Saying God is real may get you an F.
Jordan Wooley, a 7th grader in Houston, Texas, said this week that her teacher at West Memorial Junior High School recently gave a class assignment that asked students to say that God didn’t exist, according to KHOU.
The assignment, which you can see below, asked students to label statements as either facts, opinions or commonplace assertions. Wooley wrote that the statement “There is a God” was both a fact and opinion for some, but her teacher didn’t agree — telling Wooley that both her answers were wrong and that she had to admit that God wasn’t real.
“I said it was fact or opinion,” Wooley said. “Based on my religion and based on what I think and believe, I do not think it was a commonplace assertion.”
Wooley’s mother, Chantel, couldn’t believe this happened in her daughter’s class.
“That a kid was literally graded against her faith in God in a classroom, so who would want to be known,” Chantel said, according to KHOU. “So the kids were caught in a Catch-22. If they argued their faith, they were being told they were arguing against their faith, and that happened in the classroom.”
Jordan Wooley wouldn’t let her frustration go unheard. She spoke at a recent Katy Independent School District board meeting about the scenario, explaining that she wasn’t the only student offended by the assignment.
“My friend, she went home and she started crying. And she was actually supposed to come with me, but she didn’t think she could,” Jordan said at the meeting. “So my friend, she turned in her paper and she had still put that God was a fact and to be true. And my teacher crossed the answer out several times, telling her that it was completely wrong.”
“The activity, which was intended to encourage critical thinking skills and dialogue by engaging students in an exercise wherein they identified statements as fact, opinion, or common assertion was not intended to question or challenge any student’s religious beliefs as reported by some media outlets,” the statement read.
The school also said the assignment “will no longer be used by the school.”
This isn’t the first time discussions about religion’s place in school settings has come up. In 2014, Maryland parents voiced concerns about schools teaching lessons about Islam during world history class, according to WUSA-9. In fact, one family requested that their daughter be excused from the lessons because they objected to religion being taught in public school, WUSA-9 reported.
“We just want to be involved in our daughter’s education,” Melissa Wood, a parent of a student, told WUSA-9. “We as parents should be able to choose what our kids are learning.”
As our own Kelsey Dallas reported earlier this month, policymakers in Tennessee are also debating “if children are mature enough to study religious doctrine in history class” after parents complained that many homework assignments focused on religious teachings.
This “ideological struggle,” as The Atlantic calls it, looks like it will continue for the foreseeable future, as American schools, policymakers and parents figure out the appropriateness of teaching religion in school.
To help bridge the gap between the two sides, author Linda K. Wertheimer suggests schools explain to both parents and students why they’re learning about religion.
It’s also important for schools to stress that they’re teaching, not preaching, religious ideas.
“If anything, schools are in a better place than they were in the 1950s and 1960s, when it was commonplace for teachers to lead children in prayer and recite Bible verses as part of the morning routine,” Wertheimer explained. “The 1963 court ruling prohibiting teacher-led prayer gradually led to bigger efforts to educate children about many religions. But there is a real fear of proselytizing when it comes to classes about the Bible as literature or history. Parents should be the most concerned about those types of courses.”