Christian teachers' group seeks reform Panel wants more religion in schools

April 06, 1993|By Anne Haddad | Anne Haddad,Staff Writer

Separation of church and state -- public schools, to be exact -- does not exist for Bob Foster, a teacher and co-founder of the Christian Educators Association of Carroll County.

"We don't make that separation," Mr. Foster said. "All life is religious, so how we respond in the political realm is the same as in the private realm."

The new group meets at 7 o'clock tonight at Westminster United Methodist Church to discuss getting Christian views -- on issues such as homosexuality and creationist science -- into schools.

"If public schools are going to accept humanist, secular ideas, they're going to have to accommodate the other side," said Mr. Foster, who teaches motor development to middle school children with special needs.

Co-founder Charles Fogerty said he believes the group is mainly an avenue for support and fellowship among teachers.

"We know we can't preach in the classroom," said Mr. Fogerty, a social studies teacher at East Middle School. "We want to encourage each other to be the best teachers we can be. We think we're blessed in Carroll County that we have school boards and parents who are supporters of Judeo-Christian values. We'd just like to preserve that."

But Mr. Foster, while agreeing that Carroll is more conservative than other areas, is more revisionist.

He said Carroll's school system, like others nationwide, has diminished reference to religion and "moral absolutes," such as saying homosexuality is wrong.

"At the root of it is the fear of stepping on someone's toes," Mr. Foster said.

He said a national study of textbooks also shows a liberal and feminist bias, by promoting role models such as Eleanor Roosevelt, Martin Luther King Jr., author Rachel Carson and anthropologist Margaret Mead.

"It's biased against men and Christians," Mr. Foster said.

But Mr. Foster said the reference to Dr. King did not include his religious life or black churches.

Mr. Foster and Mr. Fogerty disagree with the liberal platforms of the Carroll County Education Association and its state and national affiliates.

The Christian teachers group is an alternative, Mr. Fogerty said, although the Christian group will not represent the teachers in collective bargaining.

The group is also planning to become a chapter of Christian Educators Association International, which is based in California.

Mr. Fogerty and Mr. Foster said many other Christian teachers are outraged by such things as the state association's financial support of a pro-choice position and a task force on gay and

lesbian issues.

At a statewide middle school conference, held at North Carroll Middle School last month, members of the task force gave a talk that offended some members, Mr. Fogerty said.

He said he proposes that if the Maryland State Teachers Association wants to make information available to adolescents about homosexuality, the schools should also offer a Christian view.

"[Our view is that] homosexuality is not normal, it is abnormal. That we don't hate these people, but they need help, and there are doctors out there for those who need help," Mr. Foster said.

The group's meetings are open to parents, administrators and other interested people, Mr. Foster said. So far, the group has 15 members, most of whom are teachers.

"We would like to see public education address not just the Christian, but also the Muslims, Hinduism and Judaism," Mr. Foster said.

But he suggested a school system or state could determine "which religions would be emphasized more," depending on what was prevalent in the area.

Gary Dunkleberger, director of curriculum and staff development for county schools, said the law is clear that schools should not be teaching religion, but can discuss it in a nonsectarian way when appropriate.

For example, high schools offer an elective English course on the Bible as literature.

Donald Vetter, county schools supervisor of social studies, said he did a survey in 1987 of how teachers addressed religion. The survey was in response to a request by a group of county clergy.

"We found there was a tremendous amount, and quite a bit going on," Mr. Vetter said. "There's a lot in world history, in eighth-grade world cultures.

"My feeling is we're obligated to teach about religion. We're not obligated to teach kids in such a way that we're turning them on to [any one religion]," Mr. Vetter said.

When it comes to creationism vs. evolution, Mr. Dunkleberger said, the issue is not a new one.

"Public education's responsibility is to teach students science as it is best understood by scientists," said Mr. Dunkleberger, a former science teacher.

"By the same token, when we teach the Bible as literature, and we read the Book of Genesis, we would never consider running, on the other side of the page, an account of Darwin," Mr. Dunkleberger said.

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