"Schools shut down over Islam homework"

Discussion in 'General Education' started by Caesar753, Dec 18, 2015.

  1. Caesar753

    Caesar753 Multitudinous

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    Dec 18, 2015

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  3. ms.irene

    ms.irene Connoisseur

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    Personally, I think it's ridiculous. On the other hand, if you teach in a conservative Christian area, you have to kind of know your audience. I probably wouldn't have assigned that particular passage if I was teaching in that kind of a community. It goes both ways, though -- I have had conservative Muslim families refuse to allow their students to read The Crucible because it is about witchcraft (even though it really isn't, of course). Ignorance and closed-mindedness exist on both sides of this issue.
     
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  4. Backroads

    Backroads Aficionado

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    I'm having trouble comprehending the big deal. Wow and I mean wow. The things that gets panties twisted and makes me doubt my own conservative leanings... am I not as conservative as I think I am?
     
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  5. MLB711

    MLB711 Comrade

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    What ms. Irene said
     
  6. catnfiddle

    catnfiddle Moderator

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    I was almost rendered sightless from the eyeroll. It makes me wonder how they would have reacted if that teacher had used Hebrew from the Torah. It's also calligraphy, also very beautiful.
     
  7. DizneeTeachR

    DizneeTeachR Virtuoso

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    I would say the passage makes me a little uncomfortable. I mean people get all upset at saying our pledge just saying under God. The teacher didn't think this would get people riled up???
     
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  8. mollydoll

    mollydoll Connoisseur

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    The shahada is one of the pillars of Islam. In the context of a history class, it is a significant thing to know. I don't understand this mind set of not wanting to get to know other cultures and religions. The history standards include similar for all the world religions studied.

    Learning these things is not at all comparable to having children participate in something like the pledge (which we do, though kids can abstain). This particular district also does the pledge, and they have student led religious clubs.

    I remember learning similar material eons ago in 6th grade. Our teacher had lived in Saudi Arabia so she also had music, food, clothing and other cultural items for us. Back then, all of that was considered a great thing to do.
     
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  9. TeacherGroupie

    TeacherGroupie Moderator

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    Ah: I thought I'd recalled, and it's true, that that sample of Arabic script is what's featured on the flag of Saudi Arabia: see http://www.worldatlas.com/webimage/flags/countrys/mideast/saudiarb.htm. Calligraphy is indeed a high art in Arabic culture - what looks like random tracery on the Court of the Lions of the Alhambra in Spain is actually Arabic script carved into the pillars and arches. But Arabic script is complicated enough even without introducing the element of calligraphy: Arabic doesn't have the equivalent of the uppercase vs. lowercase distinction, but most characters in Arabic script have different versions depending on whether they're at the beginning of a word or the end and depending on the character with which they connect. It would be challenge enough to give the kids regular non-calligraphic Arabic to write. And it's not even clear to me that this exercise has kids writing the language in the correct direction (right to left, not left to right).

    The controversy, in any case, is just silly.
     
  10. ms.irene

    ms.irene Connoisseur

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    Backroads, I think this goes to the heart of what is going wrong socially and politically right now: religious fundamentalism is being confused with conservatism. A true conservative would respect the concept of separation of church and state, as defined in the constitution. What we have now are a whole lot of people thinking their religious beliefs should outweigh everyone else's, which is a tenet of fundamentalism, not true conservatism.
     
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  11. Peregrin5

    Peregrin5 Maven

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    I think if conservatism and liberalism were purely about economic beliefs, liberals and conservatives would get along a whole lot better than they do now. Unfortunately, the reality is that what people associate with liberalism and conservatism in today's society is what we're basing our decisions on.

    I consider myself a staunch liberal, but I disagree with some of the things that some people associate with liberalism, like their constant support of Islamic belief. I don't really support any religious belief and that includes Islam. I also am ambivalent about gun policy. I know a lot of people who consider themselves economic conservatives (I may even lean that way a little bit in certain cases) but don't agree with all of the crazy things Trump and the racists, bigots, misogynists, and religious fundamentalists (who have taken over the party) say.
     
  12. Joyful!

    Joyful! Habitué

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    I am what you would consider a religious fundamentalist. I believe the Bible is the Word of God and I aspire to follow its principles. Differences of opinion on economics, political leanings and other societal views should not render one incapable of expressing those differences. We are moving to a point, in my view, where the differences of opinion have people assuming the other person is hateful or ignorant. The beauty of this nation is simply the freedom for people to have the differences and express them.

    The fact that I disagree with the statement a student was required to write in his class, does not render me ignorant or intolerant. I just disagree with the idea of Allah being God. I don't see the harm in writing those words in callligraphy, but I truly respect a parent's right to object to it. I find it refreshing that parents are teaching their children about religion in the home and have concerns that the school is contradicting their views. Personally, I feel our nation could use more families spending their time together sharing values, rather than screen time. I'm certain if I required students to write the Ten Commandments or John 3:16 from the Bible in a public school, I would find parents in disagreement with my choice to assign the material though I could find valid reasons historically to make such an assignment in the same manner that this teacher could find reasons to make this assignment.

    You asked for thoughts. Mine are these: 1. Parents are the ultimate source of authority in a child's life, and as such, we teachers serve the parents. 2. Differences are not a bad thing, but disrespectful behavior is a very bad thing. As a Christian, hateful speech goes against what we are taught, and speaking the truth in love is encouraged. Not having been taught other religions, I can only assume they all have the same perspective. 3. Separation of church and state should mean what it was intended to mean--simply that the state should not be in control of what is taught in the church. If we as a nation continue to interpret separation of church and state in the manner we do now, then every religion should be off limits not just one religion. Or conversely, all religions could be included. Possibly some of the push back in VA stems from the fact that students can not bring a Bible to class or mention Jesus or Christmas, but during the time of the exclusion of Christmas, the inclusion of a strictly religious declaration of faith was made. 4. I wish you all a blessed holiday season.
     
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  13. readingrules12

    readingrules12 Aficionado

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    I guess I am not surprised that there is some concern or a call to the school. What surprises and saddens me is the extreme reaction. Some calling for the teacher to be fired? What is sad is that in a truly educated society, we need to know about religions and various political view points. Our students will not benefit from being ignorant. Did this teacher cross a line? Maybe. We should all be civil about it. I don't think there was any malicious intent here and calm minds should prevail.
     
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  14. renard

    renard Companion

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    I find it inappropriate to expect non-Muslim children to write the Shahada. Sorry, but I do. I am Catholic, and would not agree to it. Arabic calligraphy is one thing, but the Shahada is not just writing. It is a statement of faith.

    I also feel many Muslims would agree. My mother is Muslim, and takes her pillars quite seriously. It is not the right choice of "words". I'm sure the teacher meant well, but did not fully realize the implications.

    Just IMO.
     
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  15. Peregrin5

    Peregrin5 Maven

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    I have a hard time believing that a student can't bring a Bible to class or mention Jesus or Christmas. I live in California (the haven of liberalism) and both of those things are completely allowed.

    Also can you clarify what you mean by "interpret separation of church and state in the manner we do now"? If by that you mean that the church should stay out of using the law to force others to bend to their beliefs, then I agree wholeheartedly, whether that be the Christian church, the church of Islam, or the church of Pastafarianism.

    If you mean that the separation of church and state should only be limited to states telling people what they should preach in church, then you're ignoring the true spirit of the separation of church and state which is to prevent a state-established religion. Any law that promotes the beliefs of one religion over another or any action by any public entity which favors one religion over another is violating separation of church and state.
     
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  16. gr3teacher

    gr3teacher Phenom

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    People are far too sensitive about this type of crap. I'm going to go out on a limb and guess that most of these same parents don't complain much that this exact same school district offers students the chance to leave school once a week to attend a bible study. The lesson dealt with world religions. It's literally no different than having a student read an excerpt from a bible verse, or looking at Hindu or Buddhist excerpts, or even reading Greek and Roman myths. Would we be having this conversation if an art teacher was using slides of the Sistene Chapel? Would we be having this conversation if the teacher had the students write the original Greek version of John 3:16? As for people blaming the teacher specifically... they were using a page from a teacher workbook, presumably from district-approved resources, and that presumably have been used in other districts without complaint. So...

    Also, as an FYI, the three Abrahamic religions all worship the same god. Allah means god in Arabic. The difference between the religions comes from their prophets, and the role of Yeshua ben Yosef.
     
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  17. renard

    renard Companion

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    It's not quite so simple as that.

    It would be, in some comparison, asking Muslim (or non-Christians) to study English by writing something like "Holy Mary, Mother of God" or I dunno, I'd have to consider a prayer that explicitly states Jesus as the Son, not a prophet like in the Qu'ran. As an ESL Specialist, this is an obvious no. I would never expect my Muslim mother to say this at the table, it is blasphemy to her.

    I've spent much time in the Middle East and although yes, Arabic by its nature is religious, there is so much one can write other than THE Islamic Statement of Faith.
     
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  18. gr3teacher

    gr3teacher Phenom

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    Also, I have absolutely no idea where somebody would get the idea that Christmas can't be mentioned in a Virginia public school. I teach in "liberal" Northern Virginia, in a class with several Muslim children, 2 Jewish children, and 1 Hindu student, and our morning meetings for the past two weeks have been filled with talk of Christmas plans. Those students who don't celebrate Christmas talk about the holidays they celebrate (when applicable) or about their own fun, non-holiday related plans. In past years, my Christian students have handled Ramadan discussion in the same way. As for bringing in Bibles, of course students can (and do) bring Bibles to school. I have a young lady who brings a children's Bible in every day. She keeps it in her desk, she understands that it's not independent reading, but can be read for silent reading, and she understands that it's probably not a great choice to be sharing with classmates. She understands all these things without me ever telling her, it's never been an issue and it never will be an issue. It's a simple matter of cultural sensitivity. I think children get that better than adults do.
     
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  19. gr3teacher

    gr3teacher Phenom

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    A better comparable would be using Greek or Latin, rather than learning English. The goal of this lesson wasn't teaching somebody a language. It was showing them what Arabic writing looked like, not asking them to say an Arabic prayer at the dinner table.
     
  20. gr3teacher

    gr3teacher Phenom

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  21. renard

    renard Companion

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    Yes, and it is also the Shahada.

    I'm going to guess that the teacher didn't know. That's an easy guess, and I don't think for one second the teacher meant any harm.

    That being said, for those who know the shahada and the meaning, it is not about being "too sensitive". My mother is Muslim and I lived in Egypt, listening to the call for prayer 5x a day. I probably know a lot more about the religion than most westerners. It would greatly upset me for my children to write the shahada. For the shahada to be part of a calligraphy project as " interesting writing" can also be offensive to Muslims too.

    I'm sure nobody means I'll will about this, but the whole debacle (complete outrage wanting teacher termination AND its just writing who cares) sort of demonstrate a lack of awareness on both sides.
     
  22. gr3teacher

    gr3teacher Phenom

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    The idea of it being offensive from the Muslim perspective makes even less sense to me than it does from a Christian perspective. It's a major part of their culture. They include it on their flags, it adorns their artwork, it's a part of important literature. It's a pretty obvious choice to use as a model for Arabic writing, particularly when it's very likely to have been the only piece of Arabic writing most students would have ever seen before.
     
  23. DizneeTeachR

    DizneeTeachR Virtuoso

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    You know maybe the teacher could have sent a note home describing what lessons are coming up...at least if a parent was uneasy about it they could email or talk to the teacher (I know some would still cause a fuss).
    Also thinking about this with a Christian holiday coming up...seems that the timing is a little awkward. Just my opinion.
     
  24. renard

    renard Companion

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    Well, that's exactly it. It is a fundamental part (a pillar) of their faith. It isn't simply a phrase. Some Muslims (of course, it's a large population) may find it absurd to use their statement of faith as an art/calligraphy project for non-believers. Let's be realistic - nobody without an understanding of Arabic would recognize it from a KFC sandwich board phrase. To write a statement of faith, even without heart, can indeed be very offensive to those of different beliefs.
     
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  25. czacza

    czacza Multitudinous

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    One could do a similar activity based on old Englsh font, standard calligraphy or a student's personal cursive.
     
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  26. gr3teacher

    gr3teacher Phenom

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    I'm not sure how well that would tie into this particular lesson...
     
  27. TeacherGroupie

    TeacherGroupie Moderator

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    As examples of Arabic calligraphy go, the shahada is actually rather tame. The energy that the Western art tradition has devoted to portraiture has instead been poured by the Islamic world into calligraphy that is as inventive in how it deploys and even distorts letter forms as it is in the astonishing variety of places in which the letter forms can appear as both text and decoration. The Metropolitan Museum has a fascinating discussion of Arabic calligraphy as art that includes images such as a mihrab or prayer niche that shows the direction of Mecca, with writing in three places (the rectangular panel in the back of the niche, the very edge of the niche, and the rectangular frame that runs up, over, and down the outside); a bowl with highly stylized script around the inside edge, and the tughra or official signature of Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent. I'm not posting images partly because I haven't figured out how but mostly because the Met's commentaries are well worth a look: there's a nifty short video with the tughra that shows which strokes correspond to what parts of the signature. Much as I adore Old English and the various Insular and continental manuscript hands of the Middle Ages, Arabic calligraphy really does outshine them.
     
  28. otterpop

    otterpop Phenom

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    While I don't personally have a problem with this, as a teacher, it's not something I would do. I wouldn't send home copy work with the phrase "Jesus is our Lord and Savior" either. But shut down the schools? That's ridiculous.

    ETA: I realize now that the schools weren't shut down because of the assignment as much as the fact that people were sending violent images as a result. Which shows, to me, that the real headline is "Community Members Send Violent Threats to Schools to Address Classroom Concern".
     
    Last edited: Dec 19, 2015
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  29. 2ndTimeAround

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    I think expecting the children to write the passage was a big mistake. Children NEED to learn about different religions, definitely. But writing the passage is equivalent to professing belief in Allah, for some people. And that makes it wrong.

    Would everyone here that is rolling their eyes feel the same if a Christian teacher was teaching about political cartoons and made all of her students, including the Muslim ones, draw cartoons of Mohammed?
     
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  30. TeacherWhoRuns

    TeacherWhoRuns Companion

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    I read an article on this, but I'm not sure it was the same one the OP cites. I have a few thoughts on this.
    A) This is yet another in a long line of internet outrage demonizing/blaming/slamming teachers, when it was a district adopted text. I'd like to know how long they've been using this text, who screened it before purchasing it, and why nobody caught this until now.
    B) These people are overreacting. The textbook clearly states the message is an Islamic statement of of faith. Unless the book is somehow magically able to convert students based on what they write, the context is correct and nothing to fear. Copying it is like writing a quote from someone else. Are we not going to let students write research reports anymore because they might cite a line from a text that their parents don't agree with? I don't live in Kansas, but if I wrote the Kansas state motto on an assignment, would I be indoctrinated into the midwest?
    C) The article I read says that a parent is saying the assignment violates her rights as a parent. I think a lot of adults are more ignorant than their children. Kids are more able to articulate what a "right" is than many adults.
    D) Emotion + Internet = problems.
     
  31. otterpop

    otterpop Phenom

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    To A): That was my thought too - the teacher probably just copied the pages out of a course book, rather than giving a lot of thought to what the assignment was "indoctrinating". No teacher should be teaching blindly, but like you said, it's probably been given to students before without a problem.
    To C): As a teacher, if any parent did bring up a religious concern with me regarding any classwork, I'd be happy to offer an alternate assignment. If a parent says it's against the family's religious beliefs, then I'm not going to argue or push the work. The parents should have expressed concern to the teacher and dealt with the issue in an adult manner.
     

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