Thursday, December 02, 2004

Stevens Creek Elementary School debacle misrespresented

Take a moment people. Take a moment and read what has happened in Cupertino, my hometown.

I'm so angry right now I can't even express it. I'll tell you why I’m angry it's because it's all twisted. There is no truth here. I've looked online and there is already a number of blogs yelling their heads off about how we are tearing down our democracy etc. Well people why don't you take a moment longer and read the entire complaint that Mr. Williams has made against Patricia Vidmar. Take a look at it. Here it is!

73 whole pages of it. To the people at i say to you why don't you publish the entire thing? Let people make their own minds up about what the truth is. Give the facts, let them decide.

So if you don't have time to read the whole complaint I'll let you know the main things that prove that Steven's Creek's Principal was completely within her rights.

The Reuters article writes: "A California teacher has been barred by his school from giving students documents from American history that refer to God -- including the Declaration of Independence"

The reuters article goes further to tell us: "Williams asserts in the lawsuit that since May he has been required to submit all of his lesson plans and supplemental handouts to Vidmar for approval, and that the principal will not permit him to use any that contain references to God or Christianity"

why is that? well maybe it's because there has already been complaints made about Mr. Williams proselytizing to students. Well take a look at what the handouts he was planning on giving 5th graders. 5th graders people, that's kids ages 10 or 11. Keep that in mind.

Here is a list of the exhibits and what they really contain:

Exhibit A (pgs 18-19): National Day of Prayer Proclamation made by President Bush.
Ok I can buy that, our president makes a proclamation I can see how that is important in understanding how our executive branch works. Talking about the importance of prayer though perhaps not the most useful theme considering this is a public school.

Exhibit B (pg 21): Excerpts from The Frame of Government of Pennsylvania by William Penn.
William Penn is a key figure in the founding of our nation, I know this, we all know this. Is Mr. Williams right in choosing this particular excerpt to show to 10 year olds? I don't think so. This excerpt (1 page long) has 6 bible quotes and is nothing more than a proof of the divine right of government. Now I realize that deeply devout men founded our nation. That's fine with me. However is this how you want to portray our foundation? and the best part is that the excerpt concludes that government will be unnecessary once the "second Adam" arrives. Now why would Mr. Williams want to show this specific example? Isn't there something else William Penn wrote that could illustrate the foundation of America?

Exhibit C (pg 23): The Declaration of Independence.
Believe me I sincerely hope every fifth grader gets to read the Declaration of Independence. The foundation of our great society. I just became an American myself, believe me I love America and what it stands for especially in the Declaration of Independence. Now my question is, wouldn't there be an excerpt of this monumental document in the textbook? I don’t know maybe it's there. Regardless I believe that Ms. Vidmar said no to this handout not for it's content, but in fear of how it would be portrayed by Mr. Williams. Maybe he would emphasize the authority of God, rather than the courage (it was considered treason) and clarity of the message these men wrote out.

Exhibit D (pg 25-26): Religious Clauses in State Constitutions.
example from this 2 page handout: Delaware; Article 22 (1776) "Every person who shall be chosen a member of either house, or appointed to any office or place of trust...shall...also make and subscribe the following declaration, to whit:

"I _____, Do profess faith in God the Father, and in Jesus Christ His only Son, and in the Holy Ghost, one God, blessed for evermore; and I do acknowledge the holy scriptures of the Old and New Testament to be given by divine inspiration"

Excuse me, is this the kind of teaching we want on our state constitutions? I would think that if we were studying the constitutions we would emphasize some things more than others. I'm not saying you shouldn't teach that America was founded by religious men. Not at all, i'm saying that having a 2 page handout repeat that you must believe in Jesus in order to be part of government is just not something you teach 10 year old kids. You teach tolerance. This is just not it.

Exhibit E (pg 28): What great leaders have said about the bible.
Pardon, but what does this have to do with the foundation of America? Do we need a handout that tells us Thomas Jefferson said the bible makes the best people in the world? Absolutely not. Not in our public school system. On top of which why is Jesus Christ quoted in the end along with all these American founders? Jesus Christ? Absolutely not! If you put Jesus where is Gandhi? How about Moses or Buddha? There is no reason for giving such a handout to fifth graders studying the founding of America.

Exhibit F (Pg 30-31): The Rights of The Colonists by Samuel Adams.
Ok again Samuel Adams a great man to study. Again it matters a lot in what way this type of primary source is taught. Mr. Williams in my opinion would have shed light on it in a more religious manner than perhaps is allowed in our public school system.

Exhibit G (pg 33-35): George Washington's Prayer Journal.
George Washington's Prayer Journal?!? out of all the great words, speeches, letters, that our 1st president wrote Mr. Williams chooses his prayer journal to teach about the founding of America? The excerpt is taken from a book titled "George Washington, the Christian". Come on! Ms. Vidmar was completely within her rights and correct to deny Mr. Williams this type of handout. This doesn't shed any light on Washington as our founding father, it sheds light on his being a good Christian. While that's fine and commendable, it is not what Mr. Williams is paid to teach our 5th graders. Three pages of Washington thanking the lord is not going to teach anything about how America was founded. It will only show the Christian side. We want our fifth graders to look up to these men. Men who created our fair nation. They should look up to them, but not only for the reasons Mr. Williams seems to try to show.

Exhibit H (pg37-38): John Adams' Diary
Again this diary doesn't shed light on the proceedings of the foundation of America. No it sheds light on the Christian ideals of Adams. I'm not saying these are wrong, but they have no place in a curriculum that teaches the foundation of America.

Exhibit I (pg 40-45): The Principles of Natural Law by Jean-Jacques Burlamaqui
First of all again the first chapter is about the authority of God, and then government from God. Okay five pages is a bit much, not to mention that your average 10 year old is not going to understand this type of logic by a Swiss jurist writing in 1747. It's just not going to work.

Exhibit J (Pg 47-49): Fact Sheets: Currency and Coins. The History of In God We Trust.
I'm all for finding out the origins of such things, and again I believe that it's crucial that the teacher teach this information in a non-devotional manner. I think Ms. Vidmar thought that Mr. Williams would not emphasize the history as much as the devotional aspect of the words.

Those are all the exhibits that show the handouts in questions. According to the "Guidelines for Teaching about Religion" (found on page 68 of the complaint) we see that California code says that
1) the school's approach to religion is academic, not devotional.
2) the school may strive for student awareness of religions, but should not press for student acceptance of any one religion.
3) the school may sponsor study about religion, but may not sponsor the practice of religion.
4) The school may expose students to a diversity of religious views, but may not impose any particular view.
5) the school may educate about all religions, but may not promote or denigrate any religion.
6) the school may inform students about various beliefs, but should not seek to conform students to any particular belief.

These guidelines were sponsored by a long list of entities found on page 68 and 69 of the complaint. So my opinion is that Ms. Vidmar, fully aware that Mr. Williams leans towards teaching Christianity in his class, was correct in banning the handouts in question. It is her job to maintain the curriculum and she has to ban the handouts and stick to the textbook then she must in order to follow the law.

That's my 2 cents on the matter.

On a more personal note.

I'd like to tell Douglas Sargeant to go and read the entire complaint before he sends hate mail to people who are not involved. Sending hate mail to people like my mom, who has worked at Stevens Creek Elementary School for a number of years now, is just plain wrong, rude, and hurtful.

I include his e-mail to my mom who runs the computer lab! Not at all connected to Mr. Williams class and his questionable curriculum supplements.

Mr. Douglas Sargeant writes:

So sad to be a part of that which wants to destroy our country's foundation. Leave this country and go where they curse the Lord more and Christians. We don't need people who want to tear everything this country was founded upon, down.

Mr. Douglas Sargeant get the facts and then think before you send such blatently hateful e-mails!*

*expletives against Mr. Sargeant have been deleted at my mom's kind request, but don't think i'm not thinking them!