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Dutchess_III's avatar

What are some subjects that an elementary school teacher shouldn't address with their students?

Asked by Dutchess_III (26834 points ) May 25th, 2012

Are there some subjects that a teacher should just say, “You need to ask your parents about that.”?

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70 Answers

JLeslie's avatar

Religion. Unless it is a general question about what certain/various religions might celebrate. But, the teacher should never answer in a way that implies one religion is the right religion.

Where babies come from, unless it is a sex ed class for elementary age children.

Trillian's avatar

Pretty much anything not in the curriculum. Any topic which is debatable or open to interpretation, such as current events, ideology, gun control.
A good teacher will get the student to come to his/her own conclusions after getting information and careful reflection. The teacher is not there to fill the students with their ideas, but to give them the tools to develop ideas of their own. A good teacher will get students to question, reflect, re assess and re evaluate as new information becomes available. A good teacher will teach students to be impartial evaluators and to use critical thought, to not become entrenched in a belief system but be open to new learning experiences all their lives.
A good teacher will impart the idea that learning is a process which never stops.
Kahlil GIbran said:
“You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them,
but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.”

JLeslie's avatar

@Trillian But, if a good teacher gets the student to come to his own conclusion, the topic still is being discussed, even if outside of the curriculum. Or, am I misunderstanding your answer?

Trillian's avatar

Well, if a child were asking about a topic, I would hope that the instructor would turn it around; “Well Timothy, what do you think?
Discussing a topic is not the same as answering a question with a definitive “There is no God”, or “Of course there is a God.”
Much better to get the kid thinking. And teaching a child that sometimes we can’t conclude anything right away, more information is needed. And above all, NOT to be married to any idea.

Dutchess_III's avatar

@JLeslie I think almost anything can be discussed, but the teacher has to be absolutely neutral in the discussion.

Trillian's avatar

@Dutchess_III That’s what I’m saying. Neutrality, encouraging critical thought.

Charles's avatar

Religion
Art
History (who knows what really happened unless she qualifies the history with something like “some people think” or, “historians theorize…” or “realize history of conflict and war is written by the victors…”
Probably the same for social studies. History and social studies are subjects the politicians elected to the board of education chose to present to the students.
Stick to math, science, language, PE, technology, health.
I’d rather have my fourth grader learning MS Excel than English literature or art.

Trillian's avatar

Continued; any fucking dumbass can train a child to be a mini me. One sees it all the time, training a child to follow in whatever narrow, limited focus which is important to the parent. It takes much more fortitude to teach a child to think for him/herself, and risking that the child will have different beliefs than ones self.

JLeslie's avatar

@Trillian My only point is turning it around is not the same as telling the child to go home and ask his parents.

bkcunningham's avatar

I honestly wish they would address teaching children to read, comprehend what they’ve read, writing, grammer, local and state history (which includes music), basic science, basic arithmetic and physical education/health. If they would do this, there wouldn’t be much time for anything else.

Trillian's avatar

@JLeslie you’re correct. Thinking it through on your own is not at all the same thing. I don’t know if a parent could successfully sue a school for teaching a child to think for itself. Considering our society as it stands, I’m afraid it is possible.
Do you feel that a teacher should relegate topics to a parent or encourage a child to come to it’s own conclusions?

JLeslie's avatar

@bkcunningham I think for the most that is exactly what happens in elementary school. But, if a kid asks a question outside of that material, the teacher can either tell the child that isn’t part of the curriculum, or give a minute to the child to think things through, or provide some sort of answer to the question. Are you saying a teacher should always dismiss a child’s question outside of the subjects you name and direct them to their parents?

Dutchess_III's avatar

@Charles I disagree with not teaching art, history and literature. Also, if you think that you shouldn’t teach something because you don’t really know, that throws science out the window too.
I do agree with you about the English v Excel though!

@bkcunningham They do teach those things to the children. There is plenty of time for other things after that.

Charles's avatar

disagree with not teaching art, history and literature. Also, if you think that you shouldn’t teach something because you don’t really know, that throws science out the window to

The only thing worse than teaching art is getting some kid interested in it. Next thing you know, you have a 28 year old artist – delivering pizzas.

Imagine if your high school aged son said “Dad (or mom), I think I am going to pursue art as a career.” or from your daughter “Daddy, I found the man I am going to marry. He’s an artist.”

Art is one of those things you do on the side – weekends and evenings. Or, if in school – an elective that the parents must provide a signed note giving permission. If it was an elective and the choices were art of technology I wouldn’t sign the art note.

bkcunningham's avatar

@JLeslie, nowhere in my response did I say or insinuate that a teacher should always dismiss a child’s question outside of subjects. What I’m trying to say is if a teacher is really teaching and holding a young child’s interest in a subject, there shouldn’t be questions that go beyond the scope of what they should or shouldn’t answer. I can’t think of an example. Can someone give me an example of how a subject for K-5 students would veer into the area of a discussion the teacher couldn’t or shouldn’t answer?

Dutchess_III's avatar

@bkcunningham Elementary school kids are nothing but questions and brainstorming and free association! Let’s say they’re in music class, and they’re getting ready for a Christmas program, and out of the blue one of the kids says, “Miss V! Do you believe in Santa Clause?”

You’re teaching science and on the subject of sexual and asexual reproduction, and one of the kids asks how babies are made.

Education is all about life, life is all about questions.

JLeslie's avatar

@bkcunningham Sorry, too late for me to edit, but I had another question about your statement. You said history including music. Why are you putting music in with history. And, it seemed the subject of Art was missing from your list, I assume an oversight? And, I think music class should be very varied. Learning instruments, and singing, dancing, performing. Unless there is already a separate class for performing arts.

As far as your response to me. Kids come up with all sorts of questions. They might ask during recess something they have been wondering. Or, a few children might talk among themselves, and then say, “I’m going to ask the teacher.” Like the santa claus uproar. I doubt the teacher was teaching about santa claus, but some kid wanted to know if he was real, or mentioned good ol’ St. Nick, and a teacher replied he isn’t real.

jca's avatar

There was the recent question about the teacher telling the child about Santa. I don’t think it’s a teacher’s place to tell a child that there is no Santa or Easter Bunny. I think that’s between the parents and child. I think a vague response would be appropriate, something like “Santa comes only if you believe he’s coming” or something like that. I didn’t read the other question and answers yet so I am not sure if this is what the consensus feels. Just my opinion.

JLeslie's avatar

@jca That answer I am not so keen on regarding santa claus, because I could have believed as hard as I wanted to and he never would have come to me, nor any of my other Jewish friends nor my girlfriend who was raised Jehovah.

Dutchess_III's avatar

@jca that was my question. It segued off into an argument over whether or not it’s OK to “lie” to your children and completely missed the point I was asking…hence, this question.

@bkcunningham You know, children spend more time with their teachers than they do their parents. I don’t understand how you could think they won’t ask off the wall questions sometimes. I don’t understand how you think that if you simply “stick to” the 3 R’s their imaginations will go dead and they’ll turn into little robots.

Dutchess_III's avatar

@JLeslie But it’s not just about one child. It’s about a classroom of children. In that class room you’ll have a mix of kids, some who believe, some who don’t.

bkcunningham's avatar

I understand how the minds of children work and how they are full of questions. I’m just trying to say, if you are working on a Christmas program with children K-5 and a little one asks if I believe in Santa Claus, I’d answer, absolutely. I’m assuming it is okay since we are working on a Christmas program.

If I’m teaching sexual and asexual reproduction and a student asked how babies are made, I’m thinking the course on sexual reproduction is going to answer that question.

Where did I say stick to the three R’s, @Dutchess_III.

Dutchess_III's avatar

@Charles I just read your response about art, and that it’s useless to teach it because it’s a one in a million chance the kid could actually make living being an artist. Well, that’s just silly. that’s like saying we shouldn’t have PE because none of them are going to make a living as a professional athlete. Maybe you weren’t interested in art, but I LOVED it. I’ve taught art. All the kids love it. You can’t design an entire curriculum around your own personal feelings. If we could, I’d dispense with Jr and Sr English!

Dutchess_III's avatar

In this post you implied that if you are teaching those subjects adequately the kids won’t have any questions.

@bkcunningham So, if you’re in a classroom of first graders and one of them asks, “Do you believe in Santa Clause?” you’d just say “No!” without a second thought?

ragingloli's avatar

How to physically harm others, commit crimes and promoting the false claims of religion. All else is fair game.

Dutchess_III's avatar

I taught a kid how to pick a lock once. :(

bkcunningham's avatar

OMG, I feel like I’m in the twilight zone. What gives you the idea that if I was in a classroom of first graders and one of them asks if I believe in Santa Clause, I’d say ” ‘No!’ without a second thought,” @Dutchess_III? I said I’d say, “absolutely,” to your example of putting on a Christmas play and the question came up. I would assume the school allows discussion of Christmas. If the school regulations didn’t forbid the celebration of Christmas or Santa, I’d tell the child I absolutely believe in Santa. My point is, if you are teaching (the important word here is “teaching,” then you are obviously going to answer questions. If you are teaching and a child’s mind is occupied with the lesson, the questions and answers should pertain to the lesson.

Charles's avatar

Well, that’s just silly. that’s like saying we shouldn’t have PE because none of them are going to make a living as a professional athlete.

PE serves a purpose to keep kids healthy and it helps them develop healthy exercise habits.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Your post was a little confusing. you said, ”...asks if I believe in Santa Claus, I’d answer, absolutely.” I read it to mean that you would absolutely answer it. Yes you would answer it. I understand now that your reply would be “Absolutely.” Now that we’ve cleared that up, you have two more problems. One is,you just lied to the kid’s face and there is a good chance that other kids in the classroom know it. Good chance that the kid you responded to knows it.
The other problem is, what will you do when the next kid says, “My dad says Santa isn’t real.” And for every answer you give, there will be three more questions to follow it. That’s how kids work.
You need to do some teaching in a classroom if you really think that all that school is about is focusing on the three R’s and nothing else. There are a lot of discussions and questions that pop up during the course of a 6 hour day.

Dutchess_III's avatar

@Charles Some kids don’t like it and don’t exercise. They sit on the sidelines every chance they get. For them PE is a waste of time. Just like for you, Art is a waste of time. It should still be offered.

Charles's avatar

Maybe you weren’t interested in art, but I LOVED it. I’ve taught art. All the kids love it.

Just because they love it doesn’t make it a practical use of classroom time. Kids love candy too but we don’t want to feed it to them.

You can’t design an entire curriculum around your own personal feelings

Why not? I’m the parent. Given the choice I would produce a more practical curriculum represented by my comments above. Put it this way. There are 69 times as many art (or humanities or English, etc) majors who wished they had majored in something more practical than there are “practical” majors (Business, engineering, sciences, etc) who wished they’d majored in art.

ragingloli's avatar

I would absolutely, without hesitation, tell the little monster that Satan Claus is a lie. And after that I would go through the list of all the other lies children are taught, for good measure.

bkcunningham's avatar

I do believe in Santa. It isn’t a lie.

Charles's avatar

Some kids don’t like it and don’t exercise. They sit on the sidelines every chance they get. For them PE is a waste of time.

There’s always 2%.

Dutchess_III's avatar

@bkcunningham So what would you say if the next kid says, “Daddy says Santa isn’t real.”

bkcunningham's avatar

I’d find an opportunity to read the words of Francis Pharcellus Church to the tyke.

CWOTUS's avatar

“Elementary school” covers a pretty wide range of ages and maturity levels.

I don’t think that a lot of first-graders are ready for sex education, for example – or need any, yet – but if they haven’t been exposed to that by the time they get to junior high school then good luck.

Same thing with a lot of history and political issues. I’m sure that I didn’t know a thing about the Holocaust or WW II when I left first grade, yet I knew quite a bit about each by the time I started junior high.

I’m going to say that if a student has questions, then no subject should be off the table. Some opinions are best kept to oneself, however, at any age.

Dutchess_III's avatar

@bkcunningham. Do you understand that if a child asked you if you believed in Santa, the child would be asking a literal question about a literal person? The child isn’t asking about a philosophy.

Back to my question. As a teacher, my response would be “Let’s go find out about him!” and then have the kids start researching the origins of St. Nicolas. Man…that could be a cool history / cultural lesson! You could go all kinds of places with it! I have visions of fun lesson plans dancing in my head now!

@CWOTUS I agree, as long as the questions are dealing with aspects of academia.

JLeslie's avatar

Actually, @bkcunningham brings up a good point for this discussion. Can teachers answer with their own beliefs? For instance, when my neice and nephew asked me questions about Judaism, I always answered what the religion says, or what some Jewish people do for tradition. I never replied with what I believed until they were in their teens. I thought it wasn’t my place. They were being raised Catholic, and to believe in God, and I am an atheist and not religious, and I don’t believe in giving very young children mixed messages on that sort of thing. I don’t believe in Santa Claus, but I certainly played along when they received gifts from santa.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

Gender roles. They should not gender my children and tell them what boys can and cannot do. And racial or ethnic stereotypes. Or stereotypes of any kind.

SpatzieLover's avatar

Like @bkcunningham I think it’d be wise to stick to the curriculum.

When I was a kid, my teachers would not tell their political opinion, their religious beliefs or their viewpoint on local/world issues. They allowed the children to do their own research and come to their own conclusions. Isn’t that what school is for? If not, it should be.

My own child asks questions during lessons. If it doesn’t pertain to the lesson and will take us off course, I tell him to save it for another time.

Dutchess_III's avatar

@JLeslie Yes, you can present other points of view, but you can’t offer your own. I don’t even do that very much with my adult students. I had them watching a NOVA program on Chimps and one of the guys said something like, “What is that called where they think we come from monkeys?”
I said, “Evolution?”
“Yeah! That’s it.”
I said, “Ok, but we didn’t come FROM monkeys. We had a common ancestor.”
One of my guys, rather defensively said, “It’s just a theory!
I said, “Yes. It is a theory.”

ragingloli's avatar

You should have said “So is gravity, now go float off somewhere.”

ragingloli's avatar

Btw, Aronra explains here rather well why, when using the more accurate phylogenetic classification, we not only did come from monkeys, we still are monkeys, as the old, quite arbitrary distinctions between apes and monkeys in the linnean taxonomy simply break down in phylogeny.

Trillian's avatar

^^ What do you mean “we”, non-human alien life form of questionable lizard descent?

bkcunningham's avatar

I wouldn’t want @ragingloli addressing my children. Just saying.

ragingloli's avatar

And I would not want your children ruining my day.

cookieman's avatar

I agree with @Simone_De_Beauvoir. I generally don’t get too hung up on gender, but I cannot stand when an adult or organization (school or otherwise) tries to tell my kid what’s a “boy toy” or “girl toy” or “boys colors” or whatnot. Stop delineating. It makes no fucking sense. Colors are colors, they’re not gender specific.

And certainly no stereotypes.

As for religion… Well my daughter goes to a Catholic school, so religion is part of the curriculum. Thing is, they teach about many different religions, not just Christianity. The idea is to introduce them to many different beliefs so the children can eventually decide what they believe in. for the record, my daughter recently told her third grade teacher that she believes “there is no god, but is reasonably sure Jesus was a good guy.”

As for Art… You @Charles now have me at a disadvantage. See, myself, and dozens of my colleagues and students have been making a living as artists for years. Now what the hell am I gonna do for a living as you’ve pointed out what a waste of time these past eighteen years have been.
I wonder if my bank realizes I’ve been making mortgage payments with money earned from art?!?! ::gasp::

Symbeline's avatar

Religion. It’s completely fine, and I’d even encourage teaching about different religions, how they’re practiced, the aims and the cultures they belong to and all. You know, as a part of history, past and current. But as far as instilling religious morality and beliefs into people, fuck that.

JLeslie's avatar

@Charles All I know is culturally Jewish people tend to value the arts. Go to the cities they live in in big numbers and the arts are alive and well. We also as a group seem to do pretty well at the sciences and pursue education in general. Of course many people, not just Jews value the arts, but they are an easy example because they are so dominant in the performing arts, and even as artists, and also in the sciences. Art opens the mind, creativity, and as others said above is fun for most children. Art leads to careers in archetecture, graphic design, advertising, drawing cartoons, engineering, and more. It isn’t just about putting paint on a canvas, and hanging the work on a wall. Plus, art in elementary school is completely different than those who have majored in art in college. In elementary school we are exposing children to many things and encouraging play. Just like people PE, and more specifically, team sports as a way to encourage children to learn cooperation and competitiveness, and a possible career; others might see it as pie in the sky dreams, and other studies as more important. I say it’s all important. Let’s expose children to all of it at young ages, and then as they get older they can choose classes as electives that further their interests and talents while still emphasizing core classes like English and math.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Guys…the point is that Charles doesn’t like art. Therefore it should be banned from the curriculum. See.

@ragingloli I actually got into a debate with one of my students over something very similar. He read a blurb about neutrinos and started going off about that fact that we don’t even know if they exist and blah blah blah. I tried to explain to him what a theory was. It’s not just some random story people put together to explain something. It’s testable. For example, black holes were predicted to exist long before they were ever actually found.
My student continued to argue. So I punched up NOVA…the episode of “The Theory of Everything.” I think he finally got a glimmer of what I was trying to tell him!

Good answers you guys!

JLeslie's avatar

I hated history, I wish it had been banned.

Dutchess_III's avatar

I loved history! I wish they’d ban Jr and Sr English. Just have the kids memorize what a proper sentence sounds like! That’s good enough!

Aethelflaed's avatar

@JLeslie History in elementary and secondary schools is the worst. I love reading all the books like Lies My Teacher Told Me, pointing out what an extraordinarily high state of crap history in k-12 is.

JLeslie's avatar

@Aethelflaed I hated it all the way through college. Well, college I took one history class, and that professor happen to be great, but I still was not thrilled with the class. Now that I am older I am more interested in history, but if I had to take a test it would be torture. Give me math and science any day.

Dutchess_III's avatar

I didn’t hate history!

Aethelflaed's avatar

@Dutchess_III I pretty obviously didn’t hate history; it’s now my major… But it was painful in K-12 most of the time. I lucked out and had some great teachers some of the time, but beyond that…

Dutchess_III's avatar

memorizing those dates and names…. :( But I did!

mattbrowne's avatar

The details of torture, genocide, the holocaust etc.

The details of rape and other serious crimes.

Aethelflaed's avatar

@mattbrowne I’m going to disagree with you on that rape one. There are ways to phrase it that are descriptive without being graphic or disturbing, but not telling kids how exactly to recognize the difference between good touch/bad touch is a huge obstacle in fighting childhood sexual assault. Rape happens at all ages, not just when people are adults.

mattbrowne's avatar

@Aethelflaed – Therefore I said “the details”.

Dutchess_III's avatar

I agree with @mattbrowne. You can touch on the Holocaust, but avoid the ghastly pictures and the details.

ragingloli's avatar

I disagree. The ghastly pictures and details should be mandatory. Only with them can you convey the full scale of the horror.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Third graders don’t need to understand the “full scale of the horrors,” any more than they need to see the video of the dude eating the other guy’s face to bring home the “full scale of the horrors” of using dangerous street drugs. They also don’t need to see graphic pictures of rape victims, or graphic pictures of genocide.

ragingloli's avatar

I disagree.

Dutchess_III's avatar

That’s fine.

ragingloli's avatar

That reminds me of what Jeremy Clarkson once said: Every newly licensed driver should be mandated to have a serious accident. They will be so scarred after that that they are almost guaranteed to drive safely.

Dutchess_III's avatar

According to your logic, that should happen to 3rd graders, long before they become licensed drivers. Just scare the shit out of them even if it’s something they have no control over, and has no bearing on their lives at that age.

On that subject, I WISH they had a mandatory virtual reality driving program for new drivers where they could throw every conceivable situation at them.

mattbrowne's avatar

@ragingloli – Yes, they are mandatory in Germany, but not yet in 3rd grade.

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