Magazine article Free Inquiry

Nel Noddings Replies

Magazine article Free Inquiry

Nel Noddings Replies

Article excerpt

John Novak, in his generous review of my book, Educating for Intelligent Belief or Unbelief, says, correctly, that some might feel that my recommendations (if acted upon) "will knock over the wall separating church and state and 'all hell will break loose.'" This is a valid concern.

My intention, of course, is not to knock over that wall but to help students to understand why it is there and what tremendous powers lie on both sides of it. I would like students to learn also that people of both religious and secular orientations ask common questions, that they share certain anxieties, and that often they come to similar conclusions about ethical issues, albeit for different reasons. It is fascinating, too, to read the psychological biographies of people who agree on a wide range of facts and yet come to different conclusions about religion and make different decisions with respect to their own lives. I am thinking here of Freud and Jung who surveyed the same phenomena: "Agreeing on the historical record that shows humankind's universal interest in gods over all time, Freud saw a vast uncured neurosis; Jung saw the psychic reality of God" (Educating for Intelligent Belief or Unbelief, p. 100).

In educating for intelligent belief or unbelief, the emphasis is on the intelligent, not on belief or unbelief, and there is no reason why teachers must disclose their own views or encourage students to divulge theirs. Such disclosure may happen, of course, and there are no doubt many times when sensitive teachers should disclose their own views. But when they do so, they have a special moral obligation as teachers to present opposing views, and they should seek out the strongest opposing views so that critical discussion can be rigorous. Both teachers and students must learn to engage in such discussion appreciatively and sensitively. Better to have a version of "all hell breaking loose" in schools where we can handle controversy nonviolently than in the larger society where hell can mean physical violence. …

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