Should the school offer various world religion classes?

Religion classes would foster tolerance and help to combat prejudice

Becky Han, Staff Assistant

The major influence of religions on shaping human history is undeniable.  However, despite playing such a critical role in many of the world’s cultures and heritages, it is often brushed over in classes where students are only told to memorize basic facts of a few religions without being given the chance to develop a meaningful or academically valuable insight into its principles.

By offering a world religions course, students will be able to gain a higher level of understanding and appreciation for the various religions throughout the world,  as long as teachers focus on teaching over preaching.

“I think having a world religions course in Schreiber would be interesting.  We are taught about religion vaguely in Global I, but personally, I would love to learn about it more in depth,” said sophomore Hannah Roth.

A world religions course is a class that focuses on the study of an assortment of religions practiced around the world.  In addition to discussing core beliefs and practices of the religions, the course would delve deeply into discussing their impact on major world events.

By taking this class, students will be able to have an increased awareness of our pluralistic society.  An essential step in building religious tolerance in this nation would be to properly educate our generation of the diverse perspectives.  As the course would work toward promoting knowledge of a broad range of religions, students would be able to develop compassion and tolerance through an in depth understanding of others’ religions and cultures.

“We already do a good job teaching the basics about religion in Global I but in today’s society there is definitely a need to understand theology, at a deeper level,” said social studies teacher Jeremy Klaff.

A program that objectively teaches about religion would also be beneficial for broadening our minds to being more open to other ways of seeing things, as well as in potentially reducing religious prejudice.

“With a world religions course, a benefit would be bringing more cultures into the minds of young adults,” said freshman Youmin Park.

Despite America being such a religiously diverse nation, it has shocking levels of religious illiteracy.  Although many may view religion as simply a historical phenomenon, it has great relation to the very framework of human culture and history.  Therefore, a degree of competence in the area is vital for a diversified society.

It is not uncommon to hear of clashes between disagreeing religious groups in so much of the world today, and an understanding of religious traditions offered by this course would allow students to form knowledge-based opinions on a variety of topics.  Students will also be more qualified to emerge as informed and globally aware members of society.

“I think that Schreiber should offer a world religions course to students because, in my opinion, learning the history and effects of various religions has nothing to do with personal faiths.  Teachers in the class will not be looking out to convert students, and I believe that we are all open-minded enough to realize that not everyone has the same beliefs as us,” said sophomore Alexa Adjudanpor.

Often, public schools have a difficult time preparing a world religions curriculum that teaches from a purely neutral perspective.  In 2010, there was a controversy that involved a class from a middle school in Boston that went on a field trip to a local mosque to learn about Islam.

As a video circulated that seemed to show the sixth grade students praying as if part of a religious service, critics were swift in catching onto the incident.  The case served as an example as to why various efforts at teaching religious tolerance in schools may turn out to be problematic.

However, while acknowledging the complications educators may face in trying to avoid giving a preference to one faith over another in a classroom setting, it’s important to point out that teachers are able to teach about politics and government, which are also deemed to be controversial and often very sensitive topics.

As long as the class does not in any way promote or endorse a specific religion as being correct, or put down any religions, this course would be extremely beneficial to many.

A world religions course would provide many advantages to the students who choose to take it, but the purpose of the class should be to educate its students, not to convert them.  Teachers should be extremely qualified and unbiased, and their personal beliefs should not mix into their teachings in any way.