Tim Hall, Ph.D.
As I detailed in my previous blog, knowledge of religions is essential as we globalize in the 21st century. Our world is getting smaller, and students will have more contact with other faith traditions. An understanding of religions will allow students to interact with others successfully. Using the Four Domains of Global Competence developed by the Asia Society, an understanding of religious beliefs provides students an opportunity to investigate the world beyond their immediate environment, recognize their own and others’ perspectives, and communicate their idea effectively with diverse audiences.
This understanding is most readily evidenced in the International Community School (ICS), a public charter school located several miles outside of Atlanta, Georgia. The founders of this charter school agreed that religious understanding should be an essential contributor to the kind of intercultural exchange they wanted to create. The school employs as core values the centrality of spirituality for the school community. The preference of the term “spirituality” over “religion” helps to communicate the inclusivity of various traditions and expressions of faith fundamental to the formation of this microcosmic global civic space. The result is a school where religious identity is being negotiated with global and local forces for the sake of an emerging shared vision of a beloved community.
This type of perspective has also been brought to Quebec through the Ethics and Religious Culture program implemented in all schools. The program’s objective is the recognition of all people and the pursuit of the common good with the three learning goals of reflection on ethical questions, an understanding of religion, and engaging in dialogue. Regardless of its critics, both in secular and religious camps, the importance of this compulsory program for Quebec schools cannot be denied.
Other schools should also consider bringing religion into the curriculum in commonsensical ways. If we are working towards a world with a better understanding, understanding religion and its dimensions is a priority.