Apparently it’s completely legal for kids to leave school for an hour every week for religious instruction, and it has been for years.
The organization Portland Released-time Education Program, or PREP4Kids, runs these classes and it’s completely legal. Under Oregon law, students with parental consent can be excused from regular classes to take religious classes, according to Oregon Live.
Judy Busch, executive director of PREP4Kids, says that the classes are non-denominational. Oh, I guess that’s supposed to make it OK, then. Spoiler alert. It’s not.
There is a reason that the state funds schools and makes school until a certain age (18 in Oregon). It’s to make sure today’s kids grow up to be productive adults. To become productive adults, kids need to learn math and science and social studies. And not just lists of facts, but also how to reason and think and solve problems. What kids do not need and what the state does not have to sanction is magical thinking.
The thing is, I’m not completely against teaching about religion in public schools. I think there is value in comparing and contrasting different religions and the cultures that spawned them. And the Bible left an indelible mark on literature. It’s possible to learn about religion from an academic perspective. However, this type of rigorous study does not seem to be what students involved in PREP4kids are getting. According to the PREP4Kids website, “PREP4Kids is a non-profit ministry, which has operated in the greater-Portland area for 25 years. PREP4Kids’ mission is to help children/youth and their families find purpose and direction in life through the study of God’s Word.”
All of this might not be so bad if it didn’t actively undermine the teaching of actual facts. According to Oregon Live, third and fourth graders enrolled in the program learn about Noah’s Ark and all of the animals the ark housed. Including dinosaurs.
Even if an ark capable of holding a world’s worth of animals within its walls existed, it certainly did not include dinosaurs. Since, you know, dinosaurs and humans never coexisted. But sure, go ahead and take students out of school so their heads can be filled with nonsense.
I’m not arguing that kids shouldn’t be able to learn about their religion. But it’s not a replacement for actual education and shouldn’t be supplanting what limited time kids have in the classroom. It’s an after school activity. If parents want to send their kids to Bible camp or Sunday school that’s their prerogative. But it’s not appropriate for religious instruction to cram itself into our education system.
Photo Credit: army.arch via Flickr