Category Archives: Education

these people are really kidding themselves

Wow, a dangerous excuse for teaching the bible in public school. The only way this is even slightly okay is if other religious texts are taught in the same class for their “literary and historic qualities”. Can’t help but wonder how well those students who disagree with the literature of the bible will do in this class??

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Texas Board of Education … be very afraid

YouTube video of an opening prayer at the Texas Board of Education meeting.

Article from the Texas Freedom Network.

appalling

So much for “liberty”…
Liberty U. Drops Democratic Club

stand up for yourself

Yesterday, I went to the book signing of Robyn O’Brien’s The Unhealthy Truth. I hope everyone has a chance to read the book and learn some very important things about our food supply. Robyn’s message about food safety and our health is very important, but as I sat in the room listening to other mom’s and dad’s ask questions about how to find out more, what they could do, feeling overwhelmed and helpless I realized that Robyn’s message and example was much broader.

It all boils down to caring enough to ask questions. Since when did we start blindly trusting others to do the thinking for us? If the government says it’s okay it must be! If it’s in an American newspaper it must be true! People are shocked and dismayed at the level of betrayal we see around us, but we’ve ultimately allowed it to happen. We should ALWAYS be questioning the why, the how, the who. Maybe we have a moral duty to do so maybe not, but we sure can’t complain about someone pulling the wool over our eyes if we stood silently by while they did it.

And it’s not that I expect we’ll find a conspiracy every time we ask a question. But by being the kind of people who ask, analyze and act, we can start to demand a level of truth that maybe wasn’t there before. Just because you’re not a scientist or economist doesn’t mean you don’t understand. It’s not rocket science folks, it’s just basic information. Demand it!

(See Robyn’s other work with AllergyKids – linked on the side bar)

religion in a public school – excellent!!

This NPR story discusses a great start in one California school to teaching kids about different religion. I hope it catches on elsewhere.

Modesto, California’s school district is the only place in the country where students are required to take a course on religion. To avoid conflict and controversy, school officials worked together with religious leaders in their community to come up with a broad-based curriculum that everyone signed off on. The results are being watched by education experts around the country.

Link to audio

ignorance

I’m continually amazed at the ignorance of otherwise smart people when it comes to religion. I have heard from adults I know that they didn’t realize Jews don’t worship Jesus or that religious groups other than Baptists were baptized. Really! It shocked me. But, as I constantly remind myself, it shouldn’t be. Unless you have a particular interest in religion, why bother finding out, right?

Education systems don’t treat it as something you really need to know about. Religious schools don’t give equal time or any time to anything but their own brand typically. Religious institutions, of course, are there to talk to the converted, but if your brand of spirituality doesn’t encourage, or actively discourages asking questions then it’s likely you won’t. It’s disheartening to me and should be embarrassing to those who are so in the dark about basic religious differences.

People who are not religious or have rejected religion can be equally ignorant. I used to think they must be knowledgeable because they made a decision to opt-out based on weighing the options. Not so much.

It really doesn’t matter why people don’t know the basics about religions; all that matters is that when they don’t, they appear ignorant and close-minded. If you fall into this category, get educated! Please! It’s like learning a new language: it won’t be easy, but a little effort goes a LONG way.

teaching religion, from the more learned

I am prompted to post this if for no other reason than to keep track of the recent posts I’ve seen that mirror my position on why it’s important to teach religion. It’s heartening to see that people who’ve given this more thought than I have agree. I hope you enjoy them as well.

The first is from Aedificium.

Religion is not going anywhere, and this is true regardless of whether God really exists or not. Rather than spend our time focusing on all the differences between “our” religion and “their” religion and using those as points of attack, we should be figuring out what the similarities are between us and what our mutual concerns are, both spiritually and “earthly,” and learning how each religious tradition addresses those concerns using their particular cultural expressions from their own wells of tradition.

The second is from Bruce Feiler’s blog. Titled: “We Teach Sex, Why Not God” recounting Talmudic scholar Adin Steinsaltz’s thoughts on the subject.

There is a need to give children at least some basic and true notions about the subject. The schools should not be proselytizing. They should not be dictating how these concepts are used practically by the students. But at least young people will have the chance to acquire basic knowledge about what they will or will not practice in their later years.

does God belong in the science classroom?

As I was waiting to pick my daughter from the Lutheran school she attends I was perusing the pamphlets and books that were on display by the sanctuary. One set of materials addressed the topic of creationism vs. evolution – some pointing out the holes in the scientific theory of evolution, others meant to show how one could introduce creationism into the discussion of human history. The church was hosting a lecture on the subject. These made me very uncomfortable but I’ve really had to think through why that was.

I like to think of myself as an open minded person who is very willing to listen to all sides of an argument. Evolution doesn’t bother me; it doesn’t offend my religious sensibilities. I believe strongly that it was God’s influence that created our solar system and beyond. I don’t believe for a second that there were 6 days of creation with different things being created on each day, etc. Some people do and that’s great; they are entitled to that opinion because at this point that’s all it is: my opinion vs. someone else’s.

Scientists have done a lot of research and have discovered a lot of information about our universe and the beginning of human beings. They are in no way complete, final discoveries that we can claim have definitively proved how or why earth/life was created. The history of scientific discovery has proved to us time and again, that we are frequently wrong about something and need to modify our hypotheses and theories with new information. Historically, organized religion has reacted negatively to those scientific theories that throw into doubt religious beliefs (Galileo would have a lot to say on this subject). That does not mean that science is always right and the church is always straggling behind in these matters, I’m just stating what I know to be the historical tendencies.

For a church to host such a lecture and open the discussion on creationism sounds reasonable. I welcome a healthy debate on subjects to give people a more in-depth understanding of both sides. What bothered me was what my daughter would be taught in science class. While I’m fine with discussing God’s role in the history of man in church, it’s quite another in the science classroom. Bringing a deity (a concept that is completely improvable no matter how good your scientific method) in a science classroom does not make sense.

If we had regular religious classrooms those would be a perfectly logical place to address these questions. My children go to religious schools for many reasons, but one of them is to be exposed the ‘spiritual’ aspect brought into their world. I want them to have an understanding of religious theories, practices and sensibilities. I also want them to get an education on the latest theories and practices in science. God does not belong there.

It would be too easy for me to just say “…it’s so because God did it, it’s in the bible, so let’s not question it.” I don’t think God gave us the brains He did so that we would sit back and not wonder about and attempt to explain things. We should not be afraid of what we will find. What if the answers we find disprove something in the Bible? God forbid! But what if it proves something else? What if what we find brings us to a greater understanding of God and His will?

Science can gather and test and retest and postulate and theorize. It can never tell us God’s intentions, His methods; the thought is ludicrous. I want my children’s scientific education to give them the wonder of what man and learn and discover based on the gifts that God has given us. I want their religious education to open their minds to the awesome possibilities we have with God’s strength.

more on the question of education

So Harvard has now entered the debate on requiring a class on religion. A recent Newsweek article titled BeliefWatch: Harvard’s Fuss over Faith recounts this: “all students should be required to do coursework in an area called “Reason & Faith.” “Religion is realpolitik, both nationally and internationally,” the report said. “By providing [students] with a fuller understanding of both local and global issues involving religious faith, the courses are intended to help students become more informed and reflective citizens.”” This sounds exactly like the type of education I had in mind the essay teaching kids about religion.

Needless to say there was a big fuss – this one from the scientific faculty of the school who effectively got the class removed to be replaced with something pathetically titled “What it means to be a human being”. Give me a break. When are we going to stop being afraid to education our kids about the wider world of religion? People seem to be either too scared that it will undermine their own religious teachings for their children, or undermine the great scientific discoveries that have and will continue to enlighten us. The only time something or someone has that power is when you offer it. Our fear of addressing this topic gives it the very power we don’t want it to have.

I applaud the move to start a requirement of this sort and am saddened by the lack of support that it has especially among the educated.

teaching kids about religion

I understand and completely agree with the notion that we should not be teaching religious theories in our science classrooms. But what about religion classrooms? Oh, that’s right we don’t have any… Well, a few in the parochial or other religious based schools. In which case, they are teaching the beliefs of that particular religion not a general understanding of the different religions of the world.

I’m floored when I meet adults who are amazingly ignorant to the very basics of religion – even their own. I’m not immune to this either mind you, I am often amazed and embarrassed at what I don’t know. Our religious knowledge is limited because unless you majored in religion in college most of us didn’t take a general course on the subject. And although there are opportunities to learn more about the particular religion each one of us has signed up for, where does the person who isn’t sure go for more information.

And more importantly, how can we teach our children early on the differences between religious groups so that they can grow up with more understanding and hopefully compassion than the generations before them? How can we offer a broader more universal understanding of what Religion is? There’s really no where to turn.

In my opinion, religion is one of those things that if you think it’s easy, you’re probably doing it wrong. [I have the same philosophy on parenting by the way.] My children are just now at the age where they ask questions about what they hear and learn in church or at the religious schools they attend. I was frustrated by how best to give them a balanced, yet solid answer. Of course that’s impossible, and it was muddled by the fact that I’m still in my own learning path. These were not questions that I had “right” answers too.

What I came to realize was that by helping them understand how difficult these questions are to answer I am paving the way for them to feel more free to ask and question what they learn. When they enter their own path to faith I want them to do it with eyes open and with a better understanding than I had growing up of what Religion is and how different people’s beliefs can be. And that ultimately there is not one “right” answer for everyone.

I would love to see a History of Religion course to be taught in middle school or high school or even as a required undergraduate college course. This would not be a course proposing validity of any one religion. It would simply relate what scholars of different religious philosophies believe and why. Provide a history of how different religions have evolved. To give kids a basic understanding of the principles of what different religions believe would be invaluable.

Considering that religion one of the most controversial and bloody subjects throughout history I would hope we would want to avoid that by educating our children more comprehensively.
I can guess some of the arguments that would be made against this. How could you ensure that it would be presented in a balanced light? How much time would you focus on each religion to be fair? Would you have to cover EVERY religion and wouldn’t that be impossible? Could you even give enough information to develop a good understanding without simply offering a very shallow glimpse? Yes, these are all factors to consider. But every subject has a depth that is never fully covered. That doesn’t mean we shy away from giving children some basic understanding. This is not a subject that we can ignore.

I think one fear is that kids will no longer believe what their parents are trying to instill in them or that they will become confused. Probably in some instances this would happen. But if someone claims to be a certain religion only because they don’t know anything else is it really based on faith? Why not teach our children to ask questions, to seek out more answers? I turned away from religion until I started asking. It strengthened rather than weakened my beliefs – and no one was more surprised than me. We might actually be doing more harm than good by keeping too quiet on a topic that demands understanding in this day and age. Understanding in the sense of where seeing where someone else is coming from. You don’t have to agree, but you have to ask the questions.