Counterpoint: Can religion be taught at public schools?

Dan Bidikov, Editor-in-Chief

Religious texts are reviewed for their unarguable role in the development of literature, culture, art- human society in general.  Religion from a secular perspective is a well-developed field of study in colleges and universities everywhere.  And that is where it should stay.

This is not an angst-ridden cry for the total secularization of the school system.  It is not an indirect, drawn out complaint about the words “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance.  Rather, it is somewhere between a criticism and an acceptance of the inevitable immaturity that exists in high school students and non-academic community members that inhibits public education in general.

Most of the difficulty in teaching religion in public schools is an extension of the difficulty in teaching any subject that relies heavily on discussion.

In a culture that advocates touchiness and excuses sensitivity in excess as a healthy outlet of political correctness, it is nearly impossible for young people to find meaning in issues that beg controversy.  As these issues are approached in discussion of any text, it becomes increasingly difficult to keep the conversation strictly academic.

“It is very difficult to teach religion in public schools in a time where the importance of political correctness frequently dominates classroom conversation,” said senior Joel Kagan.

No state certified teachers are required to pass courses that label them as qualified educators of secular theology.  Unlike a college professor or career religion academic, a high school teacher’s professional reputation and paycheck are not dependent on the completeness of their religious knowledge.

The establishment of an elective course in religion would thus be too risky and demanding for the teacher in charge, as there exists too much chance of a slip up that might rub any student the wrong way.

It is likely in designing a course for someone of a specific religious conviction to believe that theirs is not represented within the course in a balanced way.

It is in the district’s best interest to avoid furthering any academic programs related to religion, regardless of how easy it would appear to add a potentially interesting elective course to the curriculum.

The potential damage from heavily covering a possibly controversial subject ranges from an annoyed parent to a massive lawsuit.  Neither outcome is desirable.

“Trying to get something like a theology elective in Schreiber would be a huge pain that likely wouldn’t be worth it, because people can be really irrational when it comes to religion in public school,” said senior Arjuna Lal.

Before a course on religion can be taught properly for the purpose of learning more about ourselves, we need to be aware of how schooled we already are on that subject.

People, high school students in particular, need to be completely wary of both the harm and good of the careful academic dissection of what can be considered a touchy subject.

The value of a religious education (which, it is crucial to note, refers to an education about religion rather than an education motivated by religion) is lost on a population that fails to grasp the idea that tolerance works both ways.

Before curriculum builders devote more attention to teaching religion, they need to create a strong foundation in academic tolerance and in understanding of lack of said tolerance.

Public school students, parents, and people in general need to grow skin to a level of thickness that is impossibly reasonable to demand before a course even close to one on the secular study of religions can be implemented in schools.

Of course, there are those who oppose further establishment of a theologically related education for more ostensibly pragmatic reasons.

“Apart from the obvious issues of avoiding the appearance of impropriety in the depiction of all religions, as well as the issue of the separation of church and state, schools should not be devoting any more resources to religious education for one simple, practical reason: it is obsolete knowledge.

It may be an unpleasant thought, but the workers our public schools are producing are some of the greatest hindrances to the U.S. economy,” said senior Zach Herron.

From all of the past, present, and future students of the liberal arts—we strongly dislike  you, too, Zach.