Sunday, June 30, 2024

Religion in Schools


By Jack Yordy, guest-posting:

She who would be Superintendent
of all NC Schools -- Michele Morrow

Religious schooling is familiar to me. As a graduate of Christ The King (CTK) Catholic High School in Huntersville, North Carolina, religion wasn’t just in my school. It was the central idea of my schooling. The core tenet of CTK’s teaching philosophy was "faith through reason." 

Teachers and students alike had difficulty grappling with that ideological framework. In my first year at CTK, we learned about the Big Bang and the theory of evolution in history class. The next class of the day was Theology, where our teacher did not just call those ideas into question but claimed that they were unequivocally false. Between claims about homosexuals infiltrating the Church, he also liked to discuss the difference between Christianity and Catholicism, highlighting with vigor the "heresies" of other Christian doctrines and biblical interpretations, and of course, his belief that god put dinosaurs on earth to "test our faith." 

One day in my Junior year, after I had come out and was known to be gay by both my peers and professors, my history teacher decided to spend an entire class session talking about homosexuality. He asked us, “Well, why would gays want to get married? What’s the point other than getting government benefits?” and claimed that gay people knew they weren’t truly married if they weren’t married in the church. He finished this diatribe with a point directed at me and my mother, who was also the biology teacher at the school, saying in front of my classmates, “If you let your son be homosexual, it’s the same as letting him jump off a bridge." One of my classmates brought this to the administration, who decided that my history teacher was speaking within Catholic doctrine and therefore was not in the wrong. 

On Thursday, June 27th, the Oklahoma State Superintendent mandated that the Bible be taught in Oklahoma public schools. As a person who went to a Catholic school, these are some of the questions that I believe must be asked when we’re thinking about teaching religious doctrine in schools: 

  • Which doctrines and interpretations of the Bible are we going to teach?

  • Will we allow or encourage teachers to contradict scientific claims that are universally accepted but are in conflict with the Bible?

  • Does it mean vilifying queer students and students of other religious and cultural backgrounds who don’t fit into a teacher’s interpretation of the Bible? 

  • If a student disagrees with a teacher’s Biblical interpretation, will their grades be affected? 

These are not rhetorical questions. When voters go to vote in North Carolina’s state superintendent election this year, they should be asking these questions because the Republican candidate Michele Morrow is not thinking of them at all. She will likely try to implement the Oklahoma state policy in tandem with other Republican states regardless of the chaos in classrooms that will follow. Voters in this election must consider if they want to live in a state where these questions need to be answered and where their tax dollars are spent, through private school vouchers ("Opportunity Scholarships"), to confuse and punish students without the same religious views as their teachers.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I always appreciated my 7th Grade Biology teacher (who taught Sunday school as well) who pointed out (first day of class, to head off any parental interference) that the Bible gave an explanation of 'who created' and evolution explained 'how'. Oh. And the Hebrew word that got translated 'day' meant 'period of time (unspecified)'. That was in 1963 - I wish the rest of the world would catch up.