April 11, 2016
ISIS. The Supreme Court ruling on gay marriage. The confederate flag. Christian extremists. Policing minority communities. Trump.
Lately, headlines like these that create controversy are drowning us in our uncertainty and drawing us to our television screens to get the latest update on religion and politics in our communities. Teaching about these topics in school isn’t easy, and the media doesn’t help with the amount of pressure teachers face, so when students see these headlines, and want to talk about them every chance they get, it’s ultimately up to teachers to clarify any inquiries.
“It’s healthy and educational for teens to examine never-ending debates in which they’ll be exposed to when they become adults,” world history teacher Britt Cottingham said.
If education continues at the rate it’s going, U.S. students will grow up in ignorance of the world religions. But by the same token, they grow up in ignorance of the world’s dead religions, or the fact that the nonreligious and non adherents are among the largest segments of the world, when it comes to religious identification. According to Pew Research Center, today in the United States fully one in five adults and one in three young persons identifies as “nonreligious.” Despite what should be taught, Americans aren’t prepared to accept it in a fair and neutral manner. Ultimately, the object of any public school class, no matter the subject, ought to be to teach critical thinking skills. Are religionists willing to agree that children should be taught in public schools to question religion?
“A skill people need to learn is context; there has to be relevance to everything you’re talking about, particularly in religion,” administrator James Bishop said. “Some people try to talk about religion in every context and it’s usually not appropriate.”
Does religion belong in the classroom at all, or should schools be safe havens from never-ending partisan battles? Can teachers use controversial issues as learning opportunities? Should teachers share with students their own religious viewpoints and opinions? The answer to these questions is simply, yes. Teachers teach in fear of being fired because of something that they might say. They have to become robots when teaching such a touchy subject, so that they don’t offend students. With experience come new strategies. Some teachers choose to share their personal experiences and beliefs with students to give them perspective. Walking the thin line between informing and persuading, teachers face difficult situations risking their career.
There are thousands of religions in the world, all claiming to be the “One Truth Faith”. Teachers are given the role to analyze and evaluate them, and let students form their own opinions.