Are you offended?


A recent case of mistaking biology for pornography has hit education. It’s not the first time folks have gotten worked up about exposing the children to unwholesomeness. When I saw this I recalled an interesting moments in my classroom that I had recently.

We’re studying human body systems, so I had to give my class the talk that we’ll be talking about pee, poop, and other topics that while not savory, are part of what makes us living beings. They’ve been cool with that. In art, we sometimes look at nudes, and I have to talk to them about art being art, and ask them to treat is with respect, and that I think they’re old enough to handle it without giggling. Teaching kids to see the difference between how we look at subjects that require at least a bit of maturity is part of making them functional citizens.

Other times it’s harder. Today we were reading Bridge to Terabithia, a classic YA story. Jesse had taken his friend Leslie to the Easter service at his church at her request. Leslie is “unchurched” (she’s never been to church) and doesn’t not believe in Jesus as the son of God, etc. When she reveals this Jesse’s little sister May Belle says, “God’ll damn you to hell when you die.” My students were alternately horrified and  giggling at what they perceived as profanity. I patiently tried to explain that when someone talks about God damning someone to hell in a religious context, it’s not quite the same as telling someone they’re a g0d-damned idiot and should go to hell. The context changes this from a personal epithet to a genuine concern on May Belle’s part for Leslie’s soul.

Even in public school, you end up talking about religion in literature, history, etc. I often have to talk about this as we study various subjects. In sixth grade, we cover the all the great religions, from Hinduism to Christianity (they get Islam in subsequent years because of where it falls in the timeline). I have to talk to students before we start about the rules of the road, that we are talking about religion, not practicing it or promoting it. We’re talking about it because it’s really important to understand history, and I try to get that across to my kids.

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