The First Amendment Conundrum of the Pagan English Teacher
My school is composed entirely of minorities, half of whom speak English as a second language. Nevertheless, our school district mandates a Shakespeare play at each level. This would be okay, except that it takes my students about six weeks to make it through a Shakespeare play.
Someone with clout in my district said, "Oh, don't have them read the whole thing! Just read the good parts and watch the rest on video."
Have you ever heard of a more intellectually dishonest practice? Just read the good parts? Does this prepare our underprivileged students for college and career?
In desperation I cast about for something other than Julius Caesar to teach my students. Lo and behold, in the grimy and crumbling 10th grade textbooks, there's a translation of Antigone. It's readable, too!
Who can resist Oedipus, Jocasta, Tiresias, Creon, Antigone? Not me! I love those stories! Greek tragedy: a staple of the well-rounded public school education. Problem solved. Out with Julius, in with the brave princess who doesn't want to leave her brother to the buzzards.
Houston, we have a problem.
Can I teach Antigone if I believe in those Gods and Goddesses? Am I being intellectually honest if I call the stories "myths?" When Antigone refers to God (translation), how can I help but tell my fine young minds that the God in question is Zeus?
I want to teach Antigone, but I can't use the word "myth." If "myth" applies to the Greek deities, it applies to all deities, including You-Know-Who, the one we can't talk about in school.
I think that as Pagans, we run into First Amendment issues with Greek tragedy. I just simply can't stand in front of my students and call Zeus a "myth." Zeus is a God. People still pray to Him.
Since September through April is the window for evaluations -- and I absolutely don't want my bosses walking in with clipboards while I'm talking about Greek deities -- I have plenty of time to think of ways to discuss the religious aspects of Greek tragedy. Maybe I'll interview a few Greek deities and see what They think. (Not inviting Mars here anymore, he torched my chintz armchair.)
If you have a helpful tip on this issue, I would love to hear it. I'm almost feeling like teaching this play could violate the First Amendment if I am a polytheist.
No use asking Zeus for His opinion. Given half a chance, He would come teach the class Himself.
A few weeks ago I was casting about to see if there was anything on YouTube in the way of a summary of Oedipus Rex. I came upon the video posted below. Nearly busted a lung laughing. Then I discovered there's a whole series of these. Watch and learn, choir!
Labels: First Amendment