In America, religion has long been a part of education, from singing national hymns that mention God, to “quiet times” that are allowed to act as moments of prayer for the faithful. But should religion enter into a public school’s curriculum? I would say “yes” but only in a secular way. Religion is important for students to understand and to know about in order to be competent and tolerant citizens. It is an intrinsic part of American life, and if students want to be functioning parts of their communities, they need to comprehend the impact and importance of religion.
Since 89 percent of U.S. citizens say they are religious and 62 percent of those individuals claim they are highly so (Brown, Matthew Hay), it is key that students develop into people who are knowledgeable about this field. Though the U.S. has been mostly identified as a Christian nation, it is home to a myriad of faiths. This is due to many immigrants entering the country at all times and its legally open policy towards religious tolerance. In order to become open-minded citizens and to peacefully coexist with people of different faiths, instruction about religions should be given to students in public schools.
Religion lends itself to culture. America is definitely a multicultural nation, despite its historical view as a “melting pot.” Since the 1960s, American society has been more bent on the inclusion of immigrants’ cultural practices and to celebrate them. Therefore, teaching about religions in classrooms not only make students familiar with diverse faiths but also allows them to peek into the fabric of many cultures that the U.S. harbors. This inculcates a positive attitude towards a variety of people and an understanding that is sorely needed in American society (“How to Teach Children About Cultural Awareness and Diversity”).
History is chockful with religious wars, governments controlled by religion, trade and conquest based on faiths, and more. If we leave this information out of our history classes, we surely will neglect this subject. Having classes focused on how religion has influenced wars, governments, trade, and the expansion of territories will be enlightening to students. It will give them a concentrated look at how an essential facet of American society has affected history comprehensively. The Department of History of Yale emphasizes this viewpoint: “Religious institutions—ruled by men and, more rarely, women—have developed sometimes in collusion with and sometimes in antagonism to government power. Religions have been a basic factor of human history in all places and times, and remain so in our own world today. They have been some of the most important forces shaping knowledge, the arts, and technology” (“Religion in Context”). Therefore, not mentioning, or giving little attention to, how religion has impacted history would be a travesty.
Though teaching about religion in public schools can seem controversial, as long as it is done in a secular way, it is beneficial for students. I believe in this for several reasons: America is the most religious industrialized nation, it is important to inculcate multicultural awareness, and it is an essential part of history. Therefore, students can greatly benefit from learning about religion through these lenses.
Brown, Matthew Hay. “U.S. Is Most Religious in Industrialized World.” Baltimoresun.com, 27 Apr. 2016, www.baltimoresun.com/bs-mtblog-2009-12-united_states_is_most_religiou-story.html.
“How to Teach Children About Cultural Awareness and Diversity.” PBS, Public Broadcasting Service, www.pbs.org/parents/thrive/how-to-teach-children-about-cultural-awareness-and-diversity.
“Religion in Context.” Religion in Context | Department of History, history.yale.edu/academics/undergraduate-program/regions-and-pathways/religion-context.