Grand Rapids Parents Flip Out Over World Religion Class

One of the joys of living in West Michigan is dealing with Christian conservatives by the boatload. A group of parents flipped out at Jenison High School because one of them decided to share one page of a project on world religions about Islam and told others that they were teaching 3rd graders how to be Muslims.

A parent took their concerns over a world history assignment to Facebook, stirring controversy but confusion, when a high school assignment regarding world religions was posted as a lesson on Islam for third graders.

Jenison High School Principal Brandon Graham told FOX 17 that an annual world history assignment was taken out of context, after people shared a concerned parent’s post on Facebook.

“Unfortunately, a lot of times in today’s society, information is spread very quickly without maybe knowing all the facts,” said Graham.

The initial parent’s post shows one of six pages from a world history project on introducing the religion Islam. When the post stated this was a “third grade project,” it caused an outcry among parents questioning why religion, and only Islam, was being taught in public schools.

However, officials with Jenison High School said that is not the case.

“The assignment was to cover the five major world religions: the religions included Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Islam,” said Graham. “In our social studies classes we certainly study all those religions to learn how a people, group and culture function. It helps us understand culture.”

Even if it was for 3rd graders, so what? They’re teaching kids the basics about the world’s major religions. That’s a good thing. But leave it to a wingnut to take a single page out of a larger project and invent a bullshit story to blow it out of proportion.

POPULAR AT PATHEOS Nonreligious
What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Chiroptera

    “The assignment was to cover the five major world religions: the religions included Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Islam,” said Graham.

    I’m sure part of the problem is that the parents are confused about why it takes an entire class to just say, “Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Islam are just devil worship. Oh, and most ‘Christian’ denominations are really fake Christians.”

  • http://artk.typepad.com ArtK

    This is a specific case of a general symptom — the belief that teaching about something is the same as condoning it. We see this with sex education. The idea that telling kids about birth control is the same as telling them to go out and have sex. In these idiots’ minds, knowing is the same as doing. Ignorance is their only defense against the evils of the world.

    We see it, too, with SSM in the constant refrain that having SSM will somehow damage hetero marriages. If it exists, then people will want to do it, simply because it exists.

  • Kevin Kehres

    @2 ArtK

    By that level of thinking, teaching kids about arsenic is condoning poisoning.

  • Michael Heath

    When I was kid in the late-1960s in the state of Michigan I recall retail businesses beginning to open for Sunday. Even conservative Christian business owners began to open for business. One of the big exceptions was in SW Michigan, especially the towns who had a lot of Calvinists in them. By the time I was a teen in 1970s, this area began to become known around the state as the place that still held onto its blue laws.

    This reminds me of Bill O’Reilly castigating gay couples for behaving in an affectionate manner; in spite the same behavior being condoned when done by heterosexuals. Mr. O’Reilly’s example back in the early-2000s was gay couples holding hands while leaving a movie theater, or having one’s arm around their partner during the movie. He thought his right to hide reality from his children superseded gay peoples’ right to be out of the closet.

    Both are prime examples of Christian privilege as it’s practiced. I recall this 10+ years later because I was just learning about Fox News. I was astonished at how idiotic the talent was on this channel, it was hard to comprehend they could have any audience at all (Yes, I was that naive, but I’d been living in blue-state areas since the mid-1980s). That while O’Reilly falsely claimed he distinguished himself by being a dispassionate critical thinker.

  • http://inmyunbelief.wordpress.com TCC

    It amazes me that this kind of thing happens. When I taught a high school world literature class, I included information on those five religions (plus Daoism and Confucianism) and never had a single complaint from parents or students about the content because I approached it merely as a matter of conveying factual information about what people believe. (And I taught it in a small rural community in the Bible Belt.) People are bizarre.

  • Sastra

    I remember that back in the late 60’s my 7th grade social studies teacher gave a little speech before he taught a unit on Communism, mostly to the effect that learning about something wasn’t the same thing as advocacy. I assumed that he had been trying to make this distinction clear to 12 year olds — but maybe he was also trying to fend off objections from parents.

  • hoku

    As a Jew, I still find it funny that they call Judaism on of the five major religions. I think more people worship Kim-Il Sung than practice Judaism. I know there’s more Sikhs. And if you count Chinese tradition as a religion, they blow us out of the water.

  • eric

    By that level of thinking, teaching kids about arsenic is condoning poisoning.

    Yes, like teaching kids about Solomon is condoning polygamy. Teaching kids about Abraham and Isaac is condoning child sacrifice. And so on.

  • http://en.uncyclopedia.co/wiki/User:Modusoperandi Modusoperandi

    WHY DO WORLD HISTORY AND WORLD RELIGION HAVE ALL THIS UNAMERICAN FOREIGN GARBAGE?!!!

  • rationalinks

    It’s a sure sign your religion is weak when just the mere mention of another religion causes you to go off the rails. I’ve had a few of these “concerned parents” at my kid’s school as well…and I’ve had to verbally slap them a few times….I’m not up for PTO President this year 😉

  • mikey

    A favorite of mine is the “age verification” BS on brewery websites. If a 19 year old finds out that beer exists, think of the consequences!

  • eric

    @5: Well, we have truly shifted right in the past decade or so. It doesn’t surprise me at all that yesterday’s bible-belters would think studying all these religions was fine, while today we’ve got people who look at the same curriculum/assignment and respond “OMG Islam! Isssssslllllllaaaaaaammm!”

  • dhall

    ‘“Unfortunately, a lot of times in today’s society, information is spread very quickly without maybe knowing all the facts,” said Graham.’

    And not just by ignorant, narrow-minded, easily disturbed parents. By the media, by politicians, by religious leaders, etc. And often those facts are left out quite deliberately.

  • abb3w

    @2, ArtK This is a specific case of a general symptom — the belief that teaching about something is the same as condoning it.

    I don’t think most K-12 education mentions Hume’s “is-ought” observation; it’s even possible to get through a college education without meeting it.

  • http://artk.typepad.com ArtK

    Yes, like teaching kids about Solomon is condoning polygamy. Teaching kids about Abraham and Isaac is condoning child sacrifice. And so on.

    True, but that’s the Bible so It’s All Different!

  • moarscienceplz

    Since Protestant Christianity is the one true religion, what’s the worry? Only very stupid third-graders would choose to worship the false prophet Mohammed and the demon Allah, right?

    /snark

  • cjcolucci

    There are people who complain — some of them sincerely — that our education has been bowdlerized by an unwillingness to teach about religion. They are right, but like so many people with legitimate complaints, they pick on the wrong enemy. What keeps honest, academically sound teaching about religion and its importance to our culture is not the people who respect separation of church and state, but those who don’t. This is just another example.

  • cjcolucci

    Second last sentence is missing “out of our schools” after “culture.”

  • raven

    Since Protestant Christianity is the one true religion, what’s the worry?

    Xians always claim their god is the all powerful creator of the universe.

    And then they act like he can’t do anything and needs humans to do everything. It’s totally contradictory and incoherent.

  • http://umlud.blogspot.com umlud

    “The assignment was to cover the five major world religions: the religions included Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Islam,” said Graham.

    Like hoku @7 implied, Judaism isn’t a “major world religion” at least by population standards. According to ReligiousTolerance.org, those practicing Judaism is 14.5million, which places it below Sikhism (23.8 million), New religions in general (103 million), avowed atheists (150 million), tribal religions/shamanism/animism (232 million), Chinese folk religion (390 million), and “No religion” (775 million). (And if we assume that North Korea is basically a whole country trapped in the religion of the “dear leader”, then that cult has a following of almost 24 million.)

    Buddhism (390-1600 million), Hinduism (950 million), Islam (1570 million) and Christianity (2039 million) are definitely the largest four religions.

    So, Graham isn’t really right in stating the five major world religions. Secular humanists, agnostics, deists, freethinkers, and atheists (if you include them into the “No religion” group) far outnumber practicing Jews.

  • http://en.uncyclopedia.co/wiki/User:Modusoperandi Modusoperandi

    umlud “So, Graham isn’t really right in stating the five major world religions. Secular humanists, agnostics, deists, freethinkers, and atheists (if you include them into the “No religion” group) far outnumber practicing Jews.”

    Sure, but what would the chapter on “Secular humanists, agnostics, deists, freethinkers, and atheists” contain, blank pages? And how is nothing a religion? And (ah hah!) so you admit that Athiesm is a religion! And futhermore…

  • raven

    You forget the main accomplishment of Judaism. (For some values of achievement!!!)

    Jesus was a Jew. Judaism speciated and evolved into…xianity.

    By xian standards that makes them a huge deal.

    I’m rather disappointed that they didn’t cover Paganism. I’m sure there are more Pagans and New Agers than Jews. And besides, they are far more interesting than the ethereal, abstract main religion gods. I’ve yet to see a comic book or movie about Brahma or Allah.

  • Pierce R. Butler

    “Unfortunately, a lot of times in today’s society, information is spread very quickly without maybe knowing all the facts,” said Graham.

    Then his school’s entire English Dept faculty sat him down for a lesson in syntax.

  • peterh

    Not a day goes by without some righteously indignant right-winger wrapping themselves in the cloak of victimhood – even if it has to be invented out of thin air.

  • aziraphale

    “It helps us understand culture.”

    See, that’s where he went wrong. Understanding culture is dangerous. If you understand a thing, you can criticize it.

  • magistramarla

    I remember learning about secular humanism as a philosophy in high school in the ’70s.

    When I was teaching Latin just a few years ago, our third year book included an introduction to the philosophies that educated Romans would have studied. I had fun introducing my students to Plato, Aristotle and Socrates. I once mentioned secular humanism and was surprised that my students had not been aware of it from literature or history classes.

    At least a few of the students in that high school became aware of some of the world’s philosophies.

  • dingojack

    I thought they opposed taking god out of schools….

    Dingo

  • Electric Shaman

    I know this particular outrage is based around bigotry towards Islam, but the conservative Christians should be very concerned about classes which educate about world religions.

    It was exactly a lesson on world religions during my world history class in high school that tipped me over from being a non-churchgoing, apathetic but still Jesus believing christian into a full blown atheist.