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AW[a]RE

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February 4th, 2013 Posted 4:58 am

Recently, I shared a link on my personal Facebook page about an Indiana lawmaker who wants to bring the Lord’s Prayer back into public schools.  My friends fall solidly on both sides of that issue, so debate in the comments was running a little hot.  I see no problem with allowing anyone a few moments of quiet at the start of their day. I take it at work to get settled, but no one is telling me to pray or insisting that I pray a specific prayer.  And THAT is my problem with the proposed legislation.  Reciting the Lord’s Prayer alienates anyone who isn’t Christian and, depending on the version recited, can further alienate either Protestants or Catholics. As much as parents and school administrators work to combat bullying, we cannot allow it on the state level.  Plus, there is that whole separation of church and state thing and it seems this would fall dangerously close to a religion being chosen, endorsed, and mandated.

During the fiery discussion that followed, Eric brought up the AWRE program. Anderson Weekday Religious Education.  This is a program where fourth graders are bussed from Anderson Community Schools to a local church to “introduce your child to the Bible, Christian principles, and character traits through Bible lessons.”  We have teacher friends insisting they’d never heard of the program and that it could not possibly exist in Anderson.  Whisper is our fourth fourth-grader.  We’ve very familiar with the program and with our reservations about it.

  1. If parents want their kids to attend church, there are ample opportunities outside of school time.
  2. I’m incredibly uncomfortable that my daughter’s personal information was provided to an outside group – and no one can tell me if the involved parties have undergone background checks. I cannot attend a field trip with the class if I haven’t had one.
  3. Anderson Community Schools does not impress anyone with its test scores or graduation rates.  Kids need to be in school when they can and we’re doing a disservice by pulling them out of class.
  4. There has been no plan set in place to deal with the kids whose parents decline this opportunity. Ravynn’s 4th grade year, she was one of two students who stayed behind. She spent that time each week coloring.  Really.
  5. When I called the AWRE coordinator in 2011, I was told they were restricted to non-teaching time for this event.  It didn’t seem possible that every fourth grade class had a full hour [plus, if we account for drive time] of non-teaching time available – let alone at the same time.  When I talked to the school, the principal explained the reality of this: the teachers are not allowed to teach the remaining students.  I won’t be fair to the kids who go. Yet, somehow, it’s fair to leave the other students to color…

Now, this is a legal outing as defined by Indiana statute 20.8-1-3-22. I suspect that the people involved are taking advantage of the vague language.

In theory, I have no problem that the program is offered. I really do not.  But it’s interfering with education. I do have a problem with that.

I don’t know if my phone calls and expressed concerns helped, but Whisper reports that she and the other three students who stayed at school spent their free time in the computer lab working on math review/enrichment.  I hope this is offered through the remainder of the program.  Unfortunately, I also understand that the other three children either lost their permission slip or didn’t receive one at their home and the school made sure they got another copy. That makes the program illegal and I look forward to seeing what the FFRF has to say about that.

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