposed change of military code that would put an end to the notorious policy commonly known as 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell.' Both explained the rationale of abolishing a policy that President Obama has deemed irrational and prejudicial--and one not befitting of our Armed Forces.

Each explained as a matter of conscience the cost this policy has inflicted upon the military, both morally and politically--as well as the implications of undermining the military's longstanding commitment to integrity. Their testimony before the senate committee signals an end of the nearly 17-year old ban on gays and lesbians from openly serving their country in the world's finest military force.

In contrast to the two leading U.S. military leaders, the following comments clearly illustrate the hypocrisy put forth by some senate leaders. Yesterday, U.S. Senator John McCain voiced his opposition to changing the policy.

"I want to make one thing perfectly clear upfront: I am enormously proud of, and thankful for, every American who chooses to put on the uniform of our nation and serve at this time of war. I want to encourage more of our fellow citizens to serve, and to open up opportunities to do so. Many gay and lesbian Americans are serving admirably in our armed forces – even giving their lives so that we and others can know the blessings of peace. I honor their sacrifice, and I honor them."

You honor them??? Forgive me, Senator, if I don't believe a word of your careully crafted speech. You say in one breath you honor gay and lesbian servicemembers, and in the next you say they can stay with the condition that they behave and keep their dirty little secret to themselves. In effect, you want them to become liars. Where are the sensibilities in this?

Sir, you are a former Navy officer. The Navy's core values of "honor, courage, commitment" are instilled to every Sailor from the day they step foot at Naval Station Great Lakes for boot camp. Expecting a man or woman to lie is anything BUT honorable!

The statement you read at yesterday's senate committee meeting smacks of hypocrisy of the highest degree. In my opinion, your very words bring shame on yourself, your state and your service to this nation--and to the Navy we both love.

One cannot serve in honor when encouraged--nay--demanded to perpetuate a lie about an integral part of one's very being. It is dishonorable to set Sailors (and servicemembers of the other branches of service) up for failure over a private matter that has nothing to do with defending one's homeland and fellow citizens.

Senator, you said, "Has this policy been ideal? No, it has not. But it has been effective."

Sir, respectfully, effective at what? Has it improved readiness? Prove it! Has it improved unit cohesion and morale? Again, give us Americans proof. Don't give us platitudes, don't give us speeches that veil your prejudice. Tell us why discharging 13,000 patriotic Americans was an honorable thing to do, and why it was the right thing to do for this man's Armed Forces?

Look at the stories of other nations who have abolished this ban. Are the armed forces of Britain, Canada or Israel any less effective because they they permit gays and lesbians to openly serve in their nations' armed forces?

Sir, what do you know that 20 nations of the 26 who participate in NATO do not? AND as a nation that prides itself on treating all of its citizens equally, do we want to be lumped in the same category as Iran, Russia, China, Venzueala and countless other countries well known for civil and human rights violations?

Senator, where were you the day 'honor, courage, commitment' was taught at the U.S. Navy Academy? Your words, especially in light of previous comments you have made regarding DADT (see below), merely add credence to President Obama's claim that the Republican Party has become the party of 'just say no!' You are an affront to everything I believe about serving in my beloved U.S. Navy.

Hypocrite of the week

"The day that the leadership of the military comes to me and says, 'Senator, we ought to change the policy,' then I think we ought to consider seriously changing it."

--Senator John McCain, to an audience of Iowa State University students in 2006.