Quick Hit: A Question

Answer me this; is it appropriate that I have a Buddha in the classroom?

I don’t consider it a religious symbol – it’s more a representation of the pursuit of enlightenment and self-knowledge – but I can see how some people might perceive it as religious. Everyone who knows me knows that I don’t do the religion thing, and I’m confident that most of the students understand enough about my philosophy to understand what the statue means in my environment, but I’m sensitive to the fact that it could be seen as intrusive. I wouldn’t be okay with a crucifix in a classroom, so I’m questioning whether a Buddha would be any different.

What do you think? Is it okay if I tuck him amongst the plants on my bookshelves, or should I just leave him at home?

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17 Comments

Filed under compassion and cooperation, critical thinking, ethics, Questions, Quick Hit, self-analysis

17 responses to “Quick Hit: A Question

  1. I am not Catholic but went to a Catholic university for my undergraduate degree. I had no problem with the chapel or the crucifixes.

    The easiest answer is ask – you can ask the students to write what they think it means (which will give you a hint) – or tell them what it means to you on your way to another discussion.

    And, as I am sure you know, people chose to get offended about the oddest things. I have been told by students that they are offended by this or that and I tell them they have every right to be offended but they do not have the right to let that offense dictate everything. (obviously about small things, not about choosing to be an IDIOT like Laura Schlesinger who repeated used the n-word on her show to indicate to a woman that she was overly sensitive to matters of race. That would have bugged me too as I do not like that word.)

    It is a nice looking Buddha. Has your administration or a parent said something?

  2. Darci

    I believe that by stating in the first meeting exactly what this statue symbolizes to you and how it fits into your philosophy in the classroom and beyond, then it is a perfectly acceptable addition to the classroom environment.

  3. Ricochet, no one has said anything yet because I’ve not brought him in. I’ll likely do so tomorrow; I’m working on putting my classroom together, and I’m making a point of making the place MINE with room for others’ influences, too – student work and the touches that my coworkers bring to the space. Oh, and I love the idea of using him as a writing prompt!! Thanks for that!

    Darci, that’s how I feel about it, too, but I recognize that I’m looking at it from my little box. I worry that my perspective, even though I try to broaden it at every opportunity, is still too narrow to fairly answer questions like these.

  4. I understand that you feel the image isn’t religious to you but it is to a whole lot of people, just as important as a crucifix or a star of David or a cow or anything else. If you wouldn’t have a crucifix or a symbol from another religion in your classroom then an image of the Buddha shouldn’t be in there either. It’s not about whether or not you’ll offend someone it’s about whether you will allow religious symbols into your classroom. If you don’t have enough gum for the whole class you shouldn’t chew the one piece you do have yourself.

  5. First, that’s one awesome Buddha! I have a Buddha in my home. He sits in an alcove in the wall on our stairway to the second floor. Even though our Buddha symbolizes enlightenment and self-realization to me, as it does to you, I don’t think I’d be comfortable bringing a Buddha to school. But then, I teach in a very small rural school where people may be offended, and it just wouldn’t be worth the potential conflict to me.

  6. I think I’m with Kizz on this one: “I understand that you feel the image isn’t religious to you but it is to a whole lot of people.”

  7. Kizz said pretty much exactly what I would have said, and probably said it better, so I’ll leave it with that. :)

  8. Yeah, see? That’s why I asked the question. At least I’m thinking about this sort of thing (and seeking guidance) rather than just plowing ahead with whatever I want and damn the rest….

  9. I pretty much agree with Kizz on this one, too. I personally wouldn’t have an issue with it if I were in your classroom, but I also wouldn’t have an issue with a crucifix, Star of David, or a Muslim holy symbol, so that’s just me.

    I suppose you could go in the other direction, too – instead of removing the Buddha altogether, you could have him in the room as long as you had symbols from other religions in there, as well.

  10. I have a small Buddha and Ganesh on my desk at school. They are so small that no one can see them except for me. They’ve been on my desk for five years. No one has ever said anything about them. I also have Tibetan prayer flags in my classroom.

    Also have that coexist bumper sticker on my desk. I like to think I’m an equal opportunity religion gal. :-)

    I find nothing wrong with your Buddha.

    FYI: I teach a unit of the major world religions in my World History class.

  11. mdawg, I bet I’d love your classroom!

    I have a coexist magnet on one of the cabinets, along with a bunch of cards from quotable.com. I also spent about 60 bucks last year and bought a stack of bumper stickers from Northern Sun which I intend to use as weekly writing prompts (and which all have a distinctly lefty feel to them).

    I really do feel like I need to have a Buddha in my environment, but I may, like you, find a small, inconspicuous one to leave on my desk.

  12. I think you can have it there, no problem, so long as you explain to the students what it is and why you chose to put it there. I guess I’m one for including rather than excluding things from other cultures. I like the idea about making it into a writing prompt and seeing what your students think. Since you were planning on having him in a spot in the classroom where he’s surrounded by plants, I think he’ll be unobtrusive as well.

  13. Update: I spoke to Carrie, my director, about him, and she said “bring him in, absolutely!” Her take on it is that he’s inclusive, he’s not intended as a religious symbol, and if someone complains about him, he can easily be removed (and what a lovely object lesson that will be for everyone who observes it). One of my students came in this afternoon to help me put my room together, and he said he’s got no problem with it, so we’ll see how his classmates feel.

    I’ll post a picture of him in his new digs tomorrow, along with some pictures of my classroom. I’m utterly delighted by the way it looks, and even more so by the way it feels, and I can’t wait to share it with you all…

  14. Bob

    I know the school and some of the people who enjoy the US injustice system. Be careful with this one.

  15. Is this a government school, Chili? I just … I don’t know. The line between culture/philosophy and religion is hard to define.

    What I notice is that this isn’t a small figure on your desk (which to me would imply personal), it’s a fairly noticeable figure over on a bookcase that looks like it has books for student use on it. What (if anything) would you say to a co-worker who had a cross of about the same size placed in a similar fashion?

    Every time we have a faculty lunch or something similar, the principal will talk about how important our work is, blah blah, and then ask somebody to say grace. I cringe every time because as Christians, we’re called to follow the laws of the land unless they contradict the way God wants us to live. But around here it’s a cultural thing at LEAST as much as it is an issue of faith.

    All this is a long way of saying I just don’t know, Chili.

  16. Clix, it’s a public charter school. I’m still reconsidering whether he’ll stay where he is; my boss (and everyone who’s seen him thus far, which includes the guidance counselor, the business manager/front desk goddess, and several students (there was an info night the other night) had no issue with it, but we’ve still got a few days until school starts (we go back on the 30th) so he may yet come home with me. I don’t know, either…

  17. I don’t think it’s intrusive if your students know your reasons.

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