When Middle School Students Are Forced to Study Islam

Tennessee’s Butt is in the news.

Seriously, Tennessee Representative Sheila Butt is making headlines. Go ahead and get the jokes and snickering out of the way right now. I’ll give you a minute.

Ready now?

Cool.

Here’s the deal – parents of middle school students got together to complain about the curriculum used to teach their students about Islam. It seems they thought there was more indoctrination than simple instruction. islamic-educationIf you read the whole article you will see that students aren’t subjected to Islam alone. The middle school curriculum takes them through several of the world’s major religions, including Christianity and Judaism.

Enter Ms. Butt. She’s trying to pass legislation prohibiting schools from teaching religious doctrine to students before 10th grade. Of course, the left is getting fired up over the issue. The Huffington Post politics page wrote about Rep. Butt’s attempt to push this legislation through. The feel of the piece is, “Those Islamophobic Christians are at it again!”

And they’re partly right.

Partly.

The legislation DOES seem to be anti-Islam in nature. But don’t let the Huffington Post article fool you. They quote an educator who lauds the contributions of Islam to the world (like the invention of algebra). The problem is that many of the contributions from Islam were actually from others cultures.

But here’s the thing: Christians don’t need to be up in arms about the world’s religions being taught in schools. Good parents are actively involved in the education of their children and should be having discussions about class material no matter what the content is. The “We don’t want the schools teaching this stuff to our kids” attitude only rears its head when parents take a hands-off approach to their kids’ education. Parents, find out what your kids are learning and talk about it at home. Teach them what the Bible says.

Here’s the other thing: Christians don’t need to be up in arms about the world’s religions being taught in schools (yes, I know I already said that). Jesus is big enough to handle middle school students hearing about other faith traditions. I can’t see the Apostle Paul getting his knickers in a twist when people offered competing world views. This is the guy who once wrote:

If someone who isn’t a Christian asks you home for dinner, go ahead; accept the invitation if you want to. Eat whatever is offered to you and don’t ask any questions about it. Your conscience should not be bothered by this. (1 Corinthians 10:27)

He wasn’t bothered by what other people believed – he simply continued to preach the truth that he always preached. I think we can do the same.

So be actively involved in your kids’ education, but trust that God is a big God and isn’t threatened by other faiths.

YOU YOUNG WHIPPERSNAPPER!

Curmudgeon

Have you ever had that job that was simply the toughest job you’ve ever had to deal with?

For me that’s parenting. HARD! There’s the constant battling over little, itty-bitty things. Things like simply putting on appropriate clothing.

 

But all kidding aside, the Bible puts responsibility for training kids squarely upon our shoulders. Parents are told to train their kids in God’s ways, to talk about it in the home, on the road, everywhere. The Bible points out that if you do the right things when the kids are young they won’t stray far as adults.

Keep in mind that this is NOT a promise from God. Sometimes parents do everything right and kids still choose the wrong paths. But there is a general principle – a truism – that says when we instill things in our kids then those things will stay with them.

One of my favorite folk songs is Teach Your Children, recorded by Crosby, Stills, Nash, & Young.

You, who are on the road, must have a code, that you can live by.
And so, become yourself, because the past, is just a good bye.
Teach, your children well, their father’s hell, did slowly go by,
And feed, them on your dreams, the one they picked, the one you’re known by.

One thing we want our children to learn and care about is their education (spiritual and secular). So we talk about things at the dinner table. We ask what they’ve been talking about in Sunday School. We ask about spelling tests, books they’ve read – stuff like that.

We’ve found that turning learning into a game has worked really well. For example, we play a game called “First Letters.” We pick a letter of the alphabet. Then we go around the table clockwise and each person has to come up with word beginning with that letter (kids can come up with anything, parents have to come up with a word with at least 3 syllables).

Simple, but it is a fun way to talk about words and learning.

All said and done, school and church can only do so much to train kids. It’s really up to us: the parents (and also relatives, friends, and church families). When we engage kids in their learning they’ve got a much better shot of holding onto it as they grow up.

And for faith and for facts, this is a good thing.

Sound off! How have you helped kids engage in learning (sacred or secular)?