Sunday, February 25, 2007

What Do WE Stand For?

Two interesting education stories caught my attention today.

First a tip of the Wizard's pointy cap goes to Federal Judge Mark Wolf who dismissed a suit by two families who wanted to stop a Massachusetts town and its public school system from teaching their children about gay marriage.

Wolf courageously ruled on Friday that public schools are "entitled to teach anything that is reasonably related to the goals of preparing students to become engaged and productive citizens in our democracy."

Judge Wolf's ruling shows that the U.S. legal system and the American people are ready to provide a broad based, open and intellectually honest education for our children.

Wolf wisely concluded, "Diversity is a hallmark of our nation."

Or, to state is very bluntly, we're not going to allow fundamentalist Christians dictate our public education.

For some time now we've strongly rebuffed the continuous assaults from fundamentalist Christians. We've rejected mandatory, teacher led, prayer in school. We've fought off attempts to require the teaching of pseudo-science alternatives to evolution. We've fought against book burning and banning of great literature by fanatics from all corners.

But are we prepared to take the same stand against the Muslim fundamentalists?

In the second education story to catch my attention, The UK Telegraph reports that
Islamic leaders have accused British schools of failing to accommodate the needs of Muslim children.

The Muslim Council of Britain criticized the public schools for not tailoring many aspects of education to meet the strict Islamic requirements of students.

The Muslim Council has provided a lengthy list of demands that include everything from the elimination of many mixed classes of boys and girls....

..... to restricting sex education and the elimination of all discussion of homosexuality and banning all sexual visual aids in classes.....

..... to providing private changing rooms and seperate showers for physical education.....

..... to providing meals in all schools that meet strict Islamic dietary requirements.

Further, the Muslim Council has urged the British Government to build prayer rooms and avoid scheduling exams during Ramadan, when many pupils are fasting.

Some of these requests seem very reasonable. U.S. schools generally plan vacations around major Christian holidays, like Christmas and Easter.

And meeting society's generally accepted standards for modesty has already led many U.S. schools to eliminate communal showers.

But where should lines ultimately be drawn?

These new Muslim demands follow a British Government review which said all pupils should be taught core "British values" to promote good relations between communities.

But many of these British "core values" are a direct affront to basic fundamentalist Muslim beliefs.

But, as the court case in Boston clearly illustrates, some American "core values" conflict directly with the teachings of fundamentalist Christians.

From the UK Telegraph, here is an overview of the Muslim requests:

"Many of these issues relate to aspects of schooling such as collective worship, communal changing, swimming, halal meals and sex education.

"It is essential that positive account is taken of the faith dimension of Muslim pupils in education and schooling.

"Unfortunately Muslim pupils are sometimes placed in situations where they feel pressured into acting contrary to their beliefs and conscience and also experience Islamophobic sentiments and comments within schools."

Sex education for Muslim pupils should include "Islamic moral perspectives" when covering issues such as sexual orientation and behaviour, the guidance said.

"Girlfriend/boyfriend as well as homosexual relationships are not acceptable practices according to Islamic teachings," the document said.

Sex education classes should be taught in single-sex groups, by a teacher of the same gender, and "the use of sexually explicit videos, pictures and objects" should be avoided.

The document also said that school uniform policies should allow girls to wear a head scarf and full-length loose skirt and that boys should be allowed to grow beards for religious reasons.

School caterers were urged to provide halal meals, storing and preparing halal food separately, and labelling it clearly in canteens.

As a society today, the United States is struggling with the demands of Islamic groups even as we routinely reject similar demands from Christians.

We provide Federal Public (taxpayer) Funding to artists who place cow feces on a painting of the Virgin Mary or who place a crucifix in a bottle of urine.

Yet, virtually all American media refused to even publicly state their support of the Danish cartoonists who portrayed Mohammad, let alone reprint their illustrations.

We are an accommodating and understanding people. We tend to respect the rights and beliefs of all people.

Yet we also cherish and support work of rebels like Amanda Marcotte, who fight daily (and in the most aggressive and profane language) against the restrictions of Christianity.

If and when a Kareem Amer appears on our shores to inflict the same assault on Islam will we support him like we have Amanda in her running battle with Christianity?

And if Judge Wolf someday issues a court order against the beliefs of Islamic families who object to certain school curriculum, will we support him?

We are going to have to face these issues. WHAT DOES THE UNITED STATES STAND FOR?





Not Your Mama said...

I don't think providing a room for prayer is unreasonable nor is providing for dietary requirements and privacy for changing clothes should apply for all students, it's ridiculous to force young people to disrobe in front of others.

The rest of it is BS. Take your child and homeschool them if you don't like the curriculum. End of story. That's my stance anyway.

Vigilante said...

Off topic: How 'bout putting up a poster soliciting donations for a Wanted - Dead or Alive award for these guys?

Vigilante said...

Back on topic: as a friend of mind is frequently saying, cultures and religions do not have rights; people have rights. Muslims and Christians have equal rights to worship in their respective churches and mosques. But shools are reserved for a common secular curriculum.

Anonymous said...