English instructor Nina Kossman infuriated parents at Razi School in Woodside, Queens when she told a class that the story of Creation – central to the three Abrahamic faiths – was a myth. Kossman was prompted to explain the tale after a boy she was teaching claimed Adam had not been born of a woman – and that therefore men were more important than women.
"It was a conversation between the children, but I was right there. One girl was trying to say that girls are as important as boys because without women there would not be any men," she told the New York Post.
One girl asked Kossman: "Teacher, all people are born from a woman's belly, right?"
The teacher nodded, before a boy in the class interjected: "One person was not born from a woman's belly – Adam!"
At this point, Kossman made the intervention that would land her in hot water, saying: "It's just a story, a myth. It's not real."
"Adam is not a story! He is real!," replied the boy but Kossman would not be deterred. She said: "The story of Adam and Eve belongs to three religions; first Judaism, then Christianity, then Islam."
By now most of Kossman's class had begun to challenge her so she looked up the story of Adam and Eve on Wikipedia. Unfortunately, the page included an image of a 17th century painting by Rubens that depicted a naked Adam and Eve. While Kossman was hoping to expand on the historical details surrounding the myth of Adam and Eve, her students became agitated at the sight of naked bodies.
Eventually, Kossman called time on the debate with her students still skeptical. She said: "It's up to you to think that, but it happens to be true."
Parents contacted the school and made angry complaints about the theological dispute and the 'inappropriate' image of Adam and Eve. Kossman has since been removed from the school, which is private but receives government funding because 40% of students qualify for a free lunch.
An unnamed Islamic studies professor from New York University told the Post: "Many religious people think that someone in the scripture is actually an historical truth. To say it is a myth can be deemed offensive."