Is equal time necessary?
Q:The principal at my child's school says that if they teach about Christian holidays, they must give equal time to teaching about all holidays. How can I respond?
A:The truth is, no court has said equal time must be given to all the religious holidays. You can find a reasonable guideline for deciding which holidays to emphasize and how much time to devote to them by answering two questions:
1. Which religion or religions have had the most influence in shaping American culture?
2. Which religions have a prominent influence in the local community?
How much time is spent on each holiday should be determined by its relevance and influence in American culture and the local community. While avoiding slighting any religion, teachers should not leave students with the impression that all religions have had an equal impact on American culture.
The issue is one of proportionality. Fair does not always mean equal. For instance, a first-year teacher teaches the same number of students and has the same workload as a 25-year veteran. But, the rookie will not receive equal pay for equal work. She will receive compensation proportional to her years of service. Yet, that is considered fair.
Q:What about the principal's comment that if they teach about the religious nature of Easter or Christmas some students will feel left out?
A:This goes back to the issue of helping students gain an honest understanding of American culture. Teachers should never denigrate anyone's religious beliefs. But, neither do they need to withhold significant cultural information about America regarding religion. Christian beliefs in America have a major impact on such things as our political debates, our social values, and our legal system. Students of any faith are impacted by these beliefs whether or not they agree with them. A good education for all students needs to include accurate information about the major religion in America. While the lessons can be creative and engaging, using art, drama, literature, and music, they should not be devotional or worshipful.
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