GUERNSEY, England – Parents of students at Les Beaucamp High School were irate after learning their children penned letters about converting to Islam as part of an assignment on the religion.
Teacher Amber Stables asked eighth-grade students to explain in a letter to their parents why they are converting to Islam, “how becoming a pupil has changed your life (and) how much you love your family and hope they can accept your choice,” Express reports.
“Focus: How would it make your feel having to tell your parents this?” the teacher said. “How would/could they react?”
The assignment did come with a disclosure: “YOU ARE NOT ACTUALLY CONVERTING TO ISLAM. It is purely to test your knowledge of what we have learnt this year and how well you can argue objectively!”
The assignment sparked mixed reactions from parents, though most were critical, The Sun reports.
One commenter identified by user name milly,snr wrote that she believes the lesson is “dangerous.”
“Teach pupils about religion by all means but be careful when you ask them to be a Muslim. In this day and age when easily led youngsters are being radicalized it is a dangerous road to be taking,” milly,snr posted.
“The idiot who thought this one up is not fit to be in a school or in education. The amount of youngsters heading to Syria without their parents knowing must ring warning bells about how easily led they can be.”
Commenter John West agreed the assignment is an obviously bad idea.
“I think it’s good for children to be taught about other religions but this letter was bound to cause controversy due to the nature of talking about conversion, particularly in light of young people being radicalized in the West,” he wrote.
“It’s a very emotive topic and really not a particularly clever move by the school/education.”
Others criticized parents for overreacting to the assignment.
“Does this really matter?” user Vivica posted, according to the Sun. “It’s a thought experiment. … If you’re worried about your kid being influenced by it maybe you just need to do a better job as a parent!”
The Sun reports the lesson is especially controversial after Guernsey Chief Minister Jonathan Le Tocq announced the inland bailiwick in the English Channel would not accept Syrian refugees because of local “negativity” toward migrants.
Regardless, the Guernsey Education Department is standing behind the teacher’s homework assignment, according to the news site.
“The Guernsey-agreed syllabus for religious education includes a structured framework for ensuring that Christianity and the other five principal religions (Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam and Sikhism) are studied with sufficient depth and breadth throughout the four Key Stages,” a district spokesperson said.
“It is important that our students are able to learn about, understand, investigate and question all that is around them,” it continued. “As with all subjects, homework will be set to cover all areas of the curriculum.”