It seems that she’s been getting some heat (the intensity of which I am still unaware) from some students and parents who identify as Christian. The fact that this has been happening completely outside of my perception is part of why my boss is so awesome; she’s been dealing with it without involving me at all.
The little that she told me is that there are a number of people who are expressing concern that CHS may be a hostile environment for people who identify as Christian. They’re upset about some of the issues that our books bring up, they’re wondering about the class discussions we have, they’re concerned that we’re not offering up a Christian perspective on the topics we engage.
You know what? They’re right; we’re not. That doesn’t make our environment hostile to Christians, though, any more than it makes ours a hostile environment for Muslims or Taoists or Jews or Secular Humanists.
I have often been accused of having an agenda in the classroom, and this is an accusation I do not deny. I’ve written about it before, but it bears repeating: my primary purpose in the classroom is to get my kids to think and to question and to argue. My secondary purpose is to get them to consider that there is more than one way of thinking, and while I don’t advocate that all ways are equally valid, I DO require that my students engage in some critical inquiry of the material I give them. I am sure that some of the things I ask my students to think about are things that some people who identify as Christians may find objectionable.
Honestly? I don’t care. In fact, I’m that’s kind of what I’m going for – not to piss off Christians specifically, but to push everyone a little bit outside of their respective comfort zones. That’s where the good stuff happens; we don’t grow if we don’t venture outside our boundaries. If your faith imposes boundaries that you are not able to challenge, even a little bit, then perhaps ours isn’t the right environment for you. There are two Christian religious high schools in our town that I’m sure will accept your application.
I’m not asking anyone to accept what I say as truth. I’m not putting up any of the issues or concepts we discuss in class as truth – I mean, come on; I use a speech from an admitted Nazi in a few of my classes, for crying out loud – and I’m always completely open to (well-articulated and supported) argument about anything that I use in the classroom. I make a point that my students understand that it’s perfectly okay to disagree, as long as one isn’t disagreeable; if a student argues with something that I personally believe, and that student argues it well, that student will never get a bad grade. I was impressed by this when my undergrad Ed. Philosophy professor gave me an A on a paper upon which she’d written “this is an excellent argument. I think you’re completely wrong, but you made your case extremely well.”
I’m not here to support anyone’s spiritual life. I will be respectful of everyone’s right to practice their faith, but I will not tiptoe around their sensibilities, either. My job is to get you to think, and to back up your thinking with evidence: if your belief system can’t withstand a little rigorous thinking, then perhaps you ought to reconsider your belief system.