Teaching Religion In Public Schools Essays

Essay on Religion in Public Schools

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The subject of religion in public schools is one that has been debated vigorously and passionately. The warriors from the Right and Left fail to appreciate the facts because they are caught up in the rhetoric and have difficulty viewing this emotional topic dispassionately (Haynes, 2011). Both sides are right about one thing: this is an important subject.
The debate on religion in the public school is complicated by the fact that there are two clauses dealing with religion in the First Amendment (Warnick, 2012). The Establishment Clause, which disallows the establishment by the government of any particular religion, and the Free Exercise Clause, which prohibits the state from proscribing the practice of religion, are a source of…show more content…

These uncertain areas include (a) whether schools endorsing religious views if they allow student-initiated activities to involve school resources and audiences, (b) the lengths to which schools can and should go to in accommodating religious beliefs and practices, and (c) how schools can make certain that accommodations do not become endorsements nor imply such (Warnick, 2012).
In addition to the areas of ambiguity, there is the problem of religious ignorance (Giess, 2012; Haynes, 2011). There is a marked and dramatic ignorance among Americans about religious traditions including their own (Giess, 2012). Ignorance is no virtue and especially so when the opportunity to harm one’s students through intolerance and ignorance is more prevalent than ever before. The US, the predominance of the Christian religion notwithstanding, is becoming more and more diverse religiously (Gunther & Purinton, 2011). This type of ignorance is a contributor to the escalation of religious intolerance that has manifested itself in increasing numbers of hate crimes (Haynes, 2011).
Educators need to understand the impact of religion on the lives of their students. According to Gallup poll data, nearly 95% of teens believe in God and 86% believe that Jesus Christ is either God or the Son of God (Gallup & Lindsay, 1999 as cited in Ream, 2003). These and other similar statistics demonstrate the importance of considering religion when dealing with young people. Ream

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The religious issue in public schools has always been touchy. The thing is that it is not allowed by the law to teach religion to students. At the same time, it is completely legal to teach students about religion. Actually, even Bible and Quran may be studied in public schools – as monuments of the literature of great cultural and historical value. What is important though: teachers should not cross the line between teaching and preaching. Not a single religious literature source may be talked of in a devotional or doctrinal manner – basically, such sources should not be viewed as religious.

Teaching (About) Religion

It might be hard for one to distinguish these two terms: “teaching religion” and “teaching about religion”. So what is the difference? “Teaching religion” regards promoting certain religious doctrines and this action is severely prohibited in public schools. “Teaching about religion”, however, means letting students know the role and the value of various religions in history, culture and development of society in USA and other countries. The tone is what really matters: when teaching about religion, one should stay neutral and objective, regardless of which beliefs he talks.

What Should Teachers Bear in Mind

There are several so called “safety measures”, when talking of teaching about religion in public schools:

  • When discussing religion with students, the teacher should discuss both majority and minority religions, so that no one would feel offended.
  • Speeches on religious beliefs should be very carefully built: children and teenagers are very sensitive, when it comes to peer and public influence. If anyone hears negative comments (or way too positive ones) on a certain religion, he might take these comments too close to heart – and that turns “teaching about religion” process into “teaching religion” one.
  • If the teacher insists on letting every student talk about his own religion, he should, firstly, give everyone enough time to prepare and, secondly, make sure, that students’ speeches will not contain promotions or insults towards certain religion.
  • The teacher should not forget that there are also students, who were raised in families with no particular religious beliefs. That is why such topics as prevailing of the religious beliefs over the non-religious beliefs or vice versa are absolutely unacceptable during the lessons about religion.

What Are the Rules for Secular Values?

It is well known that many religious values match the secular ones. It is only right to teach students such values as compassion, kindness, self-respect and respect for others, honesty and friendliness, and that is precisely what teachers have been doing since the very first schools appeared in the world. At the same time, there should be no religious inclines when teaching these values. The USA is the country, in which every person has the right to choose their own religion and to live by its norms, and teachers at public schools cannot allow themselves to impose a single religion on students, each of who has particular religious (or non-religious) beliefs.

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