Friday, March 1, 2013

Teaching Religion In Public Schools

I ran across an article about how some states are trying to integrate discussions (and practices) of various religious groups into their instruction. It is a difficult venture, one that I've seen in many schools in Texas, Kansas, and Missouri. Some  teachers lead their classes in excellent, open discussions about religions that aren't their own. Other teachers can't -- they have their own strong religious beliefs, and to give equal validity to another religion -- especially ones they don't agree with -- is more than they can overcome. And it shows.

An aside: When I first came to Kansas, I taught in a small, rural, 4-classroom/8-grade level elementary school. When I heard we'd be having religion class in the middle of the day, I was enthused and told the nuns who came by to visit all about how I had divided my social studies classroom last year in Texas into six groups, with each group studying one major world religion. The nuns didn't say a word.

I was new to the school. Their religion class was taught to the Catholic children in my classroom; any non-Catholics (I had one Protestant) could remain in the classroom with me during that time. (This is how public education is tweaked in some rural settings, I came to learn.) I don't know what that one boy and I did during that time, but I do remember it wasn't religion. Maybe an extra art time?