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By Frederick Meekins

May 31, 2002

Liberals  insisted for much of the twentieth century that in no way was traditional religion to have an impact upon state-sponsored public education.  Upon closer inspection, one discovers that such a prohibition applies only to Christian belief.

Though I am not normally inclined to invoke him as a favorable reference, Bill Clinton once remarked that American students must be taught about the impact of religion if they are to acquire a more complete understanding of global history and world culture.  The problem arises in walking the thin line between the impartation of objective knowledge and the advocacy of a particular theological position.  Even though educators have their theology detectors turned-up on high to detect the noxious monoxides of Christian thought, their vigilance is sorely lacking  regarding other assorted beliefs.

At Andrew Jackson Middle School in Prince George’s County Maryland, educators are working diligently to reconnect students with the religious traditions of the past --- the pagan past that is.  At this school, it is not enough for students to learn the names and facts surrounding the mythologies of the ancient world.  Here students become active participants in antiquated rites and  ceremonies best left dead or relegated to the realm of superstition.

The Prince George’s Sentinel  sent a correspondent to profile projects pertaining to the theme of ancient Egypt completed by students in the school’s Humanities magnet program.  The significance of the story transcends the chronicling  of what appears to be a mundane scholastic activity.  Rather the discerning can decipher from it certain assumptions guiding the education of the young today and their classroom consequences.

As part of the curriculum, Andrew Jackson students do more than list the names of the pharaohs or discuss the architectural design of the pyramids. According to the Sentinel article, students made amulets to “protect against spiritual harm” and published a class newspaper featuring Egyptian-themed columns such as “Ask Thoth” where supplicants petition the god of wisdom for advice on certain problems.  Students also sculpted models of the jars used to contain  internal organs after mummification, complete with replicas of the various gods adorning the tops of the lids.

Some will dismiss these examples as innocent instructional methodologies employed to engage the diminished attention spans of today’s fidgety students.  Maybe so, but would these pedagogical sophisticates feel the same way if the academic shoe was found on the other theological foot?

Do you think secularists would let it slide if to better understand the Middle Ages students composed hagiographies of the Saints or painted icons when reviewing the Byzantine Empire?  If students are to craft amulets to “ward off evil spirits and harmful energy” and write letters beseeching enlightenment from pagan deities, shouldn’t they be allowed to pray openly? Better yet,  when studying the ancient Hebrews, following this classroom technique, shouldn’t students be taught adherence to the Ten Commandments?

Skeptics will likely brush these concerns aside by claiming no one in their right mind worships pagan gods anymore, such conclusions ignoring the impact of these kinds of beliefs upon the New Age movement (remember those little Egyptian cross fertility symbols known as ankhs that were popular awhile back especially in the Black community?).  However, they cannot laugh it off so easily when these practices are utilized to mollify students into compliance with less docile religions.

While students at Andrew Jackson Middle School waste time absorbing a version of Egyptian civilization no doubt distorted by Afrocentric multiculturalism, their counterparts in schools in California are being conditioned to accept their place in a pending Islamic milieu.

To  acclimate themselves to the ways of the Muslim, California pupils must do things such as wear a Middle Eastern style robe and adopt a Muslim name.  Yet there is more to this program than playing dress-up.

Students must also memorize Koranic verses (imagine if these had these been Bible verses).  They also had to stage a make-believe Jihad.  Imagine if some school made a fun game of those Crusades the Muslims are always whining about. In an unrelated case, one pre-school lost its accreditation because toy soldiers were discovered on the premises; maybe little toy car-bombs would have been more appropriate since there is obviously nothing wrong in some school districts with aspiring to be a terrorist.  And never put it past a teacher to think up some clever excuse to cancel recess. According to “Point of View” radio, one class was required to give up every student’s favorite school-day pastime for Ramadan if they wanted to receive an “A” for the study unit.

Elizabeth Hemmings, the conscientious California teacher who stepped forward with this story back in January, told, “We can’t even mention the name of Jesus in the public schools, but ... they teach Islam as the true religion...”  While perceptive, such comments are not totally accurate.

It seems Christianity can be mentioned in sunny California after all. 

You just can’t be too sunny about what you have to say about the topic.  For whereas the text used in class, Across the Centuries,  portrays Islam as the best thing to stroll down history’s pike since sliced bread and the ballpoint pen, the fleeting references made to Christianity dwell upon the unfortunate events popping up around the periphery of that faith such as the Crusades, Inquisitions, and Witch Trials even though these incidents represent an aberration rather than the core of Biblical belief.

A credible study of history cannot avoid these moments in the memory of our civilization we would otherwise like to forget.  It also observes that Christians for the most part now condemn these atrocities while many within the Islamic community continue to go about committing similar acts or at least vocalizing support for such lamentable deeds.

Faced with numerous threats from around the world along with the rot of various philosophical poisons arising from within their own culture, students should be exposed to a broad spectrum of history and variety of perspectives if for no other reason than to inoculate them against the brand of seductive persuasion manifested by these ideas  in the arena of public debate.  That mean students cannot be tossed into such a sea of intellectual confusion without some kind of anchor letting them know that, even though all men are created equal, all ideas definitely are not.

©Frederick B. Meekins - All Rights Reserved