This is my weekly writing at schoolofdoubt.com about life as an atheist teacher. I'd love your support -- you can never have too many awesome atheists reading your work ;)
The seminar you report on MIGHT have been useful from the point of view of alerting those people who take their belief system for granted that there are other POVs out there as well as other beliefs, but that's about it. Where that kind of wake-up call is way more necessary is in the Deep South, where christianity is dominant to the point of being exclusive. Being within shooting distance of Columbus, OH, I would think you don't see this mindset anywhere near so much, though I may be mistaken.
I have mentioned before on A|N about my daughter's experience while going to college in North Carolina of students who had never met a Jew or a Muslim before. These are the people and the cultures who every often do truly believe that the US is a christian nation and see nothing wrong with a Pledge of Allegiance which includes the phrase "under god" in it. It is that brand of insularity which I think is particularly dangerous ... and I wonder if any of the speakers in your seminar even touched on that.
I think you make a great point, Loren -- which is why I wanted LESS Christianity discussion and more "everything else" discussion. I teach in a very affluent area, and I bet many of the kids have never met a Jew or a Muslim... but there is a Hindu population in our schools, so maybe that helps with diversity.
One speaker, the rabbi -- who was my favorite (and not just because I kept making him talk to me in Hebrew) -- did show the difference between New York, where he grew up, and where there were two NON-Jewish families on his street, and here. But there was no direct discussion about the idea of "Christianity = the only correct idea", and maybe there should have been.
There's talk of a follow up class next summer, and I'm working to be on the committee that helps plans it. If so, I will be sure to bring some of these ideas to it.
Thanks for responding! :)
But there was no direct discussion about the idea of "Christianity = the only correct idea", and maybe there should have been.
This is precisely the discussion that NEEDS to happen. Too many people think that christianity IS the culture of the US, either because they haven't been outside of their own local experience or they have closed themselves off to any other possibility. Their tendency toward exclusivity is a direct result of either lack of experience of alternatives or sometimes purposeful myopia as regards something external to their everyday experience.
This misapprehension needs to be disabused with emphasis ... until the message and the reality it represents sinks in.
Hell, Jessica Ahlquist is in urban Rhode Island. I'm not sure there are any parts of the country that are truly free of this nonsense, although the urban parts of the west coast are probably better than most places.
Where the heck did your daughter go to college? I can't imagine many people at the major universities who have never encountered other religions ... unless you mean that their freshman years of college were the first time encountering anyone other than fundie Christians.
My daughter matriculated at Elon University, rather in the middle of NC and a damned good school, IMHO ... and I'd bet you a cup of coffee that those she met who hadn't met a Jew or Muslim were local to the area or state.
Hell, I'm from Cleveland, which is eclectic as hell as it comes to culture ... yet if you go to some places here, you can still find those islands of christianity which don't yield easily to the concept of diversity at all. A lot of this phenomenon has to do with people who pull their local culture around them like a security blanket, because they're uncomfortable with the idea of diversity or more specifically, with ANY culture which deviates significantly from the one they were raised in. Moving outside their local area can be enormously dislocating for such people. Depending on their maturity and willingness to consider new experiences, their response to discovering the lack of uniformity of the rest of the country (never mind the rest of the planet!), their response to this revelation can be problematic at best.
Ah, yeah. Good school, but it's kind of in the middle of nowhere. Burlington is barely a gas stop on the way from the Triad to the Triangle. Not much that's worth going there for, besides the university.
Loren is exactly correct. Most people look at and believe "Christianity - the only correct idea." Others look at their religion the very same way, and teaching should not be about religion! America is not "one nation under god" and I doubt that it ever was, even though I had to say that when I was in school. Many people have not met (nor do they want to meet) any Jews, Muslims, Hindus, etc. Some others are a little more tolerated but still with racial slurs said often.
When my Kenyan wife and I worked in the same factory she was often asked "how long does it take to drive to your country?" I'll swear, they were serious. Some hick Missourians have barely been out of state, and many have never flown on an airplane. Such is small town life here.
Sounds like a tough couple of days, Tori. It's a bit scary to think that the speakers you describe are allowed to take part in "professional development."
On Thursday I went to my school's "Founders' Day" convocation; faculty are required to attend wearing academic regalia. I usually don't go because it's essentially a church service, but I have a new dean, a new department head, a new president, and several new vice presidents, so I decided to give them a chance. (Besides, my department head--also my friend--said I had to go, and I didn't want to get her in any hot water.)
So the show opened with a Christian prayer. The speakers talked about Jesus. The choir sang a hymn. A student conducted a call-and-response litany. The choir sang a gospel number. The keynote speaker, to his credit, left Jesus out of his speech. Another student read out the names of all the school's previous presidents, and the congregation--er, I mean the audience--prayed for each one. The choir sang another hymn. An ROTC honor guard "retired" the colors. We had another Christian prayer. Then we marched out. (Actually, getting college faculty to march is a bit like getting cats to amble in formation.)
My favorite part is that faculty attendance is mandatory, but students, administrators, and staff are "encouraged" to attend.
Can my employer require me to attend church? In a dress, no less? (Just kidding; I always knew the robe came with the doctorate.) Would any of you contact the ACLU about this, or just let it slide? Graduation is coming up, and it will be just the same . . . .