I seem to be in a perpetual struggle for a secular education for my kids at the local public school. This past week my daughter brought home a spelling worksheet with the sentence “Insects are one of the many creatures God created. The word insects was underlined to be replaced with one of the list words. The sentence was also used on the test at the end of the week.
I complained (again) about religion in public schools and about the school teaching creationism, the teacher responded that I was surely exaggerating — that this was hardly creationism. I think “God created” is very clear creationism. Next he said that I can hardly hope to expunge god from everthing — but in a public school I certainly can and do expect a secular education for my children. Next there was something about him being a geologist… and he grudgingly apologized.
My friend in Toronto ran into another religion-in-the-public-school incident when she attended the Remembrance Day assembly with her son at his school where she is a volunteer. The school choir sang a United Church hymn filled with references to god as a male figure.
Later, she talked to the teacher about why they chose this song given all the songs written about creating peace in the world. The school is diverse and is part of the Toronto public board. Religion is not a part of the curriculum, including teaching god as a male deity. She learned that the original choice of songs for the kids was “If I had a Hammer” but the principal had vetoed it because it was too socialist. Full lyrics to If I had a Hammer here. I cannot believe that promoting Chrisitianity over socialism (if the song can even be labeled that) is happening, here, in 2006. What’s wrong with socialism?? And the only answer for choosing the hymn was that the kids knew it already.
The choir also sang an edited version of John Lennon’s Imagine with the line about “And no religion too” removed (full lyrics to Imagine here.) I cannot imagine why they’d edit it out — it’s a great song about peace and I think it’s a good point that religion divides people. It certainly happens in the schools here with there being two separate systems of publicly funded education: one Catholic and one for everyone else. It’s very divisive – ask the kids who go or went to one of the split schools where the two boards share a building.
What is so wrong about If I had a Hammer? And will we ever secure secular public education for our children?