Activist in my class

Discussion in 'Secondary Education' started by Leatherneck for Life, Oct 8, 2016.

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  1. Leatherneck for Life

    Leatherneck for Life Rookie

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    So, I have this senior in one of my history classes. This is a Christian school, but he's declared himself an atheist. He's clearly only in this school because his parents want him to be. Now, I respect people's religious beliefs, but this kid, he makes a point to challenge the faculty and have his atheism be part of his identity. I told him and the other students that I am not a theology teacher, and as much as I love having religious debates and discussion, my class is not the place to do it. However, if he continues to disrupt class and badmouth Christianity, I believe action should be taken. Any advice?
     
    Last edited: Oct 9, 2016
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  3. Leatherneck for Life

    Leatherneck for Life Rookie

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    *bump*
     
  4. Luv2TeachInTX

    Luv2TeachInTX Comrade

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    I agree. It would be no different than a student bashing another religion in a public school. I wouldn't put up with any religious (or any) disrespect in my classroom. Everyone is entitled to their beliefs and to have those beliefs respected. It is one of our most basic freedoms. Those types of discussions (validity or non-validity of certain religions) have no place in a school environment.
     
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  5. swansong1

    swansong1 Virtuoso

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    The student may be smart, but he does not have the right to disrupt the class. I would turn this over to administration and they can find a way for him to discuss his beliefs in a more acceptable environment.
     
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  6. Leatherneck for Life

    Leatherneck for Life Rookie

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    Smart as he may be, my subject is history, not theology. His actions are nothing more than a disruption.
     
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  7. Backroads

    Backroads Aficionado

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    With all due respect, what evidence gave you he was being a questioning scientist? If he's bashing religion, he's hardly focusing on scientific inquiry. Sounds like you're excusing a kid for being a jerk.
     
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  8. ms.irene

    ms.irene Connoisseur

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    I am all for letting kids discover their own beliefs and identities, but not for letting them disparage the beliefs and identities of others. I would treat it like any other classroom disruption and enact consequences as you would for any kind of disrespect.
     
  9. jadorelafrance

    jadorelafrance Cohort

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    Especially in a setting where the majority of the community are believers of this religion. This is their sanctity and their right as citizens to come together in community in a school setting. It's disrespectful of others and their beliefs. You can hold your beliefs in a respectful and quiet way. Would it be ok for an atheist (or even a believer of a religion) to bash Islam at an Islamic school? Or Judaism at a Jewish school?
     
  10. catnfiddle

    catnfiddle Moderator

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    There is a difference between an activist and an antagonist.
     
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  11. jadorelafrance

    jadorelafrance Cohort

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    Don't send your kids to private religious schools or teach them respect of they don't follow their beliefs and you absolutely insist on sending them there.
     
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  12. jadorelafrance

    jadorelafrance Cohort

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    The school is a sanctuary for those who are Christian, and I'm sure it's upsetting for children and teachers to be antagonized by this particular kid. There's nothing wrong with expressing your opinion and have certain beliefs or nonbeliefs, but the child needs to learn respectful and productive ways of expressing his opinion or stay quiet. Like the kids who don't stand up for the pledge. They have every right to sit down and express their opinion when asked, but I don't need to hear the kid antagonize me or tel me I'm wrong or foolish or whatever because I choose to stand. It's my right as a free citizen to sit or stand as I choose.

    The parents should be aware of the situation and the child is old enough to make a decision on whether or not he wants to be at this school. Why is he wasting his parents' money? Forcing a kid to be there isn't going to make him "religious." There are plenty of other independent non-religious schools that offer a solid education.
     
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  13. TeacherGroupie

    TeacherGroupie Moderator

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    In point of fact the failings that have been alleged of religion are pretty broadly true of humanity as a whole: anyone who is skeptical on this point need only look at the current election season.

    Members of A to Z are free to prove my point by despising each other, but they can take the slanging elsewhere. I've moderated some threads and edited one to remove a quotation.

    Settle down, all.
     
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  14. Backroads

    Backroads Aficionado

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    But is school the appropriate place for him to be antagonizing? Maybe he's being a brat, maybe he's reasonably stating his views. If it's the former, it doesn't matter what his views are: he is being a heel and no one cares if you sympathize with his view or not.

    The special snowflake needs to grow up and talk to his folks if he doesn't want to be there.

    If having zealots shove stuff down your throat is offensive, you shouldn't do it either.
     
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  15. Leatherneck for Life

    Leatherneck for Life Rookie

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    ... Can you read, Athena? I clearly said that that this is a Christian school and that my subject is not theology, but history. I also said in plain English that I would normally enjoy debate, but my class is not the place for religious debate. I'm not playing Opposite Day with this post; what I said is what I meant. Some friendly advice, don't try to "read between the lines" of people's statements. For one thing, you're clearly not good at it, and secondly, there are no lines or deeper meanings. Also, I'd think twice before calling people "religious zealots". If this kid has a problem being in a Christian school, he can talk to his parents.
     
  16. RussianBlueMommy

    RussianBlueMommy Comrade

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    I think the whole issue of any religious disrespect or bashing needs to be addressed. But I also think, (as another Christian teacher) he is just testing you to get you to react. I would ignore it and not be alarmist.
     
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  17. Peregrin5

    Peregrin5 Maven

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    Agree. While I personally am very much an anti-theist and make my views known to my adult cohort, I would not allow this student to be mocking or showing disrespect to others in my classroom and try to be very neutral about religious beliefs in my classroom.

    I'm actually concerned, because I'm worried one of my students might be being bullied for being a Mormon. I don't have much to go on yet except for overhearing a snippet of a conversation, but regardless of their beliefs, every student has a right to come to school and feel comfortable in their learning environment. No student has the right to hold others hostage to their beliefs or disbeliefs.
     
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  18. Peregrin5

    Peregrin5 Maven

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    Well in this case, the school is accepting his tuition (or his parent's tuition) so they have to put up with him until they feel like enough is enough. With that acceptance of money and his status as a student there is a level of freedom of speech involved being a student in today's modern age. It's not the same as the freedom of speech of an adult of course and they still have to abide by the rules, but most schools probably don't have as a rule "You must not say anything bad about our religion at any point in the day, including between classes or at lunch time."

    If they do, this kid would likely have been kicked out by now and if he is being forced to attend this school, maybe that's his goal.

    Kids are allowed to have their beliefs and communicate them even if they are not popular beliefs, as long as they aren't endangering the learning environment or safety and well being of others. And I view this as more of an intellectual disagreement (not really something that is endangering) which is encouraged in most schools if done in a respectful way. Granted, private religious schools maybe different and designed to avoid this sort of thing.
     
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  19. MrsC

    MrsC Multitudinous

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    I couldn't agree more.
     
  20. jadorelafrance

    jadorelafrance Cohort

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    What I feel is that since this is a private school where everyone is essentially Christian (at least claim they are), there should be a level of respect for the majority's beliefs including the teacher's. There is nothing wrong with expressing one's beliefs, but there's a time and place. You wouldn't go to a church or synagogue or temple and tell everyone they're wrong and antagonize them, and this school is pretty much playing the role of a church. In a public school, there's more freedom per se to express one's opinion, but even so, there needs to be a certain level of maturity of the student.
    This kid is clearly unhappy there and I'm sure the parents know, but continue to send the kid there to provide a "spiritual and moral education," but if I was the parent and found out what my kid was doing, he'd be out there in 2 seconds and back in public school.
    Again, it's one thing to make your opinion known once proudly and loudy, and it's another to continually throw it in others' faces, tell them they're wrong, it really just turns others off, hurts feelings, and goes no where. This can go both ways for believers and non believers.
     
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  21. TeacherNY

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    I think the parents and administration need to be contacted about this. The other students will definitely talk about this at some point at home and the other parents might get upset. It seems like the atheist student was sent to that school to be "fixed" and he's rebelling.
     
  22. catnfiddle

    catnfiddle Moderator

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    My simple suggestion for this particular student in your particular class would be to consistently, calmly, remind the student that his declarations are off-topic, but to redirect him to discuss the era in history being studied. Hopefully, you aren't working on something that has a religious influence (Crusades, Inquisition, etc). Staying calm and steering the student back to the curriculum is about the only thing that may work, because it would head off any arguments before they start.
     
  23. Backroads

    Backroads Aficionado

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    Which I'd probably a mistake on the part of his parents. I suppose I could give the benefit of the doubt to a kid who under more ideal circumstances could be more reasonable and respectful, just frustrated at the time being.

    I attended a religious university and found myself bemused by a girl who did not subscribe to the religion and acted like a brat about it. Why was she there, then? It was one of the schools her parents said they'd pay for. I thought it was silly, hee being an adult and all. I suppose the student in question here has the problem of being a,minor.

    I like cat''s suggestion. It's history class, let's talk history.
     
  24. Peregrin5

    Peregrin5 Maven

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    Church and school (even if it's a private Christian school) are two very different things. A kid can be forced to go to church and hold his tongue for one hour a week. You can't expect a student to hold his tongue for 6-7 hours a day every day of the week, just because the majority of them are Christian. School is meant to be a place for expanding the minds of students and discussing various ideas even if you don't agree with them. It's not meant to be an extension of church or a place to hide from ideas you don't like, otherwise you might as well just call it Daily Church instead of a Private "School".
     
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  25. jadorelafrance

    jadorelafrance Cohort

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    I completely agree!! And in fact this is the best argument I've read so far for the kid. I think the parents and the kid need to sit and talk. Forcing a kid to subscribe to set of beliefs in which he does not believe will not magically change him.
    And school is also supposed to be a safe place where one can feel ok having a specific belief, and that goes for this kid and the others in the same class as him.
    I don't know everything this kid has said/done exactly, but I guess my beef is with the antagonizing. If this kid is truly antagonizing the teacher and other students about their beliefs, he needs a serious talking to. It would be the same in a public school. There's respectfully expressing one's ideas and challenging the status quo, and then there's putting others down for not agreeing with you.
     
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  26. Peregrin5

    Peregrin5 Maven

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    True. And like I said, if it's happening at inappropriate times, or done in a hurtful or demeaning way, then that should not be tolerated. I just don't think we should be regulating his beliefs outside of the classroom or during the free time he has at school (like lunch time or after class), as long as, again, he is doing it respectfully.
     
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  27. TeacherGroupie

    TeacherGroupie Moderator

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    The topic of this thread is how to deal with the student. Let's keep to that, please, rather than trading barbs. Two of you have been warned. While some of the language about religion was out of line, PallasAthena's point about distinguishing between the kid being disruptive per se and the kid expressing opinions that cause the teacher discomfort is apt - and, given a bit of snark that I missed last night, a point well worth pondering by Leatherneck for Life.

    Once again: settle down, people.
     
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  28. jadorelafrance

    jadorelafrance Cohort

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    We have all had that kid that has challenged what we say/do in the class or the most popular belief of the students in the class. It can be spun in a positive way into maybe a class debate or persuasive essay/project (although some topics may be off the table in a private school). However, there is a fine line between being outspoken in your beliefs, and downright defiance/bullying. If the kid is constantly interrupting the teacher and other students, shouting out, name calling (don't know that that is even going on here), and refusing to do work, that's just a discipline issue right there that needs to be addressed with the admin and parents. Can you maybe give us some more examples of what this kid has said or done?
    I do wonder if the parents are aware of their child's beliefs/actions. Perhaps you can talk it over with your department head just so admin is aware of the issue in case it's going in other classrooms.
     
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  29. Backroads

    Backroads Aficionado

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    From the OP

    Unless Leather is being oversensitive, intentionally disrupting class with off-topic comments about how much he hates Christianity and badmouthing (not just intelligently criticizing, but namecalling) certainly count as antagonizing.
     
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  30. catnfiddle

    catnfiddle Moderator

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    If class is being disrupted with conversation that is off-topic, it doesn't matter if it's about theology or the Kardashians.
     
  31. Leatherneck for Life

    Leatherneck for Life Rookie

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    Making snarky comments about Christianity or religion in general that have nothing to do history is not intellectual debate, it's just being disruptive. I would be more than happy to debate him, because he is a smart kid, but the class I have him in is military history. It has nothing to do with theology, except mentioning the names of certain religions. His comments about how "terrible" religion is and how we're essentially "brainwashed" for being Christian do not contribute to the subject at hand. Well, the principal finally contacted his parents and flat out told them that this boy does not want to be in this school. Seriously, if they can afford to send him to a secular private school, they should do so.
     
  32. otterpop

    otterpop Phenom

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    I agree. I'd just say, "Let's get back on topic. Can anyone tell me ______?" and continue your discussion or lesson. Having opinions is okay, but sharing them disrespectfully and at an inappropriate time is not okay. I doubt you'd let a vegan go on about animal cruelty in your classroom on a daily basis, or another student hijack conversations with their theories on how global warming isn't real. It doesn't matter if you agree or disagree. It's off topic conversation that needs to be redirected as soon as possible. If it continues happening, have a private conversation with the kid, and if it still happens, refer him to admin.
     
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  33. Leatherneck for Life

    Leatherneck for Life Rookie

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    Yeah, I'd even react the same way in the opposite situation. A kid starts advocating for Christianity, I'd tell them to stay on topic and remind them that this is not a theology class.
     
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  34. Backroads

    Backroads Aficionado

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    Hooray for your principal.
     
  35. Backroads

    Backroads Aficionado

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    The thing is, it's just rude. When it's not the time or place to share your opinion, and you go a step beyond that and do it rudely, you're not being smart or clever. You're being a jerk.
     
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  36. Peregrin5

    Peregrin5 Maven

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    That's all you have to do for this kid. That and informing the parents that he really really doesn't want to be there.
     
  37. Leatherneck for Life

    Leatherneck for Life Rookie

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    Well, the parents agreed to move him to a secular private school rathe reluctantly. I hope to run across him again someday, possibly on the internet, and have a debate with him. Like I said, he's a smart kid, I just couldn't have irrelevant disruptions in my class.
     
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  38. Obadiah

    Obadiah Groupie

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    I agree that irrelevant disruptions and disrespectful comments should not be tolerated. I've seen some areas of this discussion that I would also like to respond to. I don't mean this as critical. Different schools and different Christian schools have different philosophies. Something that might be a discussion point for a Christian school in particular would be the Association of Christian School's philosophy that "all truth is God's truth"; if God is the Creator, then all learning is ultimately of God. So in that philosophy, even though I might be teaching history, math, science, or any other subject, ultimately I'm teaching theology. ACSI schools promote integrating the Bible within each lesson, not just tagging on a verse, but teaching the subject from the biblical perspective; nor does this philosophy endorse ignoring alternative viewpoints--neither does the Bible ignore alternative viewpoints but instead candidly considers them. I taught elementary, so I never encountered a high school level debate situation, but I still required my students to speak respectfully at all times. My rule was it's fine to disagree, but we disagree politely. And I still agree with Leatherneck, the class lesson must stay within the objective of the lesson.

    It seems this student needs to learn how and when to express himself. I suppose that is typical for this age group and where they are in their social development. Especially at a senior level in high school, I feel it is important for that age group to be exposed to various philosophies and religions. If a Christian student attends a Christian college, s/he will be exposed to various viewpoints. I recall reading The Passover Plot, listening to debates from various viewpoints, etc. at my very conservative Christian college. If the Bible is true, Christians should not be afraid of comparing and contrasting it to other ideologies. But the overall goal, I believe, is not to argue. A contest in who can shout the loudest is only won by the person with the megaphone not by the person with the truth.
     
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  39. TeacherNY

    TeacherNY Maven

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    It seems like this was the desired outcome. The student just really didn't want to be in that school and did everything he could to force his parents to put him in a different school. He probably wouldn't have minded being kicked out of the school so I'm sure he is pretty happy with himself right now.
     
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  40. SpecialPreskoo

    SpecialPreskoo Moderator

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    Sometimes letting them get their way is better for all parties. He is out and no longer disrupting the rest of the class over his religious or lack of religious views.
     
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  41. RussianBlueMommy

    RussianBlueMommy Comrade

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    Actually (at least around here) most of the Christian schools are extensions of a specific church, i.e the Catholic School. We have several others as well th that are directly associated with and linked to the church, ironically.
     
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