Even though I'm a Christian myself, I seriously doubt that this was written by an 8 year old... this has been transmitted around the internet since at least 1993...
My first thought was that it was a very long essay, and there's no way an 8 year old could have put sentences and paragraphs together the way this "kid" did....
Obviously, any teacher/school district (especially in a state such as California) would have run into major lawsuits for even suggesting an assignment such as this one, unless of course it was a Christian School.
I decided to google "Danny Dutton" and the first item that came up was from the Urban Legends reference page...here is the text of their response, which can be found at:
They list Danny's essay, and the full text of their comments follows:
Origins: We can't assign a precise date or origin to this essay (although we know it's been transmitted around the Internet since May 1993), nor can we swear that an eight-year-old named Danny Dutton Deity from Chula Vista didn't author this piece. We haven't yet been able to track down the enigmatic Mr. Dutton, however.
Due to constitutional issues involving the separation of church and state, a public school teacher in the USA would not now be allowed to assign a third grade class a homework topic of "Explain God," and such an assignment would certainly generate a good deal of public complaint and controversy if a teacher went ahead with it anyway. Nonetheless, we haven't turned up any news stories about an assignment of this nature in the last twenty years or so. (It is possible that the Chula Vista school mentioned here was a private Christian school, where an assignment of "Explain God" would be both permissible and appropriate. In that case this piece would be far less remarkable, though, since it would be taking place in a religious context rather than a secular one, and the student would more likely be simply repeating what he had been taught rather than extemporizing on the nature of God.)
In any case, the wording and structure of this essay tend to indicate a much older author. Much of the vocabulary employed is rather advanced for an 8-year-old, and the construction of the piece doesn't match the style of writing children have usually achieved at that age. Take a look at some examples of real third graders' essays found at the Outdoor Kids Foundation essay contest page: Notice how short and to the point the sentences are, and also how most sentences tend to contain only one concept. Now contrast this to "Danny's" essay, a missive which contains complex gems such as "And now He helps His Dad out by listening to prayers and seeing things which are important for God to take care of and which ones He can take care of Himself without having to bother God."
What to make of such a piece? It's best to view it as a "from the mouths of babes" composition penned by someone far older — someone who believed having his words seemingly issue from a third grader would lend them added poignancy.
Barbara "danny buoyed" Mikkelson
Last updated: 20 December 2001
Also, they provide a link to "Winning Third Grade Essays from the Outdoor Kids Foundation". Here is the full text of each winning essay (all written by 8-year-olds)...
Here is the link:
Here is the full text of all three essays:
Outdoor Kids Foundation - First Ever Essay Contest Winners
Jayna Stone - Room 20
Jayna writes: - "My Fishing Trip"
One day I was packing fishing stuff. Because I was going fishing. When I was packing I couldn't wait to go. After I was done. We set off. It took a while to get there. But we got there. When we got there we had to pull out the boat. Then we got in and my Dad started it. When it started moving I saw lilly pads and turtles.
Then my Dad stopped the boat. We got the worms on the hooks. Then we threw our fishing poles in the water. My sister caught the first fish. I was jealous.
Then my Dad caught the second fish. After that I waited and waited. I finally caught one. I was so happy. Then I packed up my stuff. Went home, took a shower and lived happily ever after. THE END
Joshua writes - Once upon a time me and my dad drove to Maple Island to hunt. We had to walk for a long time until we got to the tree stand. I have never been to the buck stand before. My dad has been there before. Now we are hunting.
We have been hunting for two hours and no deer yet. Then I heard something in the brush. The brush was about 100 yards away. Then the deer stepped out of the brush and walked this way. Now he is about 90 yards away. That is not bow range. So, we are going to have to wait. It is 6:00A.M. The deer is a 10 point. The deer is running this way. Now he is in bow range. My dad gets his deer call and calls the deer it is angle. My dad shoots and gets it! Now we are going to look for it because it ran. Do you know how to track a deer. You look for blood. We have been tracking for one hour, my dad sees the deer. We are going to drag it to the truck. It's been one hour and I see the truck and we run to the truck. Now we are there. Now we are going to go home. It's been 10 minutes now. So we are home and done with out work. THE END.
Shawna Branch - Honorable Mention Essay
"My Camping Trip"
One fine weekend in the middle of August my family decides to go on a camping trip. Our destination - Rothberry. It just happened to be a very cold weekend. We were not at all prepared. We didn't bring enough blanket's or food. But I had my fishing pole. My dad complained and wanted to go home, but my mom was determined to make it a good camping trip. We went to a grocery store and bought worm's so I could go fishing. Mom said real campers went fishing for food. Well it didn't go well. I didn't catch one fish. Instead I caught a turtle. He was the size of a dime. We put him in a bucket and took him home. Mom had given-up on our camping trip. You see dad forgot the cooler which was supposed to be in the truck first. So we had nothing for dinner. We packed up and went home. The cooler was on the porch. We got the hot-dogs out, roasted marshmallow's over the grill at home and we haven't been camping since. THE END.
Anyway, although it sounds good, I seriously doubt the veracity of that story. Whoever made it up obviously had never seen an 8 year old write before