Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Good Lord, here we go...

Today, one of my students handed me a letter from his mother that made me shake my head.

First the background: A couple of weeks ago, I made the movie, The Da Vinci Code into an extra credit assignment because we were studying the Renaissance and the movie will undoubtedly have images and references to people and things from the Renaissance. I have already received some turned-in assignments from a few students. So today, this student hands me the letter from his mom, and the letter says something to the effect of:

I will not allow [student's name] to watch the Da Vinci Code. The movie is a pack of lies, including the artwork. Please give him an alternate extra credit assignment.

Oh for goodness' sake! I am not trying to convert your son, lady. I just want him to see the Renaissance referenced on screen. Don't you think she could have just said in the letter, "I do not want my son to watch this movie. Please give him an alternate assignment"? NOOOO - She has to make a special point of letting me know that the movie is a "pack of lies". Golly gee, who is trying to do the converting here? I couldn't give a hoot less about the whole religious controversy surrounding this movie; I just wanted my students to know that Leonardo Da Vinci and the Mona Lisa and the Last Supper are famous icons of the Renaissance - so famous that they are the focal point of a major Hollywood motion picture.

I don't frown upon the mother for doing what she thinks is right regarding the protection of her son's sensibilities. I just got a bad taste in my mouth from her smarmy, heavy-handed, self- righteous tone that oozed out of her written correspondence.

I got a similarly annoying letter from a parent of one of my sixth grade students last year. We were beginning our study of Judaism and Christianity (as dictated by the state standards). A couple of days into it, one of my Vietnamese students handed me the letter. In it, the girl's mom chastised me for daring to teach Christianity in school. I got a rather verbose diatribe on the separation of church and state and the evils of indoctrinating children with my religion. I simply turned the letter over and wrote the following (paraphrased of course, but mostly to the word):

Dear Mrs. [Student's Mom],
Thank you for alerting me to your concerns about our current lessons in your daughter's class. According to the California state standards for 6th grade history, I am obligated to teach my students about the impact upon world history of the Christian and Jewish faiths. These are not the only religions we have similarly studied this year. Since August, I have also taught my students about the burial practices of Neanderthals and their evident belief in an afterlife, the polytheistic religions of the Mesopotamians, the Egyptians, the ancient Greeks, and soon, the Romans. Additionally, I have also taught my students about the religions of Hinduism, Buddhism, and Confucianism. Next year, the students will learn about the religion of Islam.

Religion is a huge component of human history. The study of history would be incomplete without learning the role of religion in people's daily lives and how it motivated them to do what they did.

If you have any further concerns or questions, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Thank you,
Mr. Chanman


Sometimes, I wonder which part of my job I find more trying - my students or their parents.

Good Day to You, Sir

6 comments:

teri said...

folks are amazing. would you be willing to share with us what their responses were?

teri said...

some folks are amazing. would you be willing to share with us what their responses were?

Polski3 said...

Hehehe. Just assure the parent that you will ensure their child will be taught that he/she should only eat kosher veggies, observe the sabbath and pray five times a day to the goddess Khali, rejoyce in their knowledge tha a blessed afterlife in heaven awaits true believers, shave their head, wear an orange robe and get rid of all their material possessions/

I know what you are dealing with; I once sent my nephew a couple of Edgar Rice Burroughs SciFi-Fantasy novels, ordered from a Sci-Fi / Fantasy speciality book store up in Berkeley. For some reason, they had the "Darwin Fish" on their box and invoice, and boy did my holy-roller sister lay into me with a "bible" thumping upside my head.

Good job pointing out that it is part of the standards. I usually direct such parents to my principal.

Miroslav said...

I would not survive as a teacher... Couldn't handle this stuff nearly as politely as you do.

Great job Chanman, and great entry.

Darren said...

I didn't mind the mother's letter at all.

On the other hand, my response would have been: "This is an extra credit assignment. If you don't want your child to do it, that's fine, but I'm not going to give alternates for something that is optional."

Chanman said...

I actually told the mother that very thing; that it was an optional extra credit assignment. Luckily, I have a standing list of extra credit assignments that can always be done instead, so that issue was moot.