Religion in Public Schools: to Teach or Not to Teach

religion essayThe religious issue in public schools has always been touchy. The thing is that it is not allowed by the law to teach religion to students. At the same time, it is completely legal to teach students about religion. Actually, even Bible and Quran may be studied in public schools – as monuments of the literature of great cultural and historical value. What is important though: teachers should not cross the line between teaching and preaching. Not a single religious literature source may be talked of in a devotional or doctrinal manner – basically, such sources should not be viewed as religious.

Teaching (About) Religion

It might be hard for one to distinguish these two terms: “teaching religion” and “teaching about religion”. So what is the difference? “Teaching religion” regards promoting certain religious doctrines and this action is severely prohibited in public schools. “Teaching about religion”, however, means letting students know the role and the value of various religions in history, culture and development of society in USA and other countries. The tone is what really matters: when teaching about religion, one should stay neutral and objective, regardless of which beliefs he talks.

What Should Teachers Bear in Mind

There are several so called “safety measures”, when talking of teaching about religion in public schools:

  • When discussing religion with students, the teacher should discuss both majority and minority religions, so that no one would feel offended.
  • Speeches on religious beliefs should be very carefully built: children and teenagers are very sensitive, when it comes to peer and public influence. If anyone hears negative comments (or way too positive ones) on a certain religion, he might take these comments too close to heart – and that turns “teaching about religion” process into “teaching religion” one.
  • If the teacher insists on letting every student talk about his own religion, he should, firstly, give everyone enough time to prepare and, secondly, make sure, that students’ speeches will not contain promotions or insults towards certain religion.
  • The teacher should not forget that there are also students, who were raised in families with no particular religious beliefs. That is why such topics as prevailing of the religious beliefs over the non-religious beliefs or vice versa are absolutely unacceptable during the lessons about religion.

What Are the Rules for Secular Values?

It is well known that many religious values match the secular ones. It is only right to teach students such values as compassion, kindness, self-respect and respect for others, honesty and friendliness, and that is precisely what teachers have been doing since the very first schools appeared in the world. At the same time, there should be no religious inclines when teaching these values. The USA is the country, in which every person has the right to choose their own religion and to live by its norms, and teachers at public schools cannot allow themselves to impose a single religion on students, each of who has particular religious (or non-religious) beliefs.

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