Why Should Religion Be Part of the Classroom? Part 2

Posted On 8 Nov 2019 by religionmatters

Tim Hall, Ph.D., Founder and Lead Consultant

In this blog, we are going to go deeper into the reasons that religion must be incorporated into the classrooms in America. These arguments can be used separately or jointly to provide a solid case for teaching about religion in the schools with the first three being advanced by Warren Nord and Charles Haynes in the text Taking Religion Seriously Across the Curriculum published at the end of the millennium. 

  1. Civic Argument: Schools must have a common ground. We need to learn to listen to and respect each other on deeply held understandings. So curricula should reflect inclusivity, teaching about religious as well as secular ways of thinking. 
  2. Constitutional Argument: Schools should remain neutral, meaning religious neutral, neutral among religions, and neutral between religion and nonreligion. Schools should not ignore religious perspectives of thinking and living and only teach secular views of thinking and living, which can be religiously contested. 
  3. Liberal Education Argument: Schools based on a liberal arts model of education require that students should be liberally educated. So they must understand a good deal of the content and context of religions. Liberal education is a long educational dialogue in which students listen to, reflect on, and think critically about a variety of perspectives tackling the most critical questions of life. Students should be learning about and from religions to gain a deeper awareness, reflectivity, and understanding of themselves and others. (1)
  4. Global Competence: 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. In more concrete terms using the Four Domains of Global Competence developed by the Asia Society, an understanding of religions 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. 

Regardless, whenever reasons for religion in schools are offered, it is common to hear a chorus of “Yes, but…” from anxious teachers and administrators. Yet, if we are working towards a world with better understanding, our students must understand the dimensions of religion in it.

(1) Warren A. Nord and Charles C. Haynes, Taking Religion Seriously Across the Curriculum (Alexandria, VA: ASCD, 1998).