This dialogue is a composite of two classroom experiences. It is from experiences so troubling to me that I'm reluctant to report them. Even though the experiences have been merged to protect the guilty, the essential facts have not been changed. The exchange reported here took place in a college class for future elementary teachers. These future teachers had been preparing materials that they intend to use when they teach our elementary students. One student prepared bulletin board materials that she intends to use to introduce important holidays and was showing the class the materials. The teacher had made the point earlier that holidays in the schools are not only for celebration but for education.

Student one: "These materials will introduce Easter. I have some Easter lilies and other flowers, and we will look at how things grow in the spring."Teacher: "What is it you want to teach about Easter?"

Student one: "Since Easter is in the spring, all the trees and flowers are coming out. I could also talk about hibernation of animals. I have some art projects. We'll make some rabbits out of construction paper."

Teacher: "What are we really celebrating at Easter?"

Student one: "I'm not sure."

Teacher: "Can anyone in the class help?"

Student two: "It's the time that Mormons celebrate the birth of Jesus."

Student three: "That may be what Mormons celebrate, but as a Catholic I celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus."

Student one: "I should have known that."

Teacher: "Would you teach your elementary school students about what is celebrated at Easter?"

Student one: "I wouldn't. Isn't it against the law?"

Teacher: "It depends on the context and how it is taught whether it's against the law. Suppose that it is clearly within the bounds of church-state separation, would you teach students about what Easter celebrates?"

Student one: "Probably not."

Teacher: "Why?"

Student one: "Obviously, some of the students won't be Mormons."

Student two: "All Christians celebrate Easter."

Student one: "Well, some of the students may not believe Easter so it wouldn't be a good idea to teach anything about it."

Teacher: "Let me draw an analogy and then ask about teaching about Christianity or any religion again. We are in the middle now of the Jewish Festival of Lights, Hanukkah. It is an eight-day Jewish holiday that begins the 25th day of Kislev and commemorates the rededication of the Temple of Jerusalem after its defilement by Antiochus of Syria. The temple rededication requires that oil lamps burn for eight days, and there was only enough oil for one day. The lamp was lit anyway and miraculously burned for the required time.

"During this current celebration Rabbi Benny Zippel lit the first candle of Hanukkah at the ZCMI Center in downtown Salt Lake City. Each evening for the eight days of Hanukkah, one of the candles of the Menorah will be lit by the mother or oldest daughter in Jewish homes around the world. They will all remember the miracle at the temple rededication. Just for historical context, this rededication was about a half century before the birth of Jesus Christ."

"Would you teach this to your elementary students?

Student one: "Yes, it's interesting."

Teacher: "Would you teach it even though some will not believe Hanukkah?"

Student one: "I think so."

Teacher: "Should we teach about Islam even though most of our students won't be Muslims?"

Student one: "I don't know. Isn't it violent?"

Teacher: "Your question about Muslims is for another day and reflects a common misconception."

Student one: "I guess I should learn about religions, but I'm not sure I want to teach about them."

Teacher: "I suppose we are back to my first question. Would you teach what Easter celebrates to elementary school students?"

Student one: "I just get nervous talking about any religion in school. I don't think so."