Recently, a fifth-grade teacher instructed each of her students to write a report about his or her “idol.” Some children wrote about pop stars and actors. Others wrote about superheroes and historical figures. One little girl wrote about God.
When the teacher began reading the little girl’s report, she immediately announced to the precocious 8-year-old that students were not allowed to write about God because it is “about religion,” hence, illegal. The teacher explained that the child would have to select a different “idol” about which to write. She chose Michael Jackson.
Since when did a subjective writing assignment that allows children to use their imagination and express their personal beliefs become unlawful?
Of course, my question is rhetorical.
This teacher is clearly misinformed about the limitations of laws regarding freedom of the expression of religion in educational institutions. As the mother of an elementary school teacher who instructs with integrity and conviction and is well-informed of the legal limitations to which she must adhere, I want to believe the teacher in this scenario is “the exception.”
Let’s look at another issue of Constitutionality in our nation’s classrooms. Since the mid-20th century, public schools in states across the nation have faced challenges, arguing the constitutionality of the Pledge of Allegiance. Those who oppose allowing the Pledge in school often cite a twisted interpretation of the free exercise clause of the First Amendment. Even as recent as September of this year, challenges to the Pledge continue in a case that was brought before the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court arguing that the Pledge of Allegiance violates the Equal Rights Amendment of the Constitution of Massachusetts.
Within our schools, no longer is creationism and evolutionism the primary debate (In fact, it’s illegal to make a case for creation in the classroom whatsoever). Rather, loose and ambiguous interpretations of freedom of speech and religion and similar liberties have become part of a growing trend of challenges that distort the laws of our Constitution in an attempt to support arguments of unconstitutionality.
The fact is, big government is finding new tactics to gain power over the people through the violation of Americans’ liberties. In a seemingly innocuous attempt to achieve its agenda, government has resorted to exploiting the most vulnerable faction of society — our impressionable children. But the classroom merely serves as the breeding ground for a nation whose Constitution is slowly eroding.
From environmental agencies to state legislators, bureaucracies are the chief violators of Americans’ constitutional freedoms and liberties. Because government always seems to find ways to circumvent or blatantly ignore our nation’s Constitution when imposing regulations and laws that are in direct contrast to the guarantees of a free society, it’s clear that today, more than ever, bureaucratic overreach poses the greatest threat to the preservation of our liberties and the future of our nation.
With increasing bureaucratic challenges to Americans’ freedoms, it is incumbent upon us to educate our children about the indoctrination of a government that disregards the guarantees of our country’s Constitution and expose the ways in which government embeds itself in the fibers of our everyday lives.
I don’t know about you, but I believe a fifth-grader choosing to write about God rather than Miley Cyrus or Batman as her idol is on her way to living a life based on conviction, is a free-thinker and is a constitutionalist in the making. Perhaps that’s just what our country needs.
Lori Nunnink lives in Sacramento.