Tuesday, 6 October 2015

Teaching religion in school

Responding to the following article: 
Who's going to teach religion? by JC Schaap  

Yes, yes, yes! Thank you for this!

My first university degree was in Religious Studies. The methodology we used meant that we (usually) bracketed out the historicity of certain figures and events (particularly supernatural events). We would present the religion as "this is what they say about themselves". We didn't often ask the question, "is this true?" No doubt the question is important to ask at some point (I heard a fantastic lecture on this point by John Stackhouse entitled "BEYOND BRACKETING: WHY ACCOUNTING FOR THE SUPERNATURAL CANNOT BE INDEFINITELY POSTPONED" available through the Regent Audio Book store). I don’t see any reason why this kind of bracketing couldn’t be used in public schools.



Originally, I put my children in the public school system hoping that my sons would be exposed to those who have a variety of backgrounds. I hoped they would learn about Islam from their Muslim schoolmates (as opposed to CNN). I believe it is important to be able to have discussions with those from differing worldviews and my hope was that a public school system would help facilitate this kind of discussion. The “public” is made up of a variety or religions and worldviews after all. What I actually found was that our school was frightened of talk about religion. It was shut down whenever it was brought up and I was concerned that my children were learning to not talk about religion. In particular I was concerned that my sons would learn to be ashamed of talking about their religion. Yes, it can be a minefield, but so is talking about politics. Should we refuse to talk about politics in our schools because it is a volatile topic? Any topic that is important will have emotion attached to it. Wouldn't we have a better society if children knew something about how others viewed the world? What if they knew the substance of their religion rather than just crude stereotypes or by the most surface level identifiers (a hijab, a turban, a cross)? We now have our children in the Catholic school system where religion is at least a valid and valuable topic of conversation and curriculum.

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