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  #1 (permalink)  
Unread Dec 20th, 2009, 10:20 pm
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Default "Why is Jesus an ESL Taboo?"

When I asked a bunch of kids in a school in China why westerners celebrate Christmas one student confidently said it was the celebration of Santa Claus' Birthday. When I asked other teachers they told me they liked to keep it as secular as possible. I understand that most of us like to keep Christmas as secular as possible. But is it not worth telling the kids whose birthday it is? I wonder why the word Jesus has become such an ESL Christmas taboo. Is there anything wrong with giving at least a background knowledge to the students? I wonder whether anyone has noticed this? It is not about teaching religion.
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Unread Dec 21st, 2009, 07:26 am
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Default Re: "Why is Jesus an ESL Taboo?"

Well, yes. I have noticed and there are two thoughts as to why Jesus is so taboo in the teaching of Christmas. One is some people might not want "religion" forced on them in their public education system or they don't want their children exposed to conflicting views. The other, and I fear might be more real, is from the corporate world that wants everyone to share in the spending frenzy of the materialistic season. They don't want it to go back to a Christian holiday ... (The Christmas tree actually comes from a pagan religion, adopted in an atempt to spread Christianity and Santa Claus in the red and white is from ColaCola)

Anyway, I don't side-step the issue. It's not false to say that Christmas is celebrated as the day of the birth of Jesus Christ.

In the same light people aren't teaching Halloween any more either. They are calling it "Fall Harvest Festival" and having "costume parties". I don't side-step that either. I teach Halloween as is, even though I am Christian.

I approach the situation with tolerance, understanding and education. It's better to know about something, accept that others believe the same or something different, and understand the thing. That's much better than lies or avoidance in my opinion.
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Unread Dec 21st, 2009, 09:18 am
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Default Re: "Why is Jesus an ESL Taboo?"

I see your point Mark and it makes perfect sense, but it is kind of hard for those of us who were brought up in a deep Catholic faith to see that all the Christian aspect is lost. I would never force my faith on someone else, but seeing the original meaning of Christmas usurped by a pagan concept makes is a bit sad and especially if there is not even a single mention of it. Although the number of profound Christians in the western world is dwindling, it still remains the basis of a lot of our western cultures even if we don't admit it. I am talking about our moral educaton having a lot of semblance to teachings in the Bible.
As for Halloween I had difficulties teaching it at first but finally stuck to the fun aspect of it for the kids. That said Halloween is kind of different though. It is not really a religious festival, is it?
It is good to know how others view the subject.
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Unread Dec 21st, 2009, 01:50 pm
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Default Re: "Why is Jesus an ESL Taboo?"

Kisito, I think you could definitely mention the fact of whose birth it is at least as an explanation for its name (Christmas) And since there are Michaelmas and stuff. At least to the adult learners
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  #5 (permalink)  
Unread Jan 27th, 2010, 07:23 pm
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Default Re: "Why is Jesus an ESL Taboo?"

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I see your point Mark and it makes perfect sense, but it is kind of hard for those of us who were brought up in a deep Catholic faith to see that all the Christian aspect is lost. I would never force my faith on someone else, but seeing the original meaning of Christmas usurped by a pagan concept makes is a bit sad and especially if there is not even a single mention of it. Although the number of profound Christians in the western world is dwindling, it still remains the basis of a lot of our western cultures even if we don't admit it. I am talking about our moral educaton having a lot of semblance to teachings in the Bible.
As for Halloween I had difficulties teaching it at first but finally stuck to the fun aspect of it for the kids. That said Halloween is kind of different though. It is not really a religious festival, is it?
It is good to know how others view the subject.
Sorry for rezzing this thread but I am new here and have been reading many posts on this forum both old and new and this is one where I feel I must chime in.

First of all, I do not believe you understand the history behind Christmas and many of the other so called Christian holidays. Jesus was not born on Dec. 25th and the current incarnation of Christmas is not being usurped by a pagan concept. In fact, the holiday is a pagan holiday which was twisted by the Christians to match their beliefs while keeping a day already important to those they were attempting to exert influence over. Christmas falling on Dec 25 is nothing more then an attempt to assimilate pagans into a christian belief structure.

This type of assimilation is not isolated to the Christians or Christmas by any means. It has been used throughout history in order to make a new belief system easier to accept by those who were conquered. The rationale being that if a group of people is going to be celebrating something on a specific day, those in power can put their own holiday on the same date to take much of the power and cache of the old belief system away. Its quite brilliant actually and considering how many of our current holidays fall on the days they do as a result of this assimilation with the vast majority of current believers being unaware is proof of its effectiveness.


Just so you understand, I am not attempting to start a religious debate here, please do your own research and the validity of my statements will become clear.

..More on topic again, there is no reason ever to mention Jesus in any teaching environment outside of "Catholic Schools" and similar institutions where it has been approved for the curriculum. I stress again that I do not want to kick off a debate here, however I do want to point out it would be absurd for any teacher to make mention of the Flying Spaghetti Monster's birthday or when L. Ron Hubbard's marklars first landed on Earth or whatever so why make an exception for Christian beliefs?

Granted, I am new here and new at teaching ESL in general but depending on the country you are teaching in, this kind of thing may be frowned upon to varying degrees or flat out not permitted by the coutry you are a guest of. Why risk upsetting the apple cart simply to make mention that your make believe deity of choice was born on suchandsuch a day?
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  #6 (permalink)  
Unread Jan 28th, 2010, 02:30 am
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Default Re: "Why is Jesus an ESL Taboo?"

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Why risk upsetting the apple cart simply to make mention that your make believe deity of choice was born on suchandsuch a day?
Joseph - it's certainly OK to bring this back or even start a religious debate, but you don't really seem to be bringing the tolerance and understanding I was talking about when I said:

"It's better to know about something, accept that others believe the same or something different, and understand the thing. That's much better than lies or avoidance in my opinion."

If you don't believe Jesus should be mentioned when talking about Christmas (or anywhere outside of Catholic schools), that's fine, but please understand that other people just as strongly believe the opposite. We all have our reasons.

If I said I understand where you are coming from and that if you don't feel comfortable with the subject matter you can opt not to teach it, would you provide me with the same courtesy? Would you allow me the option of teaching explaining the facts behind Christmas to my class?
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  #7 (permalink)  
Unread Jan 28th, 2010, 08:25 am
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Default Re: "Why is Jesus an ESL Taboo?"

Your thought process confuses me. You say that talking about Dec 25th as Jesus' birthday is better than lies but that in and of itself is in fact a lie. You do not have to take my word for it, google will show you the path.

I am actually an extremely tolerant person. I do not care how absurd or ridiculous somebodies beliefs are so long as they help somebody be a better person for having them. That is not the common result of belief I am afraid. I do draw the line at pushing beliefs on others. Sure, one can say that mentioning Dec 25th is Jesus' birthday is not pushing an agenda but it is. Religion should be left to the individuals and the families and as guests in foreign countries we should be especially low key on the subject.

The other issue I take is that some like to portray their beliefs as facts even after being shown how completely wrong they are. Belief != Facts, that's why they call it belief. Belief is a powerful thing and it can have such a strong influence on some that they eschew reason and no longer think for themselves and become less likely to question other things they are told by figures of authority. To me, that is dangerous. Extremely dangerous.

Making our students aware of DEC 25th as the birthday of Jesus just to introduce the children to the idea of Jesus or Christianity or Catholicism or whatnot can be sugar coated to sound like a great idea but most things can. I think you know better though. It simply is not the place of an ESL teacher to introduce students to this type of information, especially when it is inaccurate.

So if you wish to explain the facts of Christmas to your class, I will not object one bit. You should do some research and teach them the actual facts though instead of parroting what you gave been told, you may find you have just as much to learn as your students.

As for why I don't want this to turn into a religious debate (which we are very close to) it's simply because nobody is going to change their minds. I can present the most well though out and intelligent argument backed with facts to illustrate my points (not that I have, far from it) and people who believe other things will still believe them regardless of how wrong they are. Sad to say but belief makes people ignorant in many cases. There is nothing to win really except the small pleasure of 'hearing oneself talk' and that has worn thin for me here.
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  #8 (permalink)  
Unread Jan 28th, 2010, 10:10 am
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Default Re: "Why is Jesus an ESL Taboo?"

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Belief is a powerful thing and it can have such a strong influence on some that they eschew reason and no longer think for themselves and become less likely to question other things they are told by figures of authority. To me, that is dangerous. Extremely dangerous.
Can I point out that you believe you are right. And in your own definition of belief, you define yourself as dangerous. You haven't prefaced anything you've said so far with "I think..." "It could be that ..." "In my opinion ..." You are spewing all this as fact, when indeed it's simply what you believe based on what you've read (from people who believed something.) What you might perceive as proof can also be shown to be perception by either side.

I'm sure most Christians agree with you (if that doesn't upset you too much.) Christmas is the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ, not the day he was actually born. If I'm not mistaken I think most scholars put his actual birth in the summer sometime.

Are you saying that Christmas is NOT the celebration of the birth of Jesus? Or are you trying to point out that he wasn't actually born on December 25th? As far as I can tell, nobody is arguing that.

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I do not care how absurd or ridiculous somebodies beliefs are so long as they help somebody be a better person for having them.
by using the words "absurd" and "ridiculous", it sounds as though you do care ... a lot ... It also sounds as though you are not "extremely tolerant".

Just for fun sake ... I assume you are American (as am I.) Can I ask how old you are and if you are married? I'm assuming American, young and not married but I could be wrong.

Another question, I assume you think we evolved and that's fine because you've read as such, but where did that first cell get its DNA it needed to replicate? That's really the million dollar question isn't it, because we know for a fact (because you like concrete facts) that a cell can't replicate without DNA. We also know DNA to be basically a code of information. Follow through with that and assume it formed with DNA, where did it get the RNA needed to translate the code?

The Origin of Species was published in 1859. We have learned a lot about those "simple" cells over the last 150 years ...

Again, I'm assuming you actually do want to get off topic, but the original question still remains. Feel free to ignore all of the above, and I'd love to see if you actually can, because you I know you don't need to "hear yourself talk"... But, when asked what is Christmas or in even just wanting to explain why Christmas is a holiday, what is your problem again with stating the truth? It's the day Christians celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. Christians believe Jesus is the son of God.

*******
Eric, my apologies, and if this needs to be nipped in the bud I certainly understand.
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  #9 (permalink)  
Unread Jan 28th, 2010, 12:05 pm
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Default Re: "Why is Jesus an ESL Taboo?"

Your arguments are flawed. By your logic, everything can be considered a belief. I believe I am correct based on history, critical thinking skills, history, and lack of fear of the unknown.

Did I mention history?

Also, read the original post where he states..
Quote:
But is it not worth telling the kids whose birthday it is?
when referring to Christmas. I made a rebuttal against that. The OP did not say "Is it not worth telling the kids whose birthday is being celebrated on a day that isn't his actual birthday just so it coincides with a pagan holiday to help Christians convert them easier"....to which I would have had to agree with the thought for accuracy but still disagree on it being a good idea to discuss in an ESL class. I also took umbrage with your statements that..

Quote:
They don't want it to go back to a Christian holiday
and
Quote:
"It's better to know about something, accept that others believe the same or something different, and understand the thing. That's much better than lies or avoidance in my opinion."
How can it go back to something it never really was? Its not a Christian holiday, its a pagan holiday the Christians bastardized. You seem to grasp that only partially. Also, yes it currently is acknowledged by some that Christmas is not the actual birthday of Christ but that is a fairly new phenomenon. For many, many years it has been portrayed as the actual birthday of Christ, which is a flat out lie the majority still believes to be factual.

Also, if an ESL teacher is taking in upon themselves to 'enlighten' students on the beliefs of others as it pertains to Christmas or whatnot, unless they are also doing so for every other belief structure out there then they are indeed pushing an agenda. They are doing so in a mild way but doing it just the same. Is this the role of an ESL teacher? I am afraid I missed that chapter while I was studying for certification. I also missed the then/than day though so /shrug

Your statements about the current image of Santa in red and white being Coca-Colas doing are only partially correct as well. Images of Santa similar to those we are accustomed to currently have appeared prior to the Coca-Cola renderings. The drawings however did go a loooooong way to cementing that image as the one we accept for Santa today. Coca-Cola popularized the image on a mass scale but in no way created it. You do not have to take my word for it, go do your own research. Educate yourself.


As to your quasi scientific question, I am not afraid or ashamed to say that I simply do not know the answer. I will not however make up things to cover the fact that I do not know. I will not create an entity or series of entities and give him/her/it/them power over or credit for the things I do not know or understand or can not readily explain.

If you wish to question my tolerance, that is fine. I may very well not be as tolerant about some things as I think I am. The issue is that I have a have a high tolerance for what people choose to believe (or think I do) but an extremely low tolerance for willful ignorance. Those traits do clash quite often.

I thought I made most of that fairly clear in my earlier posts though. Possibly in my attempts to not be abrasive I have diluted the points I intended to get across. I will remedy that.

1. The OP who has such a 'deep Catholic faith' unfortunately has a shallow understanding of history in general and the history of his own faith in particular.

2. We are guests. We should act like guests and not mention topics which the host country or school does not want discussed regardless of our own beliefs. If this is too much of an issue for some, maybe they should consider teaching elsewhere or possibly not taking advantage of a situation where they have a captive audience and are speaking from a position of authority.

3. I do not care what people believe if it makes them better people. I will still mock people for being superstitious or flat out ignorant but I will do so regardless of what form of superstition their belief structure promotes and not necessarily hold it against the individual. Some people just simply do not know better. It does disappoint me to see otherwise intelligent people harboring ideas that are flat out silly but such is the power of belief.

4. While showing a somewhat better understanding of history by acknowledging the pagan origins of Christmas you fail when discussing Coca-Cola and the current common image of Santa. You also seem willing to ignore what you know about history when it conflicts with your beliefs. You are far from alone on that score so do not feel bad about it.

5. If somebody does not understand something, possibly they should not be discussing it in class.

6. Check your beliefs and superstitions at the door when you are teaching.
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  #10 (permalink)  
Unread Jan 28th, 2010, 05:38 pm
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Default Re: "Why is Jesus an ESL Taboo?"

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1. The OP who has such a 'deep Catholic faith' unfortunately has a shallow understanding of history in general and the history of his own faith in particular.
Well, Joseph it's your condescending words like "shallow" and "silly" that taint your argument with hatred and bias. On what grounds do you even base the comment that his understanding of history is not more complete than your own? Because he has faith in something you can't understand?

Quote:
Quote J_Joseph View Post
2. We are guests. We should act like guests and not mention topics which the host country or school does not want discussed regardless of our own beliefs.
I'm not a guest. I have a house here and I pay taxes. I'm a permanent resident. Don't assume we are all on holiday.

<offensive remarks removed> my apologies

Quote:
Quote J_Joseph View Post
4. While showing a somewhat better understanding of history by acknowledging the pagan origins of Christmas you fail when discussing Coca-Cola and the current common image of Santa. You also seem willing to ignore what you know about history when it conflicts with your beliefs. You are far from alone on that score so do not feel bad about it.
I don't. It's called faith, But there are plenty of supporting facts that you "also seem willing to ignore when it conflicts with your beliefs" ...


Quote:
Quote J_Joseph View Post
5. If somebody does not understand something, possibly they should not be discussing it in class.
Fair enough, but let's not call a different opinion a lack of understanding.

You believe you are correct based upon what other people who believed something have spoon fed you.

Please go back and read how many times you've called people stupid in this thread. If you are trying to enlighten someone, insulting them by calling them 'ignorant', 'childish', 'superstitious' ... doesn't add strength to your argument. Let your argument stand and see how well it stacks up. A good argument doesn't need to rely on attacking the opponent.

If you'd like to explain that Christians attached their celebration of Jesus's birth to the timing of a pagan ritual that was in place in an attempt to draw them away from that, that's fine. That would be correct and a good explanation of where Christmas began.

But to say that Christmas was originally a pagan ritual isn't correct, is it? It began as a celebration at the same time to push the other out. Some of the things, like the Christmas tree have been added that were originally pagan. Buddhist festivals here in Japan did the same thing, taking previous local worship services and creating Buddhist events out of them. Corporate America, the arguably ruling authority, is now trying to take what is a Christian holiday, adopt some of it's customs and change it (force the other out) to serve their own agenda. It's not unique to any culture or belief system.

We might have to just agree to disagree.

Last edited by mesmark : Jan 29th, 2010 at 06:00 pm.
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  #11 (permalink)  
Unread Jan 29th, 2010, 10:39 am
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Default Re: "Why is Jesus an ESL Taboo?"

I've been watching this post for awhile now and I thought I would chime in with my own thoughts on a few points.

First, any foreigner in another country is a guest no matter how long they've been there regardless of taxes payed or properties held. They should be respectful of what the government wishes to be taught in the classroom despite their own beliefs. Besides the fact that you are a guest of the country, you are also an employee of a school and should always teach within the parameters of what they think is appropriate. If any teacher feels like they are compromising their belief, whether religious belief or not, they should consider teaching at another school over even finding another country. This is a hard and fast rule of courtesy.

Second, I've taught in China at a military institution for three years now and I've had little problem talking about religion in any of my classes, but I make sure to speak from a secular view. I mention that Christmas is the celebration of the birth of a man named Jesus who the Christians believe to be the son of God. I also mention how that part of Christmas has been toned down in recent years and turned into more of a festive shopping frenzy by large corporation America. I also mention other religious holidays and make a point to ask about the Chinese religious holidays and beliefs. When asked about the culture of America I also explain how it has been shaped by Protestantism. To sum all this up, I never shy away from talking about religion in my class, no matter which religion, and I have never had a problem, which brings me to my next point.

Third, there is a huge difference between teaching and indoctrinating. I will refrain from detailing the differences here as I assume all parties involved in this debate well know the differences. As long as the point of the in-class discussion is informing and not changing of beliefs then I've never seen a teacher have a problem with explaining anything that has to do with religion. The indoctrinating comes with statements like, "Jesus was born on Christmas". This is statement is stating a fact when it is not a fact but only a belief and stating it as such becomes indoctrination. I use the phrase "only a belief" not to insult, but to stress that a classroom is not a place for beliefs but only facts. In this regard facts are much more important than beliefs.

Fourth, calling someone out on who they are for the sake of an argument is out of line. You not only insult the person you are stereotyping, but also the people that you hit in the "buck-shot" accusations you make.
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Unread Jan 29th, 2010, 03:35 pm
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Default Re: "Why is Jesus an ESL Taboo?"

@mesmark
Your assumptions are all incorrect.

I also do not think you have done a very good job of following along in this conversation. I will no longer attempt to make my points clear to you since I do not feel like banging my head against a wall, nor do I feel like being personally attacked by an individual whose superiority complex is in evidence throughout this thread.

So, you win, winner.

I will however address your attempt to knock down my points simply because I use words like ignorant and superstitious. I suggest you look up the definitions of those words before you try and discredit anyone who uses them accurately. I did not in this thread call anyone stupid, which you falsely claim.

Done with you.
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Unread Jan 29th, 2010, 05:52 pm
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Default Re: "Why is Jesus an ESL Taboo?"

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First, any foreigner in another country is a guest no matter how long they've been there regardless of taxes payed or properties held. They should be respectful of what the government wishes to be taught in the classroom despite their own beliefs.
Well, I understand what you are saying and can I agree that I'm a "visitor", not necessarily a guest.


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Fourth, calling someone out on who they are for the sake of an argument is out of line. You not only insult the person you are stereotyping, but also the people that you hit in the "buck-shot" accusations you make.
To that, I see your point. I will take back my comment and admit that it was out of line.

Can I ask that we all, not just here, but in other places start adding "I think ..." "I believe ..." "..., in my opinion." or things like that?
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Unread Jan 29th, 2010, 10:58 pm
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Default Re: "Why is Jesus an ESL Taboo?"

Quote:
Well, I understand what you are saying and can I agree that I'm a "visitor", not necessarily a guest.
I don't necessarily see the difference between the two as someone who visits somewhere is usually referred to as a guest. But this is arguing semantics, which is something I have no interest in. The point I was trying to make is that anyone who is working for someone else must be respectful of what their employer allows. This is not only true when teaching in another country but is also applicable at any job. It just so happens that when working overseas you have two "employers" per se, the school and the country.

Quote:
Can I ask that we all, not just here, but in other places start adding "I think ..." "I believe ..." "..., in my opinion." or things like that?
I agree whole heartily that people add things like this to their speech on a daily basis. It is the sentence structure of choice when talking about belief. Not only for religion, but other topics such as politics and economics as well.

I am going to be presumptuous and guess where you are going with a question such as this. Belief does pervade our daily lives and many things people take as solid facts are considered beliefs by others. A prime example is the arrangement between creationism and evolution that subtly creeped into this thread. Stating "facts" such as these is equivalent to stating beliefs because they can not be scientifically proven either way at this point. These types of "belief-facts" are especially dangerous as they can be partially proven by science and are often taken as true facts.

But that line of thinking aside, we are teaching English as a Second Language and debates and pitfalls such as these can be easily sidestepped as they are not the focus of the class. Saying "These people believe this..." is sufficient to explain any holiday or phenomenon sufficiently for the class. Again, I believe phrases such as you mentioned earlier have no place in the classroom because they are words of indoctrination.

I apologize if my assumptions on where you were going with that question are wrong.
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Unread Jan 30th, 2010, 01:50 am
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Default Re: "Why is Jesus an ESL Taboo?"

I run my own school here so I am the administration. There are many people like me be certainly anyone working for someone else should follow their employer's guidelines.

I don't think of myself as a "guest" or a "visitor" and I think many green card holders or residents that haven't completed citizenship somewhere out there don't like to think of themselves as guests. This is our home. My wife and kids are citizens here. However, I do realize I'm not a citizen and I certainly could be deported if it came down to it. Let's hope not

and I like the rest of what has been said.

Last edited by mesmark : Feb 8th, 2010 at 09:13 pm.
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Unread Jan 30th, 2010, 08:49 am
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Default Re: "Why is Jesus an ESL Taboo?"

jesus
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Unread Jan 31st, 2010, 07:08 am
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Default Re: "Why is Jesus an ESL Taboo?"

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jesus


That's hilarious!
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Unread Feb 8th, 2010, 07:26 am
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Default Re: "Why is Jesus an ESL Taboo?"

I think this thread should answer the question why Jesus is a taboo topic. The topic can branch out to a lot of arguments and can end in a heated debate.

However, I never really knew it was "taboo" and that teachers are restricted from discussing it.
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