Preparing children for the world that will be theirs

March 24, 2011 in Question of the Week, Spotlight Answers, When teaching public school students about religion, what is appropriate and what is not? by Barbara A. Holmes

Should the Bible be taught in our public schools? Should our schools also teach students about the Quran, the Book of Mormon, the Vedas and other sacred texts? When it comes to teaching public school students about religion, what is appropriate and what is not?
Because I am an ethicist, questions that begin with the word “should” always pique my interest.  Inevitably, such questions engage our most heartfelt values.  We care deeply about our children and are taught to be uncompromising when it comes to our religious commitments.  This is a formula for conflict rather than curriculum debates. The unspoken fear is that under the guise of “education” our children will be indoctrinated and persuaded by belief systems alien to our own.

I am suggesting that we defer the “should” question for a moment and consider whether or not the courses will enhance or hinder future generations.  Do we want to prepare our children for the world that was, the world that is now, or the world that will be theirs? Is it appropriate for the next generation to have more or less knowledge about their global neighbors and their religious beliefs?

I believe that religion is as important a subject of study as math or science.  If we are to understand one another, it seems important to learn spiritual as well as natural history, religious practices and precepts as well as languages and culture.  Any religious text taught with openness, integrity, and respect will foster wisdom and keep the hope of radical relationality (love of neighbor) within the realm of possibility.