Religious Freedom Center Working to Promote Study of Religion

In June, the National Council for the Social Studies officially recognized religious studies as an essential part of the curriculum in K-12 public education. NCSS published a document, “Religious Studies Companion Document for the C3 Framework,” which contains guidelines for teaching religion in public schools from an academic, non-devotional standpoint. The guidelines were developed by educators, school administrators, and subject matter experts from Harvard University and Rice University, with the support of the American Academy of Religion and the Religious Freedom Center of the Newseum Institute. Here, two articles from the Chicago Tribune and The Washington Post report on what the guidelines mean for religious education, and the expectations of their being adopted by public schools across the country.

National education group recommends religious studies in K-12 public schools

Educator John Camardella found himself fielding questions when he started teaching a world religions class at northwest suburban Prospect High School seven years ago. After all, Prospect is a public school, where a mixture of government and religion can provoke debate, criticism and even outrage.

“How can you teach religion in public schools? Is it illegal?” parents, staff and colleagues would ask him.

Yes, you can teach religion in public schools and, yes, it is legal when using an academic rather than a devotional approach, among other guidelines that can pass muster under the U.S. Constitution.

What should students know about religion? New guidance on teaching it in public schools.

Try to guess when this was written:

“In this era of educational reform, the social studies curriculum has been a frequent target of critics representing every point on the political spectrum. While educators argue that history is neglected and traditional values are missing, others contend that the curriculum lacks social relevance and avoids significant public issues. Most agree, however, that religion is not adequately included in the social studies curriculum. They argue that teachers, administrators, school boards, and textbook publishers have tended to strip social studies courses of all but the most bland references to religion as a social force in the past and present. As a result, students are prevented from learning in school about one of the most significant factors in human societies from the prehistoric era to the world today.”

If you had said that it is current, you could be excused, as it reflects prevailing thinking, but, in fact, it was published in 1988, the start of a piece titled “Teaching About Religion in the Social Studies.”


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