Monday, August 24, 2009

The chicken and the egg.

When I heard that a farm* would be bringing animals to my daughter's school, I thought she'd have a wonderful time. After all, kids do tend to love learning new things, especially in a hands-on kind of way. Never did I think the day would progress as it did.

I received a call from a friend of mine who has a child who went to the morning session of the farm presentation. She said that the woman teaching the class said that "God put the yolk into the egg for the baby chick to eat," and that "Chickens must be married before they have eggs."

I believe a rather vibrant WTF?! is appropriate here.

Keep in mind this is a public school. I am not opposed to my kids being curious about religion or wanting to explore one or many, but it's inappropriate for this to be said in a public school. I called the principal immediately who said that he hadn't heard anything about it, and he was sure I'd made some kind of mistake. Surely one of his teachers would have come to him and told him that such a thing was said. In what I believe was an attempt to placate me he said he would investigate this and call me back.

No more than five minutes later I received a voicemail from said principal saying something to the effect of, "Mrs. ________, I am SO sorry. That was indeed said. I spoke to the woman teaching the class and she admitted to having taught that. Rest assured that the afternoon class will NOT be hearing this, and that this group will never be invited back to this school."

Wow. I honestly hadn't expected that. The principal sat in on the afternoon session of the class and caught the woman as she started into the yolk-and-egg explanation, and he directed her to take a different course with that. Kudos to the principal for standing up and keeping unnecessary (and false) religious teachings out of public school.

*I have purposely omitted the name of this farm.


  1. Wow. I didn't think you would get such a quick response and thorough action from the principal. That is awesome.

  2. With our kids, whenever a teacher or school worker stepped over the line into religious propaganda, we were up there raising hell until the school intervened and stopped it.
    On the other hand, we raised our kids so that they would be familiar with many traditions--not only my wife Sue's Catholic traditions or my own quaker background, but celebrating Jewish holidays, making them aware of the buddhist four noble truths, and most especially the traditions of Michigan's own Anishnabec peoples, a reverence for the sacredness of the earth itself and the importance of treating it with reverence. I myself have always followed Gautama in the Dhammapada, siding with neither theists nor atheists because the question itself diverts one from compassion.

  3. I am glad that you got a quick response out of the principal. However I do take offence when you say that religious teachings are false. I am not a religious person but still to say that someone elses views are false isn't right either. Now if I mistook what you said then I apologize.

  4. Anonymous, I know Momma Heathen personally and I can assure you that you did not even slightly mistake what she said. What surprises me is your decision to take offense at her assertion that these teachings are false. If someone had made the geographical claim that the world is flat and she said that's false, would you be offended? If someone had made the historical claim that John Adams was the second president of the United States and she said that's false, would you be offended? So why does the denial of a religious claim arouse your offense?

    Hell, I'll make it easier, Suppose I were to say that Lansing is the capital of Michigan (which it is) and someone were to say that's false. Would you be offended? I wouldn't. I wouldn't see any reason to. I might be a little surprised that the person had gotten his facts so wrong, but it wouldn't occur to me to be offended. So why should anyone be offended by hearing Momma Heathen point out the absurdity of this woman's assertion that chickens get married? (This, by the way, is not even a religious view, so far as I can tell, just an inane Disneyesque fantasy.) Why should religious statements (Contrary to your characterization of them, this woman was not expressing "views," but making statements of fact.) be immune to correction?

    That was, of course, a rhetorical question. I know perfectly well what the answer is, and I suspect you do, too. It's because of the inherent weakness and insupportiblitly of these statements. If they were subject to the same debate, discussion and examination to which all other ideas are subject, the whole corrupt edifice would crumble to dust in about a day. Consequently they've got to be given extraordinary protection, and we protect them, among other ways, by taking offense when they're challenged.

    Want to know what offends me? Lying to children.

    Chickens don't get married, boys and girls, and it's arrant nonsense to say that they do.

    By the way, most religious Christians I know (and I know a few) would be, well, offended bye the suggestion that chickens can or do get married. I believe that marriage is seen as a sacrament, available only to humans. I wonder who she thinks is performing all these avian weddings and whether he's gotten into any trouble with his diocese/synod/presbetery. After all, if chicken marriages are sanctified by the clergy, can gay marriage be far behind? I'm a little surprised that some believer didn't move in and put a stop to this before Momma Heathen did.

    Keep fighting the good fight, Momma. Your reward is where all rewards are, here on Earth, in the better world you help make when you clear away the darkness with your brave defense of reason, honesty and critical thinking.

  5. You didn't mistake what I said at all. Religious teachings are false. What could possibly confuse you about that?

  6. I wonder what all those unmarried chickens that lay an egg every day think. They must feel pretty bad huh. How could an adult in their right mind even say something so ludicrous to kids?

    Of course religious teachings are false. Or at the very least, fictitious.

  7. It's good not to let any religion have a stage in schools. The problem, of course, is that each religion would not like it if the other had a stage. The only fair way is to have no religion in school. Would Christians like it if a Muslim came to school and made comments about Allah and how he did this or that? They'd be furious. There are plenty of other places for religions of various sorts to teach whatever they want.

    Religion is a very hard thing to classify as true or false because many assertions are unprovable one way or the other. Hell? Well you wouldn't know until you get there, would you? Tons of virgins waiting for you if you blow yourself up in a crowded market? I guess try it and find out! No one seems to be able to prove that God exists but lack of proof is not proof of lack. One can only be said to certain beyond reasonable doubt. Thus using the terms true and false is a somewhat difficult task when referring to religion.

  8. One cannot prove a negative. There is plenty of evidence to suggest that religion, of any type, is false.

  9. You can't prove a negative so the omnus of proof isn't on those of us saying it's not true. People who make religious claims which radically conflict with the observable world (as they inherently do if they are to have any kind of theological value) need to provide evidence for those claims. As Carl Sagan said "extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence." You want to say there's a boogey man making the world turn, you have to prove it, it's not my job to show that the boogey man isn't real.

  10. Fletch, omnus? Really? Want to try again?