The Examiner U-46 News Feed
U-46 board member post attracts public attention
By Seth Hancock
“Do you know what your children are being taught?”
That’s a question School District U-46 Board of Education member Jeanette Ward recently posed in a social media post in which she described an article and assignment one of her daughters, a middle school student in the district, received stating the article was “utterly incorrect and false on many levels.” She noted that instances like this are one of the reasons she focuses on resource proposals and has voted no on several occasions.
In response to a member of the public’s question on her page, Ward said the assignment was given in an English Language Arts class.
The article, which Ward included in her post, stated as fact that Christians, Jews and Muslims “all believe in the same God.”
Jesus Christ is reduced merely to a prophet for Christians according to the article which stating he was “another prophet of the same God” as both Jews and Muslims.
For informing the public of the assignment, Ward was accused of being uncivil and disrespectful by members of various religious institutions in the area as four spoke during public comments at the board meeting on Monday, Dec. 18.
Katie Shaw Thompson, a pastor at Highland Avenue Church of the Brethren in Elgin, said that the day before the meeting “a group of faith leaders from varying traditions” met to discuss how to respond to Ward’s post.
Thompson said the group agreed with Ward’s assessment of the article but they “strongly take exception” to her informing the public on social media.
“We agreed that the article lacked nuance and generosity in its description of these three faith traditions which we represent,” Thompson said. “None of us saw our faith traditions represented in their fullness in the article as represented from the school’s curriculum. We sympathize with Ms. Ward on this point.”
Thompson added: “However, we feel that more important than the content of the article is the question of how we are to engage with inevitable differences of opinion, theology and world view.”
Sulayman Hassan, a Muslim with Baitul Ilm Academy in Streamwood, said instead of informing the public Ward should have used it as a chance to teach her children, something Ward later noted she did.
“When such articles and statements are presented to our children, we believe it is helpful to use these instances as opportunities to teach them why we disagree with the information being presented and how to do so with respect and humility,” Hassan said. “Indeed, we believe that teaching our children to identify, understand and even challenge ideas with which they do not agree is helpful training for them as students, citizens and people of faith.”
Steven Peskind, a rabbi and hospital chaplain from Streamwood, said he has a “deep concern about the well-being of our community, including a deep concern for what the children of our community are taught.”
“Faithful, respectful leadership means engaging teachers and administrators directly,” Peskind said. “Faithful, respectful leadership means fostering kind and curious conversations about our differences that bring us closer together rather than further divide us.”
Denise Tracy, a reverend and president of the Coalition of Elgin Religious Leaders, said the group wants to “bring out the best in our diverse community by engaging in respectful dialogue that honors both our differences and the worth of every person.”
In response, Ward thanked those individuals for speaking but asked some rhetorical questions: “Which part of my Facebook post offended you? The part where I asked if Muslims believe in the same God as Christians and Jews? Or the part where I stated that the excerpt I posted from my daughter’s homework assignment was ‘utterly incorrect and false on many levels?’”
“There is nothing in that post that is uncivil,” Ward said. “I was pointing out that the claim made was factually in error and deeply offensive to many Muslims, Jews and Christians.”
Ward said she shared their concerns with what is being taught to students and agreed it was a teachable moment, and she noted that she not only used it as such with her children but also did engage the teacher.
“You can be certain that my husband and I discussed it with both our daughters at length and that we contacted the teacher,” Ward said. “But how were the other parents and pastors in the community to know this was being taught unless I informed them? It is my obligation to inform parents and taxpayers, which is exactly what I did, and will continue to do.”
Ward added: “Parents and pastors shouldn’t have to undo what has been taught by schools. Sadly, that is not the case.”