6. If you have encountered hate speech and disinformation online, in the media, or in any public venue, take action by reporting it here. 3. In 1970, a little fewer than 5 percent of the U.S. population was foreign born. There are lots of other mine fields we could walk into. Urge adoption of the Charter on Journalistic Ethics in Relation to Respect for Religion or Belief. The Quakers, too, are part of our identity that they rarely have a chance to learn about. Programs that "teach about religion" are geared toward teaching students about the role of religion in the historical, cultural, literary and social development of the United States and other nations. There is always the awkward potential for Sally to go home and tell her parents she much prefers the tenets of eastern Buddhism, thanks to her ____ class, to her Methodist upbringing and she’d like to make a temple in the back yard and refrain from going to church from now on. I might navigate a little closer to the boundaries (or a lot closer, to my detriment), but I have refrained from “doing the right thing” many times to avoid the political aftermath of the decision. Today especially, when religious strife is on the rise and religious hatred is diligently fueled by a few, we would do well to learn much more about each other’s faiths. As we were brainstorming what themes to use, I said, “Oh, yeah, don’t forget religion.” Now, I had grown to love and respect these colleagues over a long period of time, and we could pretty much say anything in our meetings and know that we wouldn’t be judged, but when I suggested that groups of students would research and plot the development of the major religions of the world, you’d have thought I’d suggested we convert the 8th grade class to Islam. Four Reasons Why You Should Teach About Religion in School 1. Our student body is more diverse.. Once we get an erroneous idea in our head, it’s very hard to get it out. Making religion an integral part of the fabric of our curriculum may not be easy, but it is certainly legal and well worth the effort if we want to help our kids become independent tolerant critical thinkers who seek to understand and improve themselves and the world in which we live. By allowing the discussion, it usually demystifies the idea of talking about such taboo topics. We shouldn’t shy away from curriculum that could get a little dicey where we have to navigate in volatile waters. Politics and diplomacy have not been the drivers of religion; the reverse is the case. They read quotes from various sacred texts and try to make conjectures on whether they are Eastern, Western, or Indigenous then they try to guess which religion they most sound like. and so on.. For example, some will be anxious to talk about their own religious beliefs at the first opportunity. According to the U.S. Department of Justice's Hate Crime... 2. They also like studying the similarities of the religions within the Western and Eastern religions. Just like any subject we teach at school, studying religion shouldn’t be the study of a series of isolated facts, but sometimes some very basic knowledge offers perspective and opens up a whole new world that they hitherto didn’t have a chance to know about. We heard somewhere that teaching about religions was a violation of church and state, but it is not. Naming oppression is the first step to liberation, and we as educators, have an absolute obligation to provide that space in the curriculum for our students; otherwise, we are being not only irresponsible, but we are promoting institutional racism and prejudice, much of which has its origins in religious persecution. The importance of the subject matter transcends having to live with a little uncertainty and unpredictability. Having said that, it is essential that students have already practiced important dialogue guidelines that have been clearly established prior to the exploration of religion. We can even teach entire electives, called Religious Studies. This piece was originally submitted to our community forums by a reader. Religion Plays a Role in History, Literature, and Current Events. If there’s one thing I’ve learned over the years, creepy ideas aren’t just for extremists. If we are supposed to be teaching our youth to be active citizens in their society, we need to model those behaviors more often. It’s allowed. Politics and diplomacy have not been the drivers of religion; the reverse is the case. Knowledge brings tolerance. Make your voice heard. The subject matter is very important if we are going to understand ourselves. And we are allowing extremists and the under-informed to dictate what we do and do not teach, without even making them lift a finger, before there is even a issue to resolve. Report discrimination of any kind to STAND here, Pew Research Study Finds Christians Under Attack, Scientologists Taking Action Against Discrimination, angry parents storming school board meetings protesting, to prohibit our children from being preached at, converted or “deprogrammed”, simply can’t understand history without some understanding of the religious influences, at least the basic concepts and beliefs of the world’s religions, we would do well to learn much more about each other’s faiths. They also learn the rich history of the Quakers and their firm and early stance against slavery, the subjugation of women, and the suffering of the poor. And then the questions just start flowing. If religion was to be taught in schools the teacher should discuss both majority and minority religions, so that no one would feel offended. But when those kids start to become aware of the direct causes that created the problems they are experiencing in their lives and communities, their consciousness emerges into an empowered individual who is no longer chained to the patterns they see around them. Students can see the long term effects of ideas and beliefs that permeate cultures today that arose from religions and world views of the past. I know I am guilty of the same. We know that religion a perfectly legitimate and important subject to study, but we avoid it out of fear of retribution. Whether it was Christians opposing the teaching of Islam or the like, or atheists protesting any Christian references, the one element all such incidents have in common is very strong emotions. To this day, students who were old enough to remember the Iraq War believe that we went to war because Sadam Hussein was behind 9/11. Should religion be taught in schools? It’s very interesting to them and exciting to uncover a more realistic perspective about the world. The same can be true of other important subjects, such as politics, sex education, racism, bullying, and conflict resolution. Edutopia® and Lucas Education Research™ are trademarks or registered trademarks of the George Lucas Educational Foundation in the U.S. and other countries. It’s one thing to here these statements come out of the mouths of a Ku Klux Klan member, but it’s quite another to come out, in chorus, from the majority of any given classroom of beautiful children. Greater knowledge, not less, is the path to peace on Earth. Grandparent still trying to figure out what I am going to be when I grow up! If those ripple effects happen to be part of American history, we are really learning about layers of ourselves and assumptions about the world that we can now “unpack”, evaluate, then either embrace, reject, amend, or leave them to percolate as we continue our quest for self-identity, our beliefs, and our role in society. Most students think we’re not supposed to talk about religion, so they may react emotionally and impulsively if we don’t prepare them. 1. They want to know who was Buddha, who was Abraham, are Catholics Christians? We must speak of the origins and effects of these prejudices. I usually allow these attempts at shock and awe to play out as long as they stick to the rules of respectful conversations, which include staying on topic, using I statements, among others. The only thing as poignant and powerful as watching someone discover their way out of a previously held prejudice is to watch someone who has been discriminated against and oppressed become aware of their predicament. I remember the kids especially enjoying choosing between ways of knowing between an indigenous and non-indigenous world view, or eastern and western religious world views, then we uncover which views belonged to which group. Religion can be included in our curriculum in a myriad of ways. I’ve found most of the challenges don’t come from legal boundaries at all, but more from the stigma attached to discussing religion in the classroom. My colleagues and I were working on an interdisciplinary unit that included a giant timeline that traced certain historical themes within each region of the world along side of one another, including politics, economics, art and literature, science and invention, and social history. The awkward silence ended with everyone reassuring me that religion would be covered within the other themes. That may be fine for college students, but not high school, certainly not middle school or elementary. Due to audience interest, we've preserved it. These programs should instill understanding, tolerance and respect for a pluralistic society.
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