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The former Daily Statesman is now The Dexter Statesman and currently does not have an operating website.

Troubled times in the classroom

Posted Saturday, December 15, 2012, at 8:10 AM

This is a post from one of my Facebook friends, a math teacher who taught with me for many years. She was responding to the comments she's seen of a similar nature.
Do we need God in our schools?

In the wake of the massacre of 18 children and five or six adults at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in the Connecticut city of Newtown this week, the news media and social networking sites are ablaze. Many of the old issues have been regenerated--Should we have tighter gun control laws? Could the violence be stopped if we allowed religion in the classrooms?

I've pondered this issue for at least 48 years, since that's how long I've been a part of the educational community, as a teacher. I started teaching in 1964, when things were--to put it mildly--a lot different. I've watched religion come and go in the classroom, and I've tried to gauge its effects on the students.

This morning, a Facebook post from a former fellow colleague caused me to come to a considered conclusion. After all these years of watching the events around the nation, I know what I believe and am finally ready to state it.

This is my friend's post:

I've seen things of this sort circulating. Although kids still carry Bibles at school. Kids still can pray at school. Jackson has a Fellowship of Christian Athletes organization (FCA). Just because government says no... God is mightier than the government. "The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged." Deuteronomy 31:8. If God never leaves us, then he's at schools. :)

I don't begin to understand the school shootings. But I don't blame God. I blame the devil. The Devil filled that man with hate, not God.

Just my opinion.

She's right. Our Advance High School has an active FCA organization, which operates as the other clubs do: It is an extra-curricular organization. Community members and churches donate to the FCA members, in order to provide them with funds to pay for transportation to events. Their sponsors are teachers, who volunteer their time after school. The group is allowed to use a school bus, as long as they pay for it out of their own funds. The administration is supportive of this group.

Membership in the FCA is voluntary, as it should be. In my opinion, no one should be forced to take part in a free-will activity of the heart. Students may be required to study math, or science, or history, but the State should never coerce them into praying or studying the Bible.

To do so would make us no better than the old Communist Party, which fell from power in 1989. They told their people what to think, and if they didn't agree, they were imprisoned or killed.

The operative word here is "Freedom."

Additionally--If we allowed religion in our schools, which one would it be? To say "Christian" doesn't help much, as there are many, many branches of Christianity. Advance has 15 churches in the immediate area, and--believe me--they do not all agree on church issues.

I know that many of you won't agree with me, but I do hope that you won't be hateful and rude. I don't often put myself out there with a controversial issue, but I feel this one is important.

Let's be civil.

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I have found another good post on my Facebook by Jennifer Danielle Crumpton of Manhattan, N.Y.:

"In my role as a Christian minister, I have to speak up about the lie politicians and others are putting forth, that the CT shooting happened because "God has been removed from our schools." This is a dangerous, irresponsible, and and theologically immature statement. God is not found in the rules or activities sanctioned by a school, or the doctrines that make that an issue. God is in the hearts of human beings, children included. And praying to God will not in fact avert the tragedies of our world...we've all seen/experienced that tragedy happens inexplicably. God does not "allow" things to happen because we do not adhere to human-concocted doctrine and superstition. Where is God? God is grieving with us. But God is not smiting children because of the separation of church and state."

-- Posted by Madeline1 on Sun, Dec 16, 2012, at 7:42 AM

My friend just posted another excellent testimony for what teachers do to help their students:

"My teacher friend Bobby Clubbs (speech teacher) worded it very well! Thought I'd share with you.

"God is in our schools. We teachers love and shepherd our kids every day. Students care for their friends and try to live their lives as witness to their faith. Prayer groups meet, Bibles are carried and read, and the pledge is recited. Yes, "under God" and all. I do not lead my students in prayer, but I pray for them. I don't read them Scripture, but I love them and they know that my classroom is a place of love and acceptance. No one comes over the PA to pray, because what prayer should it be? My students are Baptist, Catholic, Pentecostal, Mormon and yes, Atheist and Agnostic. God is in our schools because God is love, and love is present every day. Students and teachers who are Christian, Muslim, Jew, Atheist, and Agnostic are loving, caring, supporting, laughing, crying, hugging, and high-fiving each day. If God isn't in a school it's because individuals are waiting for someone else to take him there. It is our responsibility to bring God everywhere we go by our actions and the testimony of our lives. 'No one has ever seen God. But if we love each other, God lives in us, and his love is brought to full expression in us.' 1 John 4:12"

-- Posted by Madeline1 on Sat, Dec 15, 2012, at 9:19 PM

It's interesting that when horrible tragedies happen, people yell for new legislation--whether for more strict gun control or "putting God back in the classrooms." Always a simple solution to a complicated problem, always overlooking other underlying causes.

For example, people who commit these acts almost always have mental problems, but our (largely Republican) legislatures are quick to reduce or eliminate funding for treatment centers.

Result? The madman loads up with guns and goes out to vent his frustration on innocent people.

It's never simple.

-- Posted by goat lady on Sat, Dec 15, 2012, at 7:48 PM

I agree, and must say that in my years as a teacher I always had my Bible on my desk. Nobody ever told me I couldn't. My former high school has a moment of silence every morning after the pledge. Students may pray silently, if they wish. I would not want others to teach their religion to my children, so I agree that prayer and religious lessons do not belong in public schools. If parents do want religious classes given, they should enroll their children in private school or in classes at the church of their choice. By example, Christian teachers reflect the lessons of God. If a student asked what I believed, I told him/her the truth, without belaboring details. God is not gone from our schools until Christian teachers and leaders are gone.

This devastating event is not the fault of lack of religion in schools, though Christians everywhere are praying for these families who have had such a tragic loss.

-- Posted by GONENOW on Sat, Dec 15, 2012, at 2:05 PM

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Madeline DeJournett
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Madeline (Giles) DeJournett is the Advance writer for the North Stoddard Countian. A retired high school English/history teacher, she spent 32 years teaching in 5 schools in Missouri and Alaska. These days, she lives quietly with a menagerie of wild and domestic animals on 52 secluded acres in the remote Tillman hills south of Advance. She graduated from Dexter High School in 1960 and Southeast Missouri State in 1964. She can be contacted at advancensc@sbcglobal.net.
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