Taking Religious Education a Bit Too Far…

In Cheshire County (United Kingdom), two students in Year 7 (which I believe corresponds to Grade 6 in the US) received a detention for their bad behavior and made all the other children lose their refreshments break.

What did they do that was so horrible?

… two school pupils were punished for refusing to kneel down and pray to Allah during a religious education lesson.

Another parent, Karen Williams, said: “I am absolutely furious my daughter was made to take part in it and I don’t find it acceptable. I haven’t got a problem with them teaching my child other religions and a small amount of information doesn’t do any harm.

“But not only did they have to pray, the teacher had gone into the class and made them watch a short film and then said ‘We are now going out to pray to Allah’…

She added: “My child has been forced to pray to Allah in a school lesson.”

The incident is believed to have taken place during a practical demonstration of how Allah is worshipped.

I don’t know if the following comment below the article is true, but it was supposedly made by a student who attends the school:

i’m a pupil at this school and hope that this doesn’t give the school a bad reputation because it has been blown entirely out of proportion! yes i do agree that its wrong but i don’t think that she saw the situation as inflicting a religion on the children because she’s also my teacher and she’s not like that. she is an open-minded CHRISTIAN and to be honest everyone should try things once. also the children didn’t really have to pray they could have just sat in the position the others were in and listened to their iPod. she’d never notice! she’s a fantastic teacher and none of the people in the daily star etc realise just how much she has to do and how many classes she teaches! the only papers you can believe are the independent, guardian and the times so until this story reaches them lets not worry eh?!

Either way, the teacher was taking her lesson too far. How does actually taking part in the Islamic prayer ritual help students better understand the faith?

Can you imagine how this scenario would play out in America?

(via The Invisible Pink Unicorn)


[tags]atheist, atheism[/tags]

  • http://omega-geek.blogspot.com Spook

    I would be amused to see this in the U.S. if only to hear right-wing nutters suddenly get church-state seperation. Of course, it wouldn’t play out like that, they’d rant about yet another “attack on our country’s Christian foundations” or something equally ignorant.

  • http://amiable-atheist.blogspot.com amiable

    Wow, I would think that learning how Muslims pray would be sufficient and even beneficial…

    But if she really was asking them to pray to Allah, or any god, then that is going too far.

  • http://blog.lib.umn.edu/fole0091/epistaxis Epistaxis

    Can you imagine how this scenario would play out in America?

    Yes. Instead of Allah, it would be Jesus, and it wouldn’t make the news.

    It seems like religious non-Muslim families should be more upset than atheist ones, because to them it’s not just a harmless demonstration.

  • Ron in Houston

    I agree with Spook. It would give a huge twist of irony for the right wing and separation of church and state.

  • Darryl

    I should think atheists would be down with this: a few prayers (including the washings that must be done beforehand) and that’d be enough for most kids to know they don’t want to be Muslims–no fun.

  • http://www.tuibguy.com Mike Haubrich, FCD

    I have a feeling that if an American teacher posed this little “demonstration” she would be on a flight to somewhere in Eastern Europe or Syria with a black bag over her head.

  • Grimalkin

    When I took RE in England, we did similar things. We went to a Hindu temple, for example, and participated in the rituals. Later, when I moved to the US, I had a sociology teacher who made us “communist” while we studied China. We “wall-papered” the walls with red and we had a set of rules that we had to follow while in the class – all this was designed to show us what it would feel like to be a student in a classroom in China. It was fun. Sure there were some kids who complained that we were forced to be communists and how terrible that was because they don’t like the ideology, but it was a far more efficient and fun way to learn about communism than just sitting in class and having a teacher lecture at us.

    So when I read about this incident, I wonder if it was really some dogmatic fundie teacher forcing all the kids to actually pray in class, or if it was something like what I’ve experienced, a really cool teacher trying to get kids to learn through hands-on activities. Do I think that learning how Muslims pray by actually going through the motions is a bad thing? No. I see the educational value of that.

    However, if refusing to pray was the ONLY reason those two kids got a detention, that’s going way beyond acceptable teacher behaviour. However, these are kids we’re talking about. I remember being a kid myself. I know that when I got in trouble at school, the first thing I would do is spin the events so that I came off as a totally innocent victim. Were the kids being obnoxious? Were they being smart-allecks? Were they heckling the kids who were willing to participate? I haven’t heard anything about HOW the kids refused, which suggests to me that if we heard that portion of the story, it would make the teacher’s punishment seem a little more reasonable.

    I’m not siding with the teacher. I’m just saying that I would like to hear more about what actually happened before I jump on the “prayer in school? What the flux???!??!?!?” bandwagon.

  • Richard Wade

    Regardless of whether or not having the students actually pray to Allah was inappropriate, the making it mandatory and punishing those two kids for having the courage to refuse was a serious blunder. Then punishing the rest of the children by taking away their refreshment break just makes the two kids the victims of more resentment from their peers and amounts to emotional extortion.

    Maybe the teacher was giving a demonstration of how religions often use coercion and social pressure to indoctrinate and retain their members? …Nah.

    Does the course of study include minor religions like Voodoo? “We are now going to sacrifice the goat and perform the blood ritual Everyone must participate or there will be no cookies and punch for anyone.”

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  • Aj

    Seems rather a minor thing to learn about Islam, it makes sense to do the motions yourself to learn it. It doesn’t seem to be about forcing people to adopt a religion any more than asking pupils to recite the multiplication table.

    The punishment is harsh and nonsensical, it’s about conflicting with the will of the almighty teacher bitch. In the end you can’t really force anyone to learn, that’s not an effective strategy at all. This is about teaching children to obey authority.

  • http://www.mysinglemomlife.com/blog/ Kat

    I have no problem with students being taught about ALL of the various world religions in school, but it should never be mandatory, and no punishment should ever be handed down because a student refuses to kneel and pray to ANY god(s) they don’t believe in.

    If this happened here, the right wing Christians would be up in arms, screaming separation of church and state, the teacher would be fired, she’d probably be taken into custody and interrogated to find out whether or not she’s a terrorist, and her family wouldn’t see her again for the next 5 years, or ever again.

    And then things would get a whole lot worse.
    Christianity would be declared by law, to be THE national religion, people would still be free to attend the church of their choosing, but all public schools would be doing forced bible teachings, students and teachers alike would be punished for refusing to take part, and on and on.
    It would get very bad very quickly if that happened here.

  • http://eccentric-toast.com Xhristy

    I just noticed for the first time that the source of this article is the daily star. On that basis I would take the story with a grain of salt. The daily star is hardly known for it’s thorough reporting and commitment to the truth.

    While I don’t doubt that there is some kernal of truth to this, I would say that the newspaper blew it all out of proportion.

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  • http://emergingpensees.com Mike Clawson

    If this happened here, the right wing Christians would be up in arms, screaming separation of church and state, the teacher would be fired, she’d probably be taken into custody and interrogated to find out whether or not she’s a terrorist, and her family wouldn’t see her again for the next 5 years, or ever again.

    And then things would get a whole lot worse.
    Christianity would be declared by law, to be THE national religion, people would still be free to attend the church of their choosing, but all public schools would be doing forced bible teachings, students and teachers alike would be punished for refusing to take part, and on and on.
    It would get very bad very quickly if that happened here.

    Ummm… I know folks are sensitive to the whole separation of church and state thing given the current Bush administration, but does anyone else here think this prediction is just a little over-the-top paranoid?

    At any rate, stuff like this has happened here and, lo and behold, the sky hasn’t fallen. In fact, it happened to me in my Jr High Geography class over 16 years ago. The teacher was covering Indian religions and had the whole class practice Buddhist meditation. While these days I wouldn’t have any problem with that at all, at the time it was a major challenge to my faith, the equivalent of being asked to pray to a different god. I chose not to make a big deal about it, just sat there silently with my legs crossed but my eyes open while the rest of the class chanted, and as far as I know no one else in the class made a big deal about it either, despite being in a small rural school in the heart of the conservative Midwest.

  • Polly

    The prayer-exercise is no big deal as long as the teacher isn’t forcing them to actually pray. There wasn’t enough info. for me to determine whether the kids deserved any punishment. In any case, I have a problem with group punishment. Learning isn’t a team sport – no need for communal discipline.

    You can stop reading here if you like.

    Schools are mostly just behavioral adjustment centers where children are indoctrinated into mindlessly taking orders from arbitrary authority figures for arbitrary reasons. Basically, the child’s will is to be broken.
    The “education” they receive is simply more indoctrination, imbuing them with patriotism nationalism, and the dominant conception of the world in vogue among the power-elites at that particular point and time.

    I still want to be a teacher though. :)


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