Social Studies: Supplemental Resource--controversial?

Discussion in 'General Education' started by AdamnJakesMommy, Jun 4, 2014.

  1. AdamnJakesMommy

    AdamnJakesMommy Habitué

    Joined:
    Jul 1, 2012
    Messages:
    919
    Likes Received:
    40

    Jun 4, 2014

    I've been emailing back and forth with one of my faculty advisors for my master's program in my content area-social studies, which I'm teaching next year! Yay! Yay! and more Yay! Okay, the school I'm going to has very low readers, so I plan on integrating tons of ELA and reading into my classes. One of the resources I have purchased for my 6th and 7th graders (class sets) is the "Story of the World" series of books. They are written for upper elementary, but I think these will help my kids.

    Some of the "stories" are true, some are "historical fiction," but the author does not distinguish between the two, I guess because it is targeted for elementary kids. Some myths for example, are told like they really happened (Zeus and Hera, for example). Those are fine, I know, to say this is fiction. But the first book in the series dealing with the ancient world presents the stories of Islam, Christianity, and Judaism in the same light--and I don't dare to classify them as either category fiction or non-fiction. And honestly, I don't want to discuss the establishment of these religions because I'm nervous in general. It is a part of our curriculum to teach the beliefs and practices of religions as we progress through world history, including oral traditions of cultural groups--but I don't want to be in the predicament of did these or did these things really happen or are they fictional accounts debates---maybe if I were a more seasoned teacher, but not now.

    Would it be okay to simply remove any stories from the book (cut them out, cheesy I know) that I am uncomfortable with? Or does a story or excerpt from a resource that cause discomfort taint the whole source--meaning I should toss the book entirely??

    The faculty advisor sees no reason to remove them and to just inform the kids and parents that the stories are told from the perspective of faith, but that whether the events happened or not we cannot comment on and is up to the individual. I would rather just remove them entirely.
     
  2.  
  3. Go Blue!

    Go Blue! Connoisseur

    Joined:
    Aug 3, 2011
    Messages:
    1,949
    Likes Received:
    17

    Jun 4, 2014

    As a new teacher, I would listen to your Advisor especially because teaching about the Abrahamic religions is a part of the curriculum and I, personally, don't think religion is a topic that should be skipped. I don't think you should feel uncomfortable or try to skip these topics because the spread of these three religions is a huge part of world history and this provides the foundation for understanding numerous events and conflicts that have occurred since.

    Here, the 6th grade curriculum is Ancient Civilizations (7th is Geography) and the curriculum standards (pre-CCSS) has us discuss the founding and fundamentals of Judaism, Christianity and Islam. I teach all three in a factual manner and depending on the topic, we sometimes discuss it further on a more personal level. I enjoy talking about things like religion because the kids actually have an opinion and some "prior knowledge" (unlike if I'm discussing a topic like the French Revolution).

    If need be, stick to what the textbook/resources say and only teach what they say if you feel like you need some "protection" or something to throw under the bus later.
     
  4. gr3teacher

    gr3teacher Phenom

    Joined:
    Sep 13, 2013
    Messages:
    4,256
    Likes Received:
    794

    Jun 4, 2014

    I'd tell kids upfront that some of the stories are true, some are not true, and others are stories about religion which may or may not be true.
     
  5. AdamnJakesMommy

    AdamnJakesMommy Habitué

    Joined:
    Jul 1, 2012
    Messages:
    919
    Likes Received:
    40

    Jun 4, 2014

    I totally agree with religion being a tremendous factor in the course of history. I don't feel uncomfortable with discussing things like the Protestant Reformation or spread of religions, it's the establishment that makes me uncomfortable. For example, from the "Story of the World series:


    This baby would grow up to start a whole new religion. The Bible tells us about this baby in the four books called 'the Gospels.' Here is the story as it is told in the Gospel of Luke:

    "One day, God sent an angel to Mary to give her a message. 'Mary, God is with you!' the angel said. 'You will have a baby, and you will name him Jesus!' 'But I can't have a baby,' Mary said. 'I don't even have a husband yet!' 'God will send the baby,' the angel answered . 'He will be called the Son of God.'



    Later on she says "More and more people thought Jesus had been resurrected...Soon, these people were called Christians."


    That last part is objective, IMO. She said "thought," it doesn't sound like she is asserting that it happened.

    When describing early Islam:



    "Here is the story as Muhammad's followers tell it: "Terrified, Muhammad ran into the desert. But the voice spoke to him again. 'Muhammad' it said, you are the messenger of Allah, the one true God! And I'm the angel Gabriel. Muhammad looked up and saw the angel Gabriel."


    Comparing these two sections, it seems like she prefaces the Islamic section with this is how the followers describe it, but the Christian section has no preface, like it is the truth. I think if she prefaced it with, "According to the Christian tradition there was a baby born...yada yada yada."

    But of the four books, this accounts for a minute amount of the text overall. I don't want to abandon the use of this series because this issue is a small, small percentage of the text. Could I just remove those sections from the book and use the rest?
     
  6. AdamnJakesMommy

    AdamnJakesMommy Habitué

    Joined:
    Jul 1, 2012
    Messages:
    919
    Likes Received:
    40

    Jun 4, 2014

    My advisor is saying this as well. I can definitely reinforce the word "STORY," in the title.
     
  7. Rockguykev

    Rockguykev Connoisseur

    Joined:
    Mar 3, 2008
    Messages:
    1,934
    Likes Received:
    257

    Jun 5, 2014

    Both have the same qualifier... "The story as it is told in the Gospel of Luke..." and "Here is the story as Muhammad's followers tell it..." If you are unwilling to accept the claim that Christianity was started because of Jesus and Islam because of Muhammad you are going to have a hard time finding any sources you are comfortable with.
     
  8. otterpop

    otterpop Aficionado

    Joined:
    Jun 14, 2013
    Messages:
    3,906
    Likes Received:
    1,523

    Jun 6, 2014

    If you're concerned about how the book puts it, you can always be sure to clarify in class, or even in writing on a worksheet... "followers of Christianity believe that..."

    I'm glad to know that beliefs and religions are taught still. I've heard from a lot of teachers who are afraid to even mention the subject. I am not really religious, but I attended a religious university, and part of the education program included a lesson on what religious rights teachers and students have in public schools. It was really interesting what is within legal limits (like a student reading a religious text during free reading time) that often gets forbidden due to administrators' or teachers' unwillingness to be remotely involved in what can be controversial topics. I get where they're coming from, but there is a lot in the world that can be seen as controversial, and I think it shouldn't mean an automatic sensorship from classrooms.

    Oh, and if you're still uncomfortable, I wouldn't see a reason to rip out pages... couldn't you just skip those stories?
     
  9. underthesun

    underthesun Rookie

    Joined:
    Apr 17, 2014
    Messages:
    99
    Likes Received:
    0

    Jun 7, 2014

    This is a bit off topic from your original question, I know, so I apologize for that... but might I suggest that, in the spirit of minimizing any possible offense to anyone, you don't just immediately declare that the Zeus and Hera tales are fiction? You could just as easily preface those tales the same way you preface the Abrahamic tales, simply by saying that these stories are what the Ancient Greeks believed. I don't think there's any need to tack on a "this is purely fiction." ...That just seems dismissive to the beliefs of an entire people.

    That, and you never know if one of your students might come from a background where their family or friends might actually be a part of a newer hellenistic revival religious group. One of the families I nannied for, for instance, was a family of hellenistic neopagans, and I shudder to think what might have happened (or will happen) if a teacher told those kids that those tales were "just a work of fiction."
     
  10. readingrules12

    readingrules12 Aficionado

    Joined:
    Jul 3, 2010
    Messages:
    3,038
    Likes Received:
    512

    Jun 7, 2014

    I do think a good place to start is with the advice of your faculty adviser. While it is not wrong to not teach every chapter in a book, it is wrong to purposely not teach a part of the curriculum. When I taught in the public schools and encountered this, I would let the students know that the book will give some general information about religions, but that if they want to know more about what the religion really teaches, I suggest talking to their parents, a religious leader of that religion, or read religious books of that religion. These will give far more information than what I or the textbook give. This will help students see that you are not acting as a religious expert, which is something you definitely don't want to do in a public or charter school.

    Religion has played such a large part in our history (good, bad, or both) that to completely ignore it would be to paint an untrue description of history. Being careful is smart, but don't go so far that your fear allows students to not get a good general idea of the facts of history.
     
  11. runsw/scissors

    runsw/scissors Phenom

    Joined:
    Apr 14, 2006
    Messages:
    4,482
    Likes Received:
    97

    Jun 7, 2014

    Try to think of this as any other historical event. Abraham is an historical figure who really existed. If it helps, try to teach this from the perspective of social impact on civilizations. Tell the facts, let the kids discuss, etc. but be careful about injecting your personal beliefs about God. I taught 6th grade Soc. St. in a Catholic school so the kids were full of questions. One boy was Islamic and didn't know the roots of his religion. I'm assuming the book's lesson is more focused on how the different religions began than their belief systems. Correct?
     
  12. AdamnJakesMommy

    AdamnJakesMommy Habitué

    Joined:
    Jul 1, 2012
    Messages:
    919
    Likes Received:
    40

    Jun 7, 2014

    Yes, the book focuses on explaining the origins--but it is from the perspective of the adherents. So, Abraham is treated as a historical figure who heard "God" and did as "God" asked---in very simplistic terms. It also says Muhammad heard an angel and then fled and then saw the angel Gabriel, as if it actually happened. I am not religious and Hebrew history is not my specialty but the books also discusses Jacob and Joseph (old Testament) as real historical figures, do we know that they were?

    This is all so ironic because even though I don't know the answer to that question, all three of my sons were named after biblical figures: Adam, Jacob, and Aaron. But I never attended Sunday school or studied that era in depth, so I don't know.

    My area of historical scholarship was Modern History---give me World War I and I can teach that ALONE for an entire semester! I graduated with disciplinary honors in History, but as most history majors can relate to, you tend to focus on one era in history--and ancient wasn't my focus, I do have rudimentary knowledge specifically with Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans.
     
  13. Rockguykev

    Rockguykev Connoisseur

    Joined:
    Mar 3, 2008
    Messages:
    1,934
    Likes Received:
    257

    Jun 8, 2014

    Do we know Socrates was a real historical figure? He never wrote anything of his own so we are going on the word of his followers (aka, disciples.) Do we know what happened at the battle of Kirina at the founding of Mali in Africa? They didn't write anything and all we have are oral legends of the event - and it wasn't even that long ago in historical terms.

    My point being, everything in history is "according to the story..." Yes, we hope to have additional evidence like artifacts and such when possible but that often just isn't the case (although in the case of the Bible there's a ton and in the case of Islam it came late enough that there are plenty of corroborating sources.)

    So, I still wouldn't be concerned about using the book.
     
  14. Hoot Owl

    Hoot Owl Aficionado

    Joined:
    Jan 15, 2008
    Messages:
    3,888
    Likes Received:
    0

    Jun 8, 2014

    It really depends on the community you live in, our Social Studies teacher used a Socratic Circle to discuss Christopher Columbus really discovering America, and before it was all over with she ended up in the superintendent's office and the local tv stations wanting interviews. It was a very stressful, unexpected lesson...know the culture of your community.
     
  15. runsw/scissors

    runsw/scissors Phenom

    Joined:
    Apr 14, 2006
    Messages:
    4,482
    Likes Received:
    97

    Jun 8, 2014

    I have been taught (and taught my students) that stories in the book of Genesis prior to Abraham are most likely mythologies passed down orally for generations. Other versions of the stories of creation, Noah, etc. have been found in other cultures with slight variations. The details may be invented, but the theme is real. God created us and loves us, faithfulness is rewarded, etc. Figures appearing in the Bible from Abraham onward are considered part of the histories. They were real. Since not much was written down, these stories were also handed down orally for many generations. However, the Hebrews were obsessed with family lines. There are more than a few books of the bible that detail family ties (So-and-so was beget by so-and-so). If you want a crash course in Jewish and Christian history that is fairly easy to follow, I'd recommend 'Gifts of the Jews' and 'Desire of These Everlasting Hills' by Thomas Cahill.

    I would present each section as a driving force of each civilization. If you think about every civilization from the Aztecs to the Ancient Greeks and Romans to the Chinese were built around the religious beliefs of the majority. I think I would worry less about the teaching the tennants of each faith and focus more on how/why they formed and the impact on society. Don't worry about being an expert in each. You are just presenting the basics. If you want clarification on the teachings of the faiths perhaps you could see about getting guest speakers to come in?
     
  16. SF_Giants66

    SF_Giants66 Cohort

    Joined:
    Dec 22, 2012
    Messages:
    635
    Likes Received:
    0

    Jun 9, 2014

    The stories from Genesis likely come from the Priestly source which came from different writings around 600-400 BCE, combined with lots of Egyptian culture. "The Epic of Gilgamesh" also talks a lot of dreams inspiring people which the writers of different parts of the Bible may have copied.

    The old testament, if you par-ooze is closely, is very polytheistic.

    Many churches teach that the torah was put together by Moses, but it is very unlikely that one person could have put together all those books which have language and political goals from many different time periods.
     
  17. Rockguykev

    Rockguykev Connoisseur

    Joined:
    Mar 3, 2008
    Messages:
    1,934
    Likes Received:
    257

    Jun 9, 2014

    I'm not sure how your commentary is related to this thread in the least.
     
  18. readingrules12

    readingrules12 Aficionado

    Joined:
    Jul 3, 2010
    Messages:
    3,038
    Likes Received:
    512

    Jun 9, 2014

    This is not what Jewish or Christian religions tend to teach. If this is a public or charter school, I would suggest going with what a previous poster says which is "According to what the book says about the Jewish religion is... and not give any interpretation. The comment that stories in the book of Genesis are myths could get a teacher in a lot of trouble with those in the Jewish or Christian communities.
     
  19. runsw/scissors

    runsw/scissors Phenom

    Joined:
    Apr 14, 2006
    Messages:
    4,482
    Likes Received:
    97

    Jun 9, 2014

    I taught at a Catholic school and had the backing of the pastor. I wasn't suggesting the OP teach this to his students, rather trying to answer some of his expressed confusions as I had been taught. Sorry for muddying the waters.
     
  20. SF_Giants66

    SF_Giants66 Cohort

    Joined:
    Dec 22, 2012
    Messages:
    635
    Likes Received:
    0

    Jun 10, 2014

    Explain please... If I am making a contradicting statement, I'd like a chance to correct myself.
     
  21. catnfiddle

    catnfiddle Moderator

    Joined:
    May 8, 2008
    Messages:
    8,360
    Likes Received:
    1,495

    Jun 10, 2014

    When it comes to teaching any of this unit, including polytheistic religions of the past, it's important to ask students to open their minds before opening their mouths. Even if what they learn goes against what they believe or have been taught, they should know this stuff in order to live in a pluralistic society such as ours. Urge students to listen and question, but to do so with respect for the past and the present beliefs of others.

    Knowing and understanding the viewpoints of other religions is just as important as knowing and understanding the viewpoints of other nations.
     

Share This Page

Members Online Now

  1. Sadnezz,
  2. DamienJasper,
  3. Backroads,
  4. CaliforniaRPCV,
  5. YoungTeacherGuy
Total: 323 (members: 8, guests: 292, robots: 23)
test