Just when you thought the separation of church and state was more than an option, like paper or plastic, the matter has been settled at MS 51 in Park Slope. And the lesson falls on the side of atheism.
“RELIGION,” a sheet from English class, handed out to eighth-graders, is provocatively titled. The typewritten paper presents some 20 quotes that can be described as anti-God, coming from philosophers from Kierkegaard to Schopenhauer. Even a “Yiddish proverb.”
“Religion is a disease, but a noble disease,” reads the first quote, attributed to Heraclitus.
“Religion is the masterpiece of the art of animal training, for it trains people as to how they will think,” reads one by Schopenhauer.
Another sheet, titled “GOD,” asks kids to ponder whether religion should be treated as poetry — neither true nor false.
Angry parents want to know: What the devil does this have to do with middle-school English?
And, aren’t these kids too young to learn something more appropriate for a grad-school theological course?
“It’s not only above their level, obviously. It’s inappropriate in a public-school setting,” said Ken Whelan, whose daughter brought home the assignment late last year.
“We are fighting for the hearts and minds of our children. Against MTV, ‘American Idol’ and anorexia. We don’t need the public-school system to muddy the waters. To plant seeds of doubt.”
MS 51 is considered an educational oasis, one of the top 10 middle schools to send kids to the city’s specialized high schools. But the fuzzy-headed assignment, given by English teacher Rachel Rear, raised red flags with a Department of Education official, who agreed middle school “is a little young for this.”
“It’s problematic,” he said. The department had no official comment.
Rear did not return calls. But Principal Lenore Berner defended the assignment, part of a philosophy unit within the English course.
“We’re looking at both sides of debates,” Berner said. She added that Whelan had visited the school, along with a nun from his parish, and “we had a really good conversation about it.”
But Whelan said the teacher “dug in. She was challenging me. She wanted to get into a theological debate.”
Berner told me that some of the more objectionable material, she “believed,” would be removed from the course. That should comfort no one.
Once, schools taught kids to read, write and think. Now, educators use personal bias to preach what to think. The list keeps growing.
At Manhattan’s York Prep, a course pushes the beauty of Islam while ignoring other religions. Child School on Roosevelt Island pushes a gay agenda to boys of 10, expecting them to cross-dress in the school play. And all over New York, kids as young as 4 are required by the state to learn heavy lessons about HIV and AIDS.
“Men never do evil so fully and so happily as when they do it for conscience’s sake,” wrote Pascal.
I’m not entirely sure of the meaning of that quote, contained on the handout. But at a time when kids need religion, family and strong schools more than ever, this kind of lesson is best left alone.
HT: NY Post