Okay, It’s Beyond Me: Should the Curriculum of Any Public School Include a Class about “Enduring Beliefs in the World Today” – a.k.a., Religion – that Includes Field Trips to Religious Services?

… though in the case of the Wellesley Middle School, the field trip in question inexplicably included student observation (which turned into something more for some of the boy students; thus, generating keen attention from outside of the school district to this field trip and an apology [PDF] from the superintendent) of the service of only one religion. I have e-mailed the teacher to ask why this was and whether the program would be modified to include observation of the services of the other religions studied in the course.
But for the sake of this discussion, let’s stipulate a hypothetical course that includes observation of the service of all religions studied. Should such a course even be taught at a public (k-12) school?
My initial reaction was “no”, in part, because it strikes me that religion is the primary purview of the parent and mainly because of what happened on this field trip: participation was invited and supervising teachers were too lax or too misguidedly polite to intercede. But is this hindsight casting an unwarranted negative pall on an otherwise good course idea?

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11 years ago

I was a teenage atheist (hey, that sounds like a good movie) when I went to Hendricken. They offered a course in religion. As you can imagine, Catholicism was dominant, but I did learn about Hindu, Muslim, Buddhist and a bunch of others that I forget the names of. They branched off into the different sects of Christianity as well. They even did a little voodoo Wicca lesson. Until then I held the entire priest, brotherhood thing in contempt. By bringing other ideas and mantra’s to me, I not only questioned my own beliefs, or lack of, but found a new respect for my teachers, and their message.
I’m no longer an atheist, and that began in Junior year of high school. Maybe this isn’t a bad idea.

Justin Katz
Justin Katz(@justin)
11 years ago

I would argue that, if we’re to acknowledge even the possibility that religious claims could be true, it would be a dreadful omission from public school education to remove such inquiries. Only by implicitly assuming the non-existence of God is it possible to extricate Him from studies of every other subject. He is, in essence, the embodiment of every subject.
That doesn’t mean that students must be required to come to a conclusion. But the subject should be treated with due seriousness. In short, if our students are to be truly educated, then questions of religion cannot be left entirely to parents to address or not.
However, I move toward agreement with you (Monique) when it comes to the study of various practices of worship. Let school subjects challenge students to investigate religions intellectually, and let parents and the students, themselves, explore modes of worship. (This view accepts, of course, that there’s some overlap in which consistent attributes of worship across religions and cultures may point to lessons about human nature and about God.)

Warrington Faust
Warrington Faust
11 years ago

For as longas I can remember “Comparative Religion” has been a respectable elective in college.
It has to be remembered that “West of Boston” was thought of as “Clinton’s ATM”. A lot of people there are very “sensitive”.
Still, Grade 6 seems a little early and I’m not sure a lot of kids would gain from it.
Apologizing to the parents that there kids chose to “particpate” in a religious service seems a little over the top. On the other hand, it is pretty close to Cambridge.

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