Freethought in the first grade

I received this email yesterday.

Hello JT. I saw you at the Reason Rally and was very motivated by all of the talk and encouragement directed toward the students and teachers who are making a difference in the public school setting.

I am an elementary teacher in ##### (1st grade). Each year I struggle with the pressure from others in my school system (whether it be to put up a tree in my classroom, write letters to Santa, visit the Santa that comes to school and allow children to sit on his lap and ask for presents, make reindeer food for flying deer, etc….. The list could go on and on.

I have decided that I would like to make a change this year in my approach to the holiday season. One alternative I have tried In the past is to spend the month of December teaching about the different Christmas traditions around the world. This is enjoyable for the students and they became a little more enlightened about the world outside of their everyday existence, but I’m yearning for something a little more.

I am writing to you to see if you might be able to guide me in a different direction for this year. I know your work is geared mostly toward high school, but I’m hoping you might be able to direct me toward resources for the primary grades? Thank you so much for what you are doing. You are truly making a difference.

I love the idea of teaching the different holiday traditions from around the world!  It’s knowledge every child should have that will convey to them, at an early age, that we are not part of our own little world here, but we are instead a part of a diverse and enormous global community.

What’s more, it’s a few steps ahead of any administration that takes issue with it.  If the school tells this teacher to stop and then the teacher pushes back, the school must take the position of being opposed to knowledge and diversity. Even the worst admins know that’s not the position you want to take publicly.

However, I know of no other resources for teaching critical thinking/freethought at that age.  I’ll bet some of you do though.  :)

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About JT Eberhard

When not defending the planet from inevitable apocalypse at the rotting hands of the undead, JT is a writer and public speaker about atheism, gay rights, and more. He spent two and a half years with the Secular Student Alliance as their first high school organizer. During that time he built the SSA’s high school program and oversaw the development of groups nationwide. JT is also the co-founder of the popular Skepticon conference and served as the events lead organizer during its first three years.