Commentary and Philosophy Non-Fiction posted December 16, 2018 Chapters:  ...4 5 -6- 7... 

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A vote for the 'no' case...

A chapter in the book Miscellaneous stories

Should God Be Allowed in School?

by CD Richards

The following question appeared on my Facebook feed recently:
Do you believe that God should be allowed in schools?
The words were superimposed upon a picture of a classroom of small children, all with hands clasped in front of their faces, eyes closed, heads reverently bowed, praying.
The first question that popped into my mind upon seeing this was, “Which one?” After all, many thousands of Gods have been worshipped around the globe over the millennia. Yet, the question appears to allow for the presence in schools of only one. How are we to determine which? Should it perhaps be by popular vote? Should schools be set up to admit different gods, depending on location? Or perhaps the veneration of individual gods could be timetabled – a practice with which schools are already well familiar. Prayers to Odin on Monday, Kali on Tuesday, Apollo on Wednesday, and so on.
Another alternative which presents itself is to allow the presence of certain gods only, based on an analysis of how well their attributes and character fit in with the programs and attitudes the school is seeking to encourage. For fun, I decided to run through a mental list of a few of the better-known gods, to see what immediate response they generated in my mind. Below I will share my thoughts on each one with the reader. Before proceeding, I wish to point out that the question of an individual’s right to believe in whatever deity they choose, or none, is not in question here. Nor is the right of believers to gather to share in worship of their chosen god or gods. I fully support these rights.
Also, it must be noted, taken in the most literal sense, the question doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. If by “God”, we mean some all-powerful being, the question is not relevant. An omnipotent entity doesn’t need to be “allowed” anywhere. They will go wherever they please. The question is really something along the lines of, “Should we acknowledge God, through supplication or veneration, in our schools?” My essay addresses only this question.

I’m afraid this son of Zeus didn’t take long to cull from my list of potential school gods. Schools in the twenty-first century have, in western democracies at least, generally taken a firm stance against bullying and other forms of aggression. The God of War seems a most unwelcome addition to classrooms, or, for that matter, playgrounds.

My opinion is that allowing the God of Thunder into our educational institutions would be a mistake. Fart jokes are already ubiquitous, so I think it best that Odin’s son not be allowed in schools, particularly those attended by girls under ten, or boys of any age.

The Egyptian Sun God would appear to be an unwise choice for admission into our schools. The Cancer Council in this country has spent large amounts of money teaching children the importance of slip-slop-slap (slip on a shirt, slop on a sunscreen, slap on a hat) and teachers have painstakingly been enforcing the rule of wearing hats during recess and lunch time, as well as at all outdoor school activities. Sun worship would be turning the clock back years.


I think it would be quite unnerving for most parents to hear from their small child that they spent the day at school engaged in “water sports”. Especially as some younger children will not long have been broken of such habits. Additionally, the Sea God’s trident would be considered a dangerous object at any school, and could well be confiscated by the principal, which might result in who-knows-what sort of calamity? Angry gods are generally not nice gods.

Yes, well… we’ll have none of that in our schools, thank you very much! Our schools are already perfectly capable of instructing their students who they may or may not love. We will fight to preserve the right to expel students who happen to have feelings for those of the wrong gender. We don’t need any misguided she-god spreading her lascivious doctrines in our places of learning.
The Triune God

Some might argue that a single-person deity doesn’t present a well-balanced view, and that the only solution is to invite into our schools an all-powerful trinity. However, although Brahma (the creator), and Vishnu (the preserver) might be welcome, should our schools really be accepting Shiva (the destroyer) with open arms? Oh, what’s that you say? You thought I meant another triune god? Well, the destruction theme, unfortunately, seems no less prevalent with that one.
This is, I grant, a tiny and non-random sample of the gods available to us, but based on this admittedly small selection, we can see that there are significant issues with choosing the appropriate deity to allow into our classrooms. In the remaining part of this essay, I’d like to address why allowing God in schools (any god) is not a desirable course of action.
Schools should teach what is likely to be true

This, for me, is the most compelling reason God should not be allowed into schools (from this point on, if I use the term God, capitalised, with no further indication of which one, it can be interpreted as “any god”). It doesn’t matter which god you believe in – whether it be Vishnu, or Allah or Yahweh, or any other — worldwide, you are statistically in a minority. More people do not believe in your god than do believe in it. Some nations, for example, the US, India and various middle-eastern nations are strongly skewed towards belief in a certain divinity, but globally speaking, this statement is true. If, as most people believe, your god is not real, should schools go to elaborate lengths to involve this deity in their day-to-day activities? 

Allowing God into schools violates the principle of separation of Church and State

This is a foundation stone of the United States constitution, and many western democracies (sadly, not the United Kingdom). The American Founding Fathers, with wisdom and foresight, and no doubt inspired by the circumstances which led to them finding themselves in a new land, clearly expressed the opinion that the State should not meddle in the affairs of religions, and in return, religions should avoid interfering in secular matters. The question of what sort of instruction students should receive in schools established and/or funded by religious institutions is beyond the scope of this essay. I’m referring specifically to State-funded schools, and as far as these are concerned, I am of the opinion the First Amendment, supported by common good sense, indicates religious institutions should butt out of the secular education system.
God in schools invites sectarianism and isolation of minorities

When I was in high school (at a State-run public school), weekly religious education was compulsory. Students attended “Scripture”, based on the denomination chosen by their parents. Thus, some students attended Catholic Scripture, some Church of England (Episcopalian, for US readers), and others, Baptist. I believe that was the extent of it. So, if one was of Methodist or Presbyterian or some other broadly Christian persuasion, one generally attended Church of England, and just ignored the relatively minor “heresies”. If a student happened to be Hindu or Muslim, well, they were pretty much out of luck, and got dumped into the “no religion” group with my lot, the true heathens. We were quite lucky, as we got to sit in a classroom (there weren’t many of us) and read books of our choosing, or work on our homework for other subjects. At least we didn’t have to listen to the pompous pontifications of the Baptist lay-preacher who tried so desperately hard to be “hip-cool” to sell his message to teenage boys, or the fire-breathing nonsense emanating from the stuffy old vicar.  I have no idea to what sort of indoctrination the Catholic students were exposed — that, for some reason, was a deep dark secret, forbidden to us. But imagine how those students from Hindu, Muslim and other minority religions must have felt to know that their god wasn’t worthy of admission to this school. How do proponents of Scripture lessons or prayers in schools these days suggest such situations be handled?  Is the answer, “We only cater for the One True God, and the rest of you can like it or lump it?”
Schools have enough on their plate

There seems to be an endless, ever-growing, amount of knowledge the community expects schools to impart to their children. Of course, we have always had the core subjects in western education — language (English, naturally, for the English-speaking world), mathematics and science, in its many varieties. Then we have other subjects that are generally included in the curriculum, deemed by most to be of high importance or usefulness. Subjects such as history, geography, music, art and foreign languages. Thirdly, there are the vocationally oriented subjects like woodwork and metalwork, technical drawing, cooking and various craft-based subjects. Lastly, we have things which have traditionally been the province of parents, but which schools have increasingly been called upon to deal with. This would include things such as sex education, drug awareness, respect and non-discrimination, perseverance, self-control — things which might not necessarily warrant subjects of their own but could be included as part of a “personal development” programme or incorporated by other means. And on top of this we want them to include religious instruction and daily prayers? This seems an unnecessary impost, when there are institutions far better equipped and far better motivated to handle these matters. This leads to my final objection to the God in school concept.
Religious education belongs at home and in the church

It is important to some parents what their children learn, in terms of religious beliefs. Surely, for those parents, the best source of the “knowledge” they want their children to acquire is themselves. If you want your child brought up with Christian values and beliefs, explain and demonstrate them yourself. Similarly, Islamic parents can teach their children by example. Jewish as well.  In addition to this, many devout followers of one or another religion attend churches, synagogues, mosques, temples or other places where like-minded people gather for fellowship and instruction. They have trained specialists designed to impart the knowledge you want your child to acquire. Is this not enough? Why, on top of home life and institutions designed specifically to provide religious teaching, should schools shoulder the burden as well?

As stated early on, this is not an argument against religion or God. I will happily present those arguments in another place at another time. It is an argument against contravening the important idea that public schools should be a non-sectarian place of secular education. Religious education and veneration of deities is adequately catered for elsewhere.
When someone suggests, “We need to allow God back into schools,” or something similar, what they are really saying is that they want their religion, their God, to be enshrined in the public education system, to the exclusion of others. This is not only dangerous, it raises concerns which were treated in a somewhat light-hearted way in the earlier part of this essay. They are, nevertheless, quite serious concerns. Whose god should it be that is allowed in, and what does this say about the rights of those who worship a different god, or none?
There is a very old saying, “Be careful what you wish for.” At one point in time or another, every religion that exists today, or has ever existed, has been in a minority. Yours might be the flavour of the century today, but one day it may not. How would you feel if your child had to offer prayers to, or be instructed in the worship of, some god you rejected? Many devout people denounce the idea that schools should ally themselves with a specific god or teach a specific religion. I believe they do so for good reason.
God’s place is not in our schools.


Non-Fiction Writing Contest contest entry

2005 words.

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