Bringing Religion into the Public School Classrooms

Updated on December 29, 2009
R.M. asks from San Mateo, CA
7 answers

During the month of December, in my child's 1st grade public school classroom, three parents came into the class and talked all about the meaning of Hannakuh, sang jewish songs and told them the meaning behind dreidels. Legend has it that as a way to justify gathering for Torah readings, Jewish people would keep a dreidel around so if any Greek-Syrians came by they could hide the Torah and act as though they were merely playing a game. The day before the class holiday party, another parent came in to talk about the Muslim religious practice of Ramadan (fasting that occurs Sept-Nov). EID marks the end of fasting. All children made Happy EID cards and mailed them home to their parents. Please tell me how it is that we are not allowed to discuss the story of Christmas and birth of Christ, yet they can discuss their religious stories? BTW, we can't sing any holiday song with Christmas in it....just santa, reindeer and other secular symbols. Please advise me on how best to handle this. I just can't ignore what's happening in our classroom.

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answers from San Francisco on

Maybe I'll be in the minority here, but why not try just looking at it from a mellow point of view wherein the teacher or school figures Christmas gets so much exposure that they thought they'd balance it out by offering some educational info on other cultural and religious winter practices? Sounds like your child is a part of a diverse classroom, which is a good thing. Maybe you would like to volunteer to be the parent who comes in to talk about Christmas?

Peaceful holiday wishes

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answers from Las Vegas on

Hi R.
I agree with you, what the heck is going on here........ Oh that's right, we live in FAR liberal California where that kind of junk goes on. I am down for learning about everyone's culture, the more the merrier so to speak, but c'mon fair is fair.. We should also talk about the birth of Christ.. If I were you, I would have a word with the principal (as though he/she) would do anything since they are under the dictate of the unions.. BUT it's worth a try.
Personally, it's all gone overboard with not discussing certain religious practices (Christmas being one of them) if we can't discuss that, then NO ONE should be able to discuss theirs and we will just stick to the ABCs in school and leave everything else out....



answers from San Francisco on

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year R. M,
I am the mother of 5, and now the grandmother of several cuties. I have with great saddness seen this experiance many times over the years. I actually remember when my eldest children were in a Chistmas play and were Angels( which is good since it might have been the only time they were).
We were blessed with 4 children to have the same teacher for either kindergarten/first grade. Mrs. Carlin (in Castro Valley) happened to have a love for the children that was boundless. She was by religion Jewish, and faithful. She made sure that she covered the Christian beliefs, in her class at Christmas and on more than one activity I was asked to help to explain and tell the story behind the meanings. Sh e talked about the Jewish traditions and beliefs or asked another family to do it. She felt strongly if a child could enjoy this they would be content with their values. So we talked aboutthe star, the wisemen, the shepherds,the time of year the lambs would have been born and the sheep out at night. We then covered the things that were simular to all beliefs. *** The thing I appreciated was that if a parent didn't want to participate they had alternate places the children could be.
I am sad to say that my grandchildren in San RamoneUSD, do not get this chance at all.The idea isn't even addressed because there are so many from other nations in the class rooms. Even the holiday music is free from mention of Christ and Angels.They are being stripped of all that is sacred and beautiful about the Christmas Season. One unwise person even put XMAS, on things to take Christ out of Christmas. As a Child Advocate, for special needs children, all I can tell you is to personally make an appt. to visit withthe Superintendent or write a letter to those in charge and then send a copy of it to all that can make a differance teacher, principal,PTA President,School Board Members--they can be reached at your district office send one to each person so no one can ignore it-- which is why you put cc: with all the name at the bottom and you can even send a copy to the country Superintendents ofice. You may be surprised at the kind of response you will get. Many6 may agree with you but have a fear of loosing their job if they rock the boat or you may be the thing that tips the scale to the side in your favor. If you know other parents that feel the same have them dign the letter with you. I always had concerns about the things the children were not getting at school and made sure that we taught them at home and even invited teachers and friends into the home to share with us. We had many " Non Christian" peoples to our gatherings and some still continue the traditions where they have moved to. Your voice can be heard and listened to so make sure it is loud and clear.
I am 100% on your side. I know that removing the special meaning of ?Christmas seems small to some but when the entire picture is looked at you see it is in all areas of sacred symbols of life. Again Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, Nana Glenda P.S. Just a thought of encouragement that was written by a very brave woman I knew that was fighting cancer" The Lord gives us many opportunities Briallantly disguised as impossible situations--- so go out and be Brilliant"



answers from San Francisco on

Dear R.,

I would talk to the teacher, principal and school board, and demand equal time. I would read the story of the birth of Christ and have the children make Christmas cards and mail them home to ALL the parents. I don't see how they can deny you since they have already let the other two religions have their day with ALL the children.

I would also publish the name and address of the school and ask other parents of ALL faiths, to respectfully request that they have equal time to talk about their beliefs.

I think it was a mistake to take prayer out of our schools. This is America, so those who wish not to pray, don't have to. Our children would be better off if each day began and ended with a few moments of quiet time where one could pray or meditate no matter what their belief.

Merry Christmas and Blessings To All.....



answers from San Francisco on

Please ignore the insulting tone of GB's reply. I think it was uncalled for. You're just asking for equal time and if equality is always the goal in the US, how is that insensitive? I would definitely speak to the principal.



answers from San Francisco on

As a teacher, I can only think that maybe there's some justification going on because both those faiths are not the majority faith of this country and the teacher is approaching it more from a cultural standpoint? Maybe the assumption is that the kids are overexposed to Christmas already and they need to know that there are other faiths with other traditions. That being said, I think if you can open up a dialogue with the teacher about her/his reasoning behind the choices being made in the classroom you could express your feelings. From your description I can't tell if much of a religious message was being delivered or if everything was trying to be more about the culture and tradition of other groups. Since Christmas here is so secularized and much of the tradition stems from the non-Christian aspects (trees, Santa, etc.) the school might feel like they were giving equal time to all even though the other religious traditions are more enmeshed with the actual belief systems they stem from. Anyway, talk to the teacher about it and see just how much of their "religious stories" were really presented. There may have been no actual references to God or Allah or any prophets at all.



answers from San Francisco on

This is one of many reasons my children go to private school. They can be taught about all religions as well as christianity. Like it or not, religion plays an important role in today's events. We are doing a great diservice to our children by not teaching them the basics of the major religions in the world.

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