Now that the Pew Forum has said atheists know more about religion than the religious, atheist Michael Tracey — current editorial intern at The Nation and former adversary of Mike Huckabee — argues that we need more religion in public schools.
My proposal: courses in world religions should be mandatory for all public school students, with a focus on Christianity as the most prevalent domestic faith. These courses would examine the philosophical and sociological features of religion, without teachers’ needing to fear that such lessons will be construed as an endorsement or denunciation of any particular doctrine. Within reason, their ability to teach freely and honestly must be unhindered.
It is patently unacceptable for so many to know so little about what has been by some accounts the prime mover of world history. The only solution is to shift our educational priorities. In learning more about religion, students will also hopefully recognize that the decision to assign oneself a religious faith is not to be taken lightly, as it bears profound metaphysical, social and even political implications. With any luck, they will also glean that the study of religion is incredibly interesting and fulfilling.
The classes students have to take at many public schools are limited to what gets tested on standardized tests + a few more classes. Even then, you might only need two science courses or three math courses. Adding a religion requirement? Not likely to happen in our current education climate.
Some schools do teach the Bible as literature. That’s fine, if taught objectively. And to the inevitable question of “Why only the Bible?” I agree with Michael that it’s the predominant religion in our country and ought to be studied because of that.
If you had the option to take a World Religions class in high school, would you have taken it? Did you?
Though I’m clearly interested in religion now, I’m not sure I would have taken that class back then.