Linus vs. Santa

It’s the time of year to fight about Silent Night, Santa and — it’s 2015! — Allah.

In Johnson County, Kentucky, Linus won’t recite from the Gospel of Luke in the elementary school’s production of A Charlie Brown Christmas. Students will not sing Silent Night.

Meanwhile, San Jose parents are angry that a school canceled the kindergarten field trip to see Santa after a mother complained it “left out” kids whose families don’t celebrate Christmas.

The school had planned “a short walk to a nearby coffee shop . . . where the kids enjoy hot cocoa and sit on Santa’s lap,” reports the San Jose Mercury News. Children also were told to write a letter to Santa.

Not everyone in class celebrates Christmas, wrote “Talia,” who’s Jewish, in an e-mail.

Some parents have threatened a boycott and accused her of making “war on Christmas.” They say the majority should rule.

Charlie Brown Christmas is explicitly Christian. Charles Schultz wanted to rescue Christmas from Santa and stress its religious meaning. Therefore, it’s a poor choice for a public school play.

Parents can take their kids to visit Santa on the weekend.

At my elementary school — public and heavily Jewish — the first-grade teacher had us decorate ornaments. I put a Jewish star on mine. In the “winter sing,” we sang Silent Night in German and Spanish, but never in English. Maybe they could try that in Kentucky.

On 2nd thought, don’t draw Muhammad

World history students won’t be asked to draw Muhammad — or any other religious figure — in Acton, California, a desert town, reports the Los Angeles Daily News.

A parent, Melinda Van Stone, complained about a history worksheet on the rise of Islam, which asked students to produce a quote and picture for “Muhammad,” “Quran,” “Mecca,”  “Bedouins” and other vocabulary words.

Seventh graders were told to draw a picture of Muhammad next to a quote. Credit: Dean Musgrove, Los Angeles Daily News

Seventh graders were told to draw a picture of Muhammad next to a quote. Credit: Dean Musgrove, Los Angeles Daily News

Drawing pictures of vocabulary words is a common technique. I think it’s an offshoot of the “multiple intelligences” fad.

Van Stone, who declined to state her religion, told the Daily News that her 12-year-old son was sent to the office six times and given an alternative assignment during class discussions on Islam. She believes he is being punished for her complaints.

In Islam, images of prophets, whether of Muhammad, Jesus or Moses, are not allowed since people may worship these images, Muzammil Siddiqi, an Islamic scholar, told the Daily News.

Afraid of being a —-phobe

Political Correctness Means Living In Fear — even for high school students, writes Darren on Right on the Left Coast.

His statistics class is looking at adult smoking rates. Utah has fewer smokers than any other state. He asked students if they could guess why. No one said a word.

I could tell from the looks on their faces that it wasn’t an “I don’t know” silence; no, it was an “I’m afraid to say” silence.  In one class I called on a student and she was in obvious turmoil; “I can’t say it” was all she could get out.

Students knew that “Utah has a large population of Mormons, who in general don’t smoke,” writes Darren.  But they were “petrified to say that,” for fear they’d be branded “as some sort of  ‘-ist’ or ‘-phobe’.”

That’s sad.

Mormons have managed to laugh off the teasing in Book of Mormon without complaining of microaggressions, much less threatening to boycott or blow up theaters.

Backlash cancels hijab event

At a Cincinnati high school, Muslim students invited girls to wear a scarf or hijab for a day to build cultural awareness. Mason High’s Student Activities Department sent out an email promoting the “Covered Girl Challenge.”

Non-Muslim students try on hijabs at University of California Riverside for the Hijab Challenge. Photo: Ross French

Non-Muslim students try on hijabs at University of California Riverside for the Hijab Challenge. Photo: Ross French

After massive backlash, the principal apologized for the message implying this was a school-sponsored activity and canceled the event.

I think that’s a shame. What’s wrong with student group inviting girls to see what it’s like to look a Muslim? (Some Orthodox Jewish women also cover their hair with a scarf — or wear a wig.)

If the school required it, that would be a different story, but there’s no church-state issue here. Just hijab hysteria.

Choice solves the religious holiday clash

You can’t please everyone. When Muslim parents in Montgomery County, Maryland asked for days off for Muslim holidays, the school board eliminated all religious holidays from the school calendar. It turns out you can annoy everyone.

Religion isn’t the problem, writes Cato’s Neal McCluskey on Reason. Public schooling is the problem, he argues. Choice is the solution.

McCluskey advocates vouchers for each student, so funding follows the child. “Let parents choose schools that share their values, religion, views on math curricula — you name it.”

The people of Montgomery County are diverse, and a single system of schools for which they all must pay simply cannot treat them equally. Just look at the “solution” the board came up with: ending official recognition of Christian and Jewish holidays, but holidays like Christmas and Yom Kippur remaining days off because attendance would be too low to operate. Muslims, meanwhile, are too small a minority to greatly affect attendance, so the schools will still be open on their holidays.

. . .  Values-based conflagrations are constantly flaring up across the country, whether the flashpoint is school holidays, student prayer at graduations, reading Huckleberry Finn, the content of history curricula or myriad other matters.

Parental choice — funded by taxpayers — could improve social cohesion, he argues.

. . . some empirical research has shown more meaningful connections between students of different races in private than public schools, perhaps because choosing a school based on shared values or interests provides a bonding agent more powerful than the things that divide groups. Finally, research has suggested chosen schools are better than public schools at instilling basic American civic values like voting and tolerance of others.

It’s almost impossible to treat everyone equally within a single school system, McCluskey concludes. “To foster peace and real unity, educational freedom is key.”

Nutcracker field trip is back on

The Mouse King dances in the Joffrey Ballet’s version of The Nutcracker in Chicago

It’s a Christmas miracle! An elementary school PTA in a Boston suburb will not cancel its annual trip to see The Nutcracker.

Someone complained children would see a Christmas tree on stage, reports WHDH. Other parents complained when the PTA decided to end the optional trip.

The Nutcracker does indeed have religious content, notes Reason.

Everyone in the ballet is celebrating Christmas, a Christian holiday commemorating Christ. Same thing happens in A Christmas Carol, How The Grinch Stole Christmas, A Christmas Story, A Charlie Brown Christmas, White Christmas, Black Christmas (a slasher movie) and—heck—Handel’s Messiah.

. . . How about all those Renaissance paintings of Mary and Jesus? Should the PTA ban trips to the art museum?

“Kids can be exposed to ideas and cultures different from their own”  without feeling offended. Or they can decide not to go.

District drops preference for “non-Christian” teachers

When hiring teachers, “special consideration shall be given to women and/or minority defined as: Native American, Asian American, Latino, African American and those of the non-Christian faith,” reads the teachers’ union contract in Ferndale, Michigan. Earlier in the contract, however, a clause bans discrimination based on religion, notes Michigan Capitol Confidential.
The “non-Christian” language is “antiquated” and will be deleted, said a spokeswoman for Ferndale Public Schools. “The district does not discriminate in hiring on the basis of religion or other related issues,” she said.

Apparently, the language was added in the late ’70s. My guess is that someone noticed an increase in Muslim students and thought it would be nice to hire some Muslim teachers. But are Asian-American teachers underrepresented relative to the number of Asian-American students? I doubt it. And I’m sure there are plenty of female teachers in Ferndale. Why not “special consideration” for men?

It’s not clear that students learn more from a teacher of the same race, ethnicity or religion. But I’d have no problem with a school district that gave special consideration to applicants from the students’ neighborhoods and cultures. Should that kind of discrimination be OK?

Report: Textbooks boost Islam

Islam is presented positively — and inaccurately — in U.S. textbooks, charges a report by ACT! for America Education. It’s more “indoctrination than education,” says Brigitte Gabriel, the group’s president.

The report provides happy-think quotes from textbooks:

“The Quran granted women spiritual and social equality with men.”

ACT! responds:  The Quran does not grant “social equality” to women. “Muslim women cannot divorce except in limited circumstance—men can divorce at any time for any reason—and the testimony of one man equals that of two women in legal proceedings.”

“In Medina, Muhammad…fashioned an agreement that joined his own people with the Arabs and Jews…These groups accepted Muhammad as a political leader.”

Response:  The Jews did not accept Muhammad as a leader. He “expelled two of the Jewish tribes and destroyed the third, beheading the men and selling the women and children into slavery.”

“Shari’a law requires Muslim leaders to extend religious tolerance to Christians and Jews.”

Response: “Shari’a law imposes a litany of burdens and restrictions on Christians and Jews, both in their daily lives and in the practice of their religions.”

“In the early eighth century, Islam became popular in the northwestern part of the Indian subcontinent.”

Response: Islam spread through conquest.

In addition, textbooks spend many pages on European slave traders, ignoring the role of Islamic slave traders, the report charges.

Textbook writers hate controversy. I’m sure they accentuate the positive when writing about any religion — but not to this extent.

School bans atheist’s editorial on religion

Administrators, teachers and coaches promote “pro-Christian” beliefs at school events, wrote Krystal Myers, an atheist, in the Lenoir City High School (Tennessee) school newspaper. But school officials pulled the honor student’s editorial, claiming it would be “disruptive,” reports the Knoxville News Sentinel.

Schools Director Wayne Miller said the school district is not violating the law.

Prayers at athletic events are student-led. School board meetings do begin with a prayer, but there are usually no students present, he said.

One teacher wears T-shirts that depict the crucifix, Myers wrote. Other teachers often use Bible verses for the “Quote of the day” written on classroom boards.  Coaches encourage team prayer before competitions. “As the captain of the swim team, I feel I have to be a part of it.”

Myers also cited Lee vs. Wiseman, a U.S. Supreme Court decision based on a case where a parent tried to stop a rabbi from speaking at a middle school graduation. The court ruled in a 5-4 decision that the inclusion of clergy who offer prayers at official public school ceremonies violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.

“The school’s rule creates subtle and indirect coercion (students must stand respectfully and silently), forcing students to act in ways which establish a state religion,” the ruling said.

 If Myers editorial had run in the school newspaper — she’s the editor — would the Christians have rioted? I doubt it.


Feds investigate Gulen’s Turkish teachers

More than 120 charter schools in 25 states have been founded by followers of Fethullah Gullen, an Islamic leader exiled by Turkey. Federal agents are investigating whether teachers imported from Turkey have been forced to kickback money to a Muslim movement known as Hizmet. The FBI and Departments of Labor and Education investigators are involved, reports the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Unlike in Turkey, where Gulen’s followers have been accused of pushing for an authoritarian Islamic state, there is no indication the American charter network has a religious agenda in the classroom.

Religious scholars consider the Gulen strain of Islam moderate, and the investigation has no link to terrorism. Rather, it is focused on whether hundreds of Turkish teachers, administrators, and other staffers employed under the H1B visa program are misusing taxpayer money.

Gulen schools used 684 H1B visas in 2009 to bring in Turkish administrators and teachers. Many of the teachers were math and science specialists.

Ruth Hocker, former president of the parents’ group at the Young Scholars of Central Pennsylvania Charter School in State College, began asking questions when popular, certified American teachers were replaced by uncertified Turkish men who often spoke limited English and were paid higher salaries.

Although the school is located near Penn State, which graduates many certified teachers, school officials claimed “they couldn’t find qualified American teachers,” Hocker said.

An anti-Gulen web site also accuses the schools of hiring Turkish teachers who speak poor English, hiding ties to the Gulen movement and focusing resources on “a small group of high-performing students” who compete in math and science competitions, “while the curriculum is mundane or even deficient for the remaining students.” The site does not claim the schools teach Islam.

Here’s a pro-Gulen web site.