Spirituality in the Classroom

Discussion in 'General Education' started by ProspectTeacher, Apr 7, 2010.

  1. ProspectTeacher

    ProspectTeacher New Member

    Joined:
    Apr 7, 2010
    Messages:
    2
    Likes Received:
    0

    Apr 7, 2010

    First, allow me to introduce myself. I am a college student working toward my degree in Art Education; I attend Western North Carolina University and have just one more semester left before I begin my student teaching (which makes me a nervous wreck).

    This semester I am enrolled in a class dealing with educational philosophies and have been presented with this prompt:

    K-12 art in public schools usually tolerates expression of religion/spirituality from children's art work, but does not teach toward this. The obvious references here to Biblical or Koranic or Talmudic based art can be historical and thus "secular" in their teaching but why do some school districts buck at teaching things related to pagan practices or even forbid holiday-based art. Is there a way around this?? - to teach the contextual meaning of various religious traditions and express them artistically without being construed as proselytizing?

    I am interested in learning the various views on this subject from real-world teachers. Even though the questions are geared toward Art educatiors, I am still curious as to how teachers in other fields might deal with the subject of spirituality in the classroom: are their specific rules to be followed that vary from district to district? If so, how seriously are these rules attended to? What experiences can you share about this subject? And finally, what are your thoughts on the role of spirituality in the classroom?

    Thank you in advance to all those who respond.
     
  2.  
  3. Grover

    Grover Cohort

    Joined:
    Mar 15, 2010
    Messages:
    506
    Likes Received:
    0

    Apr 7, 2010

    I taught in a school with a very deep social studies curriculum and the art program was entwined with it. We studied various historical societies, and of course we examined their religions and art. It's difficult to examine a set of ideas without in some way offering or seeming to offer a critique, and this is more true the briefer and more superficial the examination is. This critique then can easily be interpreted as either an attack or advocacy. Our program was able to avoid this because we did these studies on a succession of societies and spent considerable time on each, so the details and nuances had a chance to emerge. Also, there was no text, but a lot of student research, and student expression was key to the program, thus ensuring a high level of diversity in the critiques implied or overtly stated.
    I personally believe this is a much better way to approach religious/philosophical issues than PC avoidance, but there is no approach that will satisfy every parent. If a child is forbidden to participate in holidays or read stories involving ghosts (as I've seen with some Adventist children), they obviously are not going to participate adequately in a program that does a semester of Buddhist art in it's study of India. Unfortunately, there's no way to protect children from this kind of parental censorship, but I don't see that as a reason to censor the learning of all students.
     
  4. ProspectTeacher

    ProspectTeacher New Member

    Joined:
    Apr 7, 2010
    Messages:
    2
    Likes Received:
    0

    Apr 7, 2010

    Thank you very much for your comments.
     
  5. hac711

    hac711 Companion

    Joined:
    Apr 25, 2010
    Messages:
    213
    Likes Received:
    0

    May 5, 2010

    Can't help, since I work in a religious school and most of our art is biblically-based...
    I could see parents having a probelm with blatant religious-based paintings or projects if they feel it was okayed by the teacher...
    On another note, we don't teach Hindu or Buddist art based on the fact they have many different spiritual paths and gods, and that goes against our beliefs....
    Maybe you need to see what is the basic make-up of your school and work with that? Like if they are all Christians (Methodist, Catholic) then do the Halloween and ornaments, or if you have Jewish kids there, they could do Hanukkah while the others do Christmas??
    I worked in public for a bit and had a student who wasn't allowed to celebrate Halloween so while the kids were making pumpkins and haunted houses she concentrated on fall and leaves changing, etc...
     
  6. Muttling

    Muttling Devotee

    Joined:
    Sep 19, 2007
    Messages:
    1,095
    Likes Received:
    2

    May 5, 2010

    This is a VERY tight rope to walk, especially in the South where I teach.

    I would BIG TIME avoid the word Pagan. While it means any religion other than Judism, Christianity, or Islam, it it more often taken to mean Wicken, Hatian Vodoo, or something similar.

    I would instead name the religion where the work of art comes from. For example, we teach a lot of lessons concerning Ancient Greek and Ancient Roman religions but we never call them Pagan (which they are.)

    We also discuss the beliefs of these ancients in this conext but it is not taken as harmful because these are not currently practiced religions so it is hard to take it as a form of coersion upon someone's child.

    I would discuss it with my principle before introducing the art of a pagan religion and the beliefs behind it. I would be careful of pieces of Muslim art which I chose.
     
  7. MissCeliaB

    MissCeliaB Aficionado

    Joined:
    Jul 27, 2009
    Messages:
    3,426
    Likes Received:
    601

    May 5, 2010

    But you wouldn't ask about Christian or Jewish art? And what's wrong with the word Pagan? Students need to be taught what that word actually means. Why wouldn't you ask before teaching more mainstream art?
     
  8. Muttling

    Muttling Devotee

    Joined:
    Sep 19, 2007
    Messages:
    1,095
    Likes Received:
    2

    May 8, 2010


    A bit late in getting back to this thread and I apologize......



    I agree with you that none of this is right from my perspective or from yours. However, effective communication is not what we think we are saying......it is what they are hearing.


    You can invest a lot of time teaching what the word Pagan really means and that is a worthwhile investment. But there will be heck to pay when the kid goes home and tells the bible thumping Baptist minister daddy that they were studying Pagan works of art today instead of saying Budhist works of art.

    I wouldn't ask on mainstream art as it is already socially accepted in our society.

    It's not a perfect world and anticipating how to deal with those imperfections is an important skill.
     
  9. MissCeliaB

    MissCeliaB Aficionado

    Joined:
    Jul 27, 2009
    Messages:
    3,426
    Likes Received:
    601

    May 8, 2010

    Why is Christian art more "mainstream" than the art of other major world religions? Many of them have been around much, much longer, and deserve the same treatment in classrooms as any other faith: this is what these people believed, and so their art expresses it in these ways. Certainly, if one is learning about the master painters, religious imagery will come up, but it will also come up in teaching about almost any other art from any other region or era. I don't see why permission would be needed for one and not the other. Do you ever worry about offending the children being raised Buddhist, or Wiccan, or even in a secular environment by treating their religions differently?

    With older students, why not explain Pagan, both in terms of the traditional meaning (polytheistic, non-Abrahamic religions) and also explain how this is different than the Neopagan movement, which is typically associated with fringe Eastern religions, folk religions, historical paganism, Wicca, and other similar religions, though those followers often self-identify as Pagan. Why not just teach them what the word means, and what connotations it has, like we do with so many words that come up in lessons?
     
  10. Muttling

    Muttling Devotee

    Joined:
    Sep 19, 2007
    Messages:
    1,095
    Likes Received:
    2

    May 8, 2010

    You are BIG TIME not hearing what I am saying. (The comment I made about saying versus hearing seems to be highlighted by your last post.)


    I am agreeing with you yet you seem to want to argue more despite that.


    You have to be careful in how you present such things or there will be reprocussions from misinterpertations. This isn't college where you can be controversial and it be accepted. This is the teaching of other people's children and you have to be concious of that.



    This is my last post to this thread, have a nice day.
     
  11. TeacherShelly

    TeacherShelly Aficionado

    Joined:
    Oct 9, 2006
    Messages:
    3,565
    Likes Received:
    0

    May 8, 2010

    Thank you, ProspectTeacher, for identifying the reason for your question. It is so easy to help a student, but frustrating when someone does not say it's for a class assignment.

    I live in a liberal area of the US and routinely teach a variety of spiritual and religious perspectives. I say, "People of this faith believe..." and, "Their tradition holds that..." and present everything without personal reflections. Often, my students will offer personal reflections, and I have the opportunity to teach respect and tolerance at that time. I'll give you an example.

    Last winter I was teaching Festivals of Light. A student asked me if he had to do the Christian art since he was Jewish. I said that the class was doing all the art, not just from their personal faith.

    The BIG defining difference is that we were not Celebrating the festivals of light. We were Studying them.

    I hope this is helpful!
     
  12. MissCeliaB

    MissCeliaB Aficionado

    Joined:
    Jul 27, 2009
    Messages:
    3,426
    Likes Received:
    601

    May 8, 2010

    I think I'm having some serious comprehension issues here. I'm still not understanding why you would need permission to teach art of one or two religions, but not the others? Certainly, you must be careful when presenting any subject matter dealing with religion or politics or other personal issues. That is not what I was questioning.
    I still don't understand why different religions should be treated differently, and why we should avoid using the correct terms for things, and teaching what those terms mean. Isn't that our job?

    Since the op has left the thread, can someone who maybe does understand how he answered my question explain it? Am I doing it wrong by teaching the correct vocabulary and for treating all religions and viewpoints equal in my classroom?
     
  13. Cerek

    Cerek Aficionado

    Joined:
    Nov 22, 2009
    Messages:
    3,094
    Likes Received:
    0

    May 8, 2010

    Why is Christianity considered "mainstream"? Because it is far and away the most common religion in America. Until recently, as many as 86% of Americans identified themselves as "Christian". That figure has dropped quite a bit in the last few years, but is still around 77% - more than 3 times the number of Americans that follow Roman Catholicism (24.5%). While those claiming the Jewish faith only comprise 1.3% (roughly) of the population, they have still been influential enough to be accepted into the mainstream of American religion.

    Why isn't Buddhism or Hinduism considered mainstream? Because those religions are not as widely practiced in the US. If you were teaching in India or Japan, then Christianity would not be considered mainstream. But here in America, most citizens claim to follow Christianity and consider our country to be a "Christian nation". That's just the way it is.

    It is also true that paganism generally carries a very negative connotation in our society due to it being associated with Wicca and witchcraft in the minds of most citizens. This isn't an accurate association, but accurate or not, that IS the association most parents will make when they hear the term "pagan religion". So, no matter how diligently you teach Johnny and Susie the correct meaning of pagan and Neopagan - all their parents will hear is "pagan"/"witchcraft" and they will either be on the phone to the P the next day or waiting in his office.

    However, if you have them study art that was associated with Buddhism and explain why certain symbols and figures were used in that culture and that religion, Mom and Dad are much less likely to react as strongly. They may not particularly like Johnny and Susie learning about pictures drawn by Buddhists, but they will be far more accepting of it.

    As Muttling said, it doesn't matter what you actually SAY, what matters is what the kids (and their parents) THINK they hear.

    I'm a Born-Again Southern Baptist and I live in a rural area that is overwhelmingly Christian, but even I would be hesitant to start a class discussion on religion because of the huge backlash it could create.
     
  14. newbie1234

    newbie1234 Companion

    Joined:
    Mar 31, 2008
    Messages:
    240
    Likes Received:
    0

    May 9, 2010

    It's perfectly fine to teach about world religions if it's part of the curriculum. According to the U.S. Constitution, the proper role of an educator in a public school is to neither encourage nor discourage religion. Academic discussions about the history of world religions, comparisons among different types of religious artwork, analyzing literature with religious themes - all of that is perfectly fine.

    As far as students doing religious artwork, this is why we use scoring rubrics. Students have the right to free exercise within certain reasonable limits, but if religious expression isn't acceptable in a particular assignment, then the scoring rubric should be specific enough to prohibit it.
     
  15. TeacherGroupie

    TeacherGroupie Moderator

    Joined:
    May 13, 2005
    Messages:
    29,799
    Likes Received:
    1,167

    May 9, 2010

    Cerek, where did you find those figures? I'm puzzled at an implication in your first paragraph.
     
  16. TeacherShelly

    TeacherShelly Aficionado

    Joined:
    Oct 9, 2006
    Messages:
    3,565
    Likes Received:
    0

    May 9, 2010

    Is the implication you mention the one about Catholics not being included in the Christian count? Or the one about Jews being allowed the mainstream title despite their tiny population percentage? Or something I missed entirely?

    Curious minds...
     
  17. Cerek

    Cerek Aficionado

    Joined:
    Nov 22, 2009
    Messages:
    3,094
    Likes Received:
    0

    May 9, 2010

    Source: http://www.religioustolerance.org/chr_prac2.htm

    "The "American Religious Identification Survey 2001," by The Graduate Center of the City University of New York followed up their earlier study done in 1990: the National Survey of Religious Identification (NSRI). The 2001 survey sampled 50,281 American adults by telephone among the contiguous 48 states between 2001-FEB to JUN."
     
  18. newbie1234

    newbie1234 Companion

    Joined:
    Mar 31, 2008
    Messages:
    240
    Likes Received:
    0

    May 9, 2010

    That website is maintained by a retired chemist, and by it's own admission, is not always reliable. There's extensive information about the authors of the website on the "About Us" page.

    The survey includes Catholics in the Christian count; it later breaks down Christians into Protestants and Roman Catholics.

    There's nothing in the survey about "mainstream" this or that.

    We don't live in a "Christian" nation. The First Amendment exists for a (good) reason.
     
  19. Cerek

    Cerek Aficionado

    Joined:
    Nov 22, 2009
    Messages:
    3,094
    Likes Received:
    0

    May 9, 2010

    "Mainstream" (Source: Dictionay.com)

    –noun
    1.
    the principal or dominant course, tendency, or trend: the mainstream of American culture.

    –adjective
    3.
    belonging to or characteristic of a principal, dominant, or widely accepted group, movement, style, etc.: mainstream Republicans; a mainstream artist.


    Given these definitions, combined with the fact that the majority of Americans do claim to follow some form of Christianity, I think it is very safe to say that Christianity is the "mainstream religion" of our country.

    And while the First Amendment protects us from having the government declare any particular religion as the "state or national religion", the fact that the majority of our citizens follow a form of Christianity certainly supports the statement that we are a Christian nation.

    Is Christianity the "official" religion of our country? No. Your right that the First Amendment prohibits that.

    Are we a country with a majority of citizens that follow the tenets and moral principals of Christianity? Yes, we are.

    Does that mean other religions are not accepted or tolerated? Of course not, but these other religions aren't practiced by the majority of citizens and, therefore, would not be considered "mainstream".
     
  20. TeacherGroupie

    TeacherGroupie Moderator

    Joined:
    May 13, 2005
    Messages:
    29,799
    Likes Received:
    1,167

    May 9, 2010

    I see.

    It strikes me that among the more compelling reasons not to discuss one's own spirituality in a public school classroom is that it helps one keep one's foot out of one's mouth.
     
  21. Missy99

    Missy99 Connoisseur

    Joined:
    Jan 21, 2008
    Messages:
    1,845
    Likes Received:
    0

    May 10, 2010

    :lol::lol::lol::lol::lol::lol::thumb:
     
  22. Securis

    Securis Cohort

    Joined:
    Dec 16, 2007
    Messages:
    695
    Likes Received:
    0

    May 10, 2010

    I always preface anything that might touch on religion or spirituality with, "This is what some people believe or believed. I am not telling you what to believe. You should listen to what your parents say. <Introduce art work and religious concepts that pertain to understanding art work, cultural origins, purposes, etc.>"

    Since I work mainly with Elementary, I steer clear of most explicit explanations, if I happen to know something extra. If I get a question that might lead further into an area I don't want the discussion to go, I say I'm not going to answer that, ask your parents.
     
  23. Cerek

    Cerek Aficionado

    Joined:
    Nov 22, 2009
    Messages:
    3,094
    Likes Received:
    0

    May 10, 2010

    I subbed for a math class in mid-March. The assignment for the first two classes was to watch a video on Appalachia History and write down at least 20 things they learned from the video (not sure how that was connected to math, but that was the assignment left by the teacher).

    The last portion of the video discussed the history and culture of the Cherokee tribe native to the Appalachia area and included a brief overview of their religious beliefs. Part of those beliefs include a giant eagle flying across the land, creating valleys when his wings hit the Earth and mountains when his wings were in the air. The Cherokee religion teaches that the land masses were formed by a waterbug, who kept diving to the bottom of the oceans and bringing mud up to the surface, which eventually became a land mass.

    After the video, I asked students in both classes to share some of the things they learned from the video. At least one student in each class commented on how "silly/crazy" it was to think a waterbug created the continents and a giant eagle created the valleys and mountains.

    I asked them WHY they thought these ideas were strange and the best answer they could give was "Just because...I mean really...a giant eagle flying around creating valleys?" I really wanted to say the Cherokee probably found many ideas in the Christian faith to be "strange" as well, but I knew that would likely create a backlash from the parents. Instead I told them, "I can understand why you think those ideas are strange, but it is always a valuable experience to look at issues from a different perspective. This gives us insight into the Cherokee tribe and can help us better understand their culture and social values."

    I did follow that up by saying we should always be respectful of other values and beliefs, because many of our ideas probably seem strange to people from other countries. If we want others to respect our ideas, we have to show that same respect to for theirs.
     
  24. hac711

    hac711 Companion

    Joined:
    Apr 25, 2010
    Messages:
    213
    Likes Received:
    0

    May 10, 2010

    I would be VERY VERY upset if my child came home with artwork that went against our religious beliefs. You must teach to your population. You can say things like "In this culture they beleive xyz" or "Their feelings on these things are abc" but in no way would I EVER tell a student we are doing Christian art, and I don't care if your Jewish, your doing the project. That is a direct violation of their freedom of religion and religious tolerance.
     
  25. Cerek

    Cerek Aficionado

    Joined:
    Nov 22, 2009
    Messages:
    3,094
    Likes Received:
    0

    May 10, 2010

    What if the art teacher asked each student to choose one god or goddess from the Egyptian mythos to research, writing down basic info and background on their chosen diety and also draw a picture of the god/goddess and their chosen symbol?

    Would that still be a violation of the 1st Amendment?
     
  26. TeacherShelly

    TeacherShelly Aficionado

    Joined:
    Oct 9, 2006
    Messages:
    3,565
    Likes Received:
    0

    May 10, 2010

    When my class studied the Festivals of Light, everyone made a mini-book for six or seven different traditions. The Jewish kids made everything, as did the Christian, Muslim, bi-Religious, Atheist, and anyone of any other religion. It was not a celebration, rather a study of different ways many religions celebrate the winter with festivals of light. The artwork did not go against anyone's religious beliefs.
     

Share This Page

Members Online Now

Total: 190 (members: 2, guests: 173, robots: 15)
test