No Obligation to Protect Those Deviant Atheist High School Students?

Today on WWJTDJT relates the details of a letter the Secular Student Alliance received from a high school teacher bragging about how he and his fellow Christian teachers thwarted some of their students who were attempting to start an SSA group. From the teacher’s letter:

When beliefs are far from what is considered the norm you should have the expectation that you will be judged.  Also, in any society the few are sometimes required to participate in the activities of the masses if they do not want to be ostracized.

 

Educational staff has the responsibility of preparing students to be responsible adults.  We expect all students to be treated with respect.  We are not, however, obligated to protect those who choose to be deviants in society.

 

A welcoming environment is what we should not create.  Satan should not be comfortable in God’s world.  You say they should develop their own world view when you really want them to  adopt your world view.  The book they need to read for information is the Bible.  Nontheism should not be spoken of in a tone of acceptance.

 

Obviously, I would not want to help students down the wrong path.  A group tried to form at our school.  It was from one of those students that I received this brochure.  Not surprisingly, they could not get a teacher to sponsor the club.  As educators we are dedicated to conveying the truth to students.  If the students are proud of believing there is no God they should not feel like they have to hide it.  They should not feel the need for a safe haven.

Go to What Would JT Do to learn about how JT tracked down the teacher who wrote this letter, despite its author’s attempt to omit identifying information, and read the letter JT sent to the teacher’s administration explaining their legal obligations to them.

And donate to the Secular Student Alliance so that they have the resources to continue to stand up for the rights of non-theistic students.

And learn more about the laws high school students, faculty, and administrations are beholden to follow by reading the interview JT gave to me on this topic in June.

Your Thoughts?

About Daniel Fincke

Dr. Daniel Fincke  has his PhD in philosophy from Fordham University and spent 11 years teaching in college classrooms. He wrote his dissertation on Ethics and the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche. On Camels With Hammers, the careful philosophy blog he writes for a popular audience, Dan argues for atheism and develops a humanistic ethical theory he calls “Empowerment Ethics”. Dan also teaches affordable, non-matriculated, video-conferencing philosophy classes on ethics, Nietzsche, historical philosophy, and philosophy for atheists that anyone around the world can sign up for. (You can learn more about Dan’s online classes here.) Dan is an APPA  (American Philosophical Practitioners Association) certified philosophical counselor who offers philosophical advice services to help people work through the philosophical aspects of their practical problems or to work out their views on philosophical issues. (You can read examples of Dan’s advice here.) Through his blogging, his online teaching, and his philosophical advice services each, Dan specializes in helping people who have recently left a religious tradition work out their constructive answers to questions of ethics, metaphysics, the meaning of life, etc. as part of their process of radical worldview change.

  • http://anythingbuttheist.blogspot.com Bret

    One of those few times I’m glad teachers don’t get paid shit.

    • http://infinitegest.wordpress.com Erik

      That’s what you got out of that, huh?

    • Reverend PJ

      Gee, thanks. Somebody who shouldn’t be in the classroom makes you glad teachers are paid poorly? I’m glad to know that my considerably less than industry pay rate is okay because some moron wants to be a self-righteous prick. Making you feel better sure makes me feel good about my pay…

  • jacobfromlost

    Not all teachers are like this (not even all religious ones).

    The problem is two fold. One, rural communities are often very religious, and hire people who grew up in them (ie, also religious). And two, religion (although it isn’t supposed to be) is sometimes considered in hiring (depending on the district). I’ve even seen applications where it asks people to list any leadership experiences in “church groups” (among many others). Yes, it may be legitimate experience with young people, but it is also (wink-wink, nod-nod) an acknowledgement that you’re “one of us” if you say, “Oh yeah, I worked every summer with Churchey McChurchTown Kids, and taught Sunday School for 3 years.”

    I had to leave my eight-year teaching job to live closer to family with health problems, and I’ve actually considered wearing a cross to an interview to see if that makes a difference (a small one, not a huge one, lol). Or maybe just drop the phrase, “Teaching is a calling” in the interview, lol. That’s vague enough that I don’t need to feel guilty about it.

    I’ve had three interviews thus far, and so far nothing. My resume is impeccable. When I interviewed 10 years ago, I got many “we went with someone with experience” responses. Now I’m just getting, “We did not choose you” responses.

    Then again, the competition may be pretty stiff as the cuts in education make things so much more difficult. I can’t imagine interviewing in this environment with no experience at all.

    • Lill O’Lady

      I am also stuck in a very rural, conservative area. My atheist husband is a teacher with a certificate from another state. We found that the best we could do is substitute teaching. My guess is that its in the references. If you don’t include a reference from a preacher of the right christianist flavor your application is a waste of time. Another consideration is simple nepotism. Hard times in depressed rural areas make jobs the coin of the realm, and often the lucky person is, or has a close connection to, someone who can do the hiring authority a favor. Interviewing is just Kabuki.Lastly, there is the “Christian workplace” dynamic, which holds that non Christians bring the devil’s influence into a workplace, town, neighborhood, whatever. I have come to the conclusion that the only way to get along in these communities is to embrace ostracism. When you are forced to interact, be the most boring person they have ever met, or you will become a target for backstabbing, gossip and character assassination. Remember that the worst thing you can do is make them think. And start plotting your escape!

    • jacobfromlost

      Lill: I am also stuck in a very rural, conservative area. My atheist husband is a teacher with a certificate from another state. We found that the best we could do is substitute teaching.

      Me: I took 2010-2011 off to deal with the family health issues, and subbed this past year. Luckily I saved quite a bit every month for a large chunk of my 8 years working, have no debt, and am living with family. Otherwise I’d be screwed.

      Lill: My guess is that its in the references. If you don’t include a reference from a preacher of the right christianist flavor your application is a waste of time.

      Me: I’m hoping it’s not that bad in every district. (And my references are very good as well, although they are all professional and don’t include religious stuff.) I had a solid interview at the same district where I did my student teaching, and had several contacts in the building who supported me. Unfortunately they were not in the hiring committee, but I was told to apply again as there was/is a possibility of another opening this month. That’s pretty much my only hope if the hiring is from contacts, as that is the only school in which I have contacts in the area.

      Lill: Another consideration is simple nepotism. Hard times in depressed rural areas make jobs the coin of the realm, and often the lucky person is, or has a close connection to, someone who can do the hiring authority a favor. Interviewing is just Kabuki.

      Me: I think you are often right. I’m just hoping merit will play into at some point.

      Lill: Lastly, there is the “Christian workplace” dynamic, which holds that non Christians bring the devil’s influence into a workplace, town, neighborhood, whatever. I have come to the conclusion that the only way to get along in these communities is to embrace ostracism.

      Me: I know exactly what you mean. I never discussed religion at all, but when you say nothing every time people mention “come to Jesus moments”, or several other comments specifically designed to elicit an “amen” or religious acknowledgement of any kind…you slowly end up an outsider. I can still remember falling silent when a fellow teacher made some joke about god overriding some family member’s vasectomy… And I also sleepily said “Happy Holidays” when another teacher said, “Merry Christmas” to me very early one morning, and got a sideways glance. I wasn’t even thinking about how so many think saying “Happy Holidays” is a part of the “war on Christmas,” and it was a complete fluke I didn’t just say, “Merry Christmas.”

      Lill: When you are forced to interact, be the most boring person they have ever met, or you will become a target for backstabbing, gossip and character assassination. Remember that the worst thing you can do is make them think. And start plotting your escape!

      Me: Well, I escaped after 8 years, but the reason was a legitimate one. I also tried that “most boring person” strategy, and it worked for about 3 or 4 years. By year 7, I was on the outs anyway. A new high school was finished, and I knew most of my department would move to the new school. I thought that if all the teachers with experience left, that would send a bad message to the students left behind. I figured a handful of us with experience (along with myself) would stay behind. I was wrong. I was the ONLY ONE to stay voluntarily. Everyone else who had the seniority to leave, left (after years of them going on and on about commitment and loyalty for years). After one more year of school dysfunction and family health issues that couldn’t be ignored anymore, I left. The next year, the state test scores for my department dropped 22%…which just so happened to correspond to the exact number of (testing) students I would have had if I had stayed. I’m sure they just stuck a first year teacher with my classes. I’m very curious to see what the scores were for this year will be…and sad my leaving probably resulted in nearly a 100 kids flunking the test last year.

  • F

    Majority opens it’s mouth, revealing it’s true nature, and is now fair game for a rude awakening. Pictures at eleven.

  • frankb

    How can we expect these teachers to be equitible and fair when judging their students’ work? When a teacher openly admits that he/she is biased against his/her students, that is very serious.

  • http://www.facebook.com/skinsfanstull brianstull

    They referred to another Supreme Court decision (Wallace v. Jaffree, 472 U.S. 38 (1985)), where the court said:

    “At one time it was thought that this right [referring to the right to choose one’s own creed] merely proscribed the preference of one Christian sect over another, but would not require equal respect for the conscience of the infidel, the atheist, or the adherent of a non-Christian faith such as Islam or Judaism. But when the underlying principle has been examined in the crucible of litigation, the Court has unambiguously concluded that the individual freedom of conscience protected by the First Amendment embraces the right to select any religious faith or none at all.” The SUPREME COURT disagrees with these bigots.

  • hexidecima

    unfortunately, teachers aren’t the paragons that one is taught they are. They are humans and are as likely to be hateful assholes as the next person.

  • http://www.facebook.com/ZenoFerox Zeno

    I work very hard to be the paragon that I am, but occasionally I fall short. Instead of nurturing the delicate psyche of the student who proclaimed she didn’t want to use logarithms to solve a carbon-14 problem because “I don’t believe in carbon-dating,” I explained that she was free to skip the exercise and lose a letter grade on the assignment.

  • John Morales

    Go to What Would JT Do to learn about how JT tracked down the teacher who wrote this letter, despite its author’s attempt to omit identifying information, and read the letter JT sent to the teacher’s administration explaining their legal obligations to them.

    Nah, I can’t be bothered to do that.

    I read you because you have some insight sometimes, but JT is just a shill for SSA and I have little interest.


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