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Posts Tagged ‘school’

I don’t know if this is still done or not but way back when I was in elementary school it was common practice to recite the United States Pledge of Allegiance at the beginning of each school day.  Like most students, this was something I repeated daily rather thoughtlessly.  It was just part of the morning routine and by the time I had reached middle school the practice had faded away all together.

The pledge was not gone, though.  It still popped up at sporting events, Boy Scout meetings, and other all-American past-times.  It was during such events that a curious thing started to happen.  Little by little I became increasingly uneasy about these words coming out of my mouth.  Eventually the practice devolved into simply holding my hand over my heart with not a word escaping my lips.

So what was the big deal about the pledge?  Well, it really was a result of a couple things.  First of all, from a very young age I was taught that a man’s word is what most defines his character.  Thus honesty, honor, and maintaining commitments became very important to me.  Eventually I would not even utter a promise unless I was absolutely sure I could keep it.  In other words I literally believed (and still believe) that a man is only as good as his word.

Secondly, there eventually came a time in my life where I started to seriously re-evaluate many of the beliefs I had always taken for granted.  Many a moral point became hotly debated within my head and one of those just happened to be the idea of patriotism.  It’s not that I didn’t love my country or want to serve my community but I began to see a certain conflict between the culture of patriotism and the commitments of faith in God.  All to often I would see how the interests of America were being placed above the moral imperatives of Christian faith.  Even worse, American values were often falsely re-branded as Christian values.

For me this was something that I had to reject and as a result I could no longer pledge any allegiance to anything but God.  I came to understand that there was both good and evil in the nature of America and I could not give my loyalty wholesale.  As a result I came to understand my relationship to my country in subjugation to my allegiance to God.  I would freely praise the good of Americana but the ills would receive no defense from me.  I would not consider my country in any way inherently superior to any other nation.  Finally I would serve my community and neighbors not out of service to country but in service and love towards God.

I am no patriot but perhaps nations could benefit from a little less patriotism.

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There was a story in the Des Moines Register a few days back that caught my eye.  It seems that there was a stir at the little high school just down the road from where I grew up.  What happened was the local shop teacher at this school was suspended after refusing to let a student build a Wiccan altar in shop class.  Though I do think the teacher likely acted a bit too rashly and should have followed the school’s policys in the matter his action isn’t the one that most bothered me.  Instead it was this bit:

Almost 70 students signed a petition last week saying they didn’t want witchcraft practiced at the school.

This is a very small (about 180 student) rural school so this relatively large number concerned me a bit.  It indicates to me that there is a serious lack of knowledge in the area of religions when such a small event can provoke such a fearful reaction.  Having grown up in the area I am familiar with the attitudes behind such a reaction and would like to propose a solution.

It seems to me that one of the biggest things missing from public education in America is any sort of education about religion.  I would guess that this is mostly a result of the separation of church and state (point of the constitution I am rather fond of myself) but I think we may be doing ourselves a disservice here.  While public schools should not evangilise any religion it would be a great service to students and to the community to teach students objectively about the beliefs and religions of the world.  After all, there is hardly anything in human society that religion does not influence in one way or another.  To white wash such things from our schools is to leave our children ignorant the way our world works on a basic level.

Thoughts?

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