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VENTURA COUNTY PERSPECTIVE

Teaching Morality

February 25, 2001

Re "Religion at School," Ventura County letters, Feb. 11.

Letter writer Catherine Antolino Mervyn wants "religion and therefore morals" taught in public schools, but whose morals? Just hers, or do we teach everyone's--every religion, every denomination, every philosophy and of every era?

There are some of us who remember about a time when slavery was considered moral. There are religious people who still believe that it is moral to settle religious disagreements with war. Mervyn, it seems, believes that there is only one set of morals, but the facts would seem to indicate otherwise.

There are those who maintain that which morals a person holds depends on where and when that person lives. It's been said that there is no right or wrong, only opinion. If Mervyn wants to blame what she calls "this altercation at home between child and parent" on "the teacher, the school, the system, the laws," she is, of course, entitled to her opinion.

If her children are not getting enough religious indoctrination at home and at her church, then there is always her parochial school. But please don't ask the rest of us to use our tax dollars to teach her kids an opinion we don't believe in.

JOHN ENGELMANN

Ventura

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Not only is the concept of teaching religion in public schools illegal with respect to the separation of church and state, it is immoral.

Ernestine Rose, America's first lobbyist for women's rights, said in 1861: "All children are atheists, and were religion not inculcated into their minds, they would remain so. Even as it is, they are great skeptics, until made sensible of the potent weapon by which religion has ever been propagated, namely fear--fear of the lash of public opinion here, and of a jealous, vindictive God hereafter."

Encouraging the irrational acceptance of the existence of God may promote other types of irrational behavior.

More specifically, teaching children to be submissive toward and dependent upon God may lead them to act submissive and dependent upon government. Government bureaucrats and other figures of authority may regard this as a good idea, but those of us who uphold the virtues of self-confidence and self-reliance don't think so.

Children need reason, not revelation; fact, not fantasy; science, not superstition. That is what is meant by "educating the whole child."

Public schoolteachers fall far short of this ideal. In my experience as mother of three children, public schoolteachers do try to imprint their own brand of religion on students. It is the parents' responsibility to be the authoritative moral presence in their children's lives. Indeed, waiting until they are of school age to abdicate this responsibility to the state may already be too late.

CHARLOTTE POE

President,

Freethinkers of Ventura County

Somis

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