In one of my web surfing journeys, I discovered an article about a controversial school assignment that I wish I had been assigned back in the day. A school in Guernsey (a British island off the coast of France) asked its 12- and 13-year-old students to pretend that they had decided to convert to Islam and to write a letter to their parents explaining their decision.
The exact wording of the writing prompt wasn’t in the news story, but I would hope that it also included the need to add a section trying to dispel the main objection that their parents would probably raise.
I think this creative writing assignment is an excellent way to get students to humanize people of another faith and see the challenges faced by those of another religion. Many parents refused to allow their children to participate, claiming in the words of one opponent, “In this day and age when easily led youngsters are being radicalized, it is a dangerous road to be taking.”
Would this same opposition have been there if each student was assigned a different religion that wasn’t his/her own? Britain has a multitude of religions being practiced within its borders, and religious studies is a required subject in their schools. To me, it would be fun having each student pulling a religion out of the hat and doing the exercise based on that draw. So many experiential learning opportunities come to mind! How could humanizing another faith be a negative?
Then again, as a convert myself, perhaps I am not as sensitive to what might be an underlying cause of the hostility: Giving the child the idea that they don’t have to be the religion practiced in the home might be unthinkable for some families.
This whole story makes me feel so fortunate to have supportive parents.
What are your thoughts on the assignment? Or How were different religions treated in your school?