I recently read four articles about religion in the classroom that were valuable to my philosophy on the subject. I come from a background of strong Christian faith, and I very much understand and value my rights as an American citizen to practice the religion of my choice. Although I believe that the only way to God is through His Son, Jesus Christ, I would never push my opinion on anyone. I would never want someone else to force their beliefs on me, no matter how right they feel they are. If asked my beliefs I have no hesitation in explaining what and why I believe what I believe, but I respect that ultimately religion is a choice, and that by forcing beliefs and religious ideology on people will not create a true relationship with God.
In light of my own religious background, I was extremely interested in what these articles had to say about how to teach faith in the classroom. One main idea that was seen throughout the reading was the difference between teaching about religion and not teaching what to believe. That is the line that should never be crossed, even though I have strong religious faith. I also liked the idea of civic multilingualism. I think it is important that students, as citizens of our country and members of our community, are able to see how religion influences political and civic thought, as well as developing an atmosphere of respect. There is a big push for tolerance by people in our society, but the problem is that as long as there are views that completely contradict other views, there cannot be tolerance. The goal should be respect. When you are able to respect the views of another, you are able to understand why they support what they support and can more effectively communicate and find compromise. You don’t have to avoid having differing views or beliefs if both sides are respecting each other. Tolerance avoids conversation where respect welcomes it. Conversation does not always have to have negative consequences.
In my own classroom, I would love to teach the different world views and religions. I think it is important to be aware of the effect that religion plays in so many of today’s world- and nation-wide conflicts and discussions. I am not afraid of bringing up conversations about religion in my classroom, as long as I keep my own opinion out of the conversation, and present all sides in equal depth and accuracy. Students need to understand how their beliefs were shared with others in history and how they led those people to make decisions and support the causes they did. Students should not be afraid to stand up for what they believe, but they should also not be taught to be ignorant of others’ beliefs. By ignoring the topic of religion in the classroom, we are teaching students that they should ignore the topics of religion with others. We are teaching that we should hide what we believe in order to keep from having disagreements. Instead we should be teaching our students how to talk about what we believe and how to listen and understand what others believe. Students won’t need to be afraid of offending or having misconceptions about others when they have knowledge from the classroom that can help them to understand and talk through beliefs.
My favorite quotes from How to Talk About Religion by Robert Kinzman:
"We should not accept the status quo of religious talk in the public square, which too of ten resembles a series of indignant soliloquies delivered with self-righteous certainty."
"Tolerance can be entirely ignorant - students don't have to know anything about other beliefs or ways of life to tolerate them. Respect, however, requires an appreciation for why religious adherents believe or live the way they do."
"Students need to recognize that the public square cannot simply be a mirror of their private beliefs, religious or otherwise."
"Good citizens don't need to abandon their convicitons that absolute truth exists, and they have substantial room to live their private lives in accordance with those convictions, but no one gets to fully impose his or her version of that truth in the public square."
"One thing teachers should always demonstrate passionate conviction about is that respectful conversation and reasonable disagreement are essential practices in a democracy."