Schools can often find themselves in a sticky situation when it comes to teaching about other cultures and their religious beliefs. It’s a very thin line between a lesson and an indoctrination in a faith, among other pitfalls. Unfortunately, it looks like a Virginia high school just found out how thin that line is.
A Virginia school district is defending a classroom assignment that required students to practice calligraphy by writing the Muslim statement of faith, “There is no god but Allah. Muhammad is the messenger of Allah.”
Female students at Riverheads High School in Staunton, Virginia, were also invited to wear Muslim clothing — a story first reported by The Schilling Show.
The school district convened a meeting on Dec. 11th to discuss the assignment with outraged parents.
“Neither these lessons, nor any other lesson in the world geography course, are an attempt at indoctrination to Islam or any other religion, or a request for students to renounce their own faith or profess any belief,” the district said in a statement provided to Fox News.
The Muslim-friendly calligraphy assignment took place in a world geography class. The teacher had the kids copy the Muslim statement of faith, also known as the shahada.
The school defends the teacher’s actions, in part because there was no translation given. The claim is that students were simply learning the complexity of Arabic calligraphy.
Mkay, let’s stipulate that attempting to master the hand eye coordination required for “complex” handwriting may have some educational value. Unfortunately, there are issues with that phrase, even without the translation. You see, the educational system in the United States has to serve children from various religious backgrounds. Some aren’t religious at all, some may well already be Muslim and familiar with the writing, and some may be very devout in other faiths where writing that might be considered blasphemy.
Middle Eastern culture is a rich one. It’s kind of difficult to believe that there were no other examples of Arabic calligraphy possible for the students to learn with.
In a vacuum, this may seem like much ado about nothing. Unfortunately, it’s not. For example, there’s this earlier case where the lessons on Islam went a bit further than parents would have liked. In St. Louis, a parent notes that her child’s textbook goes deep enough into Islam to essentially teach the religion rather than the culture.
It’s not just Islam either. This young girl was told to deny God or fail.
Yes, it’s a very thin line, but teachers usually manage it well. Thousands of teachers taught similar subject matter with no problem. Probably by exercising a little common sense and realizing where the boundary lay. If the lesson is about the culture, then touching on the religion is probably unavoidable. We’re not arguing that. However, having students write, “There is no god but Allah. Muhammad is the messenger of Allah,” might be going a little far. Telling them that this is what people in that region generally believe is fine. Asking them to write something that translates that way is an entirely different ballgame.
Teachers are vital to our future as a nation. We’re lucky that we have so many who truly care about the kids in their charge. Unfortunately, a handful may see it as a chance to indoctrinate kids to think a certain way. We’re not saying this is what happened here, but we are saying that parents would be wise to keep an eye on what their kids are learning. If parents don’t say anything, it’s far more likely to get worse.
Photo Credit: The Schilling Show