Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Random thoughts about my kids' school

My kids go to public school here in our underpopulated (meaning poor in tax money), rural, conservative, nearly entirely Baptist, county. The county only has one of each kind of school -elementary, middle, junior & high school and to say they are underfunded is putting it mildly. The richer, more populated counties in the area spend more on high school sports than we do on the entire elementary school. They have a computer lab with 6 computers in it, for about 250 students.

They only do one bus run per area. All the kids from all the schools on a road get on the same bus, and the bus stops at the various schools. So my 5 year old is riding home sitting in front of 16 year olds. This is bad from a "what might they hear and pick up" standpoint, but could be good from a 'need a babysitter' standpoint. So far neither has happened.

I went to Catholic for grades 1-12 and before that I was in Montessori school from ages 2-5, so I'm not familiar with how public school works. Specifically I am not familiar with how religion works in public schools. I grew up with prayer after the Pledge (and no one made a point of leaving out 'under God' when they said it), going to mass every Friday, an hour or so of religion class 2-4 times a week. We learned about abortion as a medical procedure in relation to the pregnancy portion of sex ed and we learned that life begins at conception. We learned about the mechanics of sex and that God said we should wait until we were married. We learned about creationism and evolution at the same time. I've had numerous people give me grief for being able to hold conflicting opinions at the same time, but it's what I was taught to do.

Anyway, I'd always been under the impression that the mere mention of religion, let alone God, was forbidden in public schools. You certainly do not learn about God during school time, unless it is an historical or philosophic context. You have winter pageants and spring breaks, we don't mention Christmas and Easter. Halloween was ok though, like Valentines' Day because it was secular. But apparently not. At least not here.

Shortly after school started a form was sent home for me to complete if I wanted to allow Havoc to take a 45 minute Bible Class once a month, off school property, in a bus or something in the soccer field I think.

Huh? Bible school? you get out of regular school to go sit in a bus in the soccer field and learn about Jesus? How's that work? I can only assume that it works under the theory that should another religious group buy a bus and want to park it in the soccer field once a month to teach kids about their faith, then they must be allowed to do this and permission slips will be sent home asking me if Havoc can spend 45 minutes a month studying the Torah, or the Koran or sacred Buddhist texts. Apparently they have been doing this for 70 years so they must be legally allowed or no one has ever tried to protest it. I'm not going to because it's not that big of a deal to me. I have no problem with it, it's just one of those odd, unexpected things I don't understand. 14 out of 16 kids in Havoc's class attend the Bible bus. Havoc and another student do not. Fortunately they are both on the accelerated reader track and their teacher uses the time to give them individual lessons.

Another odd thing is about Halloween. Havoc's class (all of the kindergarten classes actually) are having a 'dress up day' where everyone has to come in pajamas rather than costumes, so everyone can participate in the fun (School wording, not mine) But there are Halloween decorations, candy, games, the works - just no costumes. Who is supposed to be fooled by this - parents? God? Or is it some attempt to keep from dictating and regulating a 'no scary costume' rule. That isn't really what is odd. What is odd is that Mayhem's class (in the same school, attending the same events) is having a Halloween party & everyone should come dressed in costume. No weapons allowed.

The Ren Faire has a rule like that too.

Are 4 year olds less likely to dress in scary costumes than 5 year olds? What are the 1st -3rd graders wearing?

Then just to add to the wierdness, yesterday I was sent a form asking permission for Havoc to be in the Christmas play. Did everyone get one? Is it because he doesn't go to Bible bus? I didn't think you were allowed to have a Christmas play. I thought you had to have a Winter play.

Let me be clear. I did not send my kids to public school to keep them away from religion. I send my kids to public school because I cannot afford to send them elsewhere. "Elsewhere' would be the Christian, Catholic or Lutheran schools in the area and if we could afford it they would be going to one of them. Even though we are heathens.

I don't know what is going on. I'm not offended or upset. I'm just confused. I was given to understand that there is no religion - period - in public schools and I have friends in other areas who get wigged out when I tell them about the Bible bus and the Christmas play, so I'm guessing this is some county cultural thing. I don't mind it being there, on the assumption that other faiths would get equal time should they ask for it. I just don't know enough about how the system works I guess.

10 comments:

2TooManyHats said...

The Bible bus things has been around for a long time - my Father-in-law proclaimed he was Catholic when he saw the Catholic kids got out of class once a week to go to the Bible bus as you put it. He wasn't, but hey it was a way to get out of class. The public schools have it here, I forget what they call it, BUT it should not be on school property - they park on the street.

Have you ever thought of homeschooling?

Barb said...

No Bible bus here, but at the Holiday sing, they sing songs from many different religious faiths. I'm fine with that. And we have one hell of a Halloween parade at the elementary school....no pun intended!

Woman in Training said...

The Bible Bus is a little old place where Christians come togeeeeether...Bible Bus baaabyyy...

Bible
Bus
BABY!

I'm sorry. It wasn't in my power to resist.

Deb said...

i don't know... i think i would be a little irritated. you think any of your tax $ help fund the whole bible bus experience?

Paula Constable said...

Interesting. I don't we have that around here (Wisconsin). Who leads that Bible study time?

Jenni Jiggety said...

Around here there is no religion in public school at all...a bible bus would never fly!

Connie said...

I'm a Christian, but public schools are funded by the government and there is such a thing as no public funding for religion. You probably don't want to start something because you live in a small area, but if you call the ACLU you can find out if what they are doing is legal. I'm in the Bible belt and we don't do any religious holidays at public schools. Winter Wonderland, Costume Party, Spring Fling,etc....

What will happen when your son is older and he doesn't take part? Will he be considered "different"? Don't mean to worry you, but it's reality.

Susanna said...

Very interesting to hear about other schools and how they work. I send my kids to "state" school here (non fee paying) and it is realted to the church. That's just the way it is here. No bible study bus though ;-)

journey2learn said...

That was a very interesting read. Didn't know about the Bible bus thing and don't think it is part of our public schools. I homeschool but my children have friends in school and that has never been mentioned...

Heather B. said...

now this is nothing I would ever be offended by but, like you said, kind of confusing, bc here ther is also no religion allowed in public schools. Interesting.