Difficult But Not Impossible
The concept of teaching about religion rather than teaching religion really is great in theory. However, there are a few leaks in the boat that need to be sealed before it can set sail. For this plan to work, the school district will need to ensure that each and every teacher has been properly trained to teach this rigidly strict curriculum in an entirely unbiased and neutral manner. This means reaching a certain standard in the and passing and some kind of evaluation in relation to the mandatory 30-hours of training required to be certified to teach the world religions course. Furthermore, we have to prepare for the possibility that teachers would disregard their training and take advantage of their position of influence in the classroom to sway students’ opinions in one direction or another.
This is particularly sensitive because the most widely accepted religions curriculum in practice in the United States is designed to be taught in the 9th grade. Children are frequently compared to sponges because they are constantly and consistently absorbing every piece of information their senses perceive. Especially at this stage in a child’s life when they are beginning to form their own beliefs and opinions, it’s crucial that they be armed with the proper information and understanding to make informed decisions on what ideals and convictions will guide their lifestyles. This is why finding teachers and supervisors who are dedicated to being objective in this matter is crucial to the success of these programs.
The John C. Danforth Center on Religion and Politics at Washington University in St. Louis runs a blog titled “Religion & Politics.” In January of 2014, Annie Laurie Gaylor wrote this in her article “The Dangers of Religious Instruction in Public Schools”:
The Freedom From Religion Foundation is continually contacted by students and parents who encounter teachers and principals who view their captive audience of students as a ripe mission field for recruitment. We handle more than 2,000 complaints a year by members of the public concerned about violations of the separation between church and state, and the vast majority of these concern violations in our public schools.
Finding teachers dedicated to teaching students in an ethical manor is becoming increasingly important as well as difficult because too many teachers fail to see or recognize the dire importance of this situation. I’m in no way saying that every teacher is determined to brainwash their students into believing a certain way. However, it’s exceptionally difficult to pick out the bad from the good. Furthermore, the observation and evaluation processes required to determine which teachers are fit for their position and time consuming and disruptive to the general learning environment. However in a situation such as this, I full believe these extensive measures to be more than worth it. I don’t believe any valid argument has been made against the need to educate students on religion in order to make them more aware of the current climate we’re living in. That being said, we simply need to work towards making it happen in a way that will satisfy both sides of the conversation.
There are plenty of educators all over the world who believe in this cause the way the rest of us do and I believe they would adapt to the situation in whatever way needed in order to accomplish our common goal: to properly educate the up and coming generations of students on matters of religion and culture that other generations were not privy to. The school district of Modesto, California is living proof that this can work. Modesto’s unparalleled success should be recognized and their methods be used as the starting point for school districts across America. Specifically, their experiment highlights the importance of well-trained teachers, a good understanding of the law, finding compromise and working towards a common goal. Progress cannot be made with two forces pulling in opposite directions, we’ll simply remain in the same place but end up more frustrated. Our mission will be difficult but not impossible.
1Kilman, Carrie. “One Nation, Many Gods.” Teaching Tolerance. N.p., 2007. Web. 11 Nov. 2016.
2You are being redirected… (n.d.). Retrieved November 10, 2016, from http://archive.adl.org/religion_ps_2004/religion.html
3Fischer, M. W. (n.d.). Teaching Religion in Public Schools: Removing the Angst. Retrieved November 11, 2016, from http://www.educationworld.com/a_curr/profdev027.shtml
4Pros and Cons of Prayer in School. (n.d.). Retrieved November 10, 2016, from http://www.allabouthistory.org/pros-and-cons-of-prayer-in-school-faq.htm