Oppressive religion and schools

I’ve been waiting to write this post for quite a while, but it seemed like I was always too busy. Well, I’m finally home sick and guess what? Now I have time.

I recently completed my Master’s degree and entered the working world. I wanted to teach college courses, but those are some pretty scarce jobs and having an M.S. instead of a PhD makes it even harder to snag a position. The backup plan was high school teaching- not my first desire, but it pays money. Unfortunately I don’t have the credentials to teach in a public school (you need student teaching and some other… uh, stuff. I’m not sure what it is, but I know I don’t have the requisite background in education courses.) So, that left me with private schools… Most of which are Catholic. Oh, the irony. An atheist teacher working at a Catholic school? Well, I didn’t really have any other recourse. I knew I’d have to attend mass, fake prayers, etc., but nothing can truly make you change what you believe. Whatever, I’ll do what needs to be done.

I had this put to the test quickly when the teacher’s had to go on a retreat. Yes, a retreat. One which my principal said was more important than getting my TB test (you know, just student health, nothing too important.) Towards the end of this incredibly boring event, we were asked to sign a pledge that really made me gag; the arrogance it conveyed was unfathomable, and to assume all teacher’s subscribe to your own religion is absurd. Here is the “pledge” in all it’s glory:

Pledge to Ministry at St. ——– High School
We, the administration, faculty, and staff of St. ——– High School,
dedicate ourselves to the mission of St. ———– and to the values of the Gospel.
We pledge to provide a Catholic, Christian education to the young men and women entrusted to our care,
whatever their economic, cultural or educational background may be.
We further pledge to inspire these young men and women to discover their God-given talents,
to empower them to be lifelong learners, and to challenge them to achieve their potential as compassionate men and women of faith.
In this commitment, we trust in the grace of God whom we serve.

Here’s a religious statement for you: Holy shit.

I could not believe that they were trying to force me to sign something that was completely opposite of my own personal beliefs. Sure, I’ll work for a Catholic school. I’ll go through the motions. But to make me sign my name on a piece of paper stating that I’m Catholic and that I agree with all of the above? I just couldn’t do it. After sweating it out trying to figure out how to get out of signing it, I ended up pretending to sign, with my back to everyone, and no one was the wiser.

But let’s unpack this a little bit. Aside from the fact that they are forcing all faculty, admin, and staff to sign a statement of their personal religious faith, (something that wasn’t anywhere in MY contract!) there are some severely disturbing ideas contained in this pledge. First, in no way do I dedicate myself to the values of the Gospel. (And who’s Gospel are we referring to, exactly? Oh, of course, only YOURS could be the TRUE one. What was I thinking.) Plus, let’s look at the values of the Gospel, which could be an entire book in and of itself. Leave everything you have and abandon your family and friends… hmm, that doesn’t seem very nice or kind to me. That’s just one example, but I don’t have time to run through the Atheist’s Annotated Bible, so let’s move on.

We pledge to provide a Catholic, Christian education to [the students], whatever their economic, cultural or educational background may be.” This may have been written with the intention of inclusiveness, but what is this really saying? When I read it, I heard, “We don’t care what YOUR heritage is. We’re going to impose OUR belief system on the kids.” I immediately thought back to the days of the Inquisition, and all of the wars that have been waged in the name of gods. So they wanted me to pledge that I will disrespect any other culture that does not include Christianity, or more importantly Catholicism, in their beliefs? No thank you. I want no part of that.

The pledge also ends with “we trust in the grace of God whom we serve.” Hell, I can’t sign that! I don’t want any piece of paper with my signature on it that says I subscribe to such nonsense. Sure, I was confirmed when I was in high school- I was sheltered from the world and honestly wasn’t ready for that type of deep commitment. So when that happened, yes, I believed it. But to blatantly lie? To sign something that makes my very skin crawl with disgust, that makes me shudder when I know that others truly believe it, is an offense not only to me, but to those who actually believe it, wouldn’t you agree?

And let’s just take a look at a rewritten version, without religion in play:
“We, the administration, faculty, and staff of ———- High School,
dedicate ourselves to educating the poor and under-served communities of our area and to the belief that each human being is valuable and important.
We pledge to provide a thorough, rigorous education to the young men and women entrusted to our care, to prepare them for college or any other life path, whatever their economic, cultural or educational background may be.
We further pledge to inspire these young men and women to discover themselves, their talents, and their true value as individuals; to empower them to be lifelong learners, and to challenge them to achieve their potential as compassionate men and women.
In this commitment, we trust in the belief that all people are created equally with equal rights and that they deserve access to quality education to prepare them for their lives ahead.”

I can scarcely imagine an educator who would disagree with the second pledge. This job has truly opened my eyes to the importance of keeping religion out of schools, as well as the importance of the more general concept of separation of church and state. The school hung up the signed pledge in a frame in the main hall; every time I pass it, I am proud to say my name is not there.

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I’ve been having a lot of fun quilting lately. You can do anything really, and I realized that it perfectly lends itself to 8-bit and pixel art. So what topic should I use? Nintendo characters, of course! I wanted to provide the templates here. I have the Yoshi one, but for some reason I’ve misplaced the file for the mushroom (my first quilt.) And yes, I know there is a pixel missing. But if I hadn’t said anything, would you have seen it? I decided not to fix it because I wanted to just allow myself to be imperfect. It’s ok. I heard a radio interview recently where a man said that his grandmother would always say, “Bah! Perfect is boring!”
So anyway, enjoy these quilting pics (the Yoshi one isn’t quite finished) and I hope you can use the template. I used 4″x4″ squares for the mushroom and 3″x3″ squares for Yoshi (it took a lot of time!) Good luck!

Template: blue yoshi

2013-11-13 11.09.32 2013-11-13 11.09.41 blue yoshi 2014-05-29 20.09.15 2014-05-29 20.09.45

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Remembering happy things- autumn

I was trying to remember happy memories today, and I tried to go back through my childhood. I have a lot of unhappy memories- things that weren’t unpleasant at the time, but would have been if I’d known better. If I’d known people were allowed to come over to other people’s houses, etc. I found myself remembering one of the happiest things of my childhood- rec league soccer in the fall, and the first few days of school. And, well, autumn in general. I remember playing soccer on Saturdays having a great time. I specifically remember one fantastic game where everything was really muddy, and I had somehow gotten tripped, flipped onto my back, and slid about 10 ft down the field in mud! Hahaha I was SO happy! I wasn’t mad about the foul at all. Sometimes we could get dad to take us to Nemenz, the local gas station, to get a piece of candy. We would always look for this pumpkin gum. It came in a square package, and was a thick, big piece of gum shaped like an orange pumpkin. You’d slap it down on the table to break it into pieces so you could eat it. That was the best! My brother, sister, and I all loved it. I can remember smelling the cool September air as I waited at the end of the driveway for the first day of school. For some reason, the first morning was always foggy- even if it had been clear yesterday. It was always cool, but not cold enough for a jacket. There were several kids who were picked up at our babysitter’s. Her house was a small, yellow, one floor house. Basically a main room with a hallway leading to three small rooms and a bathroom. She was a good parental figure, although I hated her sometimes (but I think that probably means she was doing a good job.) The driveway was short, covered in limestone rocks (like most people’s driveways were,) and we were next to a woodsy area that was blocked with a barbed wire fence. It was the neighbor’s property, and they had cows that escaped sometimes. There was always this one tree that turned bright pink during the fall. I think it was just an average maple tree, but it was absolutely gorgeous. I haven’t been there in years, I wonder if it’s still standing? I remember going into school on the first day and inhaling the smell of the cleaners. They always cleaned the day before, and the smell permeated the hallways for the first few days. I never found another place that smelled like that. They say that smells bring back memories the most effectively. I wonder what I would remember if I stopped by in the fall! I loved feeling the leaves crunch under my feet, and I would try to catch leaves before they hit the ground while waiting for the bus. One of the older kids said that if you caught it, you could make a wish. I’m pretty sure he just made it up, but it was a cute thought, so we all tried to catch them as they fell. Yellow, red, orange, pink… I miss the seasons so much. Hopefully I will be back in the north shortly.

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