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Lemme Say A Little Something About The Ten Commandments In Classrooms

Lemme Say A Little Something About The Ten Commandments In Classrooms

I happened to be in Louisiana when they passed their new law to mandate The Ten Commandments be posted in every classroom from kindergarten to high school. While I am not a resident of Louisiana, I am a substitute teacher in Florida, and I know there are a lot of people in Florida who probably think this is a really good idea. So I’d like to address it in the hopes that they don’t pass this sort of law in my state before I get back.

As a substitute teacher who has been in Florida classrooms from kindergarten to 12th grade, I spend time each morning before the students arrive looking at how their teachers have decorated their classrooms. Everything every teacher has ever taken the trouble to affix to their walls, much of it provided through their own money, is put there to inspire their students. Some of it is there to inform, like rules and schedules they need to know. Quite a lot is there to reinforce the subjects they’re learning about and educate them on the basics. It is all there to inspire them to be the best students they can be and the best people they can be.

It’s all about what they can do and what they can achieve. They use encouraging words like “be polite” instead of “don’t be a jerk”. They say “share” instead of “don’t be selfish.” They certainly don’t have anything that says “thou shalt not.”

Decorations in the classrooms also serve to affect the students’ immediate environment and how they should behave in the classroom relative to what grade they are in and what age they are. Other than inspirational quotes on how to live a good life in general, there’s not a lot of information preparing them for the times in their lives when they’ll need to address sexual relationships, ownership of livestock and property, or feel inclined to murder, although there is sometimes info on where to get help if they’re feeling depressed or suicidal.

And they certainly, other than a few inspirational Bible verses or quotes by Buddha, don’t have any religious dogmas or iconography. I have seen one teacher who is unapologetically Catholic with religious images on her own desk to inspire herself, but overall, the decor of the classrooms speak to what the students are actually learning in the classroom and does not promote religions that aren’t being taught. What good could actually come from forcing this sort of impertinent information into our students’ daily lives, and more importantly, how much harm could it bring?

With the first of the four Judeo-Christian commandments focused on God and his need to be properly esteemed, do we really want to subject our teachers to questions about which God students should be worshiping? The first commandment says “I am the Lord thy god, thou shalt have no other gods before me.” What will this do to the minds of students who haven’t been raised to believe in the Judeo-Christian tradition and refer to God by another name or names?

The second commandment is against making graven images. Other than art class, that’s probably not something that’s going to come up a lot in the classroom. But what happens when they start asking if corporate logos would be considered graven images to the gods of capitalism?

The third commandment says to not take the name of the Lord in vain. Students are already encouraged to not use any sort of foul language. Why would this be necessary in the classroom?

Because the informational decor of classrooms instructs students on how to behave in the classroom, they don’t offer suggestions or dictates on how they should spend their weekends, regardless of which day they may consider the Sabbath or if they don’t consider it at all. The fourth commandment is irrelevant as well.

The fifth commandment is to honor thy father and mother. That’s a great thing to consider, but they’re not in the classroom, and quite a few of the students don’t have one or more of those people in their lives anyway.

The sixth commandment says we shall not kill. Unfortunately, these days that is pretty appropriate in the classrooms. And the eighth one about not stealing is pretty good as well. But the seventh commandment should really not be there.

Recently in Florida, our government has taken to banning books that discuss homosexuality, and they have gone to great lengths to keep teachers from talking about issues of a sexual nature. If teachers aren’t allowed to talk about that, they certainly should not be forced to subject themselves to questions about adultery and coveting their neighbor’s wives.

The ninth commandment about bearing false witness against your neighbor is a tricky one. Elementary students tell on each other all the time for all sorts of little things and regularly accuse one another of lieing. They don’t call it bearing false witness, but it can be a problem.

And to post the tenth commandment about coveting things in the day of social media is fairly preposterous. Coveting is what the American economic system work. It would be great if it wasn’t, but that’s the deal.

If a teacher or a district wants to consider the ten commandments as a historical text meant to educate the students, then it should be displayed in classes where history is being taught, along with other similar religious texts that affected civilization.But to subject every student to such an irrelevant bit of information to their lives as students is unfair to both the students and the teachers. Kids today are already distracted enough. Teach them what they need to know in the day and don’t subject them to this religious lore.

I recognize that there are many people who still hold those ten commandments as very sacred, even if they don’t always follow them. And they should be held sacred for those who feel inclined. But things that are sacred should not be mandated.

Louisiana is going to do what Louisiana is going to do, and certain conservatives may be so narrow-minded that they will think forcing students to read their religious ambitions everyday is a good idea. But I’m pretty sure there are more people who realize what a bad idea it is.