Student’s Poster Causes Storm of Controversy

A poster made by a 7th grader in a school in Fresno, California is sparking major controversy. It was made as part of an assignment for a history lesson that focused on the Crusades. And I can certainly understand the controversy:

A student-drawn picture posted inside a Fresno Unified school is sparking debate over whether it’s sacrilegious or just a harmless classroom assignment.

The picture is on display in the lobby of Hamilton Elementary School in Central Fresno. It depicts Jesus with the caption, “I want you to kill all infidels.” The term infidel comes from ancient history and was used to describe people who had no faith. The picture was created by a seventh grade student as part of a history assignment…

In the picture, you can see a man wearing a Jesus name tag, with the caption, “I want you to kill all infidels.” Below, the phrases: “meet me in Jerusalem” and “get a free ticket to heaven.” The artwork is one of several drawings in a display case inside the main lobby at Hamilton Elementary.

Parent, Chris Alfaro said, “I do believe common sense tells you, hey this may not be appropriate for a k through 8 school, right in the main lobby where each child passes on their way to school and home.” Chris Alfaro is Christian and has a second-grade daughter at Hamilton. His wife first noticed the drawing in early March. But according to him, when she called the office to complain, no one made an effort to address her concerns. He claims, “The aide said something along the lines of I’ll see what I can do, and then hung up the phone.”

Action News reached out to the school, but did not get a call back. A spokesperson with the Fresno Unified District did however speak with us and released this statement, explaining why the picture was drawn, saying in part, “Students at Hamilton were assigned to create a help wanted poster for soldiers needed to fight in the crusades and write a poem about Joan of arc, the Black Death, or the Magna Carta and create a visual background for it. This was one of several posters displayed.”

The drawing is provocative, but the student is making an important point about the role religion played in the Crusades. It actually sounds like a good teaching moment, if handled correctly.

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  • …major controversy…”Jesus wants you to infidels”…teaching moment….

    It’s not as if it’s historically inaccurate.

  • Gregory in Seattle

    It actually sounds like a good teaching moment, if handled correctly.

    This is Frenso. It will not be handled correctly: it will be used specifically to “glorify” Christianity and degrade everyone who does not fit a pre-defined narrow subset of Christians.

  • First science, now history. I suppose geography is next as maps don’t put Jerusalem at the center of the world any more. And who needs math? I can count up to three just like in the Trinity. I mean one, just like in the Trinity. I just show my paycheck to the pastor and writes an appropriate tithe check to himself so I don’t need no steenkin’ math and I don’t even need to write!

  • jamessweet

    I can sort of see the complaining parents’ point about it being kinda borderline for the lobby of a K-8 school. I absolutely think that from about 12 years old and up, kids ought to be able to discuss provocative ideas like this. For a six year old, though, that might be kinda terrifying…! I’m not talking about offending religious sensibilities, either; I’m talking about laying bare the genocidal fucked-upedness of religion when taken seriously.

    I lean pretty heavily towards saying it should be allowed, but I can sort of see the objection given the age range. In other words, I think the parents in question should fuck off, but I’m not quite frothing out the mouth over it either. That’s a pretty edgy (though important!) message to be exposing kindergartners to…

  • The kid’s poster isn’t entirely inaccurate;

    When the Crusaders broke into Jerusalem they slaughtered 12,550 men women and children, e.g. the non-Christians.* Sort of reenacting the invasion of Canaan.

    * Source: JERUSALEM by Karen Armstrong.

  • CT

    :: sigh :: I can totally see my oldest doing this snarkily. He does stuff like this all the time in his public speaking class, so much so that his teacher insisted he tone it down. He loves getting Teh Religus all worked up. His last public speaking assignment he chose to defend gay marriage right in the midst of the amendment one clusterf. It boggles my mind that he enjoyed the days and days of arguing in the halls about it after his speech.

    I think the violent nature of the content of the poster would make me want it taken down. I’m not all “catch teh violence” or anything but it could be very scary for small kids.

  • whether it’s sacrilegious

    and that matters, because….?

  • baal

    I find the poster sans context ambiguous. I could see an anti-religious person or a very religious person posting it (for different reasons). That said, I don’t put much in the motivation of 6-year olds. So far as you could read it as painting xtianity in a negative light (for all the killing presumably); The crusades were war.

    Is the school taking an impermissible or offensive stance in putting up the poster? mmmmmm, I don’t think so but I think the placement of this poster vs all the other posters matters. If it’s one of a bunch of crusades like stuff, it doesn’t have the same meaning as if it were the only poster on a bulletin board near the main entrance. The facts above fall in between and I haven’t seen video of the poster in place.

  • raven

    Two of the crusades were against other xians.

    The Albigensian genocide which killed an estimated 1 million people, was directed against a heretical sect.

    At one point, the crusaders occupied and sacked Constantinople, the seat of the Byzantine empire and the Eastern Orthodox church. This is thought to have weakened them enough that later on they fell to the Moslems and Turkey is still a Moslem state.


    Because they subsequently lacked provisions and time on their vessel lease, the leaders decided to go to Constantinople, where they attempted to place a Byzantine exile on the throne. After a series of misunderstandings and outbreaks of violence, the Crusaders sacked the city in 1204, and established the so-called Latin Empire and a series of other Crusader states throughout the territories of the Greek Byzantine Empire. While deploring the means, the pope finally supported this apparent forced reunion between the Eastern and Western churches. This is often seen as the final breaking point of the Great Schism between the Eastern Orthodox Church and (Western) Roman Catholic Church.

  • CT

    I thought it said the poster maker was in 7th grade? Or did I miss something else in the article?

    A poster made by a 7th grader in a school in Fresno, California is sparking major controversy.

  • It is actually pretty on point for the crusades (if it was a parody of the “I Want You” Uncle Sam poster, it would be downright brilliant) but having it in the lobby of a k-8 school is a bit on the questionable side. The first time I remember really delving into world history (admittedly in a completely different state) is fifth grade. I don’t really remember studying anything that covered religious impact on history (with the exception of the Holocaust) until seventh grade or so.

    What I’m saying here is that there’s a goodly chance that a “lower elementary” kid, K-4 in my school district, might not even know what the Crusades are, much less the religious factor. All they’d see is a poster of Jesus telling them to kill people.

  • TxSkeptic

    Inappropriate in a K-8 school? No more so than what those same K-8 kids are being taught on Sundays.

  • D. C. Sessions

    It actually sounds like a good teaching moment, if handled correctly.

    I suspect that’s what the parents are afraid of.

    The part that’s remarkable to me is that it wasn’t ripped up by the teacher with a failing grade.

  • d cwilson

    Inappropriate in a K-8 school? No more so than what those same K-8 kids are being taught on Sundays.

    Yes, but that’s to teach them that they need to turn away from their naturally sinful ways in order to get into Jeebus’s loving embrace and avoid being maybe to suffer eternally in Hell.

    Jay-sus loves me yes I know!

    I don’t know why any Christian would object to this. If the Crusades had recruitment posters, that’s exactly what they would have looked like.

  • eric

    As long as the display has a context-setting title to it, I can’t see a problem. But I’d also have no problem with a request to add an appropriate title (example: History of the Crusades), if it doesn’t have one already.

  • @baal

    It’s mixed in with about 10 total posters, one of the largest and centrally displayed. I can’t tell if any of the 10 posters is actually a description of the project – the individual posters do not appear to have accompanying descriptions. There is also a bunch of smaller posters around the corner, but that may be a different display, as they are more uniform.

    I’m conflicted about this, due to the presence of very young children who are perhaps too young to understand the poster. I have no problem with displaying it with some context (again, not clear if context is present) where 4th grade and under aren’t going to be confronted by it repeatedly. And I’m not sure exactly where that cut off should be drawn, other than somewhere younger than 5th grade.

  • The oh, so respectful KKKristian dad has nothing but respect for the school and the artist–he just wants the poster taken down, NOW! Do ANY of these fucking KKKristianist hypocrites have self-awareness?

  • sika6061

    I’ve gotta say, I don’t see what many posters find so objectionable about this. When I was in 7th grade, I did a report on Attila the Hun. I picked it from a list of subjects we could do a report on. I made up a visual aid showing routes of the invasion and even had mass graves marked that archeologists had found. When I was in second grade, I told my mother all the wonderful things I had just learned about Columbus, and she sat me down and told me what a horrible person he was, explaind the genocide, etc. and even gave me a book called, “Bury my Heart at Wounded Knee” written by Dee Brown, and directed me to read it when I got older. This was one of the most important lessons in my life because it taught me that teachers don’t always tell you the truth, and it also put me on the path to be a critical thinker. I understand that people have different parenting skills, but I think learning about horrors as a child while you are developing your empathetic abilities can only do you good. I mean, as a former Jew, does that mean kids shouldn’t be exposed about the Holocaust??? Good luck getting that accomplished. Especially when many synagogues and Hebrew schools teach very young children about this. I think it is vitally important that children understand that history/life is not filled with fluffy bunnies. To quote Thomas Hobbes, life was “nasty, brutish and short” thoughout most of human history. I really don’t think children should be sheltered from this. It’s a fact.

  • caseloweraz

    The nine comments at the local ABC station’s Web site are pretty good: nothing like what I expected.

    The story also notes that the principal has offered to meet with Mr. and Mrs. Alfaro to discuss their concerns.

  • Jordan Genso

    I think it should be taken down, as the violent nature of it is inappropriate for the younger grades.

    If it wasn’t Jesus, but instead George Washington, asking you to join him and “kill the British”, that would be equally as inappropriate. Or if it was a current military poster suggesting that you help “kill the terrorists”, that too would be wrong to have displayed in a school that includes very young students.

    In general, the kids’ exposure to violence in the public school should be regulated and age appropriate, and no poster that mentions killing would fit the entire K-8 age range. It’s a purely subjective position though.

  • Michael Heath

    Jordan Genso,

    Re your admittedly subjective objection: I take this kid’s poster as a statement condemning violence, not advocating it. Ditto your George Washington example. Your terrorist example however does reveal the weakness of any argument for allowing such posters amongst this age group. I still lean for keeping such up but tenuously.

  • marymallone

    “a good teaching moment, if handled correctly” – maybe I’m too cynical, but I choked on my drink here.

  • I have no children. I have oodles of nieces and nephews and many friends who had children (all of the young people I mention are old enough to have their own families now). Those kids have been exposed to considerably more violence–graphic and gory–via television programs, movies, video games, anime,graphic novels and the like than I ever was at their age. This would include many young student with older siblings.

    There is no “violence” per se, in the image, it is all implied. The militarization of JESUS (the name tag and the “Uncle Sam” tone of the poster) is obvious to me and, I suspect, to the young artist.

    I see a child who is either a budding snarkmeister or just someone who will speak truth to power and bullshit.

    I see the concerned parent as another Biblebully for JESUS. Fuck him. Let him put his daughter in a private KKKristian school if he has a problem. That’s the GODLY, free market thing to do.

  • stace

    and even gave me a book called, “Bury my Heart at Wounded Knee” written by Dee Brown

    That book was definitely a major breaking point for me during my school years, after reading that I was pretty much, “WTF? They never taught us anything about this in American History class! We’ve just been spoon-fed all this glorious pioneers and manifest destiny crap instead!”