November 24, 2014
Should religion be brought back as a subject in public schools?
Religious beliefs and practices are central to people's lives, shaping their morality, politics, and life styles. Students of various religious orientations and those with no religious affiliation are entering our nation's schools in increasing numbers. Thus, it is more important than ever that school children learn to understand and respect the perspectives and religious traditions of others. However, historically, public education has failed to find a constitutionally and educationally sound role for religion in schools. Many people believe that the main reason for teaching about religion is to help children to understand beliefs other than their own and to explore the role of religion in shaping the US and other cultures. This paper clearly examines the pros and cons of reintroducing religion back into the public school setting and highlights the important effects that can result from it, not only in students but teachers and parents as well.
“The histories of religion, comparative religion, the Bible, or another scripture as a literature either as a separate course or within some other existing course, are all permissible public school subjects.”1 It is both permissible and desirable to teach objectively about the role of religion in the history of the United States and other countries. One can teach that the Pilgrims came to this country with a particular religious vision, that Catholics and others have been subject to persecution or that many of those participating in the abolitionist, women's suffrage and civil rights movements had religious motivations.
In 1951 the New York Board of Education approved a 22-word “nondenominational prayer” for recitation each morning in the public schools of New York. “It read: “Almighty God, we acknowledge our dependence upon Thee, and we beg Thy...