Islamophobic Parents

Discussion in 'General Education' started by ssgirl11, Feb 4, 2019.

  1. ssgirl11

    ssgirl11 Companion

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    Feb 4, 2019

    I'm creating this thread to vent/see if anyone else has been in this situation.

    I am VERY careful to teach religion to my students, because I know how controversial it can be. I make sure to preface every religion lesson by telling students that I am in no way telling them how to believe or giving them my opinions, I am just stating the facts. I think I present the information in a pretty non-bias way.

    Well, last week we had 2 days of school because of snow/cold days. I taught about Islam (which is a state standard) in those two days, where the students had to read a brief article about the religion, and then we debriefed on it together in detail. I thought it went pretty well, and most kids seemed pretty interested. I get a call today from the Curriculum Director and the Superintendent saying that a parent has called central office complaining that I am only teaching about Islam, and not Christianity (I taught two lessons about Christianity at the beginning of the year.) They even called the MAYOR of the city about this, and posted several hateful messages about my class and Muslims on Facebook. I have NEVER had a complaint about teaching any religion, and I work at a pretty rural school. This was my biggest fear with teaching religion, and it has finally come true. Luckily, the admin is 1000% on my side and think this whole thing is a bit silly.

    It's just mind-blowing that I can work so hard to make the lesson non-bias, and still have this happen. It seems like if you just say the word "Islam" some people are up in arms.
     
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  3. a2z

    a2z Maven

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    My only suggestion was to teach the religions required by the state standard as a unit rather than piecemeal.

    I can see a child not going home and talking about when you taught the most common religion in the country but mentioning when an uncommon one is taught. So, this isn't surprising.

    I also know that there will be parents sensitive to the teaching of Islam just as parents decades ago were sensitive to the teaching of Judaism.
     
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  4. ssgirl11

    ssgirl11 Companion

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    I actually am teaching it as a unit. The textbook goes about it teaching the religion first, then the adaptations and innovations, and then it gets into West African culture. Maybe next year, I'll just throw the religion in throughout the unit, rather than make it one whole lesson.

    I agree, it's not surprising. I guess "mind-blowing" isn't the right word for it, it's more frustrating than anything. I'm just not sure how else to go about it.
     
  5. futuremathsprof

    futuremathsprof Aficionado

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    I’m so glad I teach mathematics and don’t have to deal with controversial nonsense.
     
  6. Linguist92021

    Linguist92021 Phenom

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    I was teaching at juvenile hall in San Diego, this was in 2011-2012, and I was a long term sub. I did have my classroom, and I created my own curriculum, I wasn't filling in for anyone. I taught one period of World Geography. Well part of geography is religion (just as physical geography, ad cultural geography which also has some history, culture, such as music, customs, etc in it). I decided to teach a unit on world religions. I started with Christianity, then Judaism, Islam, Hinduism and Buddhism.
    The kids complained about me. These were a bunch of disgruntled 17-18 year olds who got used to the curriculum being dumbed down, and didn't like the fact that I was actually teaching.
    Now, I know we can't "teach" religion in public schools (California), I was very careful with my wording, emphasizing that "people who are Christian usually believe... practice..." etc, not as this is how it is and it's the right way, etc. I was also very careful to spend the same amount of time and effort on each religion.
    Well, principal called me in, I wasn't worried, I explained, and a bunch of people came out and visited my class from Juvenile Justice division, some higher ups of the detention facility, etc.
    Those kids were so happy and wanted to see me sweat. I kept on teaching and nothing ever came of it.

    I think it is better to teach all the religions together, this way they can't say you're only teaching one because they forgot the other from a few months ago.
     
    Last edited: Feb 4, 2019
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  7. futuremathsprof

    futuremathsprof Aficionado

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    I just want to say that you rock! I love your calm, cool, and collected attitude when the higher-ups came in, haha! Well done!
     
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  8. Joyful!

    Joyful! Habitué

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    Maybe the student didn't represent what you said accurately to the parent?
    I'm a Christian. I teach in a Christian school. We teach religions the same way you described in history or geography or world cultures. We don't get complaints (the way you might imagine from people who send their kids to a Christian school.) We do have students from many faiths in our school, including, but not limited to, Hindu, Muslim, Jewish, Catholic, Agnostic, and, of course, Christian.
    Sometimes students don't hear your careful parsing of words and relate their understanding of the material in combination with their own understanding of their own faith's tenets and in relating it to parents it becomes what it was not.
    I'm sorry you are facing such a firestorm. I know it will be hard to maintain your professionalism as you continue to teach this student. The facebook barrage is unacceptable. Period. The idea that you give a homework assignment and become the talk of the classroom parents facebook group is just beyond the pale. Yikes. If I were part of FB I would come and dislike them. You can have your view, but you shouldn't be slandering another on FB. Just my opinion.
    Honestly, everyone is entitled to their views, but can we adults just model what a difference of opinion looks like? Can we adults just explain our views at home and send our kids back to class?
    One of my young relatives has a teacher who regularly interprets her view of the news and the issues of the day. Additionally, said teacher often mistakes facts. (Example: during CA fires, she regularly misstated casualties and spread of fire. It was frightening for some. Though we live on the other side of the nation, she managed to make it sound as though the fire was coming our way.) My little relative comes and asks her parents about those things. They explain their views. They tell her that different people whom we love can have different view points. It doesn't make them bad, just someone who thinks differently about something. (Though, personally, I thought it over the top to have the art teacher relating the news to students when the class has nothing to do with current affairs, but I think her parents handled it correctly.) She is becoming an independent thinker who exhibits kindness and grace. I think that is more important than any other lesson she can learn in that art class.
     
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  9. otterpop

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    That's ridiculous and I'm sorry you have to deal with it. Some people tend to fear what's unknown to them. We had a similar issue with a parent complaining about a teacher teaching about Christianity. I'm glad your principal backed you up. That doesn't always happen unfortunately, even if the teacher is teaching from the approved curriculum.

    It's probably too late for this now, but often the best approach is a proactive one. You could either send home a syllabus at the start of the year explaining the topics you'll cover and when, or you could inform parents once a month or so of what the new unit will cover: "For the month of February, we'll be studying the culture, language, history, and religious traditions of people in the Middle East." That way, parents are more likely to understand the broad goal of your lesson, rather than merely hearing that their teacher taught them about Islam on a certain day.
     
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  10. Aces

    Aces Habitué

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    Science isn't as point blank as math is, but for the most part we are able to avoid the insanity. There are some topics in science that get people up in arms over basically nothing.

    OP it sucks you have to deal with this, it's my major objection to teaching religion in schools. But I've also had it from a parents perspective as well. The school my kids to try to be heavy Christian (which is insane if you ask me in a community that is 61% non-Christian).
     
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  11. a2z

    a2z Maven

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    Hmmmm

    I'm confused.
     
  12. vickilyn

    vickilyn Magnifico

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    I am just guessing that there would not have been the same reaction if the religion was anything other than Islam. Why do I think this? Well, my hubby, who is a smart and well educated man can't have a conversation with me or anyone else about Islam without bringing up terrorists and the beliefs of our president (no, I don't want a political conversation - PLEASE!). If I see this response in someone who I know usually considers all facts and who is normally very tolerant, I have to assume that there are people out there who would be even less tolerant.

    I teach science, and I have to deal with both parents and studens who don't believe in evolution. My answer is that the curriculum requires it, and I never state a personal view. Do I believe in evolution? I think that is where the evidence trail leads, so yes. It is something else I don't actually want to debate. Could later evidence change what we think we know? Absolutely. I would appreciate it if that happens after my demise, so I don't have to deal with any "I told you so."
     
    Last edited: Feb 5, 2019
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  13. Aces

    Aces Habitué

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    I have to agree with you on both accounts. I don't have political conversations with my husband, period. I like the quality of our marriage as is and he gets extremely passionate to the point of being a butt. And I'd hate to be a widower before it's my time.
     
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  14. 3Sons

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    I think it's pretty interesting that parents like these are always complaining about their OWN religion not being given equal time.

    If it really necessary to teach Christian kids who Jesus is, or what the commandments are?
     
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  15. TeacherNY

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    When I was a kid we went to Sunday School at my church. That's where I learned the most about religion. I guess they don't have that nowadays?
     
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  16. RussianBlueMommy

    RussianBlueMommy Comrade

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    Personally, I don't think there is room for anything other than facts and beliefs on religions. As far as practicing your personal religion and the in depth history, etc, that should fall on the parents and church. IF religion is taught in schools at all, it needs to be a simple comparison of beliefs and facts about traditions (i.e Judaisjm believes in XYZ while Buddhism believes in XYX".
     
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  17. a2z

    a2z Maven

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    I think it's pretty interesting that Muslim parents are always complaining about their OWN religion not being given equal time.

    If it is really necessary to teach Muslim kids who Mohammad is, or what the tenants of Islam are?

    Your argument doesn't really work.

    The equal time is so that those who are not Christian will be given the same amount of time learning about Christianity as those who are Christian learning about a different religion. It isn't about teaching Christians about Christianity or Muslims about Islam. It is ensuring that those who don't have knowledge about that subject get equal time.

    I agree 100% if the school is going to be teaching about religions (not teaching religions) that each one deserves equal time.
     
    Last edited: Feb 6, 2019
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  18. vickilyn

    vickilyn Magnifico

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    Since the teaching of religions seems to be a history/social studies thing, I believe the primary reason for even mentioning religions has to do with how the religions have shaped cultures - everything from persecution that resulted in migrations, to holy wars that reshaped who ruled specific areas. No matter how different the religions seem, there are common threads. It is the effect that religion has on the cultures of varied regions that dictates students get the main ideas without pushing one religion over another. Perhaps teaching about the religions as forces that have shaped cultures, without teaching much about the tenets of the religion would be beneficial. After all, even within Christianity, the Holy Wars, and the groups that fled Europe to settle in North America rewrote boundaries and national cultures. Do I care what the Puritans believed? Nope. Do I understand that their immigration to North America signaled a mass immigration effect that shaped the United States, while changing forever the Native American cultures? Absolutely. We are/were known as the great melting pot. Whether that part of our culture has changed over time would be worthy of study. Just the way I view things, of course.
     
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  19. ssgirl11

    ssgirl11 Companion

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    ^^^ Agree 100%
    Religion is incredibly important in how it has shaped cultures. My standards are set up in a way that incorporates religion as it shows up in history, such as the origins and spread of Christianity in ancient Rome.
    What I also think is important is to understand how closely connected the major monotheistic religions of the world actually are. Before I taught this, I've always thought of Islam as being a completely different entity. Myself, and most of my students were surprised that the Muslims actually believe in the Old Testament, Jesus, and that they are descendants of Abraham. It helps to remember that we are not as different as we thought.

    I think I will take the advice of a few posters, and just do one unit with all of the religions at the beginning of the year, and then re-visit them briefly as they come up in history. That way, it won't feel like an isolated thing, and other religions will not be forgotten.

    I just wish everyone had an open view on this, but of course that will never happen! :)
     
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  20. catnfiddle

    catnfiddle Moderator

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    Can you possibly show parents a lesson plan that links your material to state or Common Core standards?
     
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  21. TeacherNY

    TeacherNY Phenom

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    Right. If the preferred religion is being taught at home, or wherever the family decides to worship, the parents shouldn't expect the preferred religion to be taught in totality in school (unless it's a religious based school) because the student should already know something about his/her own religion and is learning about it elsewhere. It's the same thing as parents wanting teachers to teach other skills that are really the parents' job.
     
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  22. ssgirl11

    ssgirl11 Companion

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    The parents did not contact me at all, they went straight to admin; this would have been my first move. My Curriculum Director, who was the one who made the phone call, got my lesson plans from me and did exactly this. I don't think it made much of a difference in this particular case, haha.
     
  23. catnfiddle

    catnfiddle Moderator

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    At least this gives you legal standing?
     
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  24. TeacherNY

    TeacherNY Phenom

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    So the parents can either let you follow state standards or home school their special snowflake! Problem solved!
     
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