Monday, February 27, 2012

Oh Arizona...

Oh Arizona!  How I wish I wasn't blogging about you so constantly.  Often when one is featured often, it is (hopefully) for good things, such as when Meryl Streep wins her third Oscar.  But in this case, Arizona is just being disgraced on a constant basis, similar to the many mentions of Rick Santorum each day running up to the 2012 US elections.  First it was the banning of various texts on an individual basis, then the dismantling of the Ethnic Studies programs in Tucson, and now teachers may be in trouble if they bring books into their classrooms that aren't on pre-approved lists.

Kellie Mejdrich reports in the Tucson Sentinel that "Teachers could have their licenses revoked if they bring any supplemental books into the classroom that aren’t pre-approved by the district and posted on a website for parental view."  Teachers, understandably, are not too pleased with this development.  They are even less impressed, however, that Bibles may become mandatory to have in classrooms, violating what many consider a necessary separation of education from biased religious teaching.
The article goes on: "Currently, Arizona law requires the school board to “exclude from school libraries all books, publications and papers of a sectarian, partisan or denominational character,” state statute says. But if the bill were to pass, an exception would be included for the Bible as well as any materials for this elective course. Disciplinary action over religious preaching in the classroom would also be softened—from the outright revocation of a teaching license, to providing teachers immunity from liability as long as they teach the class 'in good faith.'"
Many consider this a violation of constitutional rights, being that the Christian Bible will be used to the exclusion of other religious texts or even other versions of the Bible that include extra books, as in the case of the Catholic version which contains Maccabees, Judith, Tobit, and others.
Anjali Abraham of the American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona agreed that introduction of the Bible as a state-sanctioned religious text to the exclusion of others was a serious violation of constitutional rights.
“In designing a curriculum to familiarize students with recorded history of the bible, schools are going to have to decide what counts as recorded history and our concern is that invariably means embracing a particular religious viewpoint or a couple of religious viewpoints and then as a consequence rejecting others and that's a real First Amendment problem,” Abraham said.
Abraham added that the lenient language for chastising preachy teachers as well as the establishment of a specific Bible course to the exclusion of other texts was problematic.
While I have no problem with the Bible being taught in school, except when it is included in classrooms while other religious texts are excluded.  Some of those in favor of the legislation say that the Bible is the most important religious text in Western culture, so that is the main reason.  Professor John Ulreich had the following to say in regards to focusing on a text such as the Bible:
“The Bible teaches you whatever you want to learn. You want to learn that men should dominate women? You can find it in the Bible. You want to believe that god hates gay people? You can find it in the Bible. You can also find places in both testaments that tell us that the fundamental spiritual and moral obligations are to love God and love our neighbors,” Ulreich said. “The Bible can be inspiring but it offers rich examples of very bad behavior. People who believe that the bible is all good for you, just haven’t really read the Bible.”
And as I said before, the legislation is also attempting to keep other texts out of the classroom: "legislators are trying to keep other speech out of the classroom, and threaten revocation of licenses for teachers engaged in 'uni-partisan activities' in the classroom, using FCC-defined obscene language, and bringing in books not pre-approved by the school board."

Arizona representatives who are in favor of this legislation make me so angry!!  The last year or so has seen the emergence of ridiculous, explosive, and religiously destructive legislation and politicians.  While up here in Canada I watch it as some sort of spectacle, I understand how terrible it is that these sorts of decisions are taking America into a very scary, overly-conservative and incredibly biased age, mostly based on erroneous understandings of religious doctrine.  In light of this, I worry greatly over the teaching of the Bible in elementary, middle, or secondary school classrooms.  I can only hope the legislation does not go through, or that Arizona is finally encapsulated under an indestructible bubble that will discourage the spread of such horrendous ideology.

I apologize if this post doesn't make as much sense as some, or if I sound like I'm rambling too much, but it's late, and this sort of news makes me quite frustrated.

Thanks for reading!

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