Faith from the Fringes: Religious Minorities in School: Public Schools Should Not Support One Religion over Another, but the Nation's Christian Majority Poses Social and Logistical Challenges to Students Who Are Religious Minorities

By Abo-Zena, Mona M. | Phi Delta Kappan, December 2011 | Go to article overview

Faith from the Fringes: Religious Minorities in School: Public Schools Should Not Support One Religion over Another, but the Nation's Christian Majority Poses Social and Logistical Challenges to Students Who Are Religious Minorities


Abo-Zena, Mona M., Phi Delta Kappan


Ethan fantasizes about the milkshakes in the school cafeteria, even though he brings his lunch from home every day because his family keeps kosher. Sameera is not sure what to say when girls see her in the bathroom washing her face, arms, and feet in preparation for her ritual prayer. Omid does not know what to do about rumors about why he has never had a girlfriend. Honoring his faith's values regarding chastity before marriage is difficult enough, and he wishes the rumors would just go away.

These students face different scenarios, but the common thread that binds them is that they struggle to navigate public schools as religious minorities. Even though American public schools maintain a separation between church and state, non-Christians face social and logistical challenges that threaten their development and academic performance. The challenges may be inadvertent or intentional, observable or discreet; they may be introduced by students, educators, school policies, or broader society. Students who consider themselves or are treated by others as religious minorities may alternately feel proud, unique, marginalized, unwelcomed, ashamed, or targeted. Educators need to be aware of what it means to be a religious minority and how they can promote the well-being of these students.

Who are they?

Christians are the dominant religious group in the U.S., and they enjoy rights and privileges unavailable to adherents of other faiths (Schlosser, 2003). Drawing on the seminal work of Peggy McIntosh on white and male privilege (1988), Schlosser out-lines numerous examples of Christian privilege, such as school materials that buoy the importance of the Christian religion and the safety that Christian children feel to disclose their religious identity. Holidays present special challenges to religious minorities in schools. Christmas, for example, is the only federal holiday with religious significance, and other widely celebrated holidays--Valentine's Day, St. Patrick's Day, and Halloween--seem secular, but have religious influences. Despite the popularity of these celebrations, a range of faith groups may object to them or decline to participate for religious reasons.

Depending on the geographic context, students across religious groups who are considered orthodox may be teased about their social values, e.g., abstaining from premarital sex and/or alcohol. Terms such as fundamentalist and conservative sometimes are used to describe sects within religions, but they are also used in a derogatory and critical manner. In addition, a national sample of the religious life of U.S. teenagers found that youth who identify with no religion or are atheists also may be shunned by classmates and their families because of their views and practices (Smith & Denton, 2005). Regardless of the specific belief system, being marginalized or considered different places religious minority students in a vulnerable position.

Determining the number of religious minority students in schools has been difficult. Most public records do not track religious affiliation, and numbers disclosed by religious organizations are generally considered to overestimate the faith population. In addition, there is a legitimate debate over what beliefs or practices qualify individuals to be counted as an adherent of a particular faith. Surveys by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life (2008) reveal that 78.4% of U.S. adults self-identify as Christian, 4.7% with another world religion, and 16.1% atheist, agnostic, or otherwise unaffiliated.

This survey data does not necessarily reflect the religious affiliation of children and adolescents, particularly given the significant variation of religion within families. Intermarriage and conversion may cause families themselves to be religiously pluralistic. In addition, even for family members who share the same religious affiliation, there may also be considerable variation in the level of religious commitment of primary caregivers. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Faith from the Fringes: Religious Minorities in School: Public Schools Should Not Support One Religion over Another, but the Nation's Christian Majority Poses Social and Logistical Challenges to Students Who Are Religious Minorities
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.