This article in the Columbus Dispatch makes me wonder why high school atheist groups aren’t as abundant as they ought to be. Considering how many atheists say they first got rid of their faith at around the age of 14-15, they seem like they would be more prevalent:
The students in the group discuss belief systems, science and politics in after-school meetings on Thursdays. They’re planning community-service work, possibly with a Christian club at the school, and considering field trips.
This high-school chapter of the Secular Student Alliance has been around for six years and is advised by Earth-science teacher Jeff Bakunas.
Nationally, the Secular Student Alliance has 228 chapters, with 12 at high schools and 216 at colleges and universities.
The Secular Student Alliance has been contacted by high-school students who want to start a group but can’t find a teacher willing to advise. Taking that role can hurt an educator’s career in some places, [SSA Executive Director August] Brunsman said.
And, of course, you can’t have a nice article about atheists without finding someone religious to offer ridiculous resistance:
To Christian educator Chris Joseph, principal of Gahanna Christian Academy’s middle and high schools, such freedom [to develop your religious beliefs] is dangerous. Teens who think they can be “good without God” miss out on a relationship with Jesus that will offer them salvation, he said.
Hmm… I abstained from some Jesus-loving all throughout high school. My religious celibacy was fantastic.
In the battle of salvation versus reality, it’s no contest. Many teens see right through preachers’ lies.
As Jesse mentioned on this site a couple weeks ago, the Stiefel Freethought Foundation gave the SSA a $50,000 grant to start up high school chapters. We’re in the process now of putting that money to use, so I hope this is only the first of many high school atheist groups you’ll see in the papers 🙂
But there are obstacles. One of the hardest things is finding a faculty member willing to sponsor such a group:
Jeff Bakunas, the sponsor of the group featured in the article, perfectly shows how to handle the role:
At Hayes, Bakunas takes a hands-off approach to group discussions, occasionally interjecting with a question or to challenge a statement.
That’s what you need. A devil’s advocate. Someone who can make you think, without necessarily steering you toward his or her point of view. That type of thing might work in college, but you don’t want to “give away the answers” in high school. Let the kids figure it out for themselves.