A Leap of Faith in the Classroom; Public School Students Would Benefit from Studying World Religions

Article excerpt


Many public school officials cringe at the very notion of teaching religion in the classroom. By doing so, theyAAEre missing out on a real opportunity to promote religious tolerance and education to impressionable young minds.

Roma Downey and Mark Burnett, co-creators of the successful History Channel miniseries The Bible, want to change this attitude about religion. In an intriguing Wall Street Journal op-ed last month, the two Hollywood stars suggested itAAEs time to encourage, perhaps even mandate, the teaching of the Bible in public schools as a primary document of Western civilization.

Ms. Downey and Mr. Burnett wrote that the Bible has affected the world for centuries in innumerable ways, including art, literature, philosophy, government, philanthropy, education, social justice and humanitarianism. While acknowledging the act of teaching this important religious document is of course a touchy subject Aa it is possible to have education without indoctrination.

For proof, they briefly discussed the 1963 Supreme Court case of Abington School District v. Schempp. An important portion of the courtAAEs decision was also reprinted: "... the Bible is worthy of study for its literary and historic qualities. Nothing we have said here indicates that such study of the Bible or of religion, when presented objectively as a part of a secular (public school) program of education, may not be effected consistently with the First Amendment.

I may be a non-religious Jew, but I completely agree with Ms. Downey and Mr. Burnett. The Bible is an important component of our worldAAEs history and development. Teaching the Good Book in the public schools would, therefore, enhance a studentAAEs educational experience and intellectual journey.

That being said, why stop there? We could go much further. For instance, I once proposed the introduction of a course on world religions for Canadian public schools. I firmly believe it would greatly benefit the U.S. public school system, too.

A mandatory course on world religions would substantially increase a studentAAEs knowledge of Christianity, Judaism, Islam and other faiths. It would also reduce the amount of fear and discomfort some individuals still have when it comes to learning about other traditions, entering different houses of worship, and so forth.

Moreover, it would give our society a more comprehensive understanding of religious history, teachings and groups. It would be crucial to include course materials with passages straight from the Bible as well as the Torah, Koran and many other religious texts. …