Parents are expected to pack a school board meeting in the Shippensburg School District Monday night after a decision to pull an elementary school social studies unit.
District officials said second graders will no longer learn about “Asian culture though the religious beliefs of that region.” Officials said the decision was made after concerned parents called.
But many other parents were outraged by the move.
SHIPPENSBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – A note sent to parents of second graders in the Shippensburg Area School District raised some eyebrows. It was about why the school district pulled a unit.
In the letter, it read that the district is “pulling the unit that teaches children about Asian culture through the religious beliefs of that region.”
That note has a lot of parents talking.
“When I read it I felt like this is exactly the type of xenophobic and bigoted behavior that we should not be perpetuating with our kids,” said Jamie Knupp, a concerned parent. “By saying we can’t learn about something like that, that’s exactly what we’re doing.”
“I was upset because like I said, she was really enjoying the subject and it’s part of the world,” said Jon Connelly, a concerned parent. “Every part of this world is different and it expanded her mind and opened her mind and views to new things she had never leaned before.”
Not everyone was upset about the decision to pull the lesson. In fact, the letter read, “Recently we have had parents contact us with concerns about some of the religious content in the unit about asian culture.”
Administrators in the district looked into it and agreed.
The superintendent, Beth Bender, said it’s not the topic that’s the problem, but the level of reasoning in that unit.
“Many of them are still learning the religious choices of their own families. They’re very concrete in the way they learn things. They haven’t quite reached the abstract stage of reasoning where they can comprehend the differences in religions,” said Bender. “So we choose to teach cultures and tolerance through broader topics at the elementary level.”
Bender said second graders are still learning about other cultures, it’s just at a level they understand.
“Even when we study our own PA history at an elementary level we do not discover it through a religious lens,” Bender said. “We look at the other identifying factors of a culture.”
The Bender said they teach world religions and their impact on culture to middle and high school students.
“We do teach Asian studies from a religious approach. We teach all religions and their impact on culture at both the middle school and high school. But it is not currently part of the district approved curriculum at the elementary level because of the way children at that level learn,” said Bender.