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The Controversial Issue of Religion in Schools
I was once talking with a man who told me that he did not believe in giving little children any religious instruction whatsoever. His theory was that the child’s mind should not be prejudiced in any direction, but when he came to years of discretion, he should be permitted to choose his religious opinions for himself. I said nothing, but after awhile he asked me if I would like to see his garden.
I said I would, and he took me out into the garden where only weeds were growing. I looked at him in surprise and said, “Why, this is not a garden! There’s nothing but weeds here.”
“Well, you see,” answered the man, “I did not wish to infringe upon the liberty of the garden in any way. I was just giving the garden a chance to express itself and to choose its own production.”
It is appalling to believe that the non-denominational world does not believe in God or any other higher being, while in reality, it is a foundation for how we think, feel and act.
That is not the way most religions perceive their own beliefs, or does religious behavior in this nation or many others conform to that view? We are not to say that religion is evil, but that there are inherent conflicts and problems in religion that cannot be overlooked. Now with the idea of separation of church from the state, the government is trying to take all religious ideas out of the school systems.
Religion should be an important part of a child’s education, although certain people do not agree with this concept. If religion is brought back into our school systems, children might learn why certain people of different religions do not get along and they might come to better understand themselves.
The religious student is one who is always being mocked and made fun of. They are not taken very seriously, due to their beliefs. They try to make it in a world that does not except someone who is different from everyone else. Still through the entire put downs, they stay strong and don’t give up. Even nowadays in some countries, it is still illegal to be a Christian and carry a Bible. If you break these two laws, you will probably be thrown in jail. If we are taught about the different religions that are out there at a young age, we could help prevent children from being made fun of because we will have a better understanding of their beliefs.
Religion is a very controversial issue, especially when it comes to religion and prayer in public schools. In the case of Engel v. Vitale in 1962, it was decided that school prayer was unconstitutional. With this case, it was pointed out that the students were to voluntarily recite a prayer. The court ruled that “…state officials may not compose an official state prayer and require that it be recited in the public schools of the State…” (Engel v. Vitale 422-436). In response to the Engel v. Vitale cause, some schools adopted a moment of silence.
When it comes to religion in schools, people really don’t think of holidays.
Usually schools have some kind of Christmas play or do something around Christmas time, not knowing that Christmas celebrates the birth of Jesus. If the courts are so worried about taking religion out of the school systems, then why don’t they also ban holidays in schools? Holidays also have some kind of religious background to them. Christmas celebrates the birth of Jesus, Easter celebrates the resurrection and Halloween celebrates All Hallows Eve. I think the courts should just forget about banning religion in the schools because no matter how hard they try someone will always find away around it.
Religion should not be forced upon students, but the opportunity to learn about different religions should be available in public schools. Robert Campbell states, “it is better to open the education market to parents’ choice of religious/philosophical orientation, and then hold schools to certain standards for traditional parts of the curriculum” (1). If the education market is open to the parents, then no one can really say that religion is being forced upon the kids. Religion is an important part of what the human race is, either people follow some kind of religion, or they are atheists. If schools teach children about different religions at a young age, they might learn why people from different backgrounds do not get along and why people follow different religious beliefs. For example, the Hindus and Christians have not gotten along for a while due to their different viewpoints. It might also help children understand why people follow different religious beliefs. If children and adults come to better understand the different religions, we as a nation might be able to change how we act towards people who come form a different background and have different beliefs than us.
On the issue dealing with separation of church from the state, the question of should children be able to bring a Bible to school arises.
Prior to the Supreme Court’s decision, laws requiring Bible reading in public
schools has been tested in courts in twenty-three states. In seventeen they were
upheld, but courts in Illinois, Louisiana, Nebraska, South Dakota, Washington
and Wisconsin declared Bible reading exercise in the schools unconstitutional
(NEA Journal 55-56).
This says nothing about bringing a Bible to school, so why did one of my friends get reprimanded for it? Now if he was reading the Bible aloud, I see were the problem would be. If a student wants to bring a Bible to school, I think he or she should be able to, just as long as he or she does not read it aloud.
Although the teaching of religion in public schools is very controversial, some states require religion to be taught. “Similar scenes played out every day in public schools all over California because the state is one of the few that requires religion be taught as part of the curriculum. Now the federal government has opened the door for other states to follow” (Bowser 1). Religion should be part of a school’s curriculum, since religion defines who we are. Either we are Christians, Hindus, Muslims etc. Although children follow some kind of religious beliefs, they might still question who they are and if the religion they were brought up under is right for them. By requiring religion to be taught in schools, children might learn more about their religious background and find the religion that is fit for them.
People cannot leave their culture behind, which could lead to a problem in the classroom. Johnson states, “What I have seen is just as Texans cannot escape the rain, they cannot leave their culture behind-nor can anyone when they come to school” (299). We carry our beliefs with us and hold to them, even in the classroom. For example, when you try to teach kids something that question their own beliefs, like creationism verses evolution, there could be a problem. If children are taught one thing from their parents and the school teaches them something else, there could be a conflict started.
Religion is also an issue that colleges have to deal with. During the last ten or fifteen years a large number of studies have examined religion in higher education. Historical investigations have depicted religion’s changing roles in American colleges and universities. Other, more normative works have recommended ways in which religion’s presence on the higher education scene might be improved or transformed. Still others have surveyed the attitudes of faculty who teach religion on our campuses. They have argued the relative objectivity in the religious studies classroom is the widespread secularization of the contemporary campus.
Should sex be aloud on campus? Some campuses are actually trying to ban sex in the dormitories. “The last time a college’s policies on sex inspired witty headlines, Antioch College had announced that its students needed permission from their partners for every step from the kiss to the unbuttoning to the act” (Shea 323). Now I see were Antioch College was going with this idea. You should at least ask your partner if they don’t mind you unbuttoning them, if you do this you are showing them respect and letting them know that they don’t have to have sex if they don’t want to. Sex before marriage might go against some of the student’s beliefs and they might be affined when unmarried couples have sex. The Bible tells us that it is wrong to have premarital sex, but not allowing sex on campus could be going too far. Seriously, how are people going to really know if you are having sex in your dorm, or not? If you have sex before you are married, that is your own choice and you are the one who will have to live with the consequences of maybe getting a sexually transmitted disease. I had premarital sex and now I have to live with the fact of not knowing if I have a sexually transmitted disease, or not and I have to live with the fact that I disobeyed my parents. We are at the age now were we can make our own decisions. If you do decide to have sex own campus that is your choice and no one can stop you!
Quite apart from our own experiences as historians of religion in America, we are convinced that judging the present by the past without due attention to the changing shape of religion can obscure new forms of religious vitality in the present. There is no denying that large numbers of colleges and universities in this century have severed or reduced their ties to denominational bodies and that the training of ministers is no longer the chief purpose of higher education today, as it was at Harvard College in the seventeenth century. We are not to say that it is no longer assumed that advanced learning must be coextensive with piety as a condition for justifying women’s admission to college. College presidents no longer presume to know how the various areas of study in their institutions interrelate, nor do they try to instruct students in the ethical precepts of the Bible and the relationship between those precepts and various areas of human knowledge. Students usually feel little need to confine their spirituality within denominational boundaries.
In the wake of September 11th, college students, like many Americans, have
asked probing questions about the role of religion in public life and events have
also caused many Americans to examine their own religious beliefs and their
understandings of religious faith in democratic society communities like
college campuses (Humphrey 1).
With the September 11th attacks, many people have come to question their religious beliefs. We have all questioned that if God is so good, then why did he let this happen? Everything happens for a reason, even though the reason may not be clear at the moment. After the attack we as a nation came together to help the victims of September 11th. Maybe the September 11th attack happened so we as a nation would come together.
“For many students, the first year in college is also the first time they come into contact with people of different religions. For some this contact fascinates and educates; for others, it can prove disorienting and disturbing” (Dunbar-Odom 296). When you first walk onto a college campus, you will meet people form different backgrounds. For some, this experience could be educational; for others, it could turn into a disaster. If you have always been against Jews and meet one on campus, you will probably start to judge them before you even get the chance to meet them. If you give people the chance to tell about themselves and not just be prejudiced against them, in the end you could learn a lot from them.
The teaching of religion should be obligatory in schools, but let the parents be free to choose what religion this education-in-the-school is based upon and how it should be implemented into the curriculum. Religion should not be forced upon the students, but the opportunity to learn about it in public schools should still be there. Religion defines who we are and everyone should have the chance to learn what religion is really about.
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