Texas: 7th grade teacher reportedly demands students agree God is ‘myth,’ not ‘fact’

Texas: 7th grade teacher reportedly demands students agree God is ‘myth,’ not ‘fact’

Unfortunately, it seems we’ve reached a point at which too many people couldn’t reason their way out of a paper bag.

A fresh example of this problem comes from Katy, Texas, a suburb of Houston, where a teacher recently succeeded in making at least one student cry, by demanding that 7th graders agree that God is a “myth,” as opposed to an established “fact.”

Reading through the tale, described by Victor Skinner at EAG News, I thought for a few seconds that the students might have misunderstood a valid point the teacher was trying to make, about the different ways we know things, and the legitimate difference between a myth and a fact.  It’s not a good idea to insist that God, in whom many students believe, is a “myth” — but discussing God in the terms of what myths are, and how humans construct myths, is not illegitimate.  The same goes for discussing God in terms of what facts are, and how we validate them.

But that’s not what this teacher was doing.  Or, if that’s what she thought she was doing, she went woefully off the rails.  Here’s how the day’s lesson was described by Jordan Wooley, a 7th-grade girl who spoke afterward to the Katy school board:

“We were asked to take a poll to say whether God is fact, opinion or a myth and she told anyone who said fact or opinion was wrong and God was only a myth,” Wooley told board members.

Students immediately objected, Wooley said, but the teacher refused to consider their position.

The teacher, “started telling kids they were completely wrong and that when kids argued we were told we would get in trouble. When I tried to argue, she told me to prove it, and I tried to reference things such as the Bible and stories I have read before from people who have died and went to heaven but came back and told their stories, and she told me both were just things people were doing to get attention.

“I know it wasn’t just me who was affected by it. My friend, she went home and started crying. She was supposed to come with me but she didn’t know if she could” because she was so upset, Wooley said.

The teen explained she spoke with other students in the class who were marked down because they believe God is real, as well as compromises proposed by students to avoid rejecting their faith.

“Another student asked the teacher if we could put what we believe in the paper, and she said we could … but you would fail the paper if you do,” Wooley told the board.

It seems to have gone downhill from there.  The more you read about the exchange, the clearer it is that the teacher was, in fact, insisting on the proposition that God is “only a myth,” and is not real.

The Katy district parents have already made the point that the teacher shouldn’t be making anyone’s grade contingent on agreeing with that proposition.  That’s 100% correct — as both policy and logic.

But it’s worth taking up the “logic” angle, if only briefly, because getting people lined up on either side of illogical propositions is one of the worst problems we face today.  That’s what has happened here, partly because the teacher was apparently being an evangelist and not an instructor, and partly because no one has stepped in to reframe the issue.

There’s a standard the teacher should be held to, and it’s not believing in God, or agreeing that He’s “fact.”  It’s recognizing that neither His existence nor the proposition that He doesn’t exist is “provable” by the standards of narrow empiricism.

How we “know” and “prove” things is a very interesting realm of knowledge and thought, and to investigate it, a teacher should be able to take 7th-graders through some entry-level exercises in logic.

But the teacher’s bottom line, as an instructor in logic, has to be the opposite of what this teacher seems to have insisted on.  If the proposition is framed in terms of myth versus opinion versus fact, then the valid statement about God is not that we do know, one way or the other.  It’s that we don’t.  We aren’t competent to declare that God is “only” a myth, any more than we’re competent to declare that He’s a fact.

That means the teacher should grade students on how well they can articulate a logical proposition and a thought process — not on whether they agree with her about the status of God, in terms of how He fits arbitrary categories.  (Poorly chosen categories, in this case, I think.)  A teacher can teach these things without being the slightest bit disrespectful of religious belief.

The reason this matters is that this reality — that we’re not competent to make absolute declarations about God, if they are then to be binding on other people — is at the very heart of the religious tolerance the West has bought so dear.  Each of us has the right to live as if what he believes about God is true.  As a Christian myself, I don’t doubt the reality of the proofs for God that Christians find in their daily lives.  I also believe things about Him that I know others don’t, and vice versa.  I believe that we can, in fact, know things with certainty about God.  But what I don’t think is that we have any call to threaten people with punishment — like a failing grade; or an Inquisition; or jihadist assassination — if they don’t agree with what we know about God.

Too many people have lost (or never had) the ability to discuss these very basic points.  Instead, we see a lot of flailing around, as ideologues in the classroom collide with parents who rightly expect policy to protect their kids from being told God is a myth.  Everybody gets upset, and each side goes off feeling like it’s under attack, or has been misunderstood by stupid people, or something along those lines.

These aren’t helpful outcomes.  We can do better.  And whether you think it’s realistic or not, the truth is this: unless we get back to being competent to use basic logic — the logic that underlies one of our most foundational assumptions about freedom and rights — we won’t find religious tolerance to be possible.  Without that basic logic, we won’t see clearly what we’re having a vision for.  We will only feel, on every side, like we’re under attack.  That’s a dangerous condition to go sliding into.

 

J.E. Dyer

J.E. Dyer

J.E. Dyer is a retired Naval Intelligence officer who lives in Southern California, blogging as The Optimistic Conservative for domestic tranquility and world peace. Her articles have appeared at Hot Air, Commentary’s Contentions, Patheos, The Daily Caller, The Jewish Press, and The Weekly Standard.

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