Disagreements with School Curriculum

Parent Q&A

How to gently address anti-religion teachings in school Jan 31, 2020 (11 responses below)
Colonial Days Alternatives? Jan 17, 2020 (2 responses below)
Questionable school intervention Jan 17, 2020 (10 responses below)
  • I learned recently that my kids in elementary school are hearing anti-religion teachings in their public school from the teachers (I'm still trying to find out if it is their main teacher, subject matter teacher or after school teacher).  It is public school so more than happy for religion to be not-addressed or described generally from historical perspective, but they come home saying the teacher said "God is a made up being some people believe in to feel better," or "as you go further in school you will see that all of the Bible stories have explanations in science" or "God is kind of like a fairy but for adults."  It caused some in depth conversations at home and I addressed it with the kids to the extent I could but I was very unhappy to hear it.  We are not even that religious -- we believe in evolution and science, are professionals and highly educated, and are not blindly following religion (so public school seemed ok, and I don't want to move them to religious private school even though we can afford it), but we do believe in God and observe some of the religious customs and teachings.  I don't expect the school or the teachers to follow or believe in any of it, but I do expect that they don't call our family's and many other religious' families' believes "a made up story" and say God is just something some people believe in like you believe in the tooth fairy to my elementary school children.  I'm going to try to find out which teacher is saying this, but then what.  It just seems like such a sensitive topic to bring up with the teacher, or maybe I should go straight to principal to avoid a direct conflict -- I know religion is not popular in the bay area and many folks don't believe which is fine and I would not care if this came from a friend but I don't think a teacher has a right to go there and want to make sure he/she is more careful in future as I know we are not the only religious family in the school even though very few if any know that we are religious so they might not be as careful around my kids as they are around others. 

    I put this in the same category as when the teacher tells the kids things I consider to be age-inappropriate. For example, last week, my daughter's fourth grade teacher felt the need to tell the class both about Kobe Bryant's helicopter crash, and the coronavirus pandemic. I was like, really? What was the point of that, other than freaking the kids out? So it led to conversations at home, which ultimately is my job as the parent - to help my children navigate the information they receive at school and mesh it with our family's values. I am not bringing it up to the teacher - she's gonna say what she's gonna say; her judgement of what's appropriate is obviously not mine, but I don't want her to feel like I'm censoring her.

    I would first verify who is saying this and in what context, which it sounds like you're doing. Kids can get things pretty mixed up in the re-telling. If it did come from a teacher during instructional time, I would definitely address it directly with the teacher. It's always better to speak directly (not email) with someone rather than going around them. If the teacher acknowledges the gist of what your kids said and is not willing to work with you, then go to the principal. I would be really displeased to hear proselytizing of any kind - including this kind - at my child's school. 

    Yikes. That's so disrespectful, and such an oversimplified view of religion and spirituality. I don't have school-aged kids yet so I'm not sure whether approaching the teacher or the principal is better, but I do think you should speak out. Maybe just a simple "Tolerance of philosophical differences is an important social skill in a pluralistic society, and it's important to us that the teachers model that"?

  • Colonial Days Alternatives?

    (2 replies)

    Hi All! I have two sons in public school in Lafayette and many of our elementary schools in the district do something called "Colonial Days" in the 5th grade. I am part of a Diversity and Inclusion committee at our school and we brought the topic up to discuss issues around “Colonial Days” and the discomfort some feel around dressing up and essentially celebrating colonization--portraying this time through colonizer's eyes without much recognition of the subsequent historical consequences. We are interested in hearing about any schools (public or private) that have replaced the “traditional” Colonial Days event/teachings with something else that still “makes history come alive” for the students, as this seems to be the main reason given for why schools are still doing this in our area. I am trying to get info on what some of the schools in our district and neighboring areas of Oakland/Berkeley/Richmond area are doing that are interactive and experiential educational events for students while still being culturally appropriate/sensitive and historically accurate. I found a reference to Joaquin Miller in Oakland updating their version of this  …if anyone has further info on that I would love to hear more. I have looked at a few examples of what they are doing in some of the local private schools, and there seem to be some interesting examples out there of kids diving deep into history while also respecting historical accuracy and recognizing and celebrating diversity & inclusion. Please help me by sending any such examples that you know of, so I can bring these ideas to the our next Committee meeting? Thanks! 

    RE: Colonial Days Alternatives? ()

    I don't remember what my daughter's class did, but here are the California state curriculum standards for this lesson. Hope this helps. Religious freedom and slavery are part of the standard.

    5.4 Students understand the political, religious, social, and economic institutions that evolved in the colonial era.
    1. Understand the influence of location and physical setting on the founding of the original 13 colonies, and identify on a map the locations of the colonies and of the American Indian nations already inhabiting these areas.
    2. Identify the major individuals and groups responsible for the founding of the various colonies and the reasons for their founding (e.g., John Smith, Virginia; Roger Williams, Rhode Island; William Penn, Pennsylvania; Lord Baltimore, Maryland; William Bradford, Plymouth; John Winthrop, Massachusetts).
    3. Describe the religious aspects of the earliest colonies (e.g., Puritanism in Massachusetts, Anglicanism in Virginia, Catholicism in Maryland, Quakerism in Pennsylvania).
    4. Identify the significance and leaders of the First Great Awakening, which marked a shift in religious ideas, practices, and allegiances in the colonial period, the growth of religious toleration, and free exercise of religion.
    5. Understand how the British colonial period created the basis for the development of political self-government and a free-market economic system and the differences between the British, Spanish, and French colonial systems.
    6. Describe the introduction of slavery into America, the responses of slave families to their condition, the ongoing struggle between proponents and opponents of slavery, and the gradual institutionalization of slavery in the South.
    7. Explain the early democratic ideas and practices that emerged during the colonial period, including the significance of representative assemblies and town meetings.

    (https://www.cde.ca.gov/ci/hs/cf/ scroll down for History/Social Science)

    RE: Colonial Days Alternatives? ()

    Have you investigated what the students are taught during "Colonial Days".  Are the students being taught about California's Colonial Days?  Orinda schools at Wagner Ranch have Pioneer Days and Ranchero Days.  https://www.fwrna.org/history-of-wagner-ranch-nature-area.html  Where there is a lot of focus on the California's history,  The program in Orinda schools is filled with diversity.  Native Americans, Spanish (California's Colonial period), Russians, Mexicans, and Chinese all before the Gold Rush.  With the Gold Rush California was one of the most diverse places in the World.

    Let me share the diversity of California's past most folks don't know.  San Francisco was one of the founded by black man, William Alexander Leidesdorff, who is also considered the first black millionaire.
    San Francisco resident, Marry Ellen Pleasant is said to be the first black billionaire.  She brought the Underground Railroad to California and sued street car companies over segregation and won about 100 years before Rosa Parks.  

    Slavery in California has an interesting history.  The Spanish had enslaved the Natives to build the missions and become Christians.  Then with California becoming a state during the Gold Rush the issue of slavery was a heated one for the state and our country.  It was gold that made California a free state.  Yet at the same time California recognized slavery "rights" of the other states and many interesting legal cases followed.

    The last duel in the United States was in California in Golden Gate Park.  And it was over slavery.  Broderick, the abolitionist was killed in the duel.  

    Hope you find these facts helpful and interesting. 

  • Questionable school intervention

    (10 replies)

    Hello, 

    My 8th grader was absent last week from school. When she returned Monday morning, her classmates ran up to her and told her that a meeting had been held to discuss her good points and bad points and her overall integration into her class. Her peers were apparently told to keep the meeting confidential and were all expected to participate. She is hurt both because she felt the  coordinator who facilitated the meeting betrayed her, and of course while lots of positive things were said, she now knows who said negative things, such as “egocentric”, “selfish” etc which has affected her relationships. She didn’t want to go to school this week. The school claims it was a legitimate intervention called “Circle is Friends” and the coordinator refuses to apologize for damage done. Shouldn’t they have had my daughter’s consent at the least and ours as parents? I feel very angry. 
    Thank you!!

    Simply going on what you've described, as an adult== not a fragile teen-- I would feel awful being told that some of my peers got together to discuss me--in secret.   Your daughter was absent, is that why they chose her?  That this group was formed for this purpose and headed up by a "coordinator"--is particularly upsetting.  I'm very sorry this happened to your daughter--and that it is an ongoing practice. Please investigate more.  Talk to the principal, go before the school board.  Gawd

    This is nothing short of INSANE.  At the very least, I'd be in the principal's office having a very, very serious discussion.  At most, I'd be investigating legal options to ensure this never happened to any child ever again.  That would include removing people from jobs and ensuring they never worked with children again. 

    I think this is not an intervention and think you should speak to the school administrators and place a formal complaint.